Wednesday, February 24, 2016

A Pleasure to Ride

Ah, Japan. The land of manga cartoons, technological breakthroughs, and vertically-stacked, automated underground bicycle parking lot. Speaking of which, you cannot remove bicycle from the Japanese culture. Apart from being home of the largest bicycle component manufacturer, bicycles are still largely used as main form of transportation.
Since many people still rely on bicycles to get around, Japanese have a different approach when it comes to urban/city bicycle design. These bicycles are considered as efficient, functional machines that will stand the abuse of daily commuting: potholes (not that Japanese roads are full of them), train crossings, and worse, being buried under stacks of other bicycles should someone toppled a herd of them in the parking lot.

Other than having a name that will lead you astray on Google search, this National Pleasure is one good specimen of Japanese urban bicycle design. Take the stepthrough design, for example. The low toptube will allow women who wear long skirts to ride easily and comfortably. To keep the lateral rigidity the toptube was replaced with a pair of continuous tubes that also acts as seattubes. The frame was also made from chromoly steel, to keep the weight low while retaining the overall durability.

Long, low, and slack. A recipe for comfort. 

Being massively populated with bicycles, some of the used or old bicycles from Japan are sold abroad as scrap. This is mostly how we in Indonesia ended up with unique Japanese bicycles—there are people whose business is to import these scrapped bicycles, swapped or salvaged parts if necessary, and sold them as good, functional bicycles here. You'll never mistaken these born-again bicycles from the stickers that are sometimes left intact, whether from the parking building subscription registrations or bicycle shops.

There's even a proprietary splined bottom bracket spindle here. Neither Octalink nor ISIS. 
No, this style of continuous seatstays-to-headtube design doesn't make this a mixte.
This National Pleasure was bought with 27" steel wheels, beaten-up fenders, and non-working internal-geared hub. The new owner decided to have us swap the fenders with chromoplastic units, build new 700c wheels with 7-speed Shimano Nexus hub (while repurposing the original front dynamo hub), and replace the front brake with long-reach Shimano Tourney single pivot caliper. The rest was kept stock, up to the well-worn rubber grips and the sprung leather saddle.

Panasonic-labeled Shimano Nexus dynamo hub. Why yes, National is Panasonic.

Keeping it Japanese with Araya rims. 

KSM was the original saddle on my grandpa's Phillips.
Other noteworthy feature is the foldable front basket, quite handy if you want to save some parking space. The end result is a bicycle that resembles the original factory look, but with modern features that makes it a pleasure to ride.

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