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Zunow

Old 09-08-13, 01:18 PM
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zunow
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Zunow


Hi

With recent interest in the Zunow brand, I thought I would share this history. I am a Canadian, born and raised in BC. In 1982, during an economic downturn here, I was working as a tree planter. The crew I was on had several members who spent their Winters teaching English in Japan. As I had no immediate job prospects in Canada, I decided to liquidate everything and travel to Japan to work for a year.

I was racing and training a lot, so I set off with a bike and very little else. I travelled by bicycle from Tokyo to the North Coast and then down to Kobe, where I had some contact info from my friends in Canada. After two months of cycling Japan, I was nearly broke and needed to get to work. I started teaching and moved to Uji, between Osaka and Kyoto. Most of my work was in Osaka. My youngest students were kindergaerten age and my oldest was 80. I taught business men and house wives. It was a great experience.

When I wasn't teaching, I was riding. I met other cyclists on the road and found great rides through the surrounding mountains. A couple of my friends rode Zunow frames and I asked where I could find one. On a National Holiday, I took the train into Osaka to search for the bike store they told me about.In old areas of Japan, addresses are not laid out in order, but rather, in order of when they were built. I got pretty much hopelessly lost and headed back to the train station. On my way back, I happened across the original Zunow frame building factory (actually a small shop with a chaotic mess of parts, frames and bikes upstairs and production downstairs on metal jig tables, built on the uneven rock floor, custom built to the terrain)

There, I met Mr. Kageyama, the builder and originator of Zunow. I returned many times to visit Mr. Kageyama, eventually becoming English teacher to him, his wife and his two children. We had many lovely nights at his home. I would come and teach them and we would have dinner together. Mr. Kageyama was a wonderful host and we spent many hours discussing cycling, politics, history and philosophy.

Mr. Kageyama was an outstanding math student who had quailfied to a prestigious university. He became fascinated by bicycles, primarily as a simple, elegant machine. He believed in new ideas based on natural structures. He spent time studying birds and the physical mechanics of their skeletons. He made the hummingbird the symbol of Zunow bicycles. The word Zunow, is an adaptation of a Japanese word for the concept of new age ideas and art.

Mr Kageyama paid me for my teaching duties with two Zunow Z1R bicycles with Dura Ace components. When I returned to Canada, it was Mr. Kageyama who delivered me to the airport and saw me off. He gave me the rights to his products for Canada and most of the US. Torrelli was importing some frames already to Florida. I opened a retail store in Vancouver BC, called Katana. I warehoused Zunows in Vancouver, Toronto and Davis CA.

To this day, I ride a Zunow Z1R with Dura Ace 9sp, as well as a new Cannondale SuperSix with Dura Ace 10sp, a Cannondale Capo on the track and a Norco Threshold CX bike. My partner also has a Zunow Z1R and a SuperSix DA bike and my step-son rides a Zunow Z1R with DA.

They are beautiful frames that are enlivened with the lovely spirit of a wonderful man.

I am now an elected politician, a Member of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia. My life has had many chapters, logger, tree planter, construction, courier, school custodian, English teacher in Japan, union rep, school trustee and now MLA. I count my days in Japan and particularly my time with Mr. Kageyama as some of the best.
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Old 09-08-13, 01:24 PM
  #2  
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That was an absolutely fantastic read! Thank you for sharing
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Old 09-08-13, 01:46 PM
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Very interesting, thanks for sharing. I am in Toronto and often see Zunows listed for sale outside of the city, mostly in Kitchener or Guelph, I suppose that one of the shops out there carried them but I rarely see them within the city.

edit: how about some photos of your Z1?
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Old 09-08-13, 01:47 PM
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Awesome read! Any chance you snagged some pictures while you were over there?
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Old 09-08-13, 01:48 PM
  #5  
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Nice story...pictures(of the bike) would make it even better!
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Old 09-08-13, 01:50 PM
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Uplifting, thank you for posting.
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Old 09-08-13, 01:50 PM
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Thanks. Yes, I do have some photos, but very few and in the course of life, I'm nt sure where they are. If I locate them, I will post some. I will post some photos of our bikes.
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Old 09-08-13, 01:52 PM
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Yes, my bikes were warehoused (and sold retail) by Brauns Cycle.
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Old 09-08-13, 05:16 PM
  #9  
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Great read! A 59-60cm Zunow is on my wishlist. Beautiful bikes.
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Old 09-08-13, 05:35 PM
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There's a tiny pink Zunow I see around every now and then and it always blows me away. Gorgeous bikes.
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Old 09-08-13, 05:47 PM
  #11  
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This is amazing. And yes, please update with pictures.

I loved these bikes before...now with this story...
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Old 09-09-13, 02:18 AM
  #12  
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Another Zunow Z1R
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Old 09-09-13, 02:22 AM
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Old 09-09-13, 02:26 AM
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Old 09-09-13, 02:34 AM
  #15  
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Old 09-09-13, 02:44 AM
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Zunow Z1R
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Old 09-09-13, 02:51 AM
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Our other rides
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Old 09-09-13, 03:21 AM
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Like you, I left Canada (Vancouver) to work in Japan because of a recession — actually, 'The Great Canadian Depression' of 1993-94. Tens of thousands of us came here. As with many other ex-pats, I have never found a way to afford or risk repatriation. Some things do not improve with age (Sigh).

I have a regular ride alongside the Hirose River in Sendai. I frequently pass an older man (about my age) on a sports bike. I am usually puffing and sweating. He is just toddling along on a commute. One day I turned my bike around and went back to see what he was riding. I got into a conversation with the gentleman and examined his machine. It was well into patina, but obviously in good mechanical condition. It was a Zunow, and in the gold colour exhibited above. All lovely components. I fell in love with the bike. He seemed pleased that I even knew what it was. Someday I want one. There are a few in Sendai, but the ground is not heaving with them.

I very much enjoyed your story — thank you. I envy your serendipitous encounter with Kageyama sensei. Is Katana still in business, and if so, where is it?
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Old 09-09-13, 06:16 AM
  #19  
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Does anyone know what the differences were between Hummingbirds and ZR1s (aside from occasional wishbone stays)?
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Old 09-09-13, 06:21 AM
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Is "Doug" your name? If so, you have one of the coolest bikes in existence
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Old 09-09-13, 07:02 AM
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Very nice post, I enjoy reading such accounts and the stories behind our love of bicycles. Your time spent in Japan sounds wonderful to me, experiencing cycling and being invited in to Mr Kagaeyama's home with his family would be fantastic to experience. the Z1R is beautiful, such craftsmanship is rare anywhere now. Thank you for sharing with us.

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Old 09-09-13, 09:17 AM
  #22  
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Originally Posted by bibliobob View Post
Is "Doug" your name? If so, you have one of the coolest bikes in existence
Yes, my name is Doug Routley. It is a super cool frame, thanks. When Mr. Kageyama built it, I asked for my name, Doug, on the top tube, but in Hirigana, a phonetic form of Japanese writing. It would have looked like this: Unfortunately, Mr. Kageyama didn't understand and produced the "Doug Routley" you see in blue. It winds up being a precious example of our sometimes disjointed communication across cultural lines. The "Doug" on the fork crown is cast into the crown and was totally unexpected. I love the frame and still ride it occasionally. The other two are also very special and custom ordered as well. Thanks for your interest.
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Old 09-09-13, 09:26 AM
  #23  
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Originally Posted by bibliobob View Post
Does anyone know what the differences were between Hummingbirds and ZR1s (aside from occasional wishbone stays)?
Yes, the Z1R was the top of the line. It came in two versions, one with standard stays and the other with the wishbone configuration. It had a "Zunow Horn System" bottom bracket with the seat tube ovalized laterally to increase stiffness. What made the system different was the fact that the bottom bracket shell was also cast in an oval to accept the seat tube. The Z1R also employed the "Ditchex" down tube which is shown on my frame. It was a grooved top tube so that the brake cable nestled almost flush and required only two very small and stylish cable guides at either end. The lug work was also more refined in the Z1R and the drop outs were sculpted. The crown was more finely detailed as well. I will post pictures from the catalogues of the day. The colour of my frame was called "Hummingbird" and was derived from the colours of a particular hummingbird.
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Old 09-09-13, 09:29 AM
  #24  
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Sorry, meant "Ditchex" top tube
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Old 09-09-13, 09:38 AM
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Originally Posted by Lenton58 View Post
Like you, I left Canada (Vancouver) to work in Japan because of a recession — actually, 'The Great Canadian Depression' of 1993-94. Tens of thousands of us came here. As with many other ex-pats, I have never found a way to afford or risk repatriation. Some things do not improve with age (Sigh).

I have a regular ride alongside the Hirose River in Sendai. I frequently pass an older man (about my age) on a sports bike. I am usually puffing and sweating. He is just toddling along on a commute. One day I turned my bike around and went back to see what he was riding. I got into a conversation with the gentleman and examined his machine. It was well into patina, but obviously in good mechanical condition. It was a Zunow, and in the gold colour exhibited above. All lovely components. I fell in love with the bike. He seemed pleased that I even knew what it was. Someday I want one. There are a few in Sendai, but the ground is not heaving with them.

I very much enjoyed your story — thank you. I envy your serendipitous encounter with Kageyama sensei. Is Katana still in business, and if so, where is it?
Katana closed in 1990. I continued the wholesale distribution for a while but, unfortunately, the market for high end bicycles was not then what it is now. The whole experience was great though, as I was only in my early to mid 20's. I travelled all over North America, attending shows and meeting many, many people. I will post some pictures of the shop, which was really more bike gallery than shop, when I post the catalogue pictures, hopefully in the next day or two.
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