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jitensha in the ny times

Old 06-12-06, 08:32 AM
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brunop
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jitensha in the ny times

anybody see the little article in the sunday travel section? anybody have one of these bikes?
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Old 06-12-06, 08:42 AM
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i went to the studio in berkeley. not much to see but the bikes are beautiful and it's a pretty cool place.
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Old 06-12-06, 10:47 AM
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I am very familiar with the Jitensha bikes and Hiroshi who runs the shop. He's a great guy and is very knowledgeable about all aspects of cycling. I didn't see the article. Is there a link to an online version?
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Old 06-12-06, 10:50 AM
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Here's the text, I found it:

Berkeley, Calif.: Jitensha Studio

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By JAIME GROSS
Published: June 11, 2006

Berkeley is big on bikes. The city is laced with well-used "bicycle boulevards" — streets modified for bike safety and convenience — and studded with overflowing bike racks. Stand in front of Jitensha Studio (jitensha is Japanese for bicycle) and you're within a mile of five other cycling shops. Hiroshi Iimura, 59, who opened Jitensha in 1982 to sell his custom-designed hand-built steel bicycles, is not fazed by competition. "Other places have production carbon fiber frames," he said. "To me, they're bulky, constructed like a bridge or a building. I don't see any beauty there."
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Noah Berger for The New York Times

Hiroshi Iimura, owner of Jitensha Studio in Berkeley, California.

Beauty reigns at this gallerylike shop, where only a handful of sleek, streamlined frames are on display, hanging from the ceiling like art objects. Rare 1940's and 50's bike parts are displayed as artifacts behind glass. At the back of the shop are exquisite canvas-and-leather touring bags, woven willow baskets, handmade French tires and tiny brass bells from Japan. Perched on a wooden rail, waiting to be picked up by its new owner, is Mr. Iimura's most recent design — a dusky blue touring bike with a caramel-colored leather saddle, flat handlebars and shiny aluminum fenders.

Beauty rarely comes cheap: fully custom designs are $3,500 to $5,000, while semicustom bikes (made with stock hand-built frames) start at $2,800. Steel — lightweight, durable and comfortable to ride — is itself a relatively inexpensive material; Jitensha's prices reflect the time and skill it takes to build a bicycle by hand using traditional time-honored materials and methods like lugging and brazing the steel tubes rather than welding them together.

Mr. Iimura, an industrial designer who helped develop the first-generation Honda Civic in the early 1970's before channeling his favorite pastime into a new career, creates designs based on his customers' riding preferences (racing versus commuting; nimble handling versus a more stable ride). He sends his detailed drawings and notes to a workshop in Tokyo, where craftsmen and their apprentices fastidiously cut, file and assemble the frame to his specifications, a process that takes up to four months. The completed frame is then sent back to Berkeley, where Mr. Iimura assembles the bicycle with Italian, Japanese and French parts.

"If a customer wants a component that is not to my taste, I refuse," said Mr. Iimura, who credits his less-is-more aesthetic to his mechanical engineering background. "No brightly colored seats. No neon. Nothing flashy, nothing impractical." If the customer protests, he sends him somewhere else. "I have to satisfy my own tastes first," he said.

Jitensha at 2250 Bancroft Way, Berkeley, Calif.; 510-540-6240; www.jitensha.com. Open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.
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Old 06-12-06, 10:57 AM
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I've been by the shop and slobbered on the window a few times. They're very cool. I also have mail ordered parts from them (its cheaper to get stuff mailed then to take bart, how sad), and got good friendly service and prompt delivery.
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Old 06-12-06, 11:16 AM
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anyone ever ride one of his frames?
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Old 06-12-06, 11:18 AM
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nyt is all about custom bikes these days...
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Old 06-12-06, 11:35 AM
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Bah...seems overrated and pretentous. If I'm paying you $5,000 for a bike that you are not even building yourself, who are you to tell me I can't have it flashy?
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Old 06-12-06, 12:07 PM
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Sherbert, 50Spence and I rolled by one day. **** is was amazing and so was he. Best shop ever...
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Old 06-12-06, 12:15 PM
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Originally Posted by rvabiker
Bah...seems overrated and pretentous. If I'm paying you $5,000 for a bike that you are not even building yourself, who are you to tell me I can't have it flashy?
I would say "someone who knows what they're doing with good taste."
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Old 06-12-06, 12:18 PM
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I've never been there so I'm just playing arm-chair quarterback...but like I said, he doesn't even build them.
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Old 06-12-06, 12:29 PM
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Originally Posted by rvabiker
Bah...seems overrated and pretentous. If I'm paying you $5,000 for a bike that you are not even building yourself, who are you to tell me I can't have it flashy?
What he's really saying is that he won't sell something he doesn't like. Now that might not be the most profitable way to run a business, but it does show a certain kind of integrity. As a consumer I won't buy anything I don't like, and if a shop doesn't sell what I'm looking for I go elsewhere.

The article also pointed out there are 5 other bike shops within a mile of Jitensha. I wish my options were so limited.
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Old 06-12-06, 12:32 PM
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He aknowledges that frame building is not his expertice, the designing of the bikes is. He has builders create them for him to his high quality standards. This does drive up the price, but theres more to the art of designing a bike then sitting around and welding. He's a bicycle designer, not a frame builder. It's different.

From the website: "Shula frames are custom: designed by Hiroshi Iimura and ordered from the framebuilder he feels is best for the particular design. The possibilities are endless. Racing bikes, touring bikes in the French tradition or otherwise, camping bikes using 650B wheels, tandems, mountain bikes, and much more."

He wants to give a customer the best bike possible. I respect that a lot.
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Old 06-12-06, 02:32 PM
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His frames are made in Japan by top notch builders, including those who build NJS frames.

They are very finely crafted bikes. He has several fixed gear frames in smaller sizes on sale that were prototypes. If they fit me I would snap them up. They are up on the wall fo the shop right now.

Hiroshi is also a fan of tubular tires and I know I can always find them in stock there.

His shop is different, but complementary to, the other bike shops in Berkeley.
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Old 06-12-06, 03:24 PM
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I'm only allowed to go by the shop after hours or with empty pockets. The place is less bike shop and more gallery.
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Old 06-12-06, 08:38 PM
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Jitensha is a great bike shop, but it's not a place you go and browse. You have to know exactly what you want, and Hiroshi will either go behind the curtain and bring it out for you or special order it. The special orders always come in within 3 days - that's service. If you go in and seem kind of clueless, he'll make you leave - kindly and gently, for sure - but you will be kicked out.

Sadly, never ridden any of the Shulas or Ebisus - too expensive. But I would also like to talk to someone who has.

Oh yeah - he also does the best wheel-build you'll ever find for $35.
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Old 06-13-06, 05:05 AM
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See...that sounds way pretentous to me. If I went in to my LBS and they hinted that I should leave and come back when I knew exactly what I wanted I'd post it all on here and you guys would say how aweful that place is and how I should never patronize them again. Just saying.
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Old 06-13-06, 07:01 AM
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Jitensha Studio is basically a shrine to everything that is good about bicycles.
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Old 06-13-06, 09:03 AM
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Originally Posted by rvabiker
See...that sounds way pretentous to me. If I went in to my LBS and they hinted that I should leave and come back when I knew exactly what I wanted I'd post it all on here and you guys would say how aweful that place is and how I should never patronize them again. Just saying.
I don't see it as pretentious. Hiroshi is upfront about how he wants to run his shop - more of a gallery and less of an LBS (he has a slogan to this effect printed on his storefront). That won't, as I mentioned, stop him from helping you out or special ordering even a low-cost item - as long as you've done your work ahead of time. There's a big difference between that position and the deal you get at certain LBSs, where you get an attitude no matter what you do.
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Old 06-13-06, 09:06 AM
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If a customer is spending that much on a bicycle, then I would hope the customer knows exactly what he/she wants.

There's a young woman in DC that I see commuting on an orange Ebisu. I asked her one morning about the bike. She had nothing but good things to say.
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Old 06-13-06, 10:22 AM
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I've never heard of the place, but my curiosity is piqued. Since he runs it like a gallery, and not a LBS, is he fine with people just coming in and looking around, or are they given a frosty shoulder as well? It seems like a nice place to ogle some stuff.
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Old 06-13-06, 10:28 AM
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One of a very few reason for me to go to Berkeley.
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Old 06-13-06, 10:40 AM
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Hiroshi is a very friendly guy and a real gentleman. I'd say his quarter century presence in Berkeley makes him and his shop an icon of sorts. He's much friendlier than many of the young arrogant types in some other local shops. Most of his business is not the storefront/gallery buy web sales of parts and frames. If you want to come in an look around and have a chat with him, I am sure he won't throw you out. However he probably won't work on your rusted Huffy.
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Old 06-13-06, 10:59 AM
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I found a cool blog post about Jitensha while trying to google some photos of the inside of the shop, thought id share it

from here: https://smr.there.net/?p=4

"Jitensha

Today I visited the bike temple. Just moments before I’d been standing in “Berkeley Sports”, laughing hard over the wolf and hydra model disc golf drivers I was buying for Mike’s birthday. Then I found myself inside Jitensha Studio, and felt pretty stupid to be standing there full of frisbees.

There were old Campagnolo cranks hanging on the wall under glass. I consider myself a bike geek, and conceptually this does little to turn me on, but it was done in the best possible way I can imagine. I stared at the fine Italian chain rings like they were distant ancestors, missing links. I compared the series of Japanese track seat posts like they were rare sea shells. I admired the lugged steel frames coated in Molteni orange, and it warmed my heart. I felt a glow from the art of the bicycle, presented in minimal, impactful splendor. Nothing was overdone; there was a rewarding balance to the place. Only a few bikes were presented, but close inspection showed that thorough thought had been placed into every piece of them.

Reading a bike frame and the way it’s configured becomes almost another language once you start paying attention. These bikes were love poems! They were odes to the vital soul of the simple machine.

Can a machine have a soul? I realize that I’ve come to think it can. I find it a controversial thought; am I sick with materialism? Has captialistic fetish warped my head? My bicycle has done so much for me lately.

The work bench at Jitensha is near the sales counter. Bike tools were arranged in a visual poem; cone wrenches and spanners sat in a line like leaves on a tree. There was a lovely Eisentraut on the stand there, with a crystal clean drivetrain; it looked new, yet the seat was worn and scuffed, like a favorite pair of shoes, from what must have been thousands of miles on the road.

Two thoughts struck me: The first was that I needed to ride my bike more. The second was that it needed a good cleaning. I felt like running home and sanitizing my chain, degreasing my casette; I’d take my bike in the shower, get obsessive with soap and towels, try to make it shine. I need to polish the frame, I need to wipe off the salt encrusted on the stem, lube all points of friction. I need to take care of my bicycle like it’s cared for me. "
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Old 06-13-06, 10:59 AM
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Jitensha was directly across the street from Berkeley (where i attended college)

https://flickr.com/photos/40946869@N00/tags/jitensha/
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