Posts Tagged ‘araya’

Araya Appreciation.

September 24, 2009

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Ocean.

September 17, 2009

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Hipster as you like but I’m digging it… especially that back wheel. Now that is what I call chromed out!

Kentaro’s Ocean spotted over at EHVFXD.

Now lets clear a few things up.

December 11, 2008

The low down on NJS via Keirin Culture

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Why NJS?

What’s the big deal with the little stamp? Isn’t just all about gambling? Every piece of equipment that can be used in keirin racing must be approved by the officials of the NJS, and this group of only Japanese manufacturers is definitely an exclusive club. As far as components go, there are only a few brands you’ll see currently in production: Nitto, MKS, Shimano, Kashimax, and Sugino are the big ones. Over the years the NJS has seen some legendary stuff come and go, most notably Suntour Superebe Pro. Suntour. The name of Suntour is still around, but it’s unlikely any of it is still made in Japan. What you do see in all of these components, past and present, is a high attention to detail that you’d be hard-pressed to find anywhere but Japan.

What you’ll also find is a staunch traditionalism:

* Only loose ball bearings are allowed for headsets, bottom brackets, pedals, and hubs. This sounds strange in the world where weekend warrior road racers now spend hundreds on ceramic cartridge bearings that spin much better than their steel counterparts. Keirin racers spend a great amount of time maximizing the performance of their equipment. One of the ways they often do this is by using a light oil on hub bearings rather than heavy grease. This treatment is only good for a few rides but gives the hub the performance of the best cartridge bearing hubs.
* Although Shimano Dura Ace Octalink bottom brackets are NJS-approved, the racers rarely use these. Instead they use the square-taper Hatta or Sugino bottom brackets that are installed by the framebuilder with a traditional crank. Dura Ace is generally the choice crank of keirin racers, with racers occasionally using Sugino 75.
* Clip and strap pedals are the only style approved by the NJS. The most popular model is the MKS Custom Nuevo with Kashimax Five Gold single straps. Racers are allowed more choice in shoes, with many using road shoes like SIDI.
* The rims are Araya Gold 36 hole tubular. There is no carbon fiber anywhere on these bikes.

The frames, no matter what brand, are always of the highest quality. When you’re thinking about a used keirin frame, think about everything that went into it. The racer orders the frame according to his personal preferences, ones that he’s developed after racing for up to 30 years. Even with that status he will pay anywhere from $1000 to $2500 for a frame. There are no sponsorships in keirin racing. He chooses the frame tubing (now usually Kasei or Columbus), lugs, and paint, too. After that he waits, weeks or months for the builder to finish.

The builders are also something you wouldn’t expect to see in modern times. Some, like Bridgestone, are larger shops, but most consist of a master and a few assistants. Often these master builders worked as apprentices to the greats of the past. For instance, the builder of Kiyo Miyazawa frames apprenticed with Rossin in Italy. Most of the shops are located in small garages with no storefront. They painstakingly build the frames one at a time, then send them off to one of the few paint facilities in Japan. The builders know that the racers’ livelihoods depend on the quality of the bikes. Very few non-Japanese builders will ever build a frame under this kind of pressure. Keirin racers start their career as apprentices in high school and often race into their fifties. We’re not talking about local weekend racers or the young pro riders you see in the US that move on to other careers by the age of 30. Equipment failure could be catastrophic.

This fear of a frame’s structural failure is the reason that so many of you ride keirin frames in the US. Crashes are quite common in these races, and the racers will line up several times over the course of a three day race. If a frame is involved in a crash then it must be replaced. Oftentimes there’s no visible damage. Even if the frame is not involved in a crash, it can only be raced a certain number of times depending on the level of the racer (S1 is the highest ). The most common form of damage is the dent on the bottom-side of the top tube. This is caused by the handlebar swinging around. Kashimax top tube protectors are approved, but racers rarely bother with them because if one is needed the frame is finished anyway. Old frames are often used for training. Sometimes this type of training is done on the road. If your frame has scratches concentrated on the seat stay where near the bridge, it’s probably been ridden on the road with a clamp-on brake. Often, though, racers will have several older frames collecting dust in their closets. The rules aren’t so strict on components, although handlebars are replaced regularly.

NJS-approved frames and components are truly special. Every used keirin frame has a unique history that you’d find nowhere else. At one point the frame was raced and cared for by a man whose family’s livelihood depended on his ability to race it. That little stamp symbolizes a history tied into the rebuilding of postwar Japan, but that’s another story….


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