Thankfully, keirin frames no longer have the mass appeal they had a couple of years ago, leaving the pleasure of riding them to the true aficionados, those who appreciate the soul of the frame and builder as the quintessence of Japanese culture — just as much as the katana and sword maker.
In the days of the samurai, the final heat treatment of a katana took place at night, so the blacksmith could judge by eye the colour and temperature of the sword as it passed through the charcoal. When it was the colour of the moon in February and August, it was plunged into a tank of water.
Each step, the temperature of the blade and water into which it was plunged were closely guarded secrets of the smith. The level of craft and respect is the same with the Japanese frame builders, and it is this spirit which is recognised by riders such as Tokyo-based creative director, Will Goodan.
Perhaps you’ll recognise Will’s photography from some of the most memorable bikes seen on the pages of Cycle EXIF: John Buellen’s Kinfolk Autumn, Will’s own Kinfolk Spring, Kalavinka Sunset and Level Mamachari. The Samson was about to replace his Nagasawa Special till he reconsidered.
Will tells of an interesting story regarding the Samson frame: “When I opened up the bottom bracket I realised that the previous keirin racer had filled the main frame tubes with polyurethane foam to strengthen it significantly.
“I checked with my friend’s local bike shop about the frames keirin track history and yup, sure enough, it was blacklisted as he had illegally filled it to win a race. It must have been a very strong ride since the down tube is oversized already, he must have needed a lot of torque.
Kierin frames are highly prized for their glittering paint work, of which Will’s Samson is a prime example. To match, he finished it with a Fujita set of red suede: saddle, bar tape and toe straps. The rare non-Japanese Campagnolo NJS-approved components complete the build.