Culturally, Japanese have a deep respect and appreciation for products that are well made, especially when they are handmade by craftspeople who obviously create their work with passion. It’s no wonder then, that the crew at Shibuya’s Blue Lug store love America’s best frame builders, like Aaron Dykstra of Roanoke’s Six-Eleven Bicycle Co.
This isn’t the latest bike to be built by Aaron. It was actually completed in mid-2014, after which it was sent to Blue Lug and built up for its new owner, Nobuhiko Tanabe, who is known better as NB. It’s timeless design and solid construction means it will still look fresh after many seasons of riding and fashion changes.
Aaron himself was taught by a Japanese ex-pat: Koichi Yamaguchi, so it’s reassuring to see the fruits of those labours returning to their country of origin. NB is a great lover of fine bicycles, and he’s stoked about his Six-Eleven: “I first saw a Six-Eleven frame in a picture from NAHBS a few years ago,” he tells us. “I remember thinking there was something special about this bike.”
NB continues: “Several years later I had a chance to go to NAHBS in Sacramento, California where I had the opportunity to see Six-Eleven in person and met Aaron. After meeting him and learning about his company, I decided that I wanted him to build a bike for me. Thankfully, he agreed and we discussed what was important to me in a bike.”
“The only thing I told him was that I wanted to ride fast, go anywhere and use purple Chris King components,” says NB. “I will never forget the first time I rode my new Six-Eleven bike. It fit me perfectly and gave me the feeling that I could ride forever!”
Aaron said this about the process: “It’s always a bit nerve-wracking sending out a frameset, since you never really know how it’s going to look when built up. So much of the overall aesthetic execution is heavily dependent on the build-up and NB absolutely nailed it.
“The frame itself was just intended to be a light and stiff road bike with a 44mm HT and typical road standards, so I went with full True Temper S3 tubing with a Paragon HT and braze-ons. The dropouts were some older Ritchey dropouts (I believe, as it’s been a while) that I carved up quite a bit.”
NB is also a talented photographer, shooting many of the Blue Lug bikes, but even he couldn’t capture the nuances of the paint. It was applied by Hill Clarke at Airglow Painting in Washington GA, and Aaron informs us that the initial inspiration was his childhood appreciation for the paint work on older American 18-Wheelers.
“For the paint, NB’s only real requirement was that it compliment the Chris King purple that he was using for the headset and hubs. So Hill and I had some fun doing something a bit different. The 3 stripes are all slightly different shades with varying grays, silvers, and coppers mixed in so they really change a lot depending on the lighting.
“The clear coat has a good bit of violet mixed in as well, so it really adds a nice purple hue to the whole thing without beating you over the head with it. I always like to say that my bikes whisper to you to ‘come closer’ instead of shouting at you from across the room, and Hill does a great job of executing that.”
Chris King‘s superb machining adds the sprinkles on what is already a superb machine. It’s another example of how the skill of a great painter can complement the finished frame. We might not be able to admire NB’s bike in person, but you can see more on the Blue Lug Flickr. Special thanks to NB, Wakako at Blue Lug and Aaron for the words.
PS: We’d like to extend a thank you to Melbourne’s Kres Cycles, our latest sponsor. Their collection of bibs, Ts, jerseys and base layers are constructed from merino and organic cotton, in a limited palette that will keep you looking good on or off the bike. Head over to their website for a look, and follow them on Facebook and Instagram. They’re helping to keep the wheels of Cycle EXIF turning.