There’s many correlations that can be drawn between Japan’s keirin racers and the samurai’s code of Bushidō — the way of the warrior. Essentially, Keirin racers are trained in the art of racing for sport, but they are constantly faced with defeat and rejection, which they must accept with honour.
As well as their minds and hearts, their tools are their bicycles — which are forged from fire by master steel smiths — like the samurai’s swords, upon which their lives and livelihoods depend. It’s no wonder an NJS-approved bike, like this Nagasawa Special, holds such attraction: it reflects the soul of the warrior cyclist.
Christopher Marshall is an animator, living in London, but had moved to Melbourne this year for a six-month gig, which coincided with the Melburn Custom Bicycle Show, presented by FYXO. While he was here, he took the opportunity to build his dream bike.
“For 8 years I have lusted after the craftsmanship of Nagasawa track bikes,” Chris tells us. “Mr Nagasawa-san truly is a master in his craft. Koichi Nakano won an unprecedented ten consecutive professional sprint gold medals at the world track cycling championships, from 1977 to 1986. Nagasawa had been amazed by Nakano’s explosive acceleration power, a strength developed while training as a sprinter before turning to bicycle racing.
“Recalling that Nakano’s sprint was “the best in the world,” Nagasawa said he made a “hard frame” for Nakano to enable that sprinter’s power to be converted fully into propelling force. The frames were usually a red colour. This is a little background where the signature “Nagasawa Nakano Red” began.”
“To be road legal in Australia,” Chris continues, “I added a Dia Compe clamp-on front brake and had the clamps custom painted Nakano red, with rainbow flake, to be more in keeping with the forks.”
“I had just moved to Melbourne for six months and wanted to build my dream bike. For eight years I have lusted after Nagasawa steel. Importing these very specialised parts from Japan came with heavy import tax.
“After reading several legal documents I found a loophole: Section 162 of the Act allows for the temporary importation of certain classes of goods including: Goods imported for use at a public exhibition. If I was able to build the bike and have it displayed it at the Melburn Custom Bicycle Show I wouldn’t need to pay anything in import tax.
“I had 5 months to start and finish the project. Toshi and Gabe in Japan at NJS Export were able to source the frame in an almost-mint condition. It has a slightly steeper seat tube angle, so the frame fits more like a 55cm-56cm, which interested me straight away.
“Rene in Japan at Giracha was able to source most of the most of the components. He is also in close contact with Yoshiaki Nagasawa and was able to exactly match the paint colour for the brake clamps. It took about a month extra to have them custom painted.
“Sherwin in Singapore at Cycle Project Store was able to source the Araya SA-730 rims. In the delivery on of the rims one got dinged. I contacted him and he gave me a full refund. I highly recommend them — great customer service.
“I wasn’t confident in building the wheels myself, so Dan at Melbourne’s Shifter Bikes built the wheel set. He ran the numbers and worked out that he could make the HOSHI NJS Keirin spokes fit three-cross to the 32 hole rims. He is a true perfectionist and goes to the smallest detail of matching the Dura-Ace logo on the hubs with the Araya logo on the rims.
Chris was inspired by the photos of Will Goodan, whose bikes and photography have been big favourites of Cycle EXIF readers, over the years, even gracing the cover of the 2013 Cycle EXIF Custom Bicycle Calendar. Chris finishes by stating, “This build reminds me to push myself harder for things I care about.” An honourable trait, and it’s paid off.