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Master Wheel Builder


Speeding Up
Jun 6, 2007
Where in Tokyo might one find a master wheel builder? (Conventional wisdom
among the randonneuring cognoscenti is that wheels must be "old school," i.e.
have lots of spokes and be built not by a machine but by the hand a craftsman,
a master craftsman.)

I am iconoclast engouh to have blissfully ignored this advice in the shorter
brevets I've done, but in contemplating the longer distances yet to come I think
it prudent to at least consider the option of having such a wheelset built. Does
anyone know where in Tokyo I could have this done?

I saw this bike in Seo shinmatsudo on Sunday and the wheels had about 144 spokes each in them... ( I didn't count them all but did a rough quarter count by 4....) Anymore and it would have been a disk wheel.
Looked very strong...
In Saitama these guys were used by the pro teams to build wheels. It's on the tohoku line in Kuki city 50 minutes from Ueno by train. Two blocks from the station on the west side.But I used to ride there.Tell them what you want and trust their judgement. Map is here http://496elan.info/collect1/kuki3.htm and the homepage is here http://496elan.info/top_a.htm . They are very much an old style shop but they do deliver good product. Wheels used to take a week to make but that was over 10 years ago.
I'm just having a set of 32-spoke wheels built now, Shimano hubs, Open Pro rims. Getting a local LBS to do it for me. It's a one-man operation and I'm not sure if he comes anywhere close to being a "master wheelbuilder", but we shall see... One of the advantages of these kinds of wheels is you can take them most anyplace for rebuilding/true-ing/servicing, unlike, say, my Eastons, which spend more time being shipped back to the distributor for frequent repairs at exorbitant cost than mounted on my bike</rant>

Just guessing, but perhaps the chain shops like Seo use a specialist for custom wheel builds (either in-house or outsourced), so you might get a good build with them?
Kiwisimon>In Saitama these guys were used by the pro teams to build wheels.

Simon, you are the man with the knowledge. Exactly the kind of place I was
looking for, and after browsing their formidable website I jumped on the bike
mid-afternoon-ish today and road out there. (Been vaguely thinking about a
steel frame, too.) Alas, Wild Goose Chase in Japan #117 (always check the
rogue holiday, David). BTW, any thoughts on their frames?

Thanks a bunch.

Phil>I'm just having a set of 32-spoke wheels built now, Shimano hubs, Open
>Pro rims. . . . perhaps the chain shops like Seo use a specialist for custom
>wheel builds

Good point, Phil. Certainly makes sense. The place I consider my LBS is in
fact a Seo shop (Triton Square). I really like the tencho, and more importantly
trust him, but he's a young guy and everyone else who works there
is even younger. Still, I should find a politic way to ask if building a wheel
like an Open Pro (which gets a lot of mention in rando discussions of wheel
strength) is done by a well-experienced hand.

. BTW, any thoughts on their frames?

They lack the name brand of the likes of Kalavinka or San Renshou but there are very few offered for sale second hand which tells you their owners are very happy with them. Ton of options in the ordering process and good friendly service. If you have the means then this is a way to get a good tradition Japanese handmade frame that not every hipster and his dog will know about. There are plenty of builders in Japan and out of loyalty I would also recommend the pro shop in Ageo (Saitama) for Bridgestone. Five minutes walk from Kita Ageo station on the Takasaki line. Will try and get the latest list of builders in the Kantou and will edit it in here later. P.s try phoning before you go to check they are open but hope you had a nice ride out.
David, sounds like Simon's option is the best one for you, but just to add info for others who might be looking...

World Cycle in Osaka does custom builds:


Much like Excel Sports, you can select hub, rim, spokes etc online and they'll build it for you. Looks like the shipping is free, so it ends up being about the same price (if using Shimano hubs) as ordering overseas.

Never used them, so can't speak to quality, service etc.
Kiwisimon>There are plenty of builders in Japan. . . .

That seems to be true, indeed. The Velo Orange blog has a partial list here
(though many of the the links are dead):

After several rounds of thought (going round and round and round), I came to
the tentative conclusion that I don't have enough riding experience to know
what I really want from a custom frame (not to mention that the wait times
of the more well-known builders would require they deliver the finished
product to the afterlife). I do know I want to try riding steel because 1) I have
experienced sudden, catastrophic failure of a carbon fork, and 2) if I'm going
to spend time and money traveling to distant continents and ride thousands
of kilometers, I'd like a bike I have some chance of twisting back into some
semblance riding form should it get a bit bent out of shape.:)

So I considered an alternative strategy: looking for a vintage, or at least
somewhat old, steel racing frame. (My lack of experience doesn't help here,
either, having the effect of a blindfold; yet I could still day dream about
finding something like this http://www.cyclesgrandbois.com/SHOP/CNL_6052.html
at a garage sale.) In the course of that, ahem, looking, I came across a Yahoo
auction for a complete neo-vintage bicycle (frame by Toyo) that passed first
muster as a randonneuring machine, and would cost about as much as a
minimal custom frame. Convincing my CEO that we were saving thousands
of by dollars by buying a bike like that instead a new Cervelo, I got the
approval to make the aquisition. To be continued after the thing arrives and
I've ridden it a few hundred km.

Your sharing of experience and knowledge is extremely helpful and very
much appreciated. And I will include the Ageo Bridgestone shop in my
research towards a custom frame, which I have a feeling may by the ultimate
destination in this quest.

Phil>World Cycle in Osaka does custom builds
Definitely a good place to know about. Another intriguing place is a one-man
shop in, of all places, Coos Bay, Oregon.
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