Bike Shop Visit: Taira Cycle in Okinawa

02-Taira Cycle, Nakagamigun, Chatan, Okiawa

Yoshi in his shop, Taira Cycle in Okinawa.

Image gallery below. Check it out!

There are bicycles in Okinawa. There are road racers and commuters, but not much in between. The racing folks tend to like their super-light carbon bikes and super-spandexy lycra kits. The commuters tend to stick with their less-expensive, rusty mamacharis and ride to work or school in whatever they need to wear that day. There seems to be a very small middle class of cyclists here who seek to better their commutes or go on adventures with their bikes. That’s what Taira Cycle hopes to change.

Bicycles in Okinawa are seen as a tool by most of the people here. A mere means to an end, rather than a lifestyle. Most racers would dispute this point, but then, not all of us can afford a 6.8-kilogram bike with all the bells and whistles. There is an untapped market of people that either can’t afford a new carbon bike every year, or want to ride a cheap dutch-style bike that will only rust and decay in the salt air. I think there are Okinawans and US military base personnel who would be willing to part with a little more money for the type of bicycle that can take them to work on asphalt and camping on dirt.

I had been looking for a shop that would fill this opportunity gap in Okinawa for a while now. Over the years, I haven’t found much. Sure, there have always been shops that could order pretty much anything you want. However, there weren’t any that were really dedicated to the type of cycling we are talking about here. Over the last year, however, Yoshi Taira opened up Taira Cycle in the Chatan area of Okinawa. He is looking to spread the idea of cycling as an adventure. Caring about your needs seems like an awesome way to start.

His shop is small. That may be the most important aspect. Communication with the customer is the first rule, here. The space has a very personal and accessible feel to it. There is no clutter, but it is not antiseptic, either. It is inviting and colorful. Yoshi himself is a very amiable and pleasant guy. He was all smiles when I walked in his shop. He speaks enough English to help you out. But if you want to get into details, bring a friend who speaks Japanese. He will try his best, though. So don’t let that keep you from visiting. His outgoing personality definitely translates!

04-Taira Cycle, Nakagamigun, Chatan, Okiawa

Looking towards the rear of Taira Cycle. Lots of jerseys, helmets and accessories.

If you are at all familiar with Circles in Nagoya, or Blue Lug in Tokyo, you would surely recognize Taira Cycle’s business model. They sell the same stuff. They offer quality products that are in the mid-range of affordability (in the bike world), they will custom build a bike from the frame up according to your needs, and most of all, they are experts at making you feel good about your purchase. These types of shops not only offer you an opportunity to go on rides and attend events together, they offer you a place in the modern adventure and commuter bike culture. This is important: Yoshi’s shop is the only one in Okinawa that operates this way.

As for his inventory, it is small. This way, if you are patient enough, you can get a bicycle that is yours and yours alone. For the moment, Yoshi is mainly a Surly dealer. Even though you may end up having the same Surly frame as his other customers, you will be the only one with that particular bicycle.

The personalized experience goes even further: Taira Cycle stocks and orders products like USA-made classics such as Chris King, Paul Components, Wolftooth Components and RAL. He also stocks Sim Works by Nitto which I have not yet seen at this level anywhere else in Okinawa.

All of this makes for a shop that doesn’t quite have a scene yet. However, I have a feeling that as soon as the locals realize that if they spend a little more, they will be happier in the long run. The reason for this is that Okinawa is a beautiful island. It has no shortage of amazing vistas and fun things to do on a bike. With traffic being so bad, a bike is really the best way to get around. What better than a bike from Yoshi that will last for a lifetime?

Adam and His Specialized Specialized

Adam and his modified 90s Specialized Rockhopper

Rides a modified 90s Specialized Rockhopper.

So I ride an older mountain bike around from the 80s. I really like its long wheelbase and straight and low top tube. However, I always thought it needed a little something extra. Enter Adam’s 90s Specialized Rockhopper. On my morning commute, I always spy this grand machine outside the French Press. I often wonder, what would a set of drop bars ands bar-end shifters look like on my old Gecko?

Chance had it that Adam stopped by the bike shop to air up his tires one day. So I pounced. Turns out that his bars and stem are neat-o Nitto and his seat is the Brooks Cambium C17. I asked him how he liked the saddle and he said it was the perfect high-quality saddle to suit his vegan lifestyle. No leather in that thing. Makes sense, right? Well, I probably wont go the saddle route, but I can see modifying the Gecko up some. I have plenty of ideas now. Check out the closeup!

90s Specialized Rockhopper with drops

Dare I say Tomac inspired?

May the (SRAM) Force Be with You

It’s the simple things in life that keep us happy. For me, it was when my good friend Tyler was adjusting the shifting on the SRAM Force rear derailleur after that long San Diego ride. Like I said. It’s the simple things.

Dean and the Celeste Blue Acquisition

Dean and his beautifully-restored 1964 Bianchi road frame.

Going to ride a beautifully-restored 1964 Bianchi road frame.
Shot in Downtown Santa Barbara, CA

So my friend Daniel Quinones has a buddy named Dean who just acquired possible the most beautifully-restored Bianchi road frame I have ever seen. It’s amazing what you can find with just a little perseverance and patience. Dean found this frame on Craigslist. He got it from a guy who repaints and restores frames and was offering the frame for an almost-unheard-of price. “So what?” you say. Big deal, it’s just another celeste blue frame with a Bianchi sticker on it. If any of you out there are saying that silently to yourselves, well, reevaluate your priorities. Either that, or just open your mind a little bit. In case you forgot, it’s that squishy thing behind your eye holes and above your neck.

Listen.

Quality steel is hard to come by these days. Sure, you can get a bitchin’ steel frameset from Surly and ride around screaming “Surly double-butted 4130 ChroMo – NATCH!” until your vocal cords resemble loose guitar strings. Maybe a few people will listen to you. Nothing against Surly, I love those bikes. I have two of them. But when your rolling on Italian steel (coincidentally, my old nickname from high school…better not to ask), you can just scream “Andiamo!” and have something worth talking about in a conversation. This bike comes from the same legendary line that produced the Paris-Roubaix-winning bike for Fausto Coppi in 1950. They are the oldest bicycle company in the world producing 45,000 frames a year by 1900. That’s the turn of the last century…Let that marinate in your brain case next time you are riding dirty on your Taiwanese whip. Dean plans to throw an internally-geared drivetrain on this bad boy and ride the F out of it. We’re going to keep tabs on Dean and his bike as the project progresses. So don’t touch that dial. Hey, check some more images of his frame below!

– Italian Steel

Daniel “DQ” Quinones

Daniel Quinones and his custom-built Schwinn Cruiser.

Rides a custom Schwinn Cruiser.
Shot on State Street in Santa Barbara, CA.
Getting rad all day.

Doing custom builds on Schwinn Cruisers is sort of a thing here in Santa Barbara. I used to do it. It’s a lot of fun and you end up with a pretty sick ride after you finally decide you’re done. There seems to be an obsession with Chris King headsets and SE Landing Gear forks on older cruiser frames. It’s pretty awesome.  Daniel Quinones, (DQ) is one of those guys who I am extremely lucky to call my friend. He and I mix it up at the bike shop while quoting Nacho Libre on weekends and I can’t say that there is another person who laughs at my jokes more than he does.

When DQ’s not putting some sweet cruisers together or killing awesome trails, he studies photography at Brooks Institute here in SB. I have to say, that he and our buddy Max Frank (also a Brookie) have given me endless advice on how to manage a camera…and a bike. He’s also taken a few good pics of my ugly mug. I must admit I look pretty hard. Straight from the hardcore ghetto of Santa Barbara. I look like I just rode a mountain bike while running hooch across the border from Whistler, BC in 1930. AD. Prohibition and all that. What I am trying to say is that even though I am 20 years older than him, I wish I had his skills.

Patrick

Patrick and his 80s Nishiki single-speed conversion.

Rides an 80s Nishiki single-speed conversion.
Shot on Ortega Street in Santa Barbara, CA.

I first met Patrick when he was in our shop a while ago trying to get us to remove an old rusted seat post from his bicycle frame. The post was completely seized and we nearly destroyed his frame attempting to get it out. We had an old Nishiki frame (that was too large) in storage that we just gave to him. We felt that we owed it to him since the mechanic promised him he could remove the post. Well, now we see Patrick rolling around on this frame and he says that he’s gotten quite used to it. In fact, he tells us that he likes it better. He also has an old aluminum mountain bike that he has painted pink. Let’s face it: Patrick is just cool.

Bike Pron Vol. 4

Fox Float CTD

Fox Float CTD with Kashima Coating
Mounted on a Santa Cruz Carbon Nomad

Because this is Way of the Bicycle, this blog, and all its associated Bike Pron should cover all bikes, right? Well, maybe not recumbents because those things are the ultimate in Fred vehicles. Pictured above is a Fox rear shock mounted on a Santa Cruz Carbon Nomad. Despite the price tag being above $6,000, I still drool over this thing whenever I see it. Would I be able to ride it effectively? Probably not. I ride mostly asphalt and the last mountain bike I had was one of those rigid steel triangles that did a better job of rattling your bones rather than getting you places. So here it is, bicycle fans. Drool…DROOL!