SEIICHI EGUCHI AND EX-BICYCLE. I’ve heard it said that the Japanese are not particularly great inventors, but that they have an incredible ability to take an existing product or idea and make it far better. For Seiichi Eguchi, owner of a Tokyo bike shop called EX-bicycle, the desire to restore classic Italian steel road bikes to their original glory (and sometimes beyond, with upgraded components and wheels) started with an interest not in bikes but in motorcycles and cars. Eguchi recalls his interest in “wheels” started with the iconic, small and stylish Honda Super Cub motorcycle, and then progressed to the much more powerful 998 cc Honda Fireblade. He then moved on to cars, a Toyota AE86, which he worked on and raced (unofficially, during a time Eguchi refers to as “my ridiculous behavior”) until he had this realization: “I felt the emptiness with those things [and saw that] achieving high performance meant having to spend a lot of money. I lost the passion for those ‘wheels.’”
Words: John Madruga
Images: Courtesy of Seiichi Eguchi

Opening image: Seiichi Eguchi, center.

It just so happened that Eguchi’s first bicycle restoration project was an Italian frame, a Pinarello, and not an American or French brand. He immediately felt drawn to the beautiful, classic lines of Italian design and the historical impact these bikes have had on the the world of road cycling. And this has influenced his own approach to his work: “I’m always trying to build a bike in good faith, single-mindedly—something that would be naturally beautiful. I don’t know why, but Italian bikes are especially beautiful. The builder probably had something as Zen spirit guiding him: ‘How can I make beautiful art in my life?’”

Eguchi began to buy parts from eBay to complete the Pinarello build, and eventually started a small mail-order business dealing in vintage bike parts for restoration and customization projects. It was a perfect fit: “Working on a bicycle was very attractive for me, because I knew about plating, painting, welding and making stickers from my car crazy days.” Now his shop is filled with many excellent examples of Eguchi’s work, with every frame—Cinelli, De Rosa, Masi, Colnago, Bianchi, Bottecchia and others—brought back to its original character and luster.

I’ve been told that there are two clear groups of cyclists in and around Tokyo: those who ride carbon frames with the latest components and technology, regardless of the price, and the steel frame purists who admire lug work and craftsmanship. It’s obvious where Seiichi Eguchi’s heart lies. His love for steel is seen in the detail of his work, the level of respect he brings to the parts and frames he restores, and in the pleasure of those who ride his bikes out on the road. How did you begin restoring/building bikes? Simply speaking, I just fell in love with bikes. One day, I got a Pinarello Asolo frameset from neighbor. It was old and rusty, but I was very excited because that rickety frame brought me into the wonderful world of Italian bike racing, which has so much history and legendary stories. The bicycle has a splendid wheel. In cycling everything is fair for everyone, because the speed of the bicycle has no relation to fame or economic status. There are no poor people, middle class or wealthy—it’s only cyclists.

I started to buy bike parts from eBay, and came to know bicycle enthusiasts around the world via the Internet—especially a famous vintage bike buyer friend in Italy and Spain. I began to buy complete bikes and rare parts directly from them. I left my job at Pioneer and was independent. My core business finally became a vintage bicycle shop.

What is the inspiration/philosophy behind EX-bicycle? Never say no. EX-bicycle means ‘Excellent work by Expert for Executives.’ If we get a difficult request, we find a solution using wisdom and without saying no. I must listen sincerely to the voice of the customer, what they’re looking for. Technique is important, however the most important thing is to build what the customer desires.

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Why work with classic Italian steel frames? Legend, history and passion. It’s to preserve the great works of art—like the Cinelli Corsa—made by excellent builders. Actually, it’s not only Italian bikes. Every steel bike has a great story.

What is the link in your work between making a bike that performs well on the road (function), and making a bike that is beautiful (form)? If you make something high performance, it becomes beautiful naturally. I think beauty and performance co-exist. However, I will recommend the latest technology and parts at the expense of beauty sometimes. For example, it doesn’t make sense recommending a tubular rim to a customer who will be doing long-distance rides.

I believe that riding bikes and making memories with friends is important. A bike has no value if it is a show bike.

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Who are you main customers and what do they most value/want in a road bike? Doctors, architects, artists, musicians, bankers, securities salesman, and people who were not able to buy a bike for economic reasons when they were young. A vintage bicycle will fulfill their dreams as their time machine. My customers want adventure, to keep their competitive spirit. They also want something for anti-aging, health management, and a reason to get away from their wife for a while.

My customers also want my knowledge of bike history and restoration. To ride a bike that was restored by EX-bicycle and is introduced in the EX-bicycle blog has some status among the Tokyo cycling community.

More: exbicycle.com 

From issue 26. Buy it here.