Bike Craft in Portland
 

Maker Profile: Helavna Cycles

Helavna Cycles : Tokyo, Japan

Interview with Koushou Kinugawa

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Koushou Kinugawa visited Portland on vacation in 2009 and is excited to return to showcase his steeds at the Oregon Handmade Bike Show.

Show his bikes yes, but also, he says, “travel, ride, eat local foods, and be part of that place, it’s precious and good experience for oneself. Internet is useful, but it can’t be the object: you can’t see outside of picture frame.” He’ll be doing it up right, staying at Ace Hotel and drinking plenty of Stumptown Coffee. Last time he was here, Koushou rode in Bridge Pedal and enjoyed Portland’s bike friendliness.

Koushou is a detailed craftsman. He spent several years making his frambuilding tools and setting up his shop. Though he had access to a supplier who could provide tools and equipment, he preferred to have Ninugawa original tools and created them himself. He feels that with technology so accessible these days everything is too easy. He wants to interject “heart, ones identity, originality” into his work. He likes a fusion of classic and modern styles that are simple.

Koushou spent three years studying frame building. “At first, I didn’t know tube-set needs drop outs, crown, lugs, small parts to complete the frame. I learned from mistakes. When first I rode this steel bike, feeling was great! I thought carbon bikes were tuned to be more than steel, cause I had a carbon bike (Cinelli, Mecano).”

In Tokyo, Koushou is certainly an innovator. Most bikes are imported and there are very few frambuilders. Koushou is excited by bike culture, bike commuting and creative cycling activities that are slowly catching on there.

Bike culture and recreation is increasing in Tokyo. People are starting to ride in groups on weekend jaunts to tour around, which in Japan is called “pottering”. Most cyclocross races are held in other regions, but in February Tokyo had it’s first race, inspired, Koushou says, by Interbike.

Koushou describes commuting in Tokyo as chaos. Since the earthquake, he has seen an increase in bike commuters and hoped people would shift from riding the subway to riding bikes. But due to what sounds like workplace permit restrictions, that is not happening easily. Most people commute 10-15 minutes from home to the subway on their Mamachari bikes, which he considers a waste of resources.

“It’s crazy and confused. whole system sucks! Most roads belongs to cars with few place for bikes; not shared. Also cars aren’t friendly (especially cabs) to bikes, some of are mean. Population increasing, but roads and sidewalks are still narrow like old days size – restored, but not updated. Rules for bike exists but not working, also need an update: people browse or phone during ride, plugged with earphones, cross red lights, goes on road and side walk, run thru pedestrian, and ride in the opposite lane. Some have no lights at night or no difference between their head and tail lights; these are huge numbers. From my view, these problems occur from Mamachari culture – bikes as disposable shoes.”

Keeping a car in this dense urban city is ridiculous, Koushou says, It costs about $6,000 a year just to own, park and insure a car. “Another reason to chose to ride. Well, Portland is very nice place for bikes and recreation. I know it didn’t happen all at once.”

Koushou has a lot planned for his trip to Portland, and is sounds like his priorities are in line: “Ride the bike trail beside the river, get coffee and foods, go to the zoo, Velo Cult and other shops, check out upcoming concerts, pottering around Portland.”

Helavna is named from “hera-buna”, a Japanese fish related to the carp. Koushou chose this name intentionally: “There is a proverb in Japanese fishing ‘Starts from funa, and ends in funa’. It means from beginners to expert; equally enthusiastic. My goal is to build a bike like this word for each person. So, please take a look. Thank you.”


The Oregon Handmade Bicycle Show is October 20-21 in Portland so we’re profiling the many talented makers who will be showcasing their skills in person at the show.

10am to 5pm on Saturday and 11am to 4pm on Sunday | Vigor Industries 5555 N. Channel Ave. in Portland.

[additional show info]

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