Bikes, Japan

Chromoly from Osaka

With their lugged frames of chromoly steel, vintage bikes remind me of the days when cycling was my primary way of getting around. No doubt, today’s high-end bikes made of carbon or aluminum put a little less on the scales. But then, how relevant is this in reality, considering the rider’s weight that will outdo the bike’s by far and away?

There is a lively scene of collectors exchanging information and selling bikes through online forums and marketplaces. Directory pages like mtb-kataloge.de, the Retrobike Archives, or VeloBase.com offer access to historic sales prospectuses and brochures of many collectible brands. For some, there are even dedicated web sites in place, like for Fuji, Panasonic, and many others.

Panasonic Bicycles

Some connoisseurs like to refer to Panasonic bicycles ironically as “toaster bikes”, hinting at the company’s reputation as a supplier of household appliances. Well, it may come as a surprise that Panasonic’s first bestseller was in fact a battery-powered bicycle lamp. That was in 1923, just a couple of years after its founder Konosuke Matsushita had finished an apprenticeship at a bike shop.

Matshushita’s passion for bicycles never cooled off, even when his venture went into other directions. Until today, the Osaka-based giant operates a custom order system for road bikes and a production of tires and tubes under its Panaracer brand.