Located in Chiba just east of Tokyo …&Bicycle is one of Japan’s rising number of unique cycle shops that cater to the refined tastes of the Japanese cyclist looking for something special.
Up until last year, Seiichi Watanabe had been a systems engineer with a deep love for cycling. Building his own bikes and wheels, acquiring all of the skills he needed along the way by visiting bike shops where he could spend time with other people skilled in the craft. A strong rider himself, he has an interest in bikes that spans road, cyclocross and mountain, riding geared and single-speed – racing on some of these and also taking part in the gruelling Rapha Continental rides. A long term friendship with Yano-san from Rapha Japan since his early days in cycling, Seiichi is often involved with helping out at various events and exhibitions where he met a lot of kindred riders that fuelled his desire to do something for himself, to realise the dream of living with what he loves.
A turning point came as he was approaching 40, it’s a major decision to give up a steady career and take a chance on something purely for the love of it, but after 3 years of preparation he opened his own bike store with the aim to share the love of two wheels and the aesthetics that can come with it. Not to be elitist – he sees bikes as part of life, whether its racing, work or hobby, everything is good, any style or any price. The name for his shop came from the same simple concept; connecting somebody, something or somewhere to a bicycle. The aim is exclusively a non-traditional bike shop that sells an equal amount of bikes, clothes and other small items sourced from all over the world, he’s often asked by customers “is this really a bike shop?”.
The taste is more geared toward natural materials like waxed cotton, leather, wood and steel which is Watanabe’s own taste, acquired after many years on many bikes, preferring to get a sense that the item has been made by another human’s hands rather than a computer programmed machine. The products are sourced both locally and internationally; hand made tool rolls from Erika in Portland, Carradice and Bailey Works bags from Lancashire and New Hampshire, Rapha and Brooks go without saying, there are even wooden bottle holders made by hand in Oregon. From Japan the items are even more exclusive like those made from recycled parts by Gunung in Odawara or the tailored clothes from Stem who favour traditional fabrics over modern synthetics and supply colours exclusive to the shop. He told me that people tend to travel quite a distance to visit here from places like Saitama, Ibaraki and Narita, people who appreciate Watanabe’s taste and the atmosphere he’s created.
Physically the store itself reflects this taste, there’s lots of bare wood, a stool made from a woven lattice of inner tubes and shelves made using a similar technique with tubes and raw metal. At the back of the store there’s a large sofa surrounded by a selection of classic books and suitably select magazines, a place for customers to relax and spend some time chatting, but also a place where you can sit back and watch your bike as it’s being built. Whether he’s building from a bespoke Independent Fabrication frame or setting up something out of the box he will always make a point of customising the bike to suit the rider, whether its the width of the handlebars, thickness of the bar tape or the style of brake levers, it’s these small details that are important. After only a year in business Watanabe is at a point where he’s beginning to think about using his unique space to collaborate on events and exhibitions connected to the world of two wheels, and we can’t wait to see what happens.
– Lee Basford / Japanese NWFCC Chapter / humankind.jp
Go read: http://andbicycle.blogspot.com/
and go visit …&Bicycle 3-18-22 Yawara Part5 1F, Minami-Gyotoku, Ichikawa, Chiba, JAPAN.
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