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Japanese madness: show bikes from Samurai and Ogre

It’s that time of year again – when the various Handbuilt bike shows around the world give ‘craft’ builders the chance to show off their skills. Much like the prototypes you see at car shows it’s often not about building practical machines but showing just what can be done in the name of two wheeled transport.

Not surprisingly I’m always on the look out for titanium creations from the Far East, and the madder the better! Handily the Japanese can always be relied on…

The North American Handbuilt Bike Show (NAHBS) is the original source of this sort of fun and Samurai were only too happy to contribute to this years entertainment. OK, I’m not quite sure where to begin here…


Well, at least no one can accuse Samurai of being boring…

‘Inspired by the armour of the traditional Japanese Samurai warrior’ the bike showcases the fabrication skills of the Futaku precision fabrication company. They say that you’ll be able to by the frameset for $12,000, although I’m not entirely convinced that you’d want to…

One of the major skills they’re showing off is how they can make those tight bends by cutting and welding small sections of tube together. Putting that much repeated heat through the joint might not be a great idea, but you can’t deny the results are pretty impressive!

Tight bends are created using small sections of tube welded together.

Perhaps the most striking feature of the frame is the way the head tube is attached to the main frame – with a titanium mesh designed to look like the faceplate of the Samurai helmet. The first thought I had was ‘is that really strong enough to support the most stressed part of the frame?’.

And those stays – are they really going to be stiff enough to run the high tension that a belt drive needs? I then realised that perhaps I was taking things a bit too seriously for a show bike (are they really going to offer them for sale?).

Titanium mesh used to hold the head tube in place – but would it be strong enough?

Tight bends, plain titanium rod and the use of mesh for the headtube is a great way of challenging the traditional way that frames are made. It might not be very practical but it could provide inspiration for details on a frame that you are having made. Don’t be afraid to ask for something out of the ordinary as I’m sure the folks at Watly, Titan and XACD would relish the challenge!

Bespoked is the UK’s answer to the NAHBS and while it might be on a smaller scale it’s still capable of the odd surprise – like this bonkers downhill machine created by OGRE:

Ogre downhill machine – whoa, what’s going on with that swinging arm?

Now that’s a beast and a half! Designed to show off the fabrication skills of Weld-One in Japan, it combines a front end of formed and welded sheet, with a symphony of triangulated small tubing to form the swinging arm.

Frames like this would be to expensive to offer for general sale because of the fabricating time needed, let alone the cost of the materials involved! Check out the workmanship in the rear swinging arm:

Crazy linkages and interesting ‘unfinished’ look.

I’m liking the finish there too, I think that’s a dab of rainbow titanium anodising, or it could be heat discolouring from the welding which is usually polished out. Either way, it’s pretty funky – lord know’s what’s going on with that shock linkage though!

Taking a look at their website (in Japanese only) turns up some equally interesting looking bikes. Weld-One can do the bend-by-welding-sections-of-tube too, and the ‘unfinished’ look is really growing on me.

Another example of the ‘unfinished’ look and the technique of sections of tubing being welded together instead of bending the down tube.

It’s an excellent example of the Japanese aesthetic of ‘wabi-sabi’ which embraces some of the Buddist principles centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection.

They can even do you a small wheeled machine too along the same lines as a Moulton or Brompton:

A slightly more polished finish as fits the style of machine: pleasingly tidy.

If you’re interested here’s some further reading (no guarantee of enlightenment I’m afraid):


Have you spotted anything just as strange – or have you even had a one made yourself? Do drop me a line via the Contacts page…