Tokyo Fixed deliver their first custom Cherubim

Japan's Keirin track racing system has nurtured a culture of fine frame building with Cherubim among the best

by nick_rearden   December 18, 2011  

If you want an idea of how long it takes to receive a bespoke frame from a legendary Japanese builder, Soho bike shop Tokyo Fixed started taking orders for their new brand Cherubim at the Bespoked Bristol show back in June. They've just delivered the first one this week.

Cherubim is one of those few traditional frame building names bigger than the tubing brands they're made from. Under normal circumstances, a large and sometimes quite gaudy sticker - yes, Reynolds, we're looking at you - proclaims the provenance of the materials employed on a quality frame. Partly because frame builders want to be sure you know they're using the most pukka tubing, mostly though that no sticker could mean some kind of poor generic stuff derisively referred to as 'gas piping.'

When a brand is so famous for its work, in the case of Cherubim that the frames have been used by champions in Japan's Keirin track racing circus for over thirty years, the lack of signage just quietly says, "We don't need to play that game." You really just need to look at the workmanship, feel the weight and trust that one of if not the main criterion for certification by the Keirin governing body is strength and you know you're holding a quality product.


Chrome and hand-painted gold paint to the Cherubim signature engravings: nice.

That was certainly the feeling we got when we saw the Cherubim Piuma bike that won the "Best Road Bike" award at Bespoked in June. The frame was fillet-brazed, meaning that the precisely mitred tubes are held together by solder with a lower melting point than the host material which will be a silver alloy in the case of the extremely thin-walled, high-strength Kasei steel tubing used by Cherubim, and there are neat reinforcements at the points of maximum wear and stress such as the seat post post clamp and where the headset cups press into the head tube.

Cherubim also use chrome-plating, polished to perfection where it is left exposed for durability where paint would otherwise chip; that seat lug again but the chainstays in particular which take a beating from the chain in the life of a frame look just plain beautiful like fine jewellery. Exquisite workmanship, in short.


Touches better appreciated before the bike is built up: neat reinforcements to the bottle cage bosses.

Anyway, this week Tokyo Fixed built their first bike based on a frame that had been ordered since the launch in June. "Twelve weeks is do-able," according to their Max Lewis, "but you wouldn't want to plan on it." For a small workshop under the direct tutelage of the founder's son Shin-Ichi Konno, you just know that orders from all over the world, even at £2,000 a time, are plentiful enough at certain times of the season that lead times will inevitably stretch to more like six months.

Konno-san apparently maintains a ruthlessly fair system of building in the correct sequence of orders arriving and states from the outset when completion will be but still, it must be painful to be receiving a bike like this in the first week of icy roads in the UK. Max more pragmatically says, "I'm very happy one has left us before the year end!

As befits a bespoke frame, apart from the practical and unique combination of tube lengths to suit the buyer's physical proportions, there are other more whimsical touches; in this case a matching-painted carbon fork is held in a traditional threaded headset, now look at that lovely chrome-plated shaping to the head tube reinforcement. The seat stays as well as the chain stays are chrome-plated as well as curved, this latter only viewable from the rear.

Dare we say it, we might even prefer this to the Bespoked-winning Cherubim which we loved on account of its silver colour and matching alloy components. But there's always something about a bike that's been put together with care after a lot of consideration. This must be one happy customer, although possibly frustrated by a shorter than ideal first ride this weekend.

Details: tokyofixedgear.com


Looks fairly conventional from the side but check out the rear view.

3 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

Looks ace!

But I'd still use a British Frame Builder at that price!

Yet those nice little touches could persuade me otherwise!

I like my bike but it needs a hidden 25cc motor Smile

Fish_n_Chips's picture

posted by Fish_n_Chips [325 posts]
18th December 2011 - 13:43

like this
Like (0)

Fish_n_Chips wrote:
...I'd still use a British Frame Builder at that price!

Indeed. I reviewed a Longstaff a few months ago and that plus probably a dozen other hand-made frames I've ridden or seen this year are no worse in terms of the sheer quality of workmanship and probably cheaper on account of coming from 'just up the road.' I can certainly appreciate why people feel a strong sense of attachment to a great local or UK builder and you only have to see how many people ride Longstaffs and Rourkes around their area, for example, to see how that works beautifully. And yet and yet. Shin-Ici-san at Cherubim is every bit as crazy about his workmanship and details and you only have to see the international builders gathered together at places like NAHBS or Bespoked to see how passion for bikes and engineering rather than love-of-country drives the show. A lot of people around the world are as in love with that whole Japanese Keirin racing scene as the tifosi are for the Italian Giro d'Italia. It's brilliant there's a choice and a lot of people solve the agony of indecision by owning more than one bike.

posted by nick_rearden [858 posts]
18th December 2011 - 14:19

like this
Like (2)

Beautiful.

two wheels good; four wheels bad

posted by cat1commuter [1301 posts]
18th December 2011 - 15:08

like this
Like (0)