Remember those dreadful ‘90s TV adverts for discount supermarket chain Netto? The tagline was ‘Netto, Scandinavian for value’? I think there may even have been one with Ulrika Johnson wearing a pointy-horned ‘viking’ hat.
Well I’m happy to announce this post has nothing to do with Scandi bargain-merchants and everything to do with Nitto, the high-quality Japanese component maker.
Let’s start with a little bit of a history lesson.
If you know the brand you can’t even think about Nitto without thinking of Japan, of fixies and of that uniquely Far Eastern sport of keirin. Keirin was created after the second world war by the Japanese government, to was intended to satisfy a hunger on the part of the public for a new form of gambling and as a distraction from the awful economic conditions in the country. It remains one of only four public sports on which people in Japan can legally gamble.
In the ’50s, as often happens when large amounts of money are changing hands, the keirin tracks all over the country quickly became hotbeds of mob activity, with major public disturbances – even riots – occurring at races that were perceived to have been fixed by the gangs. A governing body was required, to keep the sport honest, and that responsibility fell to the Nihon Jitensha Shinkōkai (which means Japanese Bicycle Association and is usually abbreviated to NJS). The NJS was also responsible for approving the parts used in keirin bikes, to ensure they were of the best quality and that the playing field was fair – an NJS-approved stamp quickly became a globally recognised mark of quality, with only a limited number of brands receiving this honour.
And that’s where Nitto come in.
The brand is as traditional as you like, still made entirely in Japan and still only making metal bike components. They had a look at carbon fibre, but decided they’d rather keep doing something they were the best in the world at than try to learn how to work with this new-fangled material. Their association with keirin also makes them very popular with the fixie scene, which takes a lot of its cues from keirin (whether it knows it or not).
We dug up this awesome video featuring the company president, Akira Yoshikawa, which sheds a little bit of light on just why they have a claim to be one of the best makers of bike components in the world. With gratuitously gorgeous definition and some hypnotic shots of machinists at work, trust us, you’re going to want to full-screen it.
If you follow us on Instagram you’ll have seen this recent build, which features a Nitto handlebar (bars are their ‘signature’ item, if you like). We love building with Nitto gear, because we have confidence that not only is it super-fly, but it’ll also last absolutely ages.
An awesome @allcitycycles big block frame #repainted into the ultimate city cruiser. Awesome @nitto noodle bars, @paulcomponent brake levers @velo_orange headset, stem seat post and brakes and finally some #hplusson rims and @brooksengland saddle and tape! It is such a chilled, comfy and enjoyable ride for cruising round our lovely city! #handmade #bike #hplusson #allcity #bikesbikesbikes #bikesareyourbf #bikestagram #bikeswithoutlimits #cycling #cloud9cycles #veloorange #cruise #chilled #noodle
Nitto, Japanese for awesome.Read More
We like to think every custom-built bike that leaves our workshop is a work of art. We put in the time to understand what each rider wants, we work hard to get it done and we even apply a little bit of creative flair to each build, so why shouldn’t every one be a masterpiece?
One brand that takes this approach another step further is Cinelli, the classic Italian bike brand that pretty much invented the street bike as we know it now. Since birth Cinelli has been producing amazing designs that blur the line between art and bicycles.
It all started with Cino Cinelli, the father of the brand, who took his keen eye for design and applied it to bike-making. He took inspiration from all over the place, blending cutting-edge technologies and construction techniques with sharp styling and flashy paint jobs.
Everything about the Cinelli approach went against the grain. Most Italian bikes then were built to the same basic requirements as they had been before world war two, and as such there wasn’t a lot of variation. Cino blew that all up by innovating constantly in the field of componentry.
Even the badge for the brand (introduced in the ’70s and still used today) pretty much threw out every rule about logo design there was back then. Instead of an intricate heraldic symbol he chose the bold ‘winged C’ inspired by British ’50s artwork. Instead of a fancy font he went with a clear, simple text for the brand name. An icon was instantly born.
Since then the Italian company has gone from maverick outsider doing things its own way to a trend-setting, era-defining legend – with the help of a few artists and illustrators along the way.
A couple of years back Cinelli teamed up with artist / illustrator Mike Giant to work on some pretty fearsome RAM bars (pictured above) as well as some matching bar tape.
Before Giant, Barry McGee turned his street artist’s eye to bike design creating a super-select range of Supercorsa Pista track bikes.
Then, of course, there’s that Cinelli Lazer designed by artist and activist Keith Haring, featuring disc wheels with a beautiful illustrated print. Almost thirty years old and still looking devastatingly fresh! Here’s our very own Kris posing with the fabled machine alongside current Cinelli owner Antonio Colombo at his art gallery in Milan.
No matter the era, a Cinelli bike is the ultimate stylish choice for city riding. We stock the full range of frames, clothing and accessories in our stores and you can find out more info on getting your own custom Cinelli built here.Read More