Kalavinka –noun An allegorical, sweet-singing bird of immortality.
Simple. Clean. Tight geometry.
After visiting Japan earlier this year I’ve developed a borderline obsession with the beautiful bikes that Akio Tanabe creates.
This is the story of Kalavinka.
‘For 35 years, Tsukumo Cycle Sports, a small community bicycle shop located in Meguro ward Tokyo, has serviced all kinds of bicycles, from domestic mama-chari to professional keirin bikes.’
‘But it’s what lies in the back of the shop that makes Tsukumo a destination for bicycle aficionados. It’s in this tiny workshop, the size of a large closet, where Akio Tanabe creates some of the most sought-after bicycle frames under the name Kalavinka.’
‘There’s nothing new about the technology Tanabe-san uses to hand-build his frames. His workshop is filled with sketches, bottom bracket shells, lugs and bottles of chemicals.’
‘There’s no automated assembly line and until recently no space-age carbon fiber. Kalavinka has been working on a carbon track frame for some time, but Tanabe-san is best known for frames produced with steel tubing and welding tools.’
Before opening Tsukumo and starting his own line of bikes, Tanabe-san worked as a test rider and racer. He builds 80 to 90 frames a year, half of which are for professional keirin racers.
Only recently has Tanabe-san begun creating masterpieces using high modulus carbon fibre.
Whilst dabbling with materials of the modern age, Tanabe-san’s creations using welded steel epitomise a more timeless perfection.
In theme with adapting to modern times, Kalavinka in 2008 collaborated with Sag life to create a limited run of custom made messenger bags.
‘Despite his frames being one of the most sought after in the world Tanabe-san is extremely humble and quick to deflect praise onto others. In one instance to the delicate hand painted head badges that his wife creates.’
Despite the ever growing popularity of NJS frames, Tanabe-san remains commited to limiting the number of frames he produces to ensure the highest quality.
Tanabe-san, tucked up in his workshop.
Thanks to: ‘Art of the Frame’ by Jess Hemerly & Jonathon Koshi (Make Magazine), Pedalmafia, Mattias Westfalk, Pedestrian Japan, SuperMakuri & Kalavinka-Bikes.