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Me and my bike: Ogre

James Spender
20 Feb 2019

Kyoto-based framebuilder Eiji Konishi is a man of few words – but his unique bikes have plenty to say

This feature was originally published in Issue 82 of Cyclist magazine

To call Eiji Konishi a good framebuilder is a bit like saying Yo-Yo Ma knows his way around a cello. Because while gifted individuals exist in any field, few make it to the realm of virtuoso.

That might sound a little overblown – we are, after all, only talking about making a bike, right?

And although this bike cuts a pleasing and slightly different silhouette, like most road bikes it’s a relatively simple design.

But scratch the surface and this titanium creation reveals a framebuilder who is master of his craft – so much so that he’s been nationally recognised as one of the greatest metal fabricators in his country.

Monster in the machine

Konishi lives in Yosana Town, in the Kyoto prefecture in Japan.

He comes from artisanal stock – his parents are master craftspeople, and in fact his workshop is adjacent to theirs.

But while they make Japanese cultural artefacts, Konishi is busy building all things two-wheeled, exclusively in titanium.

His repertoire is vast, from reworking classic Shimano trials bike pedal designs (making the cages from titanium as opposed to aluminium, which wears and loses its ‘bite’) to fabricating motocross chassis, workstands and exhausts.

The motorsport side of the business goes under the name Weld One, a fairly self-explanatory title given Konishi’s chosen medium.

But for bicycles he reserves the use of Ogre, of which a machined, manga-style interpretation adorns this bike’s head tube.

The name comes from nearby Mount Oe, home to legendary ogre Shuten-doji, who came down from his mountain to steal Kyoto’s womenfolk and eat them.

He was only vanquished when hero Minamoto Raiko incapacitated him with sake (of which the ogre was very fond, his name translating as ‘sake-drinking-lad’) and chopped off his head.

Even then, the ogre wouldn’t die, and Raiko had to put on three helmets to protect his head from being eaten by the decapitated marauder.

It’s as good an origin story as we’ve heard, and seems fitting for a bike made from the fabled ‘forever metal’, covered in anodised cherry blossom and packed full of neat details.

Taking the hard line

‘I make everything myself,’ says Konishi.

Or rather, writes. Because although we first met – and featured – Konishi in a Cyclist piece about the Bespoked handmade bike show back in 2017, our Japanese hasn’t really come on very much in that time.

Thus, we converse through the international language of nodding, smiling and tyre squeezing, coupled with the might of the smartphone, which Konishi uses to translate sentences.

‘I bent the seat tube and cut the head tube and bottom bracket from solid material,’ he says/types.

‘I made the handlebars from the start. I bent the tubes. I cut the dropouts. I did the cherry blossom. I made the disc rotors. It’s all made from titanium.’

The polished metal of those parts bears the buffing strokes that only untreated titanium can, an iridescent lustre that reveals an almost grain-like structure.

And while words like ‘cut’ and ‘make’ lose something in translation, what Konishi explains is that every part here, save for the carbon fibre inserts on the seatstays, is made by him.

The head tube and bottom bracket are machined from solid 6-4 titanium ingot, which starts life looking like a metal log before being whittled down by computer-programmed machine tools into a single, hollow component.

The dropouts and disc rotors – which might appear similar to the Campagnolo rotors one might expect given this bike’s Campagnolo H11 disc groupset – have been machined from 6-4 titanium plate.

Why is this important?

Because 6-4 (or grade 5) titanium, is a harder alloy than the 3-2.5 (grade 9) more commonly found in ti frames (the numbers refer to the percentage of aluminium and vanadium metals used in the alloy).

It’s therefore a harder material to work with, titanium giving machine tools a famously tough time as the more it’s worked the hotter it gets, and the hotter it gets the more resistant it becomes to being cut.

This in contrast to the relatively ‘soft’ world of aluminium alloys.

Still, a framebuilder using 6-4 in their builds is not unique. But machining it himself, as Konishi does, just might be.

The tubing here is still 3-2.5 however, mostly because it’s all but impossible for builders to source 6-4 tubing in bike frame diameters.

If it does appear as a bike tube, 6-4 is usually rolled and seam-welded plate.

Konishi also uses 6-4 titanium filler rods with which to weld, believing the outcome to be stronger, and making him unique as a builder, he thinks.

Regardless of the truth of those claims, Konishi’s welding skill is something celebrated beyond his peers.

He consistently places highly at Japan’s National Welding Technology Competition, coming fourth in 2012, where he was only beaten by welders from heavy industry giants.

We must admit to not being quite up to speed with industrial welding competitions, but apparently that’s a pretty major achievement, and although Konishi reckons he ‘rushed’ this bike, building it entirely from scratch in three days to have it ready for Bespoked 2018, the results speak for themselves.

Ogre custom titanium road bikes, prices from around £3,000 (frameset). Visit weld-one.com for more details

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