Toei Bicycles – Book Review

On one of my first visits to Japan some years ago I came across the cream coloured bicycle pictured below and spent some time scrutinizing its fine details. At that time I had only vaguely heard of the maker. Having subsequently inspected several more machines, I can testify to the quality of these exceptional bicycles. I recently acquired in Japan this book about Toei. Based in the suburbs of Tokyo, Toei have been making their exquisite bicycles in the style of the French constructeurs, since 1955. Heavily influenced by the import of René Herse machines to Japan in the 50’s, Toei set about providing a home grown alternative to the French makers. This 288 page book is solely in the Japanese language, but there are numerous pictures to feast your eyes on.

Many of the bikes made in recent years are fitted with NOS vintage parts – TA and Stronglight chainsets, Mafac brakes, Maxicar hubs etc.. Clearly part of the reason for the huge prices of such parts on Ebay and through other sources has something to do with the fact that bicycles like this are still being made both in Japan and in the States.

The quality of photography is very fine but is let down a little by the printing quality which is not very sharp in places. I would have preferred to see a smaller number of bicycles in more detail, because it is the detail shots which are lacking, being almost entirely small ‘thumbnail’ images. One such detail is the remarkable spoked chainwheel shown below. I can’t imagine it to be stiff enough, but it looks amazing! There is a wide range of bicycles illustrated – Randonneurs, Sprortif, Grand Tourisme, Piste, Tandem etc.. There are also some catalogue images and nice period photographs of Japanese randonneurs complete with the obligatory beret! Overall a very fine book, well worth having, with just a few reservations. The book costs 3800 Yen in Japan, about £30, but unfortunately you can expect it to be double that when/if it reaches our shores.


Note: Maxicar hub not included with book.