Rapha Rides Kyushu: Meet the Riders


Photographer and RCC Member

Fukuoka is a tightly packed city. If you cycle out for 30 minutes, you can reach the shining turquoise ocean of Itoshima and the alluring roads of Mt. Sefuri. This town has music, food, art, fashion, coffee, bars, public baths... A variety of cultures all nestled together. Because it's such a small town, aquaintences quickly become friends and exciting things start to happen. I live and ride here because I love the people and this town of Fukuoka.

Currently a photographer, formerly a DJ, before that a guitarist. Ten years from now... I don't even know what I'll be. I'm certain that I will be doing something expressive and riding my bike because that's who I am. Routine makes me uneasy. If I get bored, I move on to the next thing.

I want to experience new things. It excites me to think that I don't know what's going to happen next. Rides are like that. Unknown territory, unknown roads, once-in-a-lifetime encounters. That is my riding style.

“The bicycle is the greatest vehicle for freedom. Of course you can take pictures any way you like, there are no rules. What makes photography enjoyable is that anything goes.”

– Atsushi Tanno

Random chance and improvisation are crucial for me. The expected is bland, you don't need an explanation. What's important is whether it stirs your soul. Rides are the same. Go, enjoy the unexpected. Take a chance and delight your soul.

Whether you like it or not, it stimulates the fundamental part of man. The bewitching power of music that takes you somewhere else. Rides are the same, they take you to different places. Physically, as well as mentally. It';s a journey, but also a trip. No stimulants needed, you can get high naturally.

“Empty your mind. Feel with your entire body by uniting with colour, shape, smells, wind, heat, sound, nature. It's easy to do so on a bike. Be free, throw out all titles, distractions, preferences and troubles – it's easy by bike.”

– Atsushi Tanno

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Bikeshop Owner and Pro Mechanic

After reluctantly taking on her grandfathers bike shop upon graduating high school, all Sayako Takata knew about bikes was how to repair punctures and adjust handlebars. She’s since become a professional mechanic and races both road and cyclocross, while still continuing to run her grandfathers store.

Who were the first people that you rode with? How did they influence you?

The first group ride I went on was with some frequent customers. They've taught me so much over the years. It was tough, but I came to understand the enjoyment of cutting through the air and the sense of accomplishment and excitement in overcoming difficulties together. This broadened my world and gave me a chance to meet so many people and travel to many places.

What would you tell someone just starting out in the sport?

Don't just ride by yourself, have the courage to venture out. If you take a leap and get out to the next city, or to an event, you'll meet people, discover amazing roads, find places you didn't notice before, and experience a true sense of accomplishment. There's so much out there.

“Don't just ride by yourself, have the courage to venture out. If you take a leap and go out to the next city or to an event. You'll meet people, discover amazing roads, find places you didn't notice before and experience a true sense of accomplishment; there's so much out there.”

– Sayako Takata

We’re looking for a real ‘local knowledge’ ride, across the most interesting (and little-known) roads. Please tell us about a ride like that.

If you turn off the main road, climb the hill that sits beside a small stream, you’ll find a rice field and a small house. There's an old lady there who will occasionally greet you. You'll pass by many roads like these and eventually be climbing a narrow, slightly rough road with the aroma of soil and vegetation – you can only hear the rustling of trees, the wind passing by and birds singing. Towards the end of the road, just as you're wondering where will it will lead, a perfectly smooth road will appear ahead of you. If you continue riding you'll find a solitary tree with an observation deck in the centre of a small field. Which makes you wonder, who on earth would come to visit a place like this? When life becomes suffocating, there are roads like these where you can find relief.

If you were writing a short description of your city. What can’t be missed from this description?

There's the ocean, the mountains, cherry blossom, stone walls, a difficult history of many goodbyes. Things from the past and things of the future, a town neither big nor small, a place where time passes slowly at it's own pace.

How did you become the owner and mechanic of a bike store?


My grandfather was diagnosed with terminal cancer when I was a senior in high school and it was my parents who encouraged me to take over his bike shop. I'd almost forgotten about it up until that point as I'd hardly been involved.

I loved illustration and had a vague desire to work in that area so I was a bit reluctant; but when I was told, "if you sell all that’s left in your grandfathers inventory you can turn the shop into anything you want.” Along with the fact that I didn’t have a clear idea of what I wanted to do, I decided to take over the store without thinking too much of it. I thought it might be interesting to do something different to my classmates.

I started to help out after school when we decided I was going to take over the store, but all I did was argue. My grandfather always acted tough and never let me catch on how painful his terminal cancer was, always countering my backchat. When he passed away before I graduated high school all I'd learned about fixing bikes was to lower the handlebars and repair punctures. Why did he leave me this shop? I didn't know how to repair anything, and what would I do when I had customers? I'd only just finished high school and was left on my own to continue running a bike shop. I regretted taking the offer so lightly, and truly resented my grandfather. But I continued with the shop in spite of the fact that I didn’t really know what I was doing. Countless times I’d think to myself, “why me? I want to quit."

But as customers grew, I began to see how amazing my grandfather actually was. My feelings began to slowly change as I learned more about him from those who came to visit. I heard how he had told people with delight that his granddaughter was going to take over the shop. Ten years after I took over the place I finally began to ride myself. It’s through cycling that I’ve been able to meet so many people and visit so many places. All I have is gratitude towards my grandfather, who left with me with skills and a character to be proud of.

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Architect and Product Designer

Fukuoka based architect and designer Koichi Futatsumata leads Case-Real and Koichi Futasumata Studio, specialising in architecture, furniture and product design. It was the unconventional and innovative design of the Moulton bike and its mechanics that first ignited his love of bicycles. And with the design obsession came the freedom two wheels brings to explore the mountains, islands and coastal areas of Kyushu.

What makes Fukuoka so special as a city?

People often talk about the geography. The city is tightly packed within a beach plain – you can find almost everything here, and if you ride for half an hour there are mountains, the ocean and beyond that a small island. There are so many nice areas around here which are very unique to this place. I feel that the rhythm and speed of this city and people are just right. Their honesty can often be harsh, but it's a nice blend that's both laid back and human. It feels like the perfect balance.

Your work covers many areas, how would you describe what you do?

I'm a designer. I don't really differentiate between architectural, interior, and product design. Of course during the process there are differences in how the work relates socially, but for me, because all of these areas are within my definition of creating and because I've always wanted to do everything perfectly as a whole, I try not to specify my field.

“When you're on a bicycle, you're free to do as you wish, it gives you a true sense of freedom.”

– Koichi Futasumata

How did you get your start in cycling?

Because I’ve been a product designer since my early 20s, I’ve always loved mechanics and anything related to machines. The first time I saw a Moulton I was taken aback by its fabulous design and had to buy one. That was the very beginning… but because I didn't have enough money to buy something so expensive at the time, it was a Japanese Bridgestone Moulton. As I began to ride it brought back many memories and my love grew. I started going to this old-established bike shop in Fukuoka, which is when my relationship with bicycles really started. From that point I began to build bicycles for myself, doing all sorts of things. Over the last ten years I've brought friends on rides, sometimes taking our bikes by car to explore some of the more distant areas. We went to the Yabakei mountains in Oita prefecture and even Iki island by boat which were memorable times.

Is there a benefit to your work from cycling or is it more about switching off?

When I'm riding I definitely feel more free. I don't really think about work though. With the small group I ride with, if I talk about a project that I'm working on, I do get feedback sometimes that could lead to better ideas. But I think that more often when I’m riding, I become more open and absorbed with what I'm doing at that particular moment in time. I'm really just enjoying the air, the landscape and the breeze – truly relaxing. Most of the time when I ride it’s about taking time off and riding my bike. I think because I work in such an intense manner, it feels that when I'm doing physical activity I use a different part of my brain, just enjoying the connection with my body, and not thinking so much with my head.

"I feel that the rhythm and speed of this city and people are just right. Their honesty can often be harsh, but it's a nice blend that's both laid back and human. It feels like the perfect balance"

– Koichi Futasumata

The importance of form and function in architecture and industrial design is paramount, do you think your profession influences your view of cycling?

I get really caught up in the beauty of the mechanics and how much thought was put into how things connect with each other. This doesn't just apply to bicycles, but especially since they have a bone structure and multiple functions; using a human analogy, the structure is like seeing muscles and blood vessels, everything is visible. I get really curious about how each of the parts work, how they are assembled and how similar it is to the human anatomy. After I began visiting the local bike shop I learned more about the history of cycling. The bicycle is tremendously efficient and there is so much beauty in having such little waste in it's structure. Because of my work I was really drawn in to it and I became really curious, researching about the manufacturers of the components, their country or origin and the historical background.

The bicycle is one of the most efficient creations of mankind, Steve Jobs talked about the computer being "the bicycle of the mind”.

That's why I think it's such an amazing design. To think that all of that speed comes from manpower alone is just astonishing. You can control everything with your willpower alone – take speed for example, the landscape changes and you're enjoying it, so you slow down, or stop. Unlike driving a car where there are all kinds of traffic restriction and regulations, so you can't always stop when you want to, but when you're on a bicycle, you're free to do as you wish, it gives you a true sense of freedom.

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