Tokyo Cycle Mode 2010Events
Enthusiasm for the notion of urban cycling as a building block for one's general personal style has probably never been so popular as it is today. As a company that has produced objectively beautiful saddles, bags and bikewear for a century and a half, there can be few others as sensitive to this fact as Brooks.
City dwellers the world over are finally turning once again in droves to the bicycle as their primary means of getting around. Whereas fifteen years ago in most parts of the world, people who commuted a daily total of anything above ten miles did so kitted out in spandex and system shoes, these days most cyclists prefer not to have to change into something else when they reach their destination.
In short, everyone wants to have their cake and eat it. Why on earth shouldn't they? It is therefore perhaps obvious that we should see a corresponding explosion in the number of new, stylish bicycling accessories on the market.
And so it was earlier this month that we at the great English icon of -literally- "style in the saddle", took ourselves off to... Japan.
It's always interesting to get a look at the Japanese take on Western cultural ideas. More often than not, an idea given the Japanese treatment will tend to come back "new and improved", yet still with a strong sense of its origins intact. Of course, the same also holds not only for cultural ideas, but for Western consumer products also.
This is maybe because no other nation of people can find so intuitively well the almost perfect balance between a deep respect for tradition, and open-minded fearlessness when at grips with something completely new. That, and the fact they generally keep their "B.S." detectors turned all the way up to ten.
So perhaps no higher compliment can be paid a product than to see it taken on "as is" by the citizens of Osaka or Tokyo, for example, and used without any thought for trying to adapt, or embellish, or "Japanize".
In that regard it seems the Brooks name carries some weight on this beautiful, populous island, much as it does on that other beautiful, populous island in North West Europe.
We visited Tokyo this month for Cycle Mode 2010, and were bowled over by the passion, curiosity and warmth toward our goods and our history which visitors to the Brooks England stand showed.
But outside the exhibition halls too, by the clean, peaceful streets of a city of 14 million inhabitants.
At almost every turn we found riders making their way along the streets showing a clear and strong individual style. And even if some of the bikes were rather "flashy", most riders manage the neat trick of knowing how to use such bikes to complement, rather than drown out their overall look.
And as if all that wasn't enough, witness a textbook example of the lost English art of the orderly queue! Talk about homesick! We brushed aside a quiet tear in hommage to simpler times.