The fable of Cherubim could only come from a culture that is deeply steeped in tradition. Each Cherubim frame is a representation of a master's craftsmanship honed and passed down from one generation to the next. It is from their humble workshop in the Machida District, in North-West Tokyo, that some of the most beguiling bicycles on the planet are forged.
The roots of Cherubim by Konno Cycle Works began in 1965 when it was founded by, Hitoshi Konno, of the Konno family of frame builders. The Cherubim resumé includes building frames for the Japanese cycling team in the 1968 Olympics, just three years after being founded. Then in the 1970s, Hitoshi led Cherubim through an idyllic period for Japanese custom frame builders as he competed with Miyuki and 3Rensho, two brands founded by his brothers. Cherubim is now the sole surviving brand. And as time passed, both the family trade and the Konno workshop have been passed down to Hitoshi's son, Shin-Ichi Konno, who today continues the tradition of hand-made steel frames with the help of a small team of assistants.
The hand-built works of Cherubim have won numerous international accolades including awards from the Hand Made Cycle Fair in Japan, and the North American Hand-built Bike Show (NAHBS). Most notably in 2012, Cherubim took the "Best in Show" award at NAHBS for their indescribable "Humming Bird".
Maybe a more realistic example of what makes a Cherubim so special is best represented in the Uli. As part of the Cherubim portfolio, the Uli is a medium-profile steel tubing frameset built around classic geometries, an integrated seat-post collar, and of course all the aesthetic finishes that epitomize Cherubim. Although both road focused, the Cherubim Uli differs from the more well-known Sticky frame as being a club rider's choice and by the use of a 1-piece CNC'd integrated headtube. This integrated headtube is also now available in 1, 1/8" or a tapered version for carbon forks, larger riders, and disc models. A striking visible attribute of the Uli has to be those cantilevered seat stays. Their shapely form is designed to smooth the ride while providing responsiveness.
One of many things that make Cherubims so special is the attention to detail which begins with the tube selection. The Uli is constructed using Kaisei tubes, a Japanese produced steel tubing that is comparable in weight to Columbus, but perhaps with better strength. So they say. If you're not familiar with Kaisei steel tubing, their history dates back to the 70s and 80s through Ishiwata and their seamless double butted tubing. When Ishiwata folded in the early 90s, many of the staff went on to found Kaisei who continue to produce high quality steel tubing outside of Fukashima. The Kaisei tubing is popular with Japanese builders and is rumoured to be the material of choice for Shin-Ichi Konno.
This fire engine red, yellow and chrome Cherubim Uli is the product of a partnership between Blacksmith Cycle and Cherubim. At Blacksmith Cycle, they are the home of the small builder, and are especially proud to support more NAHBS bike brands than any other shop in the world. Right now Blacksmith Cycle are the only shop designing and importing Cherubim framesets for customers in North America and the Uli was built to showcase this partnership. Earlier this year shop owners and friends, Mike and Jamie, aka "The Yak Attack," took a trip overseas to Japan and stopped in for a personal visit to the Cherubim workshop.
"As the only bike shop in North America working with Cherubim, we were honored to tour the Cherubim workshop this January in Machida, Japan, a quiet suburb just outside of the bustling commercial center of Tokyo. Inside is a place that has been spared the advance of modern globalization, where master builder Shin-ichi Konno assembles works of art by hand, one at a time, using tools and equipment that look to have come from a bygone era. The end result is an exquisitely crafted piece of rideable steel art, with subtle details that bigger brands could never conceive of, never mind execute, and impeccable precision that only the most demanding of eyes can appreciate. The Cherubim team talked us through everything from tube selection options, to the advantages of disc and direct-mount brakes, all the while taking a place at the forefront of modern bicycle building, while still appreciating the classic heritage and history that created this little corner of the world creating bicycle magic." Mike Yakubowicz
The current build set on the shop model Cherubim Uli was dreamt up by their in-house mechanic, Jesse James, to support their booth at the 2017 Toronto International Spring Bike Show where it was a complete show stopper. Weighing in at only 14.3lbs this bike lays to rest any doubt that steel frames are alive and well, if not still rivalling the best of modern composites. Before this thing rolled out the door, I seized the opportunity to photograph and record this beautiful bike. A full set of images are up on a collaborative coverage with Cycle Exif. Check it out.
At this point I should come clean. I love this bike… a lot. So much so that I had to make it my own. There was just something about it that I couldn't deny. It has this sort of 70s hot rod aesthetic to it. And I love it. Not only do I love every one of its details, it also has all the build choices I would have requested. Plus it looked like it was my size. That's why I asked Mike to send me the geometry specs. Sure enough, it was almost identical to the custom geometry we designed for my Ti frame. The key differences being that the Uli has a more traditional race geometry rather than the more relaxed adjustments we had made in the Ti build. While she may not still have the same build list as the show specs below, I'm really excited about how the build has come together. Fate brought us together and I look forward to the years and all the miles ahead of us. Look for more pics and maybe a review in the future.