Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Sekine: On the Street

 Photo: Beat-up Sekine commuter, bought for a song. Probably a 1976 SHT 270; with butted tubing, Shimano Crane rear derailleur, Titlist front, SR cranks, and original Fujita suede saddle.

In an effort to find out more about these bicycles, I stop and take a look whenever I see one on the street. Locked to a rack, riding by on the bike route- my head turns. If it's an interesting bike, I'll even chase the owner down for a chat. Most people are pretty friendly and nice about this, and many even let me take photos of their bike and add the serial number to the database.

Today, I'm going to have some business cards printed up to give to the people I talk to. I'll still be a weird bike nerd, but it's always more legitimate if you have a card.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Sekine Canada Ltd, A Brief History

Sekine Cycle was founded in 1912, grew over decades, and expanded during the 1960s. During the 1970s bike boom, Acklands Ltd of Winnipeg distributed Sekine bicycles in Canada. To avoid a 25% tariff on imports, Sekine Canada Ltd is established as a joint venture in 1973. A plant is built in Manitoba at the Oo-za-we-kwun Centre, located on the former CFB Rivers air base 240km west of Winnipeg. The plant employs mostly Native trainees, supervised by Japanese engineers. In 1976, the Rivers plant expands, with a yearly production target of 50,000 bicycles, employing nearly 100 people. In 1980, North American interest rates hit an all-time high, and Sekine Canada Ltd. undergoes a change in ownership. The Oo-za-we-kwun Centre is phased out by the government, and shuts down in 1981. Amid allegations of mismanagement, labor and cash flow problems, Sekine Canada enters difficult times. After a creditor calls in a debt, Sekine Canada goes into receivership, from which it never recovers. In January 1982, Sekine Canada Ltd's assets are sold off to pay outstanding debts.
Notoriously, after 1988 the old Sekine hangar site was occupied by a pig farm.

Quoting Consumer Report

Part of the reason I created this blog was to reach out to anyone who might have information about Sekine they'd like to share, and the internet makes this easy (right?).
This blog also seems a good place to share some of the tidbits I've found, that maybe won't have a place in the paper zine.
For example: The Canadian Consumer magazine ran the article Test Report: Ten Speed Bicycles in their June, 1980 issue. They tested many bicycles, one a Sekine RM-30. Costing an average of $198 in 1979, the bicycle had a mass of 13.7kg, a wheelbase of 1.05m, a seat tube angle of 72.5, and a gear inch range of 38.6 - 100.3. Its "Front Collision Strength" was rated as "Good" (what that means, I don't know).
The RM-30 did well against its competition, though its handlebars were found to have some 'deflection'. "The Sekine is light, expensive, has a short wheelbase for responsiveness, a comfortable seat angle and a comfortable but unresponsive frame.

Made my wheels go round just reading that.

Serial Number Database

The question often arises; "When was my bike made?"
I'd like to tell you, but I can't. I can guess, but I don't know for sure. The only way to really know is to check the serial number (found stamped on the underside of the bottom bracket); and then you have to know the code.

I heard a guy on had set up a database of numbers to decode the system. It's simple: by gathering a large sample of serial numbers (and other information) you can pick enough clues out of the pile to crack the code. But I wasn't able to contact him, so I had to start my own database.

So far I have over 60 serial numbers. Most people I meet on the street are actually very forthcoming when they find out what I'm doing. I've also gathered any numbers I can find online. My little database, though patchy, is growing and starting to reveal patterns. When I have a good guess, I'll post up the code so anyone can find when their bike was made.

If you have a Sekine, I ask that you kindly email me ( rodoftheflies ) no spam, please ( ) the serial number and as many details about the bike as you have (every owner should know the serial number of their bicycle, anyway). I won't post this information online (but you can, if you want- comments below!). A clear photograph is best for reference (and your own insurance). Good additional information to include: type of headbadge, any frame decals, type of frame, style of dropouts, paint and chrome, components and their date codes, the more details the better.

And T-Mar, if you're out there, I'd love to compare numbers.

Introducing The Sekine Project

What about Sekine bicycles? How about everything!

This project grew from a desire to learn about the company- who they were, how they started. When I couldn't easily find accurate information, I had to start digging. The more I found, the more I wanted to know. What about this bike, or this model? Why do they have different head badges? So many questions, so few answers. So far, I've discovered a lot of interesting information, and I'd like to know even more. Eventually, I dream of condensing the information I've found and publishing a small zine; whose photocopied pages will be found, tattered and grease-stained, in bike co-ops and workshops across the land.

I've never owned one and only ridden a few, but I've come to appreciate these bikes everywhere I see them. I'm the weird bike nerd who stops you on the street to talk about your old Sekine. I'm not crazy, I'm just doing some research. Mind if I take a photo for the record?

Do you have a Sekine? Did you work for them? Racee one of their bikes? Have an old photo or story to tell? Do you ride one to work and treat it badly? Post a comment, or send your photos and stories to share.

The Sekine Project. More than you ever wanted to know about Sekine Canada Ltd.

SEKINE, the beautiful cycling machine

The ultimate in fine craftsmanship, precision built, to give you top performance. Enjoy an effortless ride, in comfort, and in style. Peak performance. Positive drive. The result of engineered parts, precisely hone and fitted to give you luxury cycling at an attractive price. Plus quality, built-in, to last and last. Treat yourself to the satisfaction of owning the best bicycle dollar value available. The more you look at a Sekine Bicycle, the more excited you'll be about owning the beautiful cycling machine. You'll look better on a SEKINE.
- copy from a newspaper advertisement, 1974