Friday, July 29, 2011

Sekine SHB 271

A look at an earlier Sekine model, the SHB 271, dating from 1973:

( click photo for larger )

This 10-speed model was basic and solid. Sporting the 'Jewel' head badge, it had the familiar modern downtube lettering, and a CS 'lion's crest' seat tube decal declaring "World Finest Bicycle Made by SEKINE". The derailleurs are Shimano Lark (r) and Thunderbird (f), with Fingertip shifters, Tourney center-pull brakes. SR cranks, stem, and handlebar. The bike I examined had Shimano hubs, although steel and 'semi-large-flange', but did include alloy wing nuts.

The frames were certainly built at Sekine's Tokyo factory, the complete bike likely assembled there as well before shipping over to the Canadian distributor. It seems the SHB was superseded by the SHC model, once production was up and running at the Canadian factory (late 1973).

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Ken's Sekine

Ken was kind enough to send me some photos of his old ten-speed lightweight. Bought in 1976, and it looks like he took great care of it. The frame serial number suggests it was made in 1974, and maybe shipped from the factory later that year or even in 1975.

I would peg it as an SHS. The lugged frame has the shiny chrome-plated stays with Shimano forged dropouts, and a chrome-plated fork to match; with a sticker boasting of "Champion" butted cro-mo steel tubing. The head badge is the ubiquitous Sekine Cycle "Medialle", with a white fill. The seat tube has the CS crest topping Sekine Canada Ltd, with the modern SEKINE lettering on the down tube. It's worth noting the cable stops are Shimano bolt-on, as opposed to brazed-on.

The bicycle is equipped with the full Shimano package- Tourney centre-pull brakes, Fingertip downtube shifters, and Titlist front and rear derailleurs. SR double-ring alloy crank. Shimano safety-brake levers sit on a Sakae Custom "Road Champion" handlebar, held by an SR stem. Original chrome-plated seatpost and quilted seat.

The wheels have the common Shimano high-flange 'windowed' alloy hubs. The steel rims seem a bit out of place, as most models I have seen were equipped with alloy rims, though it is possible only later models had the lighter wheels. Ken had changed the tires, and added mudguards and a rear rack.

Ken admits is was tough letting go of the bike; hopefully whoever bought it treats it well.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Distributed by Beacon Cycle

Before the establishment of Sekine Canada Ltd in 1973, the bicycles had to be imported to North America. Beacon Cycle was perhaps the only (confirmation, anyone?) Sekine distributor in the United States.

These made-in-Japan Sekines are readily identified by the "World Finest Bicycle Made By Sekine" decal on the down tube, also sporting a Jewel head badge, and are Suntour equipped. I've seen and read about a few of the bikes found in the United States that have a Beacon Cycle decal somewhere on the frame, and I've also seen what appears to be a factory "Distributed by Beacon" Sekine decal on the seat tube. May look something like the one pictured*

I was pleased to find more information about Beacon on Howie Cohen's Everything Bicycles Collection. It seems Beacon had strong ties to Japan, which probably lead to the relationship with Sekine.

It seems that after the establishment of the Canadian factory in 1973, North American distribution was controlled by the Acklands Co. of Winnipeg. It's not clear yet if the relationship with Beacon Cycles was continued, and there's evidence Sekine was attempting to expand their U.S. dealer network.

*Photo linked from Hdacy's Sekine Flickr set

Saturday, July 9, 2011


Another Sekine, parked at a rack in Edmonton. This one, made in Japan, had some interesting decals and that familiar CS jewel head badge.

Just another call-out to anyone with anything Sekine to share; serial numbers for the database, memories from the factory, photos from the 70s when you and your friend toured on your ten-speeds to the next province over- send it up.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

What's it Worth?

I have a few stock answers at the ready, for that inevitable moment when I'm asked to evaluate someone's bicycle. "It's probably worth more to you than anyone else," or "I'll give you $10 right now," are my favourite shortcuts to the same point.

TL/DR: Your old Sekine is not worth more than $200, unless it's really nice, properly tuned, and has new parts.

There's an adage that an item is only worth as much as a buyer is willing to pay; and that amount depends a lot on both the item and the buyer. If I already have three bikes and my shed is full, I wouldn't pay much for another one, no matter how nice. On the other hand, if the bike isn't worth much but I really need one, I'd pay more.
Among the many thousands of Sekine bikes out there, probably only a few dozen are actually collector's items. These are the unique, custom-built, high-end racer models, preferably in mint shape. From there, the market interest declines, until eventually you're looking at a trailer full of miscellaneous rusty parts.

Vintage bicycle pricing is a fickle thing. People seem to buy them because they either have a sentimental attachment (collection), or because they just need something to ride (functional). The price depends heavily on the combination of functional and collectible, as every prospective buyer sits somewhere in the range. There's also the Hipster factor, which tends to inflate the value of some "vintage" goods, but that's another topic.

Eventually functional value reaches a maximum, probably around the point it's feasible to buy a brand-new equivalent. Collectible value, however, is only limited by an item's perceived value- the reason one painting will sell for millions and another won't. See chart. The line curves because most bicycles are just functional, while a few rare ones are worth collecting. Midway through the curve is the sweet zone of a functional bike that comes with a story.

Your bike is worth more if:
It has perfect paint. It's unused. It has forged dropouts. It has high-end parts. It's rare.
Your bike is worth less if:
It's rusty or dented. It's heavily used. It has stamped dropouts. It has cheap steel parts. It's common.

Just keep in mind that it's not a retirement fund, it's a bicycle. That Sekine is a machine built to be used, and as such may be worth more to you than anyone else.

Monday, July 4, 2011

At Work, in 1974

Linked from the Facebook group CFB Rivers Manitoba - Little Base on the Prairies 2011, the Memoriam Album. Captioned: "This is a picture of Valerie McIntosh working at Sekine in 1974..."

A few notes of interest from this photo. Sekine Canada's production process used conveyors to move the frames around as they were assembled into complete bikes, some of which is visible in the background. Valerie appears to be installing the rear wheel, but is not wearing uniform work clothes. Note the frame is a lower-end 5-speed mixte model, with stamped dropouts, steel wheels, mudguards, and cottered cranks. Also note the branding- SEKINE moderne font, modern seat tube decal, "Made in Canada" sticker, and the spoke protector.

Post 'em if you got 'em.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Sekine Blacky

Among the first Sekine bikes to appear in Canada was the Blacky.  Made in Japan, they were introduced for the spring season in 1971, and were still being sold in 1973. When the Canadian factory was established, the more oddball models like the Blacky were phased out, probably because consumer demand for "high-rise" bikes declined as the five and ten-speed market exploded.
This model came with drum brake hubs, Suntour lever shifter and Skitter rear derailleur for a 4-speed freewheel, and a bottle dynamo powering front lights. It has its share of Sekine badging touches; a metal "CS Blacky Power Drum" headbadge, "CS" mudguard flap, an oversize "Sekine Bicycle" reflector on the rear rack, and the usual "World Finest Bicycle Made By Sekine Cycle" downtube decal. With small wheels and step-through frame, it is well-suited to shorter cyclists.

I had the opportunity to get a close look at one of these strange little bikes at New West Cycle the other day. Craiglist posting with more photos: