Bicycle Flea Market

Bicycle Flea Market

Visiting Japan is fun, in part because I meet so many different cyclists. There are the cyclotourists, the randonneurs, the collectors…
Bicycle collecting as a hobby has a long tradition in Japan, and there are many events for collectors. The Keiokaku Bicycle Flea Market is one of them.
It’s a popular event that is held on the grounds of a Keirin race track on a weekend when there are no races there. The selection on display is amazing.
Looking for some rare JOS lights for your 1950s René Herse or Alex Singer? You’ll probably find them here.
The first-generation Campagnolo Super Record derailleur was made only for a short time, so it’s ultra-rare. This one is brand-new, but with a twist: The date stamp on the body is incorrect. It appears that somebody found a few outer plates as spare parts and assembled these derailleurs. If you put it on a bike, few will notice, and the price is a bit more affordable than a genuine one.
Much cheaper are these cable ties, used to tidy up the brake cables on traditional, non-aero brake levers. Here is how they work:
“No tools needed” – they just fold over. Never heard of Sinad? Neither had I.
Three generations of Dura-Ace cranks remind me of my early cycling years. That was a time when components still were getting more beautiful with every iteration. The oldest cranks are on the right, the classic 7400 model on the left, with the early 1990s one in the middle. These old gems don’t do the modern Shimano crank in the upper right corner any favors.
The Campagnolo freewheel is one of the craziest bike components ever made. It was superlight, with everything made from aluminum. It came in a wooden case, with its own set of beautifully made tools. I’ve never taken one apart, but old mechanics told me that the bearings ran straight on aluminum surfaces, so it really was suitable only for special events, because it wore out so quickly. But what a gem!
It was a time when everybody copied Campagnolo, so of course, the Dura-Ace freewheel cogs (made out of no-nonsense steel for durability) also came in a wooden case…
… as did Regina’s Futura freewheels. These are neat in that the freewheel body was installed on the hub the normal way, but the cogs could be removed by hand, making it easy to swap ratios.
And then you come across something totally unexpected, like this Mini-Mini-Velo that looks like it’s intended for a circus clown.
The best part about these events is meeting old acquaintances and making new ones. It was nice to see Hiroshi Ichikawa, one of the foremost experts on Campagnolo, with whom I had written an article detailing the development of the first Campagnolo rear derailleur more than 10 years ago.
It was also nice to meet Hideki Sasaki, whose illustrated catalogues of derailleur brands are a true labor of love. (We are currently working on an order from him – hurry if you want a copy of his books on Campagnolo, Simplex or Suntour.)
If you happen to be in Japan during the Keiokaku Flea Market (Spring and Autumn), it’s worth a visit!
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Comments (21)

  • Greg

    Awesome swap! Did you run into any other Americans there? John Barron and Scott Davis go to some of the larger Japanese swaps each year, though not sure about this one in particular.
    Also, a couple points: the first generation Super Record rear derailleur was made from 1973 through 1978. What year stamp was on that one that you saw? 30,000 Yen is not cheap!!
    The Campagnolo freewheels do not “wear out quickly.” I believe the bearings run on heat-treated aluminum and/or steel surfaces, although I don’t have a dis-assembled one handy right now as we just moved to Colorado so everything is still packed up in boxes, and I would have to double-check that. That is similar to the Super Record bottom brackets: the cups were aluminum with steel inserts for the races, and the spindles were titanium, also with steel pressed-on bearing races. The Super Record headsets, otoh, were junk! Weakest link in the entire Super Record group….
    The Campagnolo Freewheel was the very last project in which Tullio Campagnolo personally participated. It is intended as a “race-day only” part, fwiw. I know you don’t like him, but please respect what he accomplished. He was the Enzo Ferrari of the bicycling world…..
    Domo arigatou gozaimashita for this post!!!

    October 20, 2016 at 2:38 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      Greg, please don’t misunderstand: I love Campagnolo. Tullio was a total genius. The quick release – whether he invented it or not – changed the bicycle world. The idea of the groupset was revolutionary. And the aesthetic of his components remains unmatched. There is a reason why everybody copied him. It’s just that the myth of him as an engineering genius is not always justified. That is why some of his components were incredible (Record pedals, bottom brackets…) while others were not as successful. But many of the problems probably started after he wasn’t directly involved in the engineering any longer. The Gran Sport derailleurs worked great with the gearing of the 1950s, but the Super Record didn’t work so well with the gearing of the 1970s. The hubs were fine with 4-speed, OK with 5-speed, but with 6-speed, axles started breaking. It’s probably not entirely fair to blame him when by that time, he was probably busy as the CEO of a company with hundreds of employees, rather than the guy standing in the machine shop working on prototypes.
      Like you, I’ve never disassembled a Campagnolo freewheel, so I am just relaying what old bike mechanics have told me. I changed the post to make that clear. I agree with you on the bottom brackets. The C-Record version had the same aluminum cups with steel races (but with steel instead of titanium spindles), and they were awesome. I raced on one for years, racking up at least 30,000 miles on it. It’s still on my old racing bike, still spinning smoothly.
      Regarding the first-generation Super Record derailleurs at the swap meet, I vaguely recall that the date stamp was from the 1980s. There were several of these derailleurs for sale – which is why I checked the date, realizing that it was unlikely that somebody suddenly had found a treasure trove of these super-rare derailleurs.
      And no, I didn’t run into any Americans there. But plenty of Japanese friends and acquaintances. Almost everybody who collects bikes or parts seemed to be there.

      October 20, 2016 at 7:33 am
      • Greg

        Got it. And I was thinking 300,000 Yen, not 30,000 so I was off by a factor of ten in my head. Old age….
        30,000 Yen is what, about $250 US these days? Not bad for that “tribute” SR rear derailleur.
        What fails on the Campagnolo freewheels is the inner flange of the outer portion of the body. That is where the innermost cog pushes laterally on the body when torque is applied to an outermost cog.I’ve seen many cracked ones for sale on eBay……

        October 20, 2016 at 7:33 pm
  • mike w.

    Amazing! Wish i could go there for that swap meet, but i know i’d probably spend my way to the poorhouse! The Japanese collectors are a dedicated and diligent bunch to be able to gather such an array of classic and hard-to-find bits and pieces. i smiled to learn that even you, Jan, hadn’t heard of Sinad. What other things there were new to you?

    October 20, 2016 at 6:01 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      Has anybody heard of Sinad? Often, these parts come to light as “New Old Stock” because they were obscure even when new…

      October 20, 2016 at 6:55 am
      • antoine321

        About the Sinad: BTE SGDG means “Breveté sans garantie du gouvernement” (meaning the government does not certify that the product actually works!). This indication was mandatory on products until 1968, which helps date the product. Your french friends may be of help in finding our more about Sinad. ( )

        October 20, 2016 at 12:33 pm
  • DaveS

    The annual Denver VeloSwap is happening this Saturday (October 22). I’ve attended many in past years and the amount of old (including vintage) and new bicycles, bicycle parts, bicycle accessories, and clothing is best described as ‘overwhelming’. I have no idea how it would compare to the Japanese flea market described here, but it doesn’t involve international travel.

    October 20, 2016 at 7:40 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      I’ve always wanted to visit VeloSwap. One big difference is that at VeloSwap, there are incredible bargains. In Japan, not so much!

      October 20, 2016 at 8:42 am
      • Greg

        Also, I have to admit that the amount of interesting vintage lightweight stuff is quite small there, now. It is mostly large shops selling off $50-100,000 worth of end-of-season, high-margin Chinese stuff, and/or clothing, before Winter arrives. Boring. But, there will be enough vintage folks to make it interesting, and Mike Kone and Co. usually have a large display. His guys will be just down the aisle from us this year. We will be at tables 373 and 374. Look for the large Heron banner. Hope to see folks there! The weather there will be about 80 F and sunny this year! Of course, it is only sunny about 300 days each year, out here….

        October 20, 2016 at 7:43 pm
  • David Feldman

    Wow, the bike industry in the era of tiny companies and before worldwide distribution still holds a whole lot of secrets for many of us, even if we’ve worked in the business for a long time!

    October 20, 2016 at 8:17 am
  • Robert Cochran

    Are there any similar bicycle flea markets on the East Coast of the USA? Preferably close to Washington, D. C.? Also, are the Campagnolo and other parts actually installed on bicycles and used, or are they strictly for the showcase? Every time you post something, Jan, I learn.

    October 20, 2016 at 3:40 pm
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      Some old parts are just for collecting, but a surprising number are actually installed on new custom bikes and ridden.

      October 20, 2016 at 4:35 pm
    • Greg

      Robert, go to and look for the “events” page there. There are several East-Coast swaps each year, I think…..

      October 23, 2016 at 7:06 am
  • Matt

    Exciting to see a souped up Moulton Speed in the second picture. The Moulton club weekend is visited by that chap every year where he annoys members by buying up all the good stuff : o )

    October 20, 2016 at 10:50 pm
  • Robert Cochran

    Sales at these flea markets are cash only, right? Or do vendors take credit cards?

    October 22, 2016 at 6:27 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      Most of the people selling at the flea market are collectors and hobbyists, not professional dealers. They don’t take credit cards. Cash only.

      October 22, 2016 at 7:54 am
  • Michael

    Those cyclists in Japan must have a yen for Suntour parts.

    October 22, 2016 at 10:20 pm
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      SunTour is missed by many, not just in Japan.

      October 23, 2016 at 12:46 am
      • D. Venable

        Does anybody love Shimano?
        Actually shop mechanics seem to think Shimano makes parts they prefer to work on.

        October 23, 2016 at 7:02 am
      • Michael

        Yes, a break in the chain of new production will not derail, shift, or stem the freewheeling interests of cyclists in quality equipment.

        October 23, 2016 at 3:00 pm
    • Robert Cochran

      As a teen, I had a “10 speed” bicycle given to me. I can’t remember the brand of bicycle but I distinctly remember the rear derailleur was SunTour. Perhaps the front one too. (Derailleurs are sold as sets, for both front and rear, right?) It was a heavy bicycle, but that didn’t matter — it got me where I wanted to go. The bicycle saw many miles on local roads — a few thousand I should think. I admit I didn’t ride in rain and dared not go off pavement. (I missed the chance to explore miles of local dirt roads because I feared a flat tire.) I was ignorant of any true bicycle knowledge. I washed the bike when the mood struck me, which wasn’t often, and squirted my grandfather’s used motor oil on the chain. Grandfather replaced the chain once, I think. The SunTour parts performed very well. They worked for me. My one complaint was that I did not like the friction shifters, but that was me — they worked fine and I got good shifts. These blog posts make me realize I ought to learn more about the company and its products, as well as learning about the other drivetrain makers.

      October 23, 2016 at 1:09 pm

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