Natsuko’s Alps

Posted by: Jan Heine Category: Bicycle Quarterly Back Issues

Natsuko’s Alps

One of the most amazing bikes I’ve ever seen is Natsuko’s Alps. It converts from a cyclotouring bike…

… to a passhunter in less than 10 minutes: just remove fenders and rack, and swap the bars. To disassemble it for Rinko, you need only a single 6 mm Allen wrench for the pedals and stem: even the rear fender comes off without tools.

Set up that way, the passhunter is ideal for traversing mountain passes on hiking trails. Passhunting means riding the bike when it’s possible, but on the higher, rockier slopes, you carry the bike – often over considerable distances. Passhunters were developed before mountain bikes, and they are quite different because of the mix of riding and portaging: A passhunter needs an open main triangle (no bottle cages and ideally a horizontal top tube). A passhunter should also be light: Natsuko’s Alps weighs just 9.2 kg (20.3 lb). Flat handlebars are used for steep descents and also because the rider usually carries a backpack.

In the cyclotouring configuration, with fenders and rack, the Alps still weighs only 9.9 kg (21.8 lb). And thanks to some ingenious features that simplified production without affecting performance or quality, the Alps was affordable for a young college student.

The full story of Natsuko’s Alps is in the Autumn Bicycle Quarterly.

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