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. We’re preparing our last mailing of this edition – subscribe now to get yours!

6 Responses to Natsuko’s Alps

  1. DavidM November 20, 2020 at 3:51 pm #

    Natsuko’s bikes in general and her Crested Ibis coloured bike from Hirose San have given a lovely glimpse of Japan and some of its cycling culture. Good to see this particular bike again. What year was it built?

    • Natsuko November 20, 2020 at 8:00 pm #

      Thank you! My bike was built in the early 2000s.

  2. Dane Morrison November 20, 2020 at 8:15 pm #

    Hi Natsuko and Jan,

    If you were to build another Rinko bike today what currently available headset is the best option?

    • Jan Heine November 22, 2020 at 1:31 pm #

      Headsets for Rinko are no problem – you want something that is sealed, so you don’t get greasy hands each time you take the fork out. But if you want a needle-bearing headset to reduce the propensity of shimmy, there isn’t really a great option right now.

  3. Bertrand November 22, 2020 at 10:08 am #

    Is there a trick to remove bars so quickly? Don’t you have to unwrap the tape? Or is there a ritchey type of cable split and you change the stem/levers as well?

    • Natsuko November 22, 2020 at 1:25 pm #

      There are two sets of handlebars, stems, brake levers and cables. The handlebars come off for Rinko anyhow, so usually, I just packed the other set for my next trip.