Although I find that classic road bikes in the 54 to 56cm size range seem to me to be the most visually and aesthetically pleasing arrangement of tubes, I’m simply too tall to comfortably enjoy riding bikes of such Lilliputian stature. I may appreciate a beautifully proportioned Masi or Cinelli, but my attention is really piqued when a beautiful bike shows up sizing out between 59 and 61cm. 80’s era bike geometry in particular hit my sweet spot right around the 60cm point.
Prior to that time, taller road bikes are like hen’s teeth, with 23-inch frames often being the largest production size available. Go back in time another decade or so, and it really doesn’t matter how much I might admire a particular example, the scope of sizes is even more limited. It’s almost like tall people didn’t exist.
The Katakura Silk glanced across my radar screen back in the 90’s, I’d guess, but for the past decade or so I’ve only been able to admire them from afar – the last one I saw in the Midwest rolled out of my garage forever (along with every other road bike in there at the time) when we moved to Alaska in 2001. I truly didn’t expect to encounter another again – and certainly not one tall enough to fit me.
I don’t know much about Katakura, other than it was a respected Japanese builder of some repute. Also, that the smaller frames tended to stay in their country of origin, while the larger frames were marketed to American military and sold at the PX. Anecdotally I am told that accounts for their designation as the “PX” model. (That story could be entirely fictional, but it sure sounds good to me.) Regardless, the chrome frames are, to my eye, very striking and vaguely reminiscent of French constructuer models. And I quite love chrome bike frames.
Oh, did I mention I chanced into a full chrome Katakura Silk in my size this past Saturday morning? Without going into too many irrelevant details, I’ll simply say that I met Steve, a fellow collector with a shed full of very nice bikes; we engaged in a little good, old-fashioned Midwestern horse trading, and I came home with the bling.
The photo leading off this post shows the bike cleaned up, and ready for a shakedown ride. The Katakura Silk is now sporting an NOS Cinelli 64-42 bar instead of the inappropriate Performance bar that was on it. New Velox cloth wrap in black clothes the Cinelli bar – and no, it’s definitely not period correct, but it looks right to me and I like the feel of cotton wrap. A new-in-the-bag Brooks Professional from the 80’s replaced the perfectly silly looking gel saddle that was on the bike, and a stainless steel bottle cage from the same period was also added. The Continental tires will probably stay (for now), even though that 700 x 23 width looks frighteningly skinny on this tall frame.
Here are the photos. (Warning! Put on your sunglasses!)