Yuji Kondo is a 36-year old Japanese cyclist living in the Kanagawa prefecture, outside of Tokyo.
An impeccably stylish and strongly-opinionated cyclist he has developed something of a cult following online thanks to the extravagant modeling of his collection of bikes and clothes.
We caught up with him for a chat about his thoughts on performance cycling, fashion, design and of course his two very special Cinelli, a stainless steel XCR and aerodynamic 2022 Pressure.
So my first question is really about your uniquely creative approach to cycling style. Could you explain to me a little bit your “style philosophy”?
I have a passion for combining road biking with art and fashion.
I don’t need a road bike to be only fast. My feeling is that in both road bikes and fashion it is good to seek rationality and the latest trends in simple design. Designs that pursue aerodynamics and lightweight to the extreme, or frames and jerseys with near-monochromatic color schemes, as has been the trend in recent years, are good. But I find it boring that “everyone is the same”.
If you want to have fun, don’t you want to be more assertive? So as a cyclist I try to find and use more artistic products in order to express my sensibility differently from others. This also leads to more opportunities to socialize with different people. I try to be playful, even with socks or gloves. This way you might even get a “Hey, that’s so stylish! when you stop on a ride for a break. Following this philosophy Cinelli has become one of these tools for me to express my sensibility.
How did you first come across Cinelli and how did you understand that it could be, like you said, a tool for expressing your sensibility?
My first encounter with Cinelli was when I came across images of a 1980s Cinelli Laser track bike in a Japanese road bike magazine. Apart from the bike I also immediately was drawn to the logo, which I later discovered was designed by Italo Lupi. I was impressed by the overwhelming beauty and coolness of Cinelli’s design, and was captivated by the brand.
As I got to know the brand better I discovered that the appeal of Cinelli for me lay in its stylish design and hidden performance. Unlike with other companies, thanks to Cinelli’s tasteful design pioneered by Antonio Colombo and elements such as the Italo Lupi logo with its very unusual colours, and I feel that the concept of a road bike as a competition tool is removed in a good sense, and the bike can be enjoyed as a work of art.
In fact, I have a perception that in Japan Cinelli is considered a fashionable brand, and yet it has the performance to be used in competitions… It is truly a wolf in sheep’s clothing!
How did the XCR end up becoming your first ever Cinelli bike?
Up until I bought the XCR I had been riding so-called “high-end” carbon frames but I was curious to try other materials. The materials I considered were titanium and steel. Since above all I wanted to buy a Cinelli, steel had to be the material. And since I had already decided that the Supercorsa will be the last bike I buy in my life the XCR remained the most interesting option. I was intrigued by the fact that the bike was made from stainless steel, an unusual material for a road bike. And for this reason I bought it.
I find the XCR to be a great frame that combines the suppleness and tenacity of chromoly with the responsiveness of high-end carbon. Surprisingly it tames uncomfortable road noise, and pedaling with the suppleness gives good acceleration. It is the most comfortable frame I have ever owned, and the weight is light for a steel frame, and it is very comfortable to ride. Not only for long rides, but also for hill climbs, as it is a frame that puts less strain on the legs in a good way, so it is more comfortable than the stiff high-end carbon frames.
And soon after buying the XCR you also bought a Pressure!
Yes! The Pressure is truly for racing. On the flat, I can ride very fast with an aero position. It’s so much fun to realize that the latest aerodynamic performance is so much better than traditional bikes, and I can face the headwind without getting tired. The Pressure handles more like a TT bike due to its geometry and although it does feel a little heavier, can hill climb. I don’t have any problem with this weight considering the advantages on flat terrain.
Pressure and XCR are clearly aimed at different fields. I ride Pressure when training or ride a certain distance in a short time. XCR is for long distance or leisurely rides. For example, when I go for a gourmet ride with friends.
Last question, I know that your team is called Goloso i.e. good appetite in Italian. Obviously food is very important for you, so could you share with us a recommendation for a great place to stop to eat when riding outside of Tokyo? Or a classic local snack to have on a break?
There are several places to eat that I would recommend when riding in Tokyo.
First, there is the tempura bowl at Yamatoya, located on the approach to Shibamata Teishakuten, a famous temple in Tokyo. It is a traditional dish of tempura topped with rice and sweet soy sauce.
This store is also famous for its sweets called Kusa-dango. The combination of mochi and anko (red bean paste) is sure to soothe your tired body and give you energy! The temple Shibamata Teishakuten is a very nice and Japanese sightseeing spot, although road bikes are not allowed. Please visit here as well.
My next recommendation is Zebra Coffee, located along the Ridge Highway. Here you can enjoy croissants and coffee, etc. in a stylish space. It is also nice that bike racks are located here since many cyclists use it. It’s close to the city center, so you can eat here before heading to your destination, or stop by for a post-ride rest.
My last tip is Enomoto Dairyfarm, located along the Arakawa Cycling Road, the most famous cycling road in Tokyo. This is a famous spot that is not unknown to Tokyo cyclists. You can enjoy fresh and delicious dairy products such as gelato, milk, yogurt, etc. that only a dairy farm can offer. And since winter is coming to Japan, you can warm your body and soul with a glass of hot milk!
There are many other delicious and highly recommended places to eat, but I can’t introduce them all…