The Iruka bike is a Japanese Folding bike with 18-inch wheels. It is a new bike model that will soon be joining the line of Mighty Velo line of foldable bicycles. It is a new up and coming bike designed by a Japanese bike designer named Masaki “Mark” Kobayashi. He is based in Tokyo, Japan, and was an ex-CFO of an advertising company. It was when foldable bicycles caught his eye and led him to fixate on creating the best Japanese folding bike in the world in 2008.
It had started when Masaki “Mark” Kobayashi had first caught sight of a foldable bicycle in 2004. Back then, he had moved to a new home and was looking for a new way to commute. He did not have a concrete plan of what to get – until he saw the foldable bicycles.
It didn’t take him long to decide to buy a foldable bike and test rode multiple brands from Taiwan, Germany and England. Each of them had different folding mechanisms. As he was discovering the bikes, he learnt the positives of having a foldable bike. The foldable bikes could be brought into an office. It can be carried onto a train or bus. It can be folded and carried at the back of a car. He described it as a transformer bike.
Another misconception that he had about the foldable bike was that it was slow. Foldable bikes commonly had 18 or 20 inch wheels which may be smaller in comparison to other bikes. However, he had learnt that foldable bikes were as fast and great for commuting.
Even though he was a fan of a particular brand’s folding bike at the time, he had begun to see some flaws within the bike. Even though it rode well, and it’s design appealing, he learnt that he was not able to store it beneath his seat. It would not fit well into the compartments of the bullet train unless it was at the back.
The Inspiration of the Iruka Bike
He had also tried out other brands, their pros and cons, and their designs. But there was no folding bike at that time that could satisfy him 100%.
After some reflection, Mark then decided to make his own folding bike brand.
He had envisioned where bikes were more preferred over cars. He had envisioned on how to make foldable bikes more popular, and how he could improve on current models of foldable bikes.
One of the aspirations for the bike was that it should be for city rides that could handle long-distance rides. It had to be portable indoors and able to fit in vehicles. This should also mean that the bike should be easy to carry when it is folded. Mark had also wanted to strike the perfect balance between performance and portability.
It should be able to carry and accommodate attachments for carrying things as well.
Knowing all these, he consulted a product designer that he had sourced on Google, and went through discussions with them to achieve all these criteria he had set out.
The idea finally struck when Mark attended a wedding reception when he noticed the design of a sommelier knife. The design of a sommelier knife being able to accommodate the knife, lever and screw to neatly fit under the handle.
The first-ever sketch of the Iruka was on the back of an airsickness bag, as he was flying to India for a holiday. It would become to be the archetype for the jackknife frame of the Iruka Japanese folding bike.
The work does not stop at the product design stage, as sourcing for the best manufacturer to build the first prototype had proved to be difficult for Mark too. He started to visit factories in Taiwan and China for a production partner to be able to produce a prototype, and later on to handle mass production.
The production required for new parts to be made, such as new mechanisms and parts. This would take a lot of time and resources to make. Therefore even though manufacturers responded positively to it, they ultimately didn’t want to go through with the project.
Another problem was that they did not have a prototype to show, which was paradoxical, but it was hard to convince people without something tangible.
Ultimately, as they travelled from factory to factory, Iruka’s design had changed significantly with each prototype. Finally, Mark was introduced to a company in central Taiwan who maintained a factory as well. They had expressed keen interest in the Iruka and wanted to take the lead to mass production.
To conclude, the Iruka was made from a cycling commuters point of view. This was more important than a manufacturer who just simply want to sell bikes. Mark had seen and witnessed the faults of other foldable bikes. It had taken him 12 years now to fully build his dreams of a bike that could rival other brands, and now it’s waiting to be your partner on the road.