To find one of the world’s best collections of vintage and historic European bicycles, you need to travel a long way from Europe. In the heart of Sakai, Japan – with Shimano calling it home, it's known as the 'cycling city' – is the impressive Bicycle Museum.
Packed to the gills with some of the earliest examples of two (and more)-wheeled machines, the collection was formed and collated with the help and funding of Shimano. It's also been captured in a book, the beautifully titled Bicycles as Human Dreams, produced by the componentry behemoth.
Sakai, which sits within the prefecture of Osaki, has a long history in association with metalworking. It was originally famous for the production of Samurai swords; later, after Portuguese traders visited, it was firearms, and more recently Sakai-made knives have been regarded as some the finest by the world's chefs.
With the advent of the bicycle, local craftsmen turned their hands to cycle production, including one Shozaburo Shimano who started out making lower-cost singlespeed freewheels to replace expensive British imports. The museum in Sakai celebrates the region's long history with the bicycle via a collection that includes the earliest forerunner of the bicycle, the Draisine hobby horse from 1813, right up to the likes of Gee Atherton’s Worlds-winning Commencal, Andy Schleck’s Tour-stage taking Trek and heaps more besides.
If you ever find yourself in Osaka we’d recommend a trip to along to the museum at 18-2 Daisennakamachi, Sakai-ku, Sakai 590-0801, Osaka Prefecture.
In the meantime, to whet your appetite, here’s a gallery of some of the incredible bikes you can find on display.