The Birth of iruka: A Journey of Innovation

The Birth of iruka: A Journey of Innovation

First Encounter: The Spark of Inspiration

In 2004, a simple decision to buy a bike after moving to a new home led me to a bike shop in Akasaka, where a serendipitous encounter with folding bicycles changed my life. At the shop, I was immediately drawn to the folding bikes section. It was my first time truly exploring these compact marvels, with their ingenious folding mechanisms from brands like "D" from Taiwan, "R" from Germany, and "B" from England.

Test rides shattered my preconceptions about small-wheeled folding bikes being slow. They were nimble, swift, and perfect for commuting. I could bring one into the office, carry it in a car, or even take it on a train. The idea of a folding bike, a transforming robot of sorts, captivated me. In less than a minute, I decided to buy one.

I chose a bike from brand D because its riding posture suited me best. With 20-inch wheels, 9 speeds, and the ability to fold sideways in half, it was an investment at approximately 100,000 JPY. Fortunately, the mechanic set it up for me to ride home the same day. As I pedalled through Tokyo, the thrill of speeding past traffic made me realize this bike was more than a purchase—it was a gateway to a new way of life.

Discovering the Joy of Biking

The following week, I ditched my 30-minute train commute and started biking to work. With no place to park, I simply folded my bike and brought it to my desk, eliminating any worries about theft or security.

Surprisingly, my 5km bike commute was faster door-to-door than the train. Studies later confirmed that biking is the fastest mode of transportation within 5km. This radius around central Tokyo nearly encompasses the entire Yamanote Line, making biking the optimal way to navigate the city.

Beyond speed, biking offered a richer experience. It transformed my daily commute into a special time, filled with excitement and contemplation. Biking allowed me to explore Tokyo's nuances, something I never noticed from a train or car. Soon, I was biking everywhere and taking my folding bike on trains and cars for excursions beyond Tokyo—Tohoku, Shimanami Kaido, Shonan, Azumino, Kyoto—each trip unique and unforgettable because of my bike.

Pursuing Perfection

Despite my love for brand D’s bike, I soon noticed its flaws. It couldn't fit under my desk or in the train compartment easily. At 10kg, it was heavy to carry, and under heavy pedaling, the frame flexed. Most folding bikes had a hinge on the top tube, causing twisting and creaking under stress.

While brand R’s bike had better frame rigidity without a top tube hinge, its folded size was similar to brand D’s. Brand B’s bike was compact but uncomfortable to ride. Despite the excellence of brands D, R, and B, none met all my criteria for the perfect folding bike. However, it wasn't until the summer of 2006 that I considered creating my own.

The Decision to Start

In 2006, as CFO of a successful internet advertising agency, I was fulfilled but ready for a new challenge. During a management off-site meeting, we shared our passions. As I pondered my dreams, the idea to start my own folding bike brand struck me. I envisioned a world where bikes were preferred over cars, making people happier. Folding bikes were fun, but I wanted to make them even better and more popular.

The idea was clear: I would create an amazing folding bike for the global market, spreading the biking lifestyle worldwide. This sudden vision hooked me, and I knew I had to pursue it.

Crafting iruka: The Sommelier Knife Inspiration

In early 2007, while preparing to leave my job, I collaborated with a product designer to brainstorm the perfect folding bike:

  • Suitable for city rides and longer distances.
  • Easily portable indoors and in vehicles.
  • Simple to carry when folded.
  • Combining roadability and portability with minimal parts.
  • Capable of carrying cargo.
  • A precious, close-to-heart possession.

Balancing performance and portability was challenging. We needed a revolutionary folding mechanism, one that didn’t compromise on either aspect. After a year of brainstorming, inspiration struck during a wedding reception. A sommelier knife, with its neatly integrated knife, lever, and screw, sparked the idea for iruka’s jackknife frame. I sketched the design on an airsickness bag during a flight, setting the foundation for iruka.

Finding a Production Partner

In 2008, I founded iruka Inc. and began visiting OEM factories in Taiwan and China to find a production partner. Despite initial challenges, including factories hesitant about the project’s complexity, persistence paid off. After several setbacks, a manufacturer in suburban Shanghai agreed to create the first prototype.

However, the journey was far from over. We faced numerous hurdles with manufacturers, refining iruka’s design with each prototype. Finally, in 2015, we found company J in central Taiwan. J’s president, an excellent engineer, took the lead, elevating iruka’s design to new heights. After two test models, mass production began in 2019.

iruka is Born

With iruka’s mass production, my vision became reality. iruka, a folding bike embodying performance, portability, and elegance, is now ready to be your partner. Embrace the biking lifestyle and discover the joy of iruka, a bike designed to make every journey special.

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