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Team Ikuzawa and the Honda RN-01

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Team Ikuzawa and the Honda RN-01
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Posted: Nov 20, 2022 at 11:29 Quote
Team Ikuzawa TD-1. Armed with Kayaba suspension and Akebono brakes.
Team Ikuzawa TD-1. Armed with Kayaba suspension and Akebono brakes.

What does Tetsu Ikuzawa - the man who stood at the peak of Japanese auto racing - have to do with a sport about throwing yourself down a mountain as fast as possible on two wheels? How did he help create the chrome monster in the image above? And how was he involved with the development of the legendary gearbox-equipped Honda RN-01??? After a bit of Googling and a lot of translating, I have the answers to those questions. Here’s what I found.

The man.
The man.

Like all good stories, this one starts with our hero going broke. Ikuzawa tried to break into F1 in the late 90s as the owner of an all-Japanese team but before that could happen, an earthquake destroyed his team’s warehouse. Penniless and with nothing better to do, he started riding bikes. One of Ikuzawa’s friends noticed him riding his 9800-yen bazaar bargain and promptly gifted him a 1,000,000-yen Cannondale (and another for his wife). What a guy. From there, Ikuzawa developed an increasingly unhealthy obsession with bikes - reading bike magazines, visiting shops, following one shop owner to Mt. Fujimi to ride downhill… and that’s where things, well, went downhill for Ikuzawa. His DH addiction officially began.

Ikuzawa s wife holding up rare headshok-equipped Cannondale gifted to them by their friend.
Ikuzawa's wife holding up rare headshok-equipped Cannondale gifted to them by their friend.

Ikuzawa s first time pointing a bike downhill. Mt.Fuji.
Ikuzawa's first time pointing a bike downhill. Mt.Fuji.

The addiction deepens.
The addiction deepens.

Never one to shy away from a good race, Ikuzawa quickly began competing in many a Japanese Open on a souped-up Cycle World VSR, the first Japanese production DH bike to use a long stroke shock. His raw metal machine was a thoroughbred racer that featured some seriously shiny parts: Hope hydraulic disc brakes, a Kowa dual-crown, and… a KYB rear shock?! Yep - Ikuzawa probably still had some connections left over from his glory days in Le Mans and F2. This wasn't be the last time a major OEM chips in on one of Ikuzawa’s bike projects - he got introduced to the president of Akebono Brake Industry (of F1-McLaren fame) by a friend, and the two quickly forge an agreement: Akebono will supply brakes for Ikuzawa’s DH team.

Fastest 56 y o on two wheels and poster boy of Akebono brakes.
Fastest 56 y/o on two wheels and poster boy of Akebono brakes.

Ikuzawa s souped-up Cycle World VSR. KYB suspension handled the squish in the rear a Kowa dual-crown handled the squish up front.
Ikuzawa's souped-up Cycle World VSR. KYB suspension handled the squish in the rear; a Kowa dual-crown handled the squish up front.

photo
Sweet one-off KYB. Connections will get you far, kids. All you have to do is compete in Le Mans!

Wait, Ikuzawa’s DH team?

Yes, Ikuzawa’s DH team. Conceived in 2007, the riders piloted the Ikuzawa TD-1 (and later the TD-2), a DH bike designed from the ground up with the assistance of Akira Yamamoto, former motorcycle suspension tuner, elite class downhiller, and experienced race mechanic who previously worked with Team Honda G-Cross (we’ll hear more from them later). KYB squishy bits on the TD-1 smoothed out the trail, Tioga rolly bits stuck it to the ground, and Akebono grabby bits handled the slowing down. The Ikuzawa team achieved great success in Japan, winning championship titles in every series. By 2007, team rider Yasushi Adachi had achieved the triple crown by becoming All Japan Champion, National Champion, and Japan Series Champion, beating a few Honda G-Cross riders along the way.

Adachi in action.
Adachi in action.

Winner winner
Winner winner

Adachi winning All-Japans.
Adachi winning All-Japans.

Adachi spanking Honda G-Cross riders.
Adachi spanking Honda G-Cross riders.

Pit bits.
Pit bits.

Team Ikuzawa
Team Ikuzawa

Despite their short-lived time on the DH circuit Team Ikuzawa will always have one of the freshest kits period.
Despite their short-lived time on the DH circuit, Team Ikuzawa will always have one of the freshest kits, period.

Testing and shooting.
Testing and shooting.

Speaking of Honda G-Cross, what does Ikuzawa have to do with them? Well, as it turns out, Honda invited him to develop and test ride their legendary RN-01. Contrary to what some people have suggested, there seems to be little evidence that Team Ikuzawa was in charge of manufacturing Honda’s bikes - Honda likely manufactured it themselves as per their standard practice. Unfortunately, Ikuzawa only gave sparse details regarding his work with the RN-01 - I’m not surprised given how secretive Honda were about that project, but I’m a little bit disappointed.

Ikuzawa helping Honda G-Cross develop the RN-01.
Ikuzawa helping Honda G-Cross develop the RN-01.

And that’s the (believe it or not) abbreviated version of Team Ikuzawa’s trailblazing history and their involvement with the RN-01. The team was the passion project of one of Japan’s most legendary auto racers, had bikes equipped with some of the rarest parts ever made for mountain biking, was one of the winningest teams in Japan’s history of DH, and was involved in the development of the RN-01. How’s that for a laundry list of achievements? It’s a shame how poorly documented old bike companies across the pond are - in my opinion, companies like Team Ikuzawa deserve the same amount of coverage as the likes of Brooklyn Machine Works. This post was just an overview of Team Ikuzawa's tenure in DH racing - I highly recommend you give these sources a read yourself.

If you've made it this far, thanks for your time! I hope you've discovered something new and interesting.

Sources (translated w/ DeepL):
https://ikuzawa.com/what-im-doing-lately-2/
https://web.archive.org/web/20010726204754/http://www.teamyrs.com/
https://www.proshopyrs.com/about-yrs-1/


 


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