Video: How Tomomi Nishikubo's Custom Trials Bike Came to Life

May 31, 2021 at 3:24
by Canyon  

Press Release: Canyon

Japan’s street trials Ninja, Tomomi Nishikubo, is the latest addition to the Canyon CLLCTV - and we think it’s fair to say that both Canyon and Tomomi are equally stoked about the new partnership.

One of the first jobs after signing a new rider, is to get them some sweet new Canyon bikes to ride. And since Tomomi spends a lot of his time hopping about on a trials bike- we of course wanted to send him one of our prototype carbon frames. The problem with this is that the bike is still, well, a prototype … so what colour should we paint the frame? After a discussion between Canyon’s Senior Graphic Designer, Christian Hellmann, and Tomomi it was pretty clear there was the opportunity to create something really special.

Want to know how we ended up with this design? Credit: Yusuke Origuchi

Read on to find out the steps we took with Tomomi, check out some of the designs that didn’t make the cut, and discover how the final EN design came to life.

Step 1 - Speak to Tomomi

To make sure we started out in the right direction with our design ideas, the first step was to catch up with Tomomi on a call. Understanding how Tomomi sees himself, what he values, what visual elements he likes - is all a crucial part of the collaboration process. We ended up talking around a few key areas with the call lasted for an hour as we talked about a lot! Too much to try and include in this story- but here are a few of the standout ideas:

Firstly, it was clear Tomomi is proud of his home country, Japan, and its culture. So, to start things off we discussed including some Japanese calligraphy on the frame. Then Tomomi mentioned the significance of Sakura (Cherry Blossom) in Japan, which is a celebrated part of their culture. Another cue from Tomomi was that he is known as the Ninja Rider. Awesome! Things were slowly starting to become clearer as to the various directions the design could go in.

Japanese calligraphy is an art form in itself

Step 2 - Explore and research some designs

With so many ideas on the table, we decided to draft several designs and then discuss which direction(s) had the most potential.

We first took some inspiration from Tomomi’s latest Ride to Survive content. This design was a lot of fun to create, but in the end, we all felt it concentrated a little too much on just one content series from Tomomi.

Then we looked further into using calligraphy as a key element of the design. Despite being very striking from a graphic design standpoint, somehow the impact of this highly artistic writing was lost when we started to work with it on the frame’s architecture.

Next was some Ninja research. We experiment with a traditional Bushido theme and its relation to Ninja culture. But we felt this was missing a closer, more personal connection to Tomomi.

Then we explored the Cherry Blossom design….

The vibrant colours and delicate details of Sakura are without a doubt amazing to look at close-up and in person. But when we thought a lot about how the majority of people will see Tomomi’s bike (being hopped over some absurd street obstacle in a video segment), and we feared these fine details would become lost.

Step 3 - Pulling together the final design

While the Cherry Blossom design didn’t make the cut, the research into cultural elements of Sakura sparked something within the group. And we wanted to try and find an approach that is universal - for example- cherry blossom would not carry the same meaning in Europe as it would in Japan.

This took us back to the core of the project - we are a CLLCTV- one worldwide group of people connected by the love of riding bikes together. So, what could work as a more universal language of symbols that everyone in the world can understand? One idea was the very basic symbol of the EN- the Japanese symbol of the circle. While it carries a huge number of meanings, it was clear that several of them will resonate with the majority of MTBers out there: cooperation, community and individual development and refinement.

What was fascinating about this simple symbol, is that it can be drawn in many ways and styles - so we figured Tomomi’s own hand-drawn version of EN would be the perfect focal point of the design.

Tomomi drew us a lot of circles ...

We also asked Tomomi to ‘sign’ his own name in Japanese Calligraphy as another personal touch to feature on the frame design. We actually had to check back with Tomomi about how to arrange the symbols correctly because - we had no clue!

Signed by....

With all of this combined we felt we were approaching a pretty cool final design- but we still had to figure out the main colour. In our limited knowledge within Canyon (mostly based on movies, to be honest), ninjas' uniforms are black- so this was the first thought for the colour direction.

But we learned two things that made us chose light blue. Firstly, Tomomi’s name actually means ‘ocean’ and ‘friendship’ in Japanese. Also - traditional ninja colours can also be earth tones which included blue, which helps with camouflage during a full moon. So, this made the blue a perfect fit.

Step 4

The reveal!

We jumped on a call with Tomomi to show him the final design, and ell, we think his reaction says it all really...

The face you make when you first see your custom bike design.
The face you make when you first see your custom bike design

The downtube features canyon written in japanese as a reference to our japanese friends.
The final draft

There’s not much more to add at this point- but hopefully, you enjoy checking out the design and details as much as we enjoyed working with Tomomi on creating them.

And how that draft looks in real life

Tomomi's hand-drawn EN circle symbol applied to the frame

Yep, that's Canyon in Japanese

The Ninja, hiding.

​In the end, I think it’s safe to say both Canyon and Tomomi are stoked with how it turned out. What do you think? Which design would you choose?

The beauty shot. Credit: Naoki Morita
The new bike goes well, it seems. Credit: Yusuke Origuchi

Photos: Naoki Morita and Yusuke Origuchi
With support from: Canyon
Featuring: Tomomi Nishikubo

MENTIONS: @Canyon-PureCycling


  • 78 0
 Sick bike, but that cherry blossom design was unbelievable.
  • 36 0
 I gotta say, that cherry blossom job is pretty sick
  • 28 0
 That cherry blossom look was beautiful
  • 13 0
 Most beautiful modern trials bike
  • 7 0
 All those designs were beautiful. Wouldn't hurt if they'd just use them on their production bikes, would surely sell. Cool to see those brands deliver their trials riders proper yet custom trials bikes. It must be more of a challenge for those big brands to sign a trials rider than to sign an enduro or XC racer. Santa Cruz made Danny MacAskill a custom frame too. I've been living under a rock lately (that is, on my bike but not on Pinkbike) so I might have missed it, but is Fabio Wibmer riding one of these too?
  • 4 0
 Maybe it has to do with how much marketing they can get out of a really good trials rider. It seems like Danny makes it into the wider culture very often whereas a lot of other MTBers do not.
  • 1 0
 @vinay : Yes, Fabio was the first to get one but the design is not as S!CK as this one!
  • 1 0
 @BoneleSS: Yeah, I suppose his signature style is clean and white. Which is all fine, you just won't be getting the pretty paintjob Wink .
  • 8 0
 Big fan of Tomomi! Great job Canyon!
  • 4 0
 WOW! Insane bike! #dreams
  • 1 0
 I think they went with the right design for the bike. It's original, striking, and goes with the concept that TN wanted. The cherry blossom and bamboo themes look good but they're a bit generic looking.
  • 1 0
 simple and clean, love it! Nice touch with the splash of red on the inside of the crank arms (not sure if that was intentional or not)
  • 2 0
 Please canyon, make these street trails frames available for paying customers.
  • 2 0
 I'd buy one just to have one
  • 7 0
 That’s normally why you buy things @T4THH:
  • 3 1
 The Fabio Wibmer of Japan
  • 3 0
  • 2 0
 Cherry blossom for the win! Oh, that's not the final design...
  • 1 0
 Is it just me that CANYON in Japanese calligraphy looks like TRIAL? still a fitting coincidence!
  • 1 0
 Sick bike for a sick rider!
  • 4 4
 The headtube is too big compared to the stem to be look good...
  • 1 0
 Love it !
  • 1 0
  • 1 2
 No Ice Tech rotors. Simple RT66.
  • 3 1
 They *are* Ice-Tech: RT86...

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