The most famous Kuwahara is the BMX ridden across the face of the moon by Elliot in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, but there is far more to the brand and catalog. This 1993 Marten model MTB has been repurposed into a dirt drop all-season tourer.
The company was actually founded in Japan by Sentarō Kuwahara selling wholesale bike parts in 1918. Assisted by his wife and eight children, Kuwahara grew the business and began exporting bikes and components to Russia, China, and Southeast Asia in 1925.
World War II brought a five-year hiatus for Kuwahara, but by 1959 they were exporting bikes to the States. Sentarō died in 1960 and was succeeded by one of his sons, Masao, who dramatically ramped up their production for export to overseas markets.
During the late 60s and early 70s, Kuwahara produced ‘sports bicycles’ for numerous brands and markets such as such as Schwinn, Apollo, Takara, Puch, and Azuki. The BMX line arrived in 1972.
Then, in 1981, a little Kuwahara landed the role in E.T., making the red and white model one of the most collectable bikes of all time. Kasabian’s lead singer Tom Meighan bought the movie star bike in 2007 for £10,000.
But Kuwahara also made MTBs, and the Marten wasn’t a half bad frame, made from lugged Ishiwata tubing and spec’d with Deore DX and Araya RM-17 rims. It filled the bill for Adan Pinto, who wanted a vintage MTB for an all-season, all-terrain randonneuse.
Naturally, Adan added fenders and a pair of On-One’s Midge dirt drop handlebars, with Dura-Ace 7400 brake levers, bar-end shifters and a snow-white Turbo saddle. “Et voila,” Adan says, “I have got the bike I wanted for less than 300 quids.”
Apparently, the ride quality is excellent and has allowed Adan to keep riding all through winter — these photos were taken in The Cotswolds, around the Wychwood Forest, Burford, Leafield, and Minster Lovell. A cold ride, brightened up by functional 90s nostalgia.