What to do? The show has been rescheduled to August, but we still have plenty of great NAHBS content to share with you. We’re going to have our usual series of pre-NAHBS interviews to put the spotlight on a handful of our favorite builders – and will start sharing these stories NOW, when the original show was scheduled to begin. Economic times will be tough for us all, but perhaps even more so for small independent businesses. Thus, we feel it is our duty to help promote these builders, and keep the excitement going all the way to the forthcoming August NAHBS.
Please enjoy this interview with Nao Tomii of Tomii Cycles.
Bikerumor.com: What’s your name, your bike brand, and where are you based?
Nao Tomii: My name is Nao Tomii and I’m the owner / builder of Tomii Cycles in Austin TX.
Bikerumor.com: How long have you been making bikes? How’d you get into it?
Tomii: I have been making bikes since 2012. I was born in Yokohama and grew up in Niigata, Japan. I came to the United States in 1998 for art school in Boston MA. Since I was a child I’ve always liked cars, motorcycles, and bicycles (everything with wheels) especially American hotrod culture. It was a good opportunity to study art and explore American culture.
I found a sculpting job after I graduated from art school. I worked for sculpting company for 12 years making sculptures, mold making, casting and restorations for old sculptures and architectures. I was also making my own sculptures and did some shows in Boston area. In 2006, I got a cheap bike and started to ride and met many cyclists and bicycle builders. I was impressed by the beauty of handmade bicycles and really wanted to make my own.
Bikerumor.com: How many frames have you built, and what’s your material of choice? Why that material?
Tomii: Around 100 frames and currently making steel frames. With steel, there are few different methods to make bike frames. I like both Tig-weld and brazing. I’d like to try other materials in the future.
Bikerumor.com: What’s going to be the highlight in your NAHBS booth this year?
Tomii: Two gravel bikes and one classic style sportif. I like all kinds of bikes!
Bikerumor.com: What’s your inspiration lately?
Tomii: My inspiration is my usual ride in Austin, to the city and to have a great coffee. I am still new here and I have to check out more gravel roads around Austin. When I ride, I always check new and old buildings, rusty cars/motorcycles, signs, murals, plants, colors and everything inspires me. I think Austin is a great city for this. Austin summer can be really hot, so night rides are my favorite. Cold coconut water tastes great!
Bikerumor.com: Any unique questions you use to help customers get a bike that’s really dialed for them?
Tomii: For the steel frames, paint is one of the fun part of the build. I usually ask customers about their favorite colors then start drawing paint ideas.
Bikerumor.com: What’s the oddest request you’ve gotten for a custom build?
Tomii: I don’t think I’ve ever had an odd request. Very big or small frames are always challenging.
Bikerumor.com: Someone calls you up and says “Can you make me a race bike?” – Describe the first kind of bike that pops in your head?
Tomii: Light weight CX and Road.
Bikerumor.com: Sum your brand up in one word:
Tomii: Wayosetchu (Japanese and Western eclectic / Style)
Bikerumor.com: What is your website and Instagram handle?