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Why NJS Japanese Track Equipment?

Bicycle racing in Japan, like horse racing in much of the western world, is where the big money changes hands. Professional keirin cycling in Japan is one of the country's main gambling sports. Approved after the war in 1948 it was standardized in 1957 by the Japanese Kerin Association in Japanese known as Nihon Jitensha Shinkokai - or as we know it more commonly - NJS.

The NJS control everything from who can ride races right down to the equipment they can use. Prospective Keirin competitors apply to get in to Keirin college but with NJS standards being so high only about ten percent make it through.

Much like other Japanese disciplines we are familiar with such as Sumo and the other martial arts the training is strict and regimented with students enduring a well laid out training routine that is in excess of 15 hours per day on the velodrome, in the lab and in the classroom.

For riders that pass the NJS formal examinations at the end of their training they are awarded official NJS certifications and are free to ply their trade on the professional Keirin circuit in Japan.

The Keirin Race

Keirin racing is typically a more boisterous affair than much of the track racing most westerners would have seen from their exposure to UCI track events and Olympic cycling.

From the sound of the starter's pistol the riders jostle for position behind a derny motorcycle that will pace them round the velodrome until around one or two laps remain at which point it will pull off the track and the racers will battle it out at high speed and close proximity to each other until they reach the finishing line.

Because of the potential for accidents and due to the huge sums of money at stake in each Keirin race the equipment used by the racers has to be reliable. This is one of the few cycling arenas where you won't find carbon fiber of flimsy lightweight tubing. In Keirin well engineered equipment rules.

NJS Certification

To enforce this the NJS officially certify equipment they approve of to ensure that all riders use bikes, componentry and even tools that meet this requirement.

All frames used in Japanese Keirin races must be built by an approved frame builder, using materials that have been NJS certified. The number of builders allowed to provide bikes is very very limited and NJS certification is a mark of real authority amongst Japanese bike builders.

NJS approved kit often sells for more than non NJS approved equivalents because of its build requirements and limited availability. For riders who love their fixed gear bikes around town NJS kit really makes a bike stand out amongst the other fixes on the road.

The majority of NJS approved brands are naturally Japanese mostly because of the NJS's desire to promote the Japanese cycle market but also partly because the bureaucracy involved is so difficult it makes it much harder for foreign companies to enter the NJS market although Campagnolo was approved up until 2007 and Cinelli were approved in the past.

NJS Frames

NJS frames are notoriously hard to get hold of brand new for westerners the waiting lists at builders are generally always long It is possible to go over to Japan and select a builder but don't expect to be able to take the bike back with you immediately at the end of your holiday it might be getting shipped out a few months after you leave!

If you don't mind pre-loved NJS frames then second hand sites are the way to go NJS frames are robust and last a long time. Some good basic care and a steel frame lasts for years and years giving plenty of good service to its rider. If you happen to be a shorter rider - ie less than six foot tall you should have more luck in finding an NJS frame you are closer to the average height of a Keirin racer in Japan!

If you are racing track outside of Japan, even if you want to ride Keirin races it's worth remembering that you DON'T need NJS approved equipment. NJS is just for the Japanese professional circuit or the discerning leisure cyclist who wants an extremely stylish bike that he knows he can rely on.

More Keirin Resources

If you've never seen an official NJS Keirin race take a look at some of our favourite videos here, here and here. One thing you'll notice is the amount of armour that the riders wear and if you look closely you'll see headbutts, elbowing and general full contact cycle sport taking place. Keirin racing is tough and hard on equipment and that's why Keirin kit is built to last and can provide a lifetime of enjoyment.