So long, Sam

Been a week.

There is a bike shop called Sam’s Bike in Sapporo, Japan. It’s been around for 25 years now, which makes it one of the long-standing shops among those dedicated to sports bikes. It’s pretty safe to say it’s the shop with the most distinguishable character in the area. It’s close to where I live, and more importantly, their tastes and ideas about bikes and bike riding are quite close to mine. And the shop has played a huge role in my bike life as a rider and as a business person in this field.

Sam, the owner of Sam’s Bike, has passed away. What a shame. I got to see him a few days before that, when he was super stoked to see my Sumo Roller bike I had just refinished. He rode it around the block way more aggressively than anyone else that’s ridden it. He was always great at encouraging and acknowledging people’s creativity. He was the reason I started singing in a band consisting of a mixture of bike and music friends (Sam was not only a creative bike business guy but also a professional musician). He was the reason for so many people to try and do so many things.

Let me fill you in with an episode from right before I officially met Sam.

Circa 1996, I was at one of the slalom events of the Hokkaido MTB Series races, furiously attacking the red and blue hinged poles aboard my mountain bike equipped with spiky tires that worked great for the wet turf and a fork I scavenged from a junk motocrosser. The makeshift brake mount on the fork buckled under intense braking force right after I crossed the finish line, but my runs went good. And when everyone finished and the results were put up on the board, I came in second. I was one of the nobodies back then, so everyone was wondering who the hell it was that came in second, that is, second to Osamu Matsuura, a.k.a. Sam. It was about the fifth year of Sam’s Bike, and Sam had not only brought the street culture touch of MTB and BMX worlds into the local scene but also been acknowledged as an exceptional rider himself. Let me put it into perspective; those were the riders Sam was beating some of whom were to later shred Japan Series races as well as international events.

What might be more amazing is that his skills as a rider were almost blurred by his imagination, energy, mechanic skills, and music activities that fascinated a lot of people. Throughout the evening of the wake, there was a huge traffic jam on Route 36 because there was no way the mere 200 parking spaces at the venue could serve well enough. He was and will be dearly missed.

I’m stealing my favorite photo of him from MTB Magazine that has unfortunately been suspended. Sam in 2002.

Thank you for the greatest sessions ever.

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