1988 Fuji "Design Series"

Another rare visitor from Japan, again from friend Matt, his stunning red and white 1988 Design Series built up with a mix of Superbe and Superbe Pro.

Thanks Matt!

1984 Fuji "Professional Super Record"

A very, very rare gem in the Fuji line ....  At one point I thought I'd see a unicorn first but my friend Matt has been kind enough to share photos and a wonderful story behind his:

"Up for presentation is a 1984 Fuji Professional Super Record. From the moment that I learned of its existence, this model became the holy grail for my collection.  Little did I know at the time that I would acquire one so rapidly". 

"My first adventure into Italian components, as a loyal Fuji/Suntour fan, I was eager to try out my first bike built up with Campagnolo.  Waiting for it to arrive reminded me of waiting for Christmas as a child.  When it finally got here, I noticed the Bob Beal decal on the top tube pretty quickly and thought that was odd. Since it was a higher end bike, I originally thought that it was just a means for the original owner to deter theft and did not think too much of it".  

"Being a particularly rare frame, I focused my attention to the condition, which is pretty good for a twenty-six year old bike.  Of course, there were numerous scratches and scrapes on the old girl, but it certainly wasn’t necessitating a repaint.  I was concerned with a few spots and a bit of rust, so I did go ahead and touch up noticeable spots with a bit of fingernail polish. I know that this is a bit of a crime among some vintage bike enthusiasts, but I did so in the thought of keeping and preserving the bike, not out of vanity. When the day comes that I must finally sell her, most likely on my deathbed, I can rest assured knowing that she will remain in good structural condition for the next happy owner".  

"Curiously, Fuji veered from its usual component group of Suntour/Sugino/Dia-Compe and created this very well built bike by sourcing components from Campagnolo. As functional and attractive as Suntour Superbe is, apparently Fuji wanted to reach a larger pool of racers who, at the time, considered Campagnolo to be the highest quality component maker. True to its name, the bike was originally built up with a combination of Super Record and Record components. A Crystem stem and Nitto Mod 55 bars were used to finish the bike off.  
"Unfortunately, many components were swapped out by the time that I acquired the bike.  The Crystem stem and Nitto bars were long gone and replaced with a Cinelli bar/stem combo. The original wheels were missing as well, but a set of Campy Record hubs with Araya clincher rims are an adequate replacement. Oddly, the seatpost was actually a 26.2, with a shim to raise the diameter to 26.6.  I’ve since found a good deal on a Campy Nuovo Record in the correct size".
"As for the Bob Beal decal mentioned before, after securing the bike in the garage, I went ahead and did a little internet searching to see if any information was available.  After a quick google search, I noticed the Bob Beal Masters Weekend out in Rhode Island.  Obviously, this piqued my interest. I went on to do more searching, eventually finding a book titled “Never Give Up:  Personal Stories of Staying Young Through Sports”, which has a section dedicated to Bob.  This gave me the information that he was from the Boston area, so I contacted some shops and cycling clubs in the area.  That is when a flood of information started coming back to me from many of his old friends and associates".
"Apparently, Bob owned his own business, the Charrette Corporation.  Working himself to death,  smoking heavily, and eating a poor diet, he finally quit at the age of 55.  With free time to spare, he decided that he wanted to start cycling and joined the Massachusetts Bay Road Club, which he credited as his salvation.  Finally, Bob started to take care of his health, by giving up cigarettes and eating healthier.  After a short time, his competitive nature compelled him to start road racing.  After his first race, which he admitted that he could not finish, he bought a new and very expensive bike, with the hope that it would make him more competitive.  What he hadn’t realized, was that his bike was not the problem, it was his physical condition"  
"A stubborn or disciplined man, Bob continued to compete for almost twenty years, becoming a major competitor in the Masters division of racing and moving on to cyclocross, in order to stay fit over the colder months.  He won races and suffered crashes, but I found that the most inspirational aspect of his racing came from his determination to continue riding, not after one, but two heart attacks and a fractured skull.   In one particular crash, he broke thirty-eight bones, including his neck, but that couldn’t stop him from riding again".
"From talking to his old friends, Bob grew to become a guide for newer cyclists, quick to offer advice and to coach their techniques.  This led him to foster such well known New England cyclists as Frank/Mark McCormack and Paul Curley.  Eventually, he was even asked to join the U.S Cycling Federation to become an Olympic coach.  There, he ran the Junior Olympic camp and was rewarded with a chance to help train a very young Lance Armstrong as a prospective Olympic athelete, with whom Bob became very proud.

Eventually, even Bob could no longer race or maintain his duties as a USCF coach and retired.  In his 70’s, he was still able to ride three-hundred miles a week and schedule workouts for professionals in training.  He also earned the recognition that he deserved for his work representing New England cycling.  The Bob Beal Masters Weekend was created, with Bob rumored to have created the medals.  (If anybody could confirm this, I would be appreciative.)  He is now considered a legend in that area".

"Sadly, Bob passed away on August 29, 2009 at the age of 82.  While much of the information that I provided came from the book mentioned earlier, there was no shortage of friends willing to assist with what they could.  Everybody admired the man, a few who had lost contact were saddened to hear of his passing,  and many recommended that I should drink a Samuel Smith Nut Brown Ale, in honor of Bob and his time with the Massachusetts Bay Road Club.

In hopes of preserving his history, I was able to find some pictures of Bob, some on this bike, so that I could frame one and hang it above the bike in the garage.  I’d like to thank Bill Wharting, the photographer for the Wheel Paper, which was the newsletter for the MBRC.  Apparently, he was charged with writing the eulogy for Bob’s funeral.  It was quite lovely.  

For now, I will continue to think fondly of Bob and his inspirational history.   It certainly adds great character to this old girl".

 "For this information, I would like to thank Bill Sykes, Edward Bayer, Bill Wharting, Jim Quinn, Mark McCormack, Tom Vinson, and all of the rest who were so helpful in my research".

Matt

"Fuji's of Gotham"

More Fuji workhorses from William Bevington.....

A '70's Touring.

'80's Monterey.

A Sports 10, also under the watchful eye of NYC's finest.

A mid '80's Allegro.

An '80s Espree.

A cool colored '70's Tourer turned fixie.

An S10-S with a Fujita Pro saddle!

A skyscraper of a Fuji, a Del Rey perhaps.

And on summer holiday, William's gorgeous 1982 Professional.

Blast from the Past

My friend Kurt is the original owner of the 1982 Newest that I posted photos of on April 20th. He sent along some photos of himself and the Newest back in the day. Thanks Kurt!

A Visit to the Fuji Factory, Circa 1983.

Fuji friend Sherm has been kind enough to share his recollections of his visit to the Fuji factory. Lucky guy Sherm!


"In the mid and late ‘70’s, I was an active (and rather slow) Category 4 racer as well as the president of a local Connecticut cycling club, the Nutmeg Wheelmen. This was in the heyday of the bike boom; we had good fit riders and racers from all over central Connecticut. One of the more energetic and passionate club members was Elin Larsen, a very strong rider who raced on Fuji’s women’s team and also worked for Fuji for a number of years as their New England sales rep. Elin even successfully raced the Red Zinger stage race in Colorado on at least one occasion.

My fiancé and I were married in 1983. After tossing around a few ideas for honeymoon spots, we settled on Japan, a somewhat exotic destination that appealed to my interests in Zen, culture, traditional architecture, and above all…sushi. We decided on two main destinations in Japan, Tokyo and Kyoto, the modern and ancient centers of the country.

Knowing that the Fuji factory was on the outskirts of Tokyo, I got in touch with Elin. She was well-connected to all things Fuji and made a few phone calls to set up a factory tour for us. The deal was done. We were ready for the trip and we were psyched for the visit to Fuji. While my wife did not quite share my enthusiasm for the factory visit, she was a good sport about it and up for the adventure.

Don’t let anyone tell you that the flight to Japan is easy or comfortable. It’s not. It is a long, long journey and the time difference and jet lag is just brutal. Fourteen straight hours is a helluva long time to sit in a chair, no matter how cushioned or comfortable. At that time, my wife worked for American Airlines (hence the cheap airfare) and was able to arrange a great hotel for us at the tall and fashionable Akasaka Prince Hotel. Out of our hotel window was a spectacular view of Mt. Fuji, a dramatic and perfectly symmetrical snow-capped cone of a mountain. Seeing this symbol of Japan, it is no wonder that Fuji bikes chose this mountain as their symbol of strength, majesty, and beauty.

After several days adjusting to the new time zone, it was time for us to take the train to the Fuji factory. We had a small handwritten note in Japanese with some cryptic directions in English and contact information at the factory. The local 45 minute train ride was memorable only because we left the cosmopolitan (and English speaking) city of Tokyo to venture in the hinterlands, the working class commuting outskirts of the city where all businessmen wear dark suits and no one speaks a word of English. Our directions were simple: just count railway platforms and get off at the fifth one. We panicked a bit when we realized that the train didn’t stop at every platform we passed; did we count every single platform or just where the train actually stopped?

It all worked out in the end and we arrived at the destination train station in one piece and on time. There, we were met by a gracious manager from Fuji who drove us to the factory for the tour. I remember the facilities as somewhat plain and utilitarian, not the glitzy display of bicycle technology and marketing sizzle you came to expect at trade-only bike shows. We all sat down in a conference room and some introductions were made. Large posters of Fuji bikes encircled the walls. Tea was poured all around and a small moment of contemplation and tranquility ensued. Time to just be and enjoy the moment, to soak in the ambiance and really engage all our senses. So perhaps Fuji bicycles are a bit like the tea ceremony, not rushed, but artfully created and beautifully presented. After all, riding definitely puts you in the moment. As part of their customs, the Japanese love to present visitors and business colleagues with a small gift. As a present, we were given a small ceramic replica of a high wheeler bicycle.

Lots of automation at the factory. I remember seeing some of production setups for some of the lower end, mass-produced models. The seat tube, bottom bracket, and chainstay assembly was brazed up all at once, using a type of circular ring brazing fixture that heated everything to the right temperature and fed brass into the joints for brazing. Sort of a precursor to a robotic welding robot. Painting was also automated. A conveyor system carried the finished frames through the air into a set of spray booths, where primer and color coats were applied. The paint colors were rich and wet.

By now, I was getting anxious to see the good stuff, those hand built Fuji Finest frames with the beautiful chrome plating and lustrous silver paint jobs. We went into another room and saw these high-end frames being built by hand, one at a time. Volume was low, quality was high. I remember a large thick slab of steel that was the cold setting table. The bottom bracket of each frame was inserted onto a steel post in the middle of the table and the frame was checked for alignment all around. If it was off by a millimeter or two, a long bending rod and a few well-placed tweaks were all that was needed to get everything perfectly aligned.

You could tell that Fuji had a special relationship with SunTour, their components and boxes were just about everywhere. We were brought to a small asphalt lot on the company grounds and shown what looked like an ordinary English style 3-speed urban bike. Our guide explained to us, however, that this was actually a test prototype with a new rear hub created by SunTour. With this bike, you could propel yourself in one of two different ways. Pedaling forward worked just like a regular bike, but back pedaling wasn’t for freewheeling. Pedaling backwards also applied power to the rear wheel and moved the bike. I took the bike out for a few quick loops around the lot, quite the novel pedaling experience. These days, when the legs are burning after a hard sustained effort, I still think it would be great to pedal backwards and kick-in a new set of muscles.

The factory was abuzz with activity. There were bikes everywhere and the operation seemed very efficient and productive. You could also tell that quality was held in high regard, even the low-end models received proper care and attention. Having worked as a bike mechanic in my late teens and early twenties, I remember how well even inexpensive models like the Fuji S-10S went together. There was no tweaking or fumbling needed, all the components fit perfectly and adjustments were a breeze. Of course, the SunTour derailleurs were light years ahead of the dated Simplex and Huret derailleurs of the same era.

I still love to going on factory tours to soak in the all the mechanical beauty, sound, and commotion of a busy production floor. Even to this day, every time I see a Fuji, I am brought back to that sunny day in September, 1983, when I saw the Japanese spirit of pride and craftsmanship for myself!"