Old 11-15-15, 04:38 AM
verktyg's Avatar
Join Date: Jul 2006
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Bikes: Current favorites: 1988 Peugeot Birraritz, 1984 Gitane Super Corsa, 1981 Bianchi Campione Del Mondo, 1992 Paramount OS, 1990 Bianchi Mondiale, 1988 Colnago Technos, 1985 RalieghUSA Team Pro, 1973 Holdsworth

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Now, the rest of the story...

There was never much of a sporting bicycle tradition in Japan. Before the US Bike Boom almost all of the millions of bicycles produced in Japan for the domestic market were 50 Lb. single speed transportation models with rod brakes. Band brakes on the rear were a luxury and 3 speed rear hubs even more so.

Bicycle purchases were made by ultra frugal Japanese housewives so anything beyond basic black was not going to sell. This bike with all of the chrome would have been a luxury model.

These bikes had substantial rear racks. The wives sat sidesaddle on the rack holding the baby plus shopping bags while the husband pedaled. I was always amazed by how well they could balance at slow speeds weaving in and out of traffic.

Keiren track racing is a "sport" in the same sense that thoroughbred horse racing is a sport. The primary draw is parimutuel betting - legalized gambling!

In the late 60's at least one US bicycle wholesaler went to Japan to have derailleur bikes made to their specs. Their specs were "make us bikes just like the one in this picture".

Almost all of the Japanese bikes imported during the US bike boom were heavy clunkers compared to the 27 to 28 Lb. entry level all steel European models.

Many low end European "gas pipe" bikes had main tubes with wall thicknesses from 1.2mm to 2mm. Japanese bikes had tubes up to 3mm thick and weighed 3 to 4 Lbs. more than equivalent European models.

Heavy tubing like that gives a very dead feel. There's no spring to the frame and the tubing absorbs or transmits all of the road shock and vibrations.

Also, most Japanese rode 19" to 21" frames (50cm - 54cm) with short top tubes, slack angles, long wheelbases and long fork rakes. Very few Japanese could ride a bike over 56cm (22") so they had no idea how to build frames for westerners.

During the US bike boom fad a WHOLE LOT of people got into the business to make a fast buck. Some made a bundle during the first few years. You could sell anything with derailleurs and drop bars and call it a "10 SPEED RACER"!

By the mid 70's a few people knowledgeable about bicycle ride and handling features got involved in with the companies who were importing Japanese bikes.

By that time Japanese components had developed a reputation for ease of use and reliability. That plus Japanese bikes had far better finishes and cosmetics than European entry level and mid range bikes.

In late 70's many mid range Japanese bikes had the same quality that top name European bikes were noted for. The ride and handling of the Japanese bikes had improved drastically and they were taking over the US lightweight bike market. Protective tariffs kept many of those bikes out of much of the European market during those years.

Case in point about dead ride quality:

Our shop was a few blocks away from a university. Every August and January out of town students used to bring their bikes from home packed in bike boxes. We were reluctant to reassemble those because the usually turned into a can of worms!

About 1975 someone brought in a new boxed up top end Centurion. Business wa a little slow so we decided to assemble it for him to check out the quality.

The bike had good quality Japanese alloy components including rims. The cosmetics were very good. The frame had a sticker saying butted 4130 Steel Tubing.

Turns out that while the tubing was 4130 alloy steel, the main tubes were about 2.5mm + thick. The 58cm bike weighed 32 Lbs. - 5 Lbs. more than an entry level all steel French bike!

Most Japanese bikes from the late 70's rode and handled as well if not better than equivalent European brands.

By the early 80's Japanese bikes lost out to less expensive bike made in Taiwan.

So now you know...

verktyg 1964

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Things aren't always what they seem... Don't believe everything you think!

Chas. ;-)

Last edited by verktyg; 11-15-15 at 06:39 AM.
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