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Katakura-Silk/Nishiki Professional

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Katakura-Silk/Nishiki Professional

Old 10-18-17, 10:06 PM
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Katakura-Silk/Nishiki Professional

This all happened because of what happened over a year ago when I found and purchased a Nishiki Professional, see prior post: “Nishiki Professional with Campagnolo Nuvo Record Gruppo”.


The seat tube of the Nishiki Professional has a set of bands painted on it, which I learned from William Bevington is a paint design unique to the Nishiki top of the line bikes: “That look with the bands runs across the pros, the ultimate, and the superb as well.”


And so it was while grazing through bikes on eBay, you know auto pilot, that I came across this bike, why? Because it has the same pattern of bands on its seat tube that my Nishiki Professional does, as well as the Nishiki Ultimate and Nishiki Superb.


P1060350.JPG

There was also the stamping on the bottom bracket: KI20151. Which tell us that this bike is a Katakura frame, which was the 151st made in September of 1972.



Yes, it had happened again, I had found another, older, and in some ways perhaps rarer Nishiki Professional.
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Old 10-18-17, 10:11 PM
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Rarer because of this decal on the fork, “Silk”, which I didn’t understand at first.
Also stamped on the handlebar “Nishiki Silk” and “Nitto Universiade(?)”


P1060360.JPG

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Thanks to the internet I soon learned that “Silk” is a bike brand highly regarded in Japan, made by Katakura, and if I am getting things wrong or missing points be kind as this is new territory for me, but what beautiful bikes they make. You can find a similar Nishiki Professional restored into a “Silk” bike on the Cycles Grand Bois website in their online gallery.


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Old 10-18-17, 10:15 PM
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Then there are the chrome lugs.
Chrome Suntour Drop Outs.
Chrome seat stay tops.


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Old 10-18-17, 10:17 PM
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And then a mystery, paint chipped off one fork leg and the discovery of chrome underneath?


Could the entire fork be chromed and painted, could the entire bike be chromed and painted? Don’t know. Won’t know. I’m not removing any of the existing paint. For a bike that is approaching 46 years of age the paint, lack of rust, dents, and relatively intact (discussed later) condition of this bike is a wonder.


P1060390.JPG
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Old 10-18-17, 10:19 PM
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So let’s enjoy:


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Old 10-18-17, 10:20 PM
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Old 10-18-17, 10:22 PM
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Old 10-18-17, 10:24 PM
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Old 10-18-17, 10:25 PM
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Old 10-18-17, 10:28 PM
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What’s missing? New brake hoods, a set of Dia Compe center pull brakes, a nut for the seat post bolt, Suntour Golden freewheel, Suntour V Luxe rear derailleur, cotton bar tape, new decals and a wheel rebuild to 700c (originally the bike came with tubular sew up tires and rims). All of the above except the wheel rebuild, and finding a nut that will fit the seat post, is on the way.
And a lot of cleaning, servicing, polishing, but just to a point. This was a ridden bike and will be again. No touch up of chips, etc., apply new “Nishiki Professional” decals if they can be found and then clear coat to preserve, but not hide.



Thanks for any additional insights you can share, may we meet on the road.
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Old 10-19-17, 03:14 PM
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Some days are just luck.

I mentioned above a missing seat post nut. So here's the story.

Unpacking the bike I find the seat post bolt in place in the seat post clamp.

P1060423.JPG

Nothing special about this bolt, probably a jillion of them rolling about on bicycles across this planet.
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Old 10-19-17, 03:19 PM
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But then I turn to the other side of the seat post clamp and find this:

P1060424.JPG

A beautifully made hexagon seat post clamp meant to capture the nut you would tighten the bolt to.

But it was missing.

And it isn't a standard size, sure I could find nuts that would thread into the existing seat post bolt, but every nut I found was either too large to fix inside the hexagon clamp fitting, or, too small.

A moment.

But then I thought a day later, preparing to load the shipping box to haul it away, what if?

Dumping all the contents on the floor, pulling everything out of the box, caught in the corner between two sides of cardboard....

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Old 10-19-17, 03:20 PM
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I found this.

P1060425.JPG

The missing nut.
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Old 10-19-17, 03:21 PM
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The exact fit, never to be found anywhere, have to grind a nut down to make it fit, nut.

P1060427.JPG

Now that's a good day.
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Old 10-19-17, 04:58 PM
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Very cool! Can't wait to hear, and see, more of this one as things progress.
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Old 10-19-17, 05:55 PM
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Thanks jamesdak. Today I tried out one of my 700c wheels with 28cm tires in the rear drop out and found it made a great difference in clearance for the rear derailleur which before was nearly touching the 27" rim and 1 1/4" tire. I removed the side pull brake and installed the rear Grand Compe center pull brake which originally came with this bike and found that they also work on 700c rims with abundant room to move up or down on the brake. The original tires on this bike were tubular silk sew ups which I understand are the same size rims as 700c, or, very close. After this I left the 27" wheels with my friend who built our single and tandem custom bikes to have the wheels rebuilt to 700c rims to which I will add Compass 28c tires with light/suppler side walls. I have these tires on my other Nishiki Professional (1981) and they are very fast and comfortable.

In the mean time I will be taking everything off this bike then deep clean/polish the bike/chrome and if I can locate new decals then I will add them and have a local bike painter clear coat the entire frame/fork, again to preserve not to hide its patina. I will clean and touch up marks where rust might form with rust inhibitor and leave it at that. Once it has been clear coated then I will restore it with parts that recreate the bike as it was in 1972, so far readily available, unlike the missing seat clamp bolt. That was truly dodging a bullet, what a self inflicted that would have been if I'd thrown that box away with that nut in it....

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Old 10-19-17, 06:29 PM
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Cool bike- so glad you found the nut!!!
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Old 10-19-17, 10:04 PM
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Speaking of the seat does anyone have a clue what seat would have been on this bike. What is currently on the bike is a plastic "Fujita" saddle with blue vinyl as a cover stapled on over the saddle shell.

A 1974 Nishiki catalog only provides this guidance: "Genuine leather covered racing saddle". That's as narrow as it gets. However for the pedals the catalog says: "Professional racing pedals with leather covered toe clips and straps".

That description is consistent with the pedals on the bike, Kyokuto “Pro Ace” racing pedals, which in fact have leather wrapped toe clips and leather Kyokuto straps. What saddle made in Japan in 1972-74 would be an equivalent to these pedals? We know it was covered with “leather” and was a racing saddle.

Sorry that’s all I’ve got to go on, any suggestions would be welcome. If you have a 1972-74 Japanese racing bike that has Suntour, Sugino and Dia Compe components with a leather covered racing saddle, Japanese manufacture my guess, please let me know. Thanks
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Old 10-19-17, 11:03 PM
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While I don't know much about the high end Nishikis, that Fujita may well be original. The only other Japanese covered saddle I've seen in person is the Kashimax leather covered model. (Those came on some Centurions)

Edit- a quick perusal of eBay shows Ariake saddles would be another Japanese option.

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Old 10-19-17, 11:26 PM
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Thanks cdmurphy, a little research is a dangerous thing as is a little knowledge. With that in mind I wonder if this could be the saddle in question as it is both covered in leather and of a design similar to the European racing saddle of the early 70s, e.g., Brooks , Ideal?

5278F5BF-B67E-42A3-B615-0E1548ACBC59.jpeg

This is the Fujita "Belt" leather saddle from Velobase.com which provides the following general information: “This saddle was standard equipment on Fuji S10S bikes in early 1970s. Leather thickness is like a Brooks Pro. There is also a model with stitched trim that is wider and shorter than the non-stitched version. Stitched version is approximately 15.25cm (6") wide and 27cm (10.625") long. These saddles also have metal seat bag loops (attachment points) on the rear.”


While there was also a Fujita Super Professional I am not sure when it was made, whereas the “Belt” is in a time period “early 1970s” that would fit with the 1972 construction of this Nishiki Professional’s frame construction.


Appears from posts that there is mixed feeling about this saddle, long break in, love it, don't love it, etc. Any experience with it is welcome.


How particular should I be over saddle color, vrs, overall condition of the saddle? Should a great condition saddle that is an off color, brown, or, tan rather than black be trumped by a black saddle? We are going on 40 years+ and leather can age to failure what should I look out for be cautious about?



Again thoughts, comments, suggestions welcome. And thanks I will check out the Ariake saddles too.

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Old 10-19-17, 11:46 PM
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Those "Belt" saddles are actually Brooks B17 copies, and are just leather, no plastic shell or padding. (And quite heavy). I believe they came stock on some of the upper end Fuji models in the mid 70s. The main difference between them and a Brooks B17 is the leather thickness. The Belt is much thicker and harder. Even moreso than a Brooks Professional. I had two of them for a while, but could never get comfortable. They seem to have a sharper transition between the top and sides that just dug into my sit bones. In contrast, Brooks Pros fit my backside perfectly, even when new and hard.

What you are looking for are basically copies of the Cinelli Unicanitor. It was the first plastic racing saddle to gain wide acceptance. It had a narrower shape, similar to a Brooks Pro or Ideale 90, but was much lighter, due to a plastic shell covered (or not) with a thinly padded suede or smooth leather skin. They won't form to your body like a good suspended leather saddle, but it might save you close to a pound. (Racers have always been weight weenies)
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Old 10-19-17, 11:55 PM
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As I see it, you have two options: 1) Find or confirm the original saddle, and live with it. Or, 2) put on whatever fits your butt, original spec be damned.

I generally go for #2. Luckily, my go-to Brooks Pros are pretty appropriate for pretty much anything from the early 60s to the late 70s (pretty much the only bikes I'm interested in.)

I did make an exception for a 1976 Carabela Profesional that has a Mexican Unicanitor copy. It's quite a bit narrower than my Pros, but I've been just as comfortable on it. Go figure.
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Old 10-20-17, 07:08 AM
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If you want to stay with Japan, a Fujita Professional saddle is very nice. Knock off of a Brooks Professional, looks exactly like the Brooks until you see Fujita Professional on the sides of the saddle.

I put a Belt on my recent Sekai Professional. I will probably swap in a Fujita Pro saddle instead. The Fujita saddle came on a Trek 720 I recently acquired (that bike should have had a Brooks Pro on it, go figure).

Right now, I have a Brooks on my Katakura Silk. It will probably get whatever saddle Belt or Fujita is left after I decide on the Sekai.

[IMG]1975 Sekai 4000 Professional by wrk101, on Flickr[/IMG]

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Old 10-20-17, 07:47 AM
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Lovely bike wrk101 and cdmurphy you've nailed the dilemma. I do have a seat, Selle Italia SLR Max, which my butt loves and it is on all the bikes I ride. I don't want this bike to just hang in the garage, I intend on riding it in the summer switching between bikes. I tried a sprung Brooks saddle on a bike a while back and didn't like the suspension movement of the saddle. I too was surprised at the weight. I have had an Avocet Touring saddle and found that quite comfortable and they do make a racing saddle, Racer I, II and III, but they were made in the late 70s after this bike was made and in America, so couldn't have been the saddle on this bike.

I am leaning towards option #2 and going with my Selle Italia SLR Max saddle. I think it would blend in and look nice, but allow comfort on longer rides. But I'm open to suggestions, because I am intrigued with the look of the Fujita Belt saddle and then there's the process of learning how to restore the saddle. Most are in sad to saddest condition after 40 years of neglect. Finally, like with wrk101's 75 Sekai 4000 Professional they do look so right.
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Old 10-20-17, 09:53 AM
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Be careful with trying to "restore" a leather saddle. Generally, once damage is done to leather via oxidation, it's irreversible. You can re-oil and wax them to improve their look and flexibility, but they will always be weaker and more brittle than leather that was properly cared for.

I've bought probably 7 or 8 used Brooks Pros over the years, generally in good, but very dry condition. A few have performed wonderfully after some proofhide treatments, while others have started cracking almost immediately, despite looking good after treatment. Don't worry too much about cracking - you'll probably still get a few thousand miles out of them before they actually fail. I had one saddle that I bought already very deeply cracked, and still got another 1500 miles out of it. (I later re-covered it in this saga: Show and Tell: Recovering a Brooks Saddle)
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