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So, when did Japan frames become sweet, and what brand ushered them in?

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So, when did Japan frames become sweet, and what brand ushered them in?

Old 03-26-19, 04:03 PM
  #26  
63rickert
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Toei. Alps. Cherubim. Hiroshi-san who still somewhat has the door open at Jitensha Studio in Berkeley has been part of the leading edge of Japanese bikes for 60 years. Amazed that so few consult with him. Order an Ebisu while you still can.

Shimano Dura Ace introduced 1973. I have a few pieces. Rear derailleur still labeled Crane, other parts say Dura Ace. Quite certain of age as I put them in the hand of the first owner and now have them back.
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Old 03-26-19, 08:50 PM
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Original poster here/hear, still lurking and learning. I was going to guess Fuji, especially the S-10-S, but wanted to hear other knowledgeable opinions, since I came into big boy bicycling in the early 80's. Maybe a secondary play by Nishiki, especially on the West Coast? I love the early Schwinn Japan made models, but don't necessarily give them the winners sash, because I feel like Schwinn was doing everything it could to minimize the Japan connection of their models at the time. First, putting them out as World branded, then, splashing their Schwinn name on most of the Japan made components, as if to say that the Schwinn approval was more important the the original manufacturer. But, that's me, and others might have a differing opinion and valid arguments.
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Old 03-27-19, 07:05 AM
  #28  
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Originally Posted by 63rickert View Post
....Shimano Dura Ace introduced 1973. I have a few pieces. Rear derailleur still labeled Crane, other parts say Dura Ace. Quite certain of age as I put them in the hand of the first owner and now have them back.
While the Dura-Ace group was available in 1973, it was a late enough introduction to be considered 1974 model year, as per my previous post.

The original combination of components in the Dura-Ace were actually released over a course of about 11 months. The first to arrive was the crankset, in June 1972. The shift levers were first marketed in November 1972. The 5 and 6 speed freewheels were released in April 1973. The hubs, brakeset, front derailleur and headset followed in July 1973. The Crane derailleur, packaged with Dura-Ace though 1976, had been introduced in March 1973.

So, the original Dura-Ace group wasn't complete until July 1973. This is early enough to be included on the bicycles for the 1974 model year, which typically start to be manufactured around September, but too late for the 1973 models. Consequently, I consider the original Dura-Ace group to be 1974 model year.

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Old 03-27-19, 07:12 AM
  #29  
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Originally Posted by USAZorro View Post
I appreciate that there were quite a few very nice Japanese made bikes in the 80's but the OP asked what brand ushered them in. That certainly happened well before the 80's.

Here's a comparison opportunity between my 1972 Fuji Finest (with several non-original components), and someone's 1971 PX-10. I don't think the similarities are accidental - especially as the PX-10 had been around for a few years by 1971, when I seem to recall reading, Fuji launched their upper-tier models.



I'm sure Fuji would claim it was just mere Cryptomnesia:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cryptomnesia
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Old 03-27-19, 03:54 PM
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I think the introduction of higher performance components on Japanese bikes in the early 70's was the turning point. The Suntour V + Sugino Mighty Competition drivetrain outperformed anything but Campy in '72 and cost just a bit more than a Simplex derailleur and cottered cranks. Even cheap bikes with a slant parallelogram design shifted well and for a long time. This gave Japanese bikes increased credibility in short order.
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Old 03-27-19, 04:32 PM
  #31  
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I talked my parents into paying for 1/2 of an American Eagle Semi-Pro as my Christmas present in 1971 when I was 13. I paid the other half, I think the total price was about $220. Suntour derailleurs and ratchet bar end shifters, Dia Compe center pull brakes, Araya rims, don't remember the hubs, Sugino crank. This was before they rebranded as Nishiki. Reading about this bike in later years it had a reputation for a "dead" feeling frame. I was thrilled with it though, it was quite an improvement over my Schwinn Varsity. I remember giving it away sometime in the late 80s.
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Old 03-27-19, 05:06 PM
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Originally Posted by jimincalif View Post
I talked my parents into paying for 1/2 of an American Eagle Semi-Pro as my Christmas present in 1971 when I was 13....This was before they rebranded as Nishiki. Reading about this bike in later years it had a reputation for a "dead" feeling frame. I was thrilled with it though,...
So, bike lore, combined with a memory that just wants to hear what it wants to hear, seems to combine together to say that the company who produced the "American Eagle" brand were told to quit using a misleading name, as the USA had some exclusive rights to producing things branded with the image of an eagle, including, but not limited to gun racks, snow sleds, and beer. I'm missremembering on this right? I've heard the "dead" frame thing associated with early Japan bikes... but yeah, compared to the "cinder block dragging" feel associated with the bullet proof family of the Schwinn lineup meeting anything with even the mere suggestion of an incline, I think the Japan stuff was magnitudes better. I just think the early Japan stuff was designed for the rough-and-tumble world of Japan biking, and it took the Japan factories awhile to figure out the USA market. Better minds can correct my ignorance.
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Old 03-27-19, 05:23 PM
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Originally Posted by uncle uncle View Post
So, bike lore, combined with a memory that just wants to hear what it wants to hear, seems to combine together to say that the company who produced the "American Eagle" brand were told to quit using a misleading name, as the USA had some exclusive rights to producing things branded with the image of an eagle, including, but not limited to gun racks, snow sleds, and beer. I'm missremembering on this right? I've heard the "dead" frame thing associated with early Japan bikes.
It's amazing what you can find on the internet:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nishiki_(bicycle_company)

Nishiki is a brand of bicycles designed, specified, marketed and distributed by West Coast Cycle in the United States, initially manufactured by Kawamura Cycle Co. in Kobe, Japan, and subsequently by Giant of Taiwan. The bicycles were first marketed under the American Eagle brand beginning in 1965[1] and later under the Nishiki brand until 2001.
....

After visiting over 60 bicycles factories over a period of six weeks, Cohen turned to Kawamura Cycles. Kawamura had produced quality bicycles for the Japan domestic market, but at the directive of their overseas buyers, had produced lower-quality, lower-priced bicycles for the U.S. market, for example, under the brand name 'Royce Union.'
....
Cohen placed his initial order for 570 bikes with Kawamura, selling them under the American Eagle brand.[1]WCC sold tens of thousands of American Eagle bikes[1] before changing the name — when a customer suggested it was disingenuous to put such an American-sounding name on a Japanese product.[1]
Can't say it's all accurate, but sounds reasonable. Royce Union? Egad, good thing I didn't know that it was the same company when I bought my semi-pro!
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Old 03-27-19, 06:21 PM
  #34  
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I wish SunTour would get back into making running gear, we need more options than Shimano/Sram and almost Microshift.
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Old 03-27-19, 07:09 PM
  #35  
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I worked (ran) a combination motorcycle/snowmobile/bicycle shop out of a converted cigar store in Indiana back in the 70s. About the only thing we ever saw in central Indiana were (as in both most and considered most sought after in order) Fuji and Nishiki, with a scattering of Panasonic, followed by a few Bridgestone/Kabuki and Azuki. We carried Nishiki and Azuki. Those were the early birds but the really good stuff arrived in the eighties. (read: Centurion). Owned and ridden all of them at one time or another and they were really good machines. Gave my last two reworked Nishiki and Kabuki to younger brothers after getting hooked on Centurions.
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Old 03-27-19, 07:30 PM
  #36  
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Originally Posted by jimincalif View Post
It's amazing what you can find on the internet:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nishiki_(bicycle_company)

...
Once again, my ignorance and/or laziness, banished by the magical interwebs!
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Old 03-27-19, 07:31 PM
  #37  
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Originally Posted by HM70 View Post
I say Fuji because they were sponsoring our Western Mass UCSF club in mid 70' s. Dealer was out of Boston. Top riders got Fuji club frames to ride. Rest of us rode what we could afford. Still wear my wool jersey with FUJI emblazoned on my back.
Wow! Memories! Did you ride for the club out of Amherst/North Hampton? North or Valley something? Black jerseys and black Fuji Pros in 1977? I raced for NEBC and worked for LifeCycle in Cambridge assembling Fujis and Centurians. Saw Gene Ritvo, distributor for Fuji and LifeCycle owner frequently. I too used to have Fuji jerseys, (Still have one, but in 1977 Fuji stopped sponsoring us, I had pockets sewn over the lettering.) Did Jones Cycle Wear make your jerseys?

I had friends in that Amherst club whose name I will remember after I post this. One rider I rode back from Bethel Maine with. Another I lost to at Putney on the final climb.

Thanks!

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Old 03-27-19, 09:01 PM
  #38  
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First ten speed was a Royce Union in '73. Upgraded to a Centurion Super LeMans in '77 and put a lot of miles on that bike. I thought that was a pretty damn good bike and better than pretty much anything we had in my little home town in WI at the time. Bought my wife a Bianchi Classica in about '86 and still have it. She hardly rode that bike at all and so it's in like-new, pristine, bone-stock condition.
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Old 03-28-19, 01:28 PM
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Originally Posted by ColonelSanders View Post
I wish SunTour would get back into making running gear, we need more options than Shimano/Sram and almost Microshift.
They have, almost miraculously, but they have only a few products. It's impossible to compete with the R&D power of Shimano nowadays.
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Old 03-28-19, 03:11 PM
  #40  
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For me, the mid 80's is when I feel Japanese bicycles fully equaled the very best of the traditional European makers - and at half the price.

I distinctly remember assembling and riding our shops first Miyata (a 1000 tourer). It assembled and rode like a dream, in fact it rode better (in terms of climbing, comfort and especially stiffness) than my Roberts - I was pretty amazed - that was a turning point in my head. The Nishiki Continental's and Pro's of this era were also beautiful machines, and while I didn't often see Fuji's in my town, everyone I did see was a head-turner.

Also, around this time, I remember Vancouver had a shop that only sold Zunow's. Absolutely beautiful frame work, and every one was unique in some way - no two alike (These ones weren't half the price of the elite Euro bikes though!), a Zunow remains one of my holy-grail bikes to this day.
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Old 03-28-19, 06:17 PM
  #41  
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Originally Posted by noglider View Post
They have, almost miraculously, but they have only a few products. It's impossible to compete with the R&D power of Shimano nowadays.

Let me ask a silly question, how come Microshift are currently ahead of SunTour on shifters?
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Old 03-28-19, 06:24 PM
  #42  
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My Sept '74-built '75 model S-10S hit all of the right buttons. Cotterless crank, alloy wheels, alloy handlebar, SunTour drivetrain, chrome 'socks' front and rear, quality paint, was just a tad over $200 MSRP. Earlier S-10s had steel wheels, so alloy was a serious step up. My 23"-framed S-10S supposedly weighed 26.1 pounds, which was quite light for a bike at that price point in the mid-'70s. To get any lighter almost necessitated tubular tires! Two years later, the Schwinn-'approved' Super LeTour 12.2 came out that was ~27 pounds (the 12.2 was a reference to the bike weight in Kgms). Heck, look at a '74 road-racing Paramount (P13-9) (tubular tires, full Campy, butted 531 CrMo, etc was (according to the Schwinn catalog) 23-25 pounds, and the touring Paramounts (P10-9 and P15-9) were heavier at 26-27!
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Old 03-28-19, 09:32 PM
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In the early 80s My father bought himself and my stepmother ZebraKenko road bikes -- I remember being pretty impressed. I remember they were lighter than any bike I had handled, I was probably 11 years old. They may have been made with Ishiwata tubes. His was black, hers was maroon. I think hers had nice ratcheting Suntour downtube shifters (with horizontal lines across), and his had Suntour bar ends. I seem to remember one had a Campagnolo derailleur. I think they were purchased at Big Wheel Bikes in Georgetown, Washington, D.C.
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Old 03-29-19, 09:08 AM
  #44  
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My initial foray into MTB (looks like I'm in the minority here) was a 1983 Univega, a product of Lawee AIR, and a really fine bike albeit with a double chainring which limited climbine (for me). Just sold a Cunningham-designed Nishiki Alien of unknown vintage, but not "vintage".
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Old 03-29-19, 10:00 AM
  #45  
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Originally Posted by 2old View Post
...Just sold a Cunningham-designed Nishiki Alien of unknown vintage, but not "vintage".
While the definiiton of vintage varies, most forums members would probably consider an Alien to be vintage. They were introduced for the 1989 model year and manufactured for about 5 years, so they'd be 25-30 years old.
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Old 03-29-19, 10:17 AM
  #46  
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Not an expert and not to argue, but "vintage" to me implies extra value because of desirability. Think there were too many Aliens made to connote that yet.
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Old 03-29-19, 10:50 AM
  #47  
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Originally Posted by jimincalif View Post
I talked my parents into paying for 1/2 of an American Eagle Semi-Pro as my Christmas present in 1971 when I was 13. I paid the other half, I think the total price was about $220. Suntour derailleurs and ratchet bar end shifters, Dia Compe center pull brakes, Araya rims, don't remember the hubs, Sugino crank. This was before they rebranded as Nishiki. Reading about this bike in later years it had a reputation for a "dead" feeling frame. I was thrilled with it though, it was quite an improvement over my Schwinn Varsity. I remember giving it away sometime in the late 80s.
Arguably, the biggest selling bicycle of the early boom era was the Peugeot U08. Compared to it and most of its European cousins, the comparable Japanese models, were typically less compliant, less responsive and heavier. As a result, they felt "dead" by comparison, though they would certainly have felt lively compared to Schwinn's offering at the same level.

In your case, the comparison transcends not just nationalities but levels. Your Semi-Pro probably cost twice that of the Varsity and was probably 15 lbs lighter. A more valid comparison would probably have been a Peugeot PR10 or even a PX10. I strongly suspect you would have considered the Peugeots to be livelier but would have found the American Eagle to shift better and have better workmanship.
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Old 03-29-19, 11:36 AM
  #48  
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Originally Posted by T-Mar View Post
Arguably, the biggest selling bicycle of the early boom era was the Peugeot U08. Compared to it and most of its European cousins, the comparable Japanese models, were typically less compliant, less responsive and heavier. As a result, they felt "dead" by comparison, though they would certainly have felt lively compared to Schwinn's offering at the same level.

In your case, the comparison transcends not just nationalities but levels. Your Semi-Pro probably cost twice that of the Varsity and was probably 15 lbs lighter. A more valid comparison would probably have been a Peugeot PR10 or even a PX10. I strongly suspect you would have considered the Peugeots to be livelier but would have found the American Eagle to shift better and have better workmanship.
I remember Peugeots, Raleighs, Gitane, Motobecane bikes from the time. And Italvega and the occasional Schwinn Paramount. I don't really remember how I got my heart set on the Semi-Pro. I think the guys who owned LBS where I hung out steered me towards it as a good value. And I have to give those guys credit, I really did hang out there a lot. As a middle school kid, I probably drove them crazy, they were very patient with me.
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Old 04-01-19, 06:12 PM
  #49  
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I worked in a bike shop in the early 1970s and that is when we began to see quality Japanese components compete with the likes of Campi. At first they were not as well finished but they quickly improved so that we no longer referred to Shimano as Sh##mano in the store. While I was there I bought a Nishiki Semi Pro as my first Japanese bike. One quirk was that the drive train was set up so there were no overlapping choices in the 10 speeds. I later bought a Motobecane Le Champion before leaving the shop. You could buy two versions of the same Panasonic bike in town one from the authorized Schwinn dealer and the other from independent bike shops. The one from the dealer had "Schwinn approved" stamped or tagged all over the bike but you paid an extra $30 for that privilege.
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