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Best Vintage Japanese Sport or Light Touring Brands/Models

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Best Vintage Japanese Sport or Light Touring Brands/Models

Old 05-05-20, 10:44 PM
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Best Vintage Japanese Sport or Light Touring Brands/Models

Hi folks,

I知 probably opening a can of worms here, but I値l bumble on.


I致e accumulated some nice Suntour/SR mid level components. V GT RD, Vx FD, SR triple crankset, Suntour ratcheting thumbies and, of course, the usual collection of handlebars, stems and seat posts.

I知 looking for suggestions for a 溺ade in Japan bike to build with these components. It doesn稚 need to be anything fancy or exotic, but I壇 like one with decent paint/decals, since, depending on performance it may be a keeper.

Most of my experience with Japanese bikes has been with those that I have refurbed at the local co-op where I volunteer. This experience and a bit of research indicate that there are a multitude of options. Many that came out of the same factory, just with different labels. Miyata, Nishiki, Centurion, Fuji and Panasonic immediately come to mind, but I知 sure there are more.

Most likely, I can find one at the co-op because their focus and primary income is from rebuilt or refurbished MTBs, comfort bikes and cruisers. Since they池e working with limited staff and restricted public access, I値l have to schedule a time with the management to sort thru the inventory. Therefore, I would appreciate inputs from those of you with more experience in this area so that I can quickly find a good candidate for this project and get on with it.

Thanks and regards,

Van
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Old 05-05-20, 10:58 PM
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You might also want to add Trek to that list. They are not Japanese. But would be perfectly happy to wear Japanese sourced components.

I can't tell you which one would be best. Your list of quality Japanese bike are a good start. Lotus had some nice bikes, I believe that they had a touring bike. The same with Univega.

If it were me, I'd grab the first one that fit me.
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Old 05-05-20, 11:15 PM
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Lotus have some nice models, some very collectable. Shogun and Nashbar as well.
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Old 05-06-20, 05:51 AM
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Fuji S10-S or S12-S is classic sport touring geometry and still relatively easy to find.
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Old 05-06-20, 06:18 AM
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Miyata, of course.
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Old 05-06-20, 06:27 AM
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Some not previously mentioned include Araya, Bridgestone, Itoh, Kabuki, Maruishi, Sekai, Sekine, Soma, SR, Takara, Univega, Yokota, Zebra/Zebrakenko.

Also lots of nice Japanese sourced Bianchi, Raleigh, Schwinn, Specialized.

Don't discount the Taiwanese who who putting out lots of nice product under brands like KHS. Giant, Merida, Novara.
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Old 05-06-20, 07:19 AM
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Schwinn made some great stuff in the 80s. Tempo, Prologue and some of the pmg stuff.
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Old 05-06-20, 07:57 AM
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Originally Posted by Velo Mule View Post
You might also want to add Trek to that list. They are not Japanese. But would be perfectly happy to wear Japanese sourced components.

I can't tell you which one would be best. Your list of quality Japanese bike are a good start. Lotus had some nice bikes, I believe that they had a touring bike. The same with Univega.

If it were me, I'd grab the first one that fit me.
Trek had some frames made in Asia, such as the 330 from 1987. So you're not off the mark!
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Old 05-06-20, 08:34 AM
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How big of a tire are you planning to use? Fenders?
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Old 05-06-20, 08:45 AM
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Originally Posted by Senior Ryder 00 View Post
Most of my experience with Japanese bikes has been with those that I have refurbed at the local co-op where I volunteer. This experience and a bit of research indicate that there are a multitude of options. Many that came out of the same factory, just with different labels. Miyata, Nishiki, Centurion, Fuji and Panasonic immediately come to mind, but I知 sure there are more.
Im fairly certain Miyata was their own shop.
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Old 05-06-20, 08:53 AM
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It's not the brand that matters, it's the model level within the brand.

All of these Japanese sport touring bikes that were sold in bike shops during their heyday had a wide range of models. The basic models typically were just under $200, and the top models could be well over $1000. Some brands stuck more to the midrange of say $3-400 (ie Bridgestone before GP)

What I'm saying is, for example, a top of the line Fuji is going to be better than an entry level Miyata, every time, despite any modern day internet fueled notions of what the better brand is.
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Old 05-06-20, 08:57 AM
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Originally Posted by Salamandrine View Post
It's not the brand that matters, it's the model level within the brand.

All of these Japanese sport touring bikes that were sold in bike shops during their heyday had a wide range of models. The basic models typically were just under $200, and the top models could be well over $1000. Some brands stuck more to the midrange of say $3-400 (ie Bridgestone before GP)

What I'm saying is, for example, a top of the line Fuji is going to be better than an entry level Miyata, every time, despite any modern day internet fueled notions of what the better brand is.
Yep. If rebuilding an old bike, I'd focus on whether the bike was a top end model first and the brand second.
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Old 05-06-20, 09:04 AM
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Originally Posted by natterberry View Post
Im fairly certain Miyata was their own shop.
Well yes and no. They built several desirable Univega models.
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Old 05-06-20, 09:13 AM
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Originally Posted by davester View Post
Well yes and no. They built several desirable Univega models.
Ok. But Miyata bikes were made by the Miyata factory. Feel free to lump Univega into the previous list.
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Old 05-06-20, 09:13 AM
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Originally Posted by davester View Post
Well yes and no. They built several desirable Univega models.
For example, the Specialissima is something to keep an eye out for:


Ride It or Die: Univega Specialissima

Also, there should be plenty of bikes to check out here: https://www.bikeforums.net/classic-vintage/1044414-show-your-classic-sports-touring-bicycle.html

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Old 05-06-20, 09:13 AM
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Originally Posted by Senior Ryder 00 View Post
Hi folks,

I知 probably opening a can of worms here, but I値l bumble on.


I致e accumulated some nice Suntour/SR mid level components. V GT RD, Vx FD, SR triple crankset, Suntour ratcheting thumbies and, of course, the usual collection of handlebars, stems and seat posts.

I知 looking for suggestions for a 溺ade in Japan bike to build with these components. It doesn稚 need to be anything fancy or exotic, but I壇 like one with decent paint/decals, since, depending on performance it may be a keeper.

snip . . .

Van
Opening up a can of worms is the whole point of BF, right?

And what the heck good is a thread without bike porn? When I wanted to build up a Japanese sports touring bike, I decided to get a Fuji. Don't get me wrong, I like a lot of Japanese brands and I'm also a fan of Miyatas and Bridgestones. But there is something very classy about an older Fuji. So this is my 70s Fuji Finest:

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Old 05-06-20, 10:03 AM
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^^^ Very nice Finest you've got there bikemig.


Originally Posted by Piff View Post
For example, the Specialissima is something to keep an eye out for:


Ride It or Die: Univega Specialissima
sshhhhh... Why let people know?

I hadn't seen that blog before. Thanks for the link.
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Old 05-06-20, 10:17 AM
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The big Japanese manufacturers with eponymous brands were Bridgestone, Fuji and Miyata. One could also argue Panasonic, as the distribution division was Panasonic, though technically they were manufactured by M-a-t-s-u-s-h-i-t-a. 2nd tier in this class would be brands like Araya, Maruishi, Sekine and Yokota.

Most of the other brands were contract manufactured by the above plus dozens of smaller Japanese manufacturers. While lots of the brand names sound Japanese, they were actually owned by American companies. Using a Japanese sounding name became a popular marketing tactic in the early 1970s, once the America public realized the value being offered by the Japanese manufacturers. These Japanese-American brands included the likes of Nishiki, Sekai and Takara.
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Old 05-06-20, 10:19 AM
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Originally Posted by Salamandrine View Post
^^^ Very nice Finest you've got there bikemig.




sshhhhh... Why let people know?

I hadn't seen that blog before. Thanks for the link.
Y'know, an early 80s Specialissima in impeccable condition languished on the southern california craigslist for weeks at ~$350, really a steal considering how much Specialized Expeditions and the Miyata 1000 go for...
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Old 05-06-20, 10:32 AM
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No love for Nishiki? The quality of finish detailing on some of the Nishiki bikes is really top notch.
doh! I see it now, way up top!
I have a really nice Zebra 鍍our de force that痴 had its frame beat and then straightened. If I saw another of those I租 pounce. Full chromo Ishiwata 022 frame, nice geometry, good components.
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Old 05-06-20, 10:40 AM
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Originally Posted by Salamandrine View Post
It's not the brand that matters, it's the model level within the brand.

All of these Japanese sport touring bikes that were sold in bike shops during their heyday had a wide range of models. The basic models typically were just under $200, and the top models could be well over $1000. Some brands stuck more to the midrange of say $3-400 (ie Bridgestone before GP)

What I'm saying is, for example, a top of the line Fuji is going to be better than an entry level Miyata, every time, despite any modern day internet fueled notions of what the better brand is.
And to add to the complication, date of manufacture matters too. An 85 Miyata 710 has mid-reach brakes and room for a lot more tire than the much racier 86 710. Around 1986 and 7 it was somehow decided that areal race bike had no room for fenders or tires larger than 25mm wide. (Exceptions are many but it was a general trend)
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Old 05-06-20, 10:44 AM
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Originally Posted by Piff View Post
Y'know, an early 80s Specialissima in impeccable condition languished on the southern california craigslist for weeks at ~$350, really a steal considering how much Specialized Expeditions and the Miyata 1000 go for...
Yeah I know right? People are irrational. Exact same bike as a Miyata 1000 with different stickers. Maybe a couple trivial differences in spec'ed components, depending on year.

The funny thing to me is that it's not like Miyata was this prestige brand BITD. Their reputation was like Univega: good value and good quality for a low price.
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Old 05-06-20, 11:04 AM
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You know, Van, if you still have that Eisentraut frameset you bought from me years ago, that would also make a fine candidate.
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Old 05-06-20, 11:34 AM
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Originally Posted by Chr0m0ly View Post
And to add to the complication, date of manufacture matters too. An ‘85 Miyata 710 has mid-reach brakes and room for a lot more tire than the much racier ‘86 710. Around 1986 and 7 it was somehow decided that areal race bike had no room for fenders or tires larger than 25mm wide. (Exceptions are many but it was a general trend)
Yep. Date matters. And there was that trend to small tires. There was an earlier trend to skinny tires circa the late 70s, but bikes then still usually had room for fatter tires if you preferred them.

I consider the Golden Age of Japanese bikes to be roughly 1975 to 1985. '85 is roughly when manufacturers started moving production to Taiwan. TIG welding and unicrowns started. At the same time, the Japanese economic conditions changed, and the typical bike buyer had switched to preferring mountain bikes from road bikes. Even so there were some fine Japanese road/touring bikes being sold. Bridgestone, obviously, as well as Centurion and some others.

Anyhow, since the OP has a V-GT and Suntour powershifter barcons, I'm thinking a late 70s era bike or frame would be the appropriate starting point.
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Old 05-06-20, 11:36 AM
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Originally Posted by Salamandrine View Post
Yeah I know right? People are irrational. Exact same bike as a Miyata 1000 with different stickers. Maybe a couple trivial differences in spec'ed components, depending on year.

The funny thing to me is that it's not like Miyata was this prestige brand BITD. Their reputation was like Univega: good value and good quality for a low price.
Adding to this thought, if you look at Sheldons view of the 1000, he says it痴 possibly the finest off the shelf touring bike of the mid 80痴. I take that to mean that it痴 appropriately appointed, you didn稚 have to swap in a lower granny gear or what have you. 30 odd years down the road you can put whatever you want on a touring frame.
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