Thursday, May 28, 2009

Better Late Than Never

I received the following mail a couple of weeks ago and it slipped my mind until I received a gentle reminder from the original author:

"Fuji Otaku,

I have been reading your blog since I bought my 1981 Fuji America last November. It is finally nice enough outside here in Minneapolis to take some pictures of it to send to you.

I found it on craigslist being sold by a guy who lived 6 blocks from me. I believe I am the 3rd and final owner of this fine piece of Japanese steel. I kind of have a crush on my own bike, and that is the first time I can say that.

Thanks for all the insight and information.



Sorry for the late posting, it slipped my mind. But sometimes I get distracted other non-Fuji things like family activities and making a living.

In my book, the two tone blue Americas are one of the grail Fujis. If I had to own only one, it would be one of these. The recent reader poll on favorite models indicates that I'm not alone in this sentiment.

Why this model is so covetable is a result of a number of factors. The first is that in the early 80's, friction shifting was soon to be supplanted by indexing, so models from that era represent the best of friction shifting bikes, whether Japanese, European, or American.

Second, the Japanese spent the 70's understanding and mastering the U.S. bicycle market. By the early 80's, their best models had all the fine points worked out.

Third, the great yen revaluation of 1985/1986 had not yet happened, so Japanese products were still very cheap in dollar terms. During that era it was easy for Japanese exporters to gild the lily on many of their products.

Fourth, and this is subjective, but later 80's styling, with pastels and vivid color schemes, was still in the future. The Japanese bikes of the early 80's era were produced with classic European style cues.

The two tone Americas, being the high-end Fuji sport-tourer incorporate all these elements. The Cyclone derailleurs and Sugino Mighty Tour cranks have become collector's items. The chrome stays/forks are very flashy classic eye candy, along with the Sunshine "medium flange" hubs. On the bang for the buck element, if you look closely at the lugwork, you will find nicely filed, long-point lugs with cutouts.

And beyond that, the America offers a sporty yet comfortable geometry. It is a bike that I have fun just whipping around on or going on an all day trek. It has enough clearance for fenders should one choose to mount them. And in a nice touch, it was one of the first mass-marketed bikes in the U.S. to sport 700c wheels. So one has a much wider range of modern tire options with this bike compared to other bikes, whether European, Japanese, or American, from that era.

Just a great all-around bike. Like you, I'm pretty certain I'm the last owner of mine before it goes to my estate.

Although you weren't looking for advice, I'll still offer a suggestion. From your pictures, it looks like there is a non-stock rear derailleur. Me, I'd get on ebay or somewhere else and buy a 1st generation Suntour Cyclone rear derailleur (looks like the front one is stock) and return this to its originally equipped state. These are still pretty cheap and available now, shift fine, and it is a lot of fun to have the bike as originally kitted out or period correct.

The saddle isn't stock also, the original being a Fujita Professional, but I'm ambivalent about vintage leather saddles. Vintage leather gets dried, cracked, it can be a long-term and expensive prospect tracking down one that is cosmetically ok and ready for daily use without fear of failure. Sadly, leather saddles are essentially disposable wear items like chains. Actually, they are even worse, more like tires in that they can "wear out" from non-use environmental factors, much like vintage tires can become cracked and dried out even though they have not been ridden.

In any event, a lovely bike and hope you enjoy it.


Fuji Otaku

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