Tuesday, March 30, 2010

We Get Mail - Fuji America And Detailing Talk

In today's inbox:


Just thought I'd drop you a line and say thank you.  Your blog has been very inspiring.  I've had a thing for late 70's and early 80's Japanese production bikes for a while now. I discovered your blog after I picked up a 1980 Fuji America and began surfing for information about it.  I'm trying to make it as stock as possible: I replaced the front and rear derailleurs and freewheel with NOS Suntour Cyclone, Cyclone GT, and a Suntour Perfect Six (13-34).  I stopped short of putting 700c's on (I like the 27's). If you're interested in photos, here's a link to my flickr page.

I do have a few questions for you:  I've noticed that the paint and decals on your frames all look very nice, (at least in photos.)  Do you touch up your frames?  What's your secret? The reason I ask is that my America has quite a few rough spots on the frame, and I'm eventually going to need to do something other than use steel wool on the rust.  I'm in fairly close proximity to Joe Bell, (a fairly famous frame painter) but I hesitate to strip the frame of it's original paint.  Plus, Joe Bell's waiting list is about a year long, and that's a year that I wouldn't be able to enjoy my wonderful bike.

What would you do?

Sincere Thanks,



Thanks for writing and for the compliments on the blog.  Really, I think a lot of people's eyes are opening to what great bikes the Fujis (and other Japanese labels) of 80's and 70's are.

I'll start with the decals.  In my case, I'm much more of a wrench than a painter/touch up guy - I'm a little embarassed to admit it, but more than once my approach to scratches is to smear some grease on it so it doesn't rust.  And, generally, my approach is to try to buy bikes w/as good as paint/decals as possible.  Where this isn't possible, I then try to accept it as patina or the bike's wabi sabi.

As Japanese bike aficionados, it is well worth understanding the concept of wabi sabi - it is one of the fundamental concepts in Japanese culture.

That aside, again, I actually do try to seek out bikes that don't need much on the paint/decals since I've found that that ends up being cheaper/easier than remediation.  Again, others with greater skills in the touch up department may weigh this problem differently and may not be as willing as I am to rebuild wheels, components, etc.  For touch up advice, the C&V forum at Bikeforums.com is a wealth of knowledge and experience.  Me, I don't go beyond the usual nail polish touchup.

Paying someone to do a bike is an expensive proposition and is doubly expensive because it almost inevitably reduces the value of the bike unless it is a totally rusted wreck.  If you are considering a repaint, you may just want to keep an eye out for a better example.

For instance, I just purchased a minty 1981 Fuji America today, actually several hours ago.  As well as having a paint job of maybe a 1 year old bike, it has all original parts, etc, all for well under the price of a repaint.  These sort of economics may not hold in the future for old Fujis, but they do these days.

So you really have got to want to repaint for some reason.  Recently, I had my Mondia repainted - I had a vision of loveliness for this bike that was nothing like the original (trashed) paint.  I did keep my costs down by doing a lot of the prep work & applying decals myself, but it still is pretty expensive to get a quality spray job.  So it's good that a thing of beauty is a joy forever because there is no way I'll ever get anywhere near my money back.

Obviously, others with more paint skills will find a lot of satisfaction in reviving a ragged bike, some of these people are amazing with their results.  But if you take that route, I'd be prepared for a fairly extensive period of learning & skills acquisition.

Now, back to Fuji Americas, yours and others.  1980 models were specced with 700c wheels.  Fuji Americas have the distinction of being one of the earlier mass-market bicycles in the U.S. with this wheel size.  If you look at the 1980 Fuji catalog, you will find that the America was their only bike that year that had 700c, the rest had 27".

The Team Fuji got 700c clinchers in 1982, and other "racing" models with clinchers thereafter, but that was seemingly to mimic the 700c tubular size that was the racing standard then.  The non-racing bikes didn't start getting 700c until around 1988 or so, which was generally the pattern in bikes sold in the U.S.

In fact, the Americas were criticized in those early days for having this wheel size on a "touring" bike since a bicycle tourist would probably have a hard time finding 700c tires in a small town bike shop, much as 650b wheel size is now being criticized.  If I recall, the inimitable Sheldon Brown offered this as a criticism, but Google isn't much help at the moment in finding a footnote.

Beyond that historical reason to go to 700c, the Americas being widely known for this feature, the Americas are also a bit notorious for having rather tight tire clearances (with their 700c wheels) for a touring bike.  Running 27" just exacerbates this, especially if you have any intentions of running fenders.  If you do stick with 27", this problem is more of a hypothetical since finding decent 27" tires larger than 32 is pretty hard these days.

Ultimately, though, it really isn't a big deal unless you really want to go with fenders.

Anyhow, thanks for writing and keep us updated on your Fuji America.  These are becoming increasingly prized bikes by the public and will always be one of the most desirable models for Fuji enthusiasts.  And stay tuned for pictures of my new (to me) 1981 Fuji America - as soon as we get a sunny day, I'll get some pics up.

As a preview, here is the seller with the bike from earlier this evening:

The bike was way to small for him, he had just been keeping it largely as wall art for the past 11 years.


Fuji Otaku


James Black said...

Nice Fuji Americas, both of you! To the OP, I would urge you not to repaint, it looks great as it is. My America is in far worse shape, and I still wouldn't consider repainting. What in the world could possibly compete with a well weathered two-tone "rainbow blue" Fuji America paint job?

Jeff said...

Thanks for the quick response and the inclusion in your blog. Funny that you mention wabi-sabi. Adherence to that exact philosophy is what has kept me from taking the bike to a frame painter already. I think you (and James) have convinced me to not go in that direction. Confirmation I needed. Thank you. I'm going to start the journey of learning how to touch up a frame myself. And okay, okay! I'll reconsider the 700C's over the 27's! Thanks for your input.

Congratulations on your "new" America. If I didn't have one already, I'd be more than a little jealous.

Sincere Thanks,


Anonymous said...

Well there is an option to repainting that can work well and do wonders for your fuji. I am a fan of this site but can't log in it seems to google. Anyway,
you can sand back the cleaned and wax and oil removed frame, into the clear coat, but Not into the color coat, simply by sanding it with 400 grit paper dry. You sand smoothly and evenly, not like a flat hand and scrubbing of course. This will create a white powder which is the clear coat coming off. The faded, beat up, dull look,will go away if you do this, but it does nothing for the scratches thru the color coats. Then you can touch up the bad gouges with duplicolor Enamel Auto Paint, then sand, or simply Clear Coat it. Getting it clean prior is key, avoid acrylics,
and just get it close. Then the clear will take care of slight imperfections. It sounds hard but I have just done this 3x, and 2 were classic fujis (1980 and 1982). You know you are at the color coat when the sanded dust turns from white to a color. So stop Right there.
Then get U-Pol Clear #1, and shake it well, nice weather, and do 3-4 coats, about 3/4 of the can. All in one day, 15 minutes apart. Read up on the can info. You will be amazed what this will do. If you get runs, don't worry, wait a few days, heat the bike, sand them with 800 and finish with 2000 grit wet.
Thats the details on it. All your doing is sanding a little and adding new Clear....aka removing the faded crap. Zac