Friday, December 2, 2011

1973 Fuji "The Finest"

An affinity for particular bicycle brands is something that can be attained only over a period of time. I was late to becoming familiar with 80s era Fuji bikes. My first was an 80s Palisade I acquired around 2004, a bike I still use daily as a commuter. One Fuji bike led another and as of this writing I've rebuilt at least 10 other Fuji bikes. Vintage Fuji, even their better models have never quite had the same status as European bikes, but many of which beyond the lowest end models are fairly good.

As a follow-up to my last post on cotton handlebar tape, here's more of the story. I'd recently acquired a 1973 Fuji Finest with almost all original components, including the (super lightweight) tubular wheelset and rare original Fuji Belt leather saddle. This Fuji was originally a racing model, second to the Fuji Professional. The geometry is very responsive and stiff. The tubular tires still held air, but tires needed replacing. It had been retrofitted with Suntour "Power Shift" ratchet shifters on the down tube of the frame. The Power Shifters were a precursor to index shifters probably added in the 80s. Although outmoded now by today's standards with STI, the Suntour shifter design still works remarkably well. I switched from the tubular wheelset to a vintage MAVIC clincher wheelset with rare Specialized hubs and this bike still rides exceptionally well for when it was made.

Some of the decals were missing and I found replacements. One interesting and clever detail is the chain hanger built into the cable stop for the rear derailleur that keeps the chain off the ground when removing the rear wheel.

The Fuji Finest is a superb example of a classic vintage Japanese racing bike in the traditional European style.

A few years later, I encountered the same exact bike in the North Beach area of San Francisco parked in front of cafe. It had been converted to flat bars and the wheels were different. Then the day after the Eroica California 2016, a car pulled up with two bikes on the back, and one was, again, the Fuji Finest! The owner had ridden it in Eroica the day before.