Russ Denny, who was my former apprentice, and who took over my business when I retired in 1993, is launching a new line of frames under the Fuso brand name.
The New Fuso will make its debut at the North American Hand Made Bicycle Show (NAHBS) which takes place in Sacramento, California March 2 – 4.
The new Fuso frames will be built in steel, with the option of a steel or carbon fiber front fork.
The picture above shows three different models; all with oversize tubes.
The picture is of the frames in the raw state that have yet to be prepped and painted.
Note the built in stainless steel head badge.
Dave Lieberman, who is assisting Russ on the business and sales side of the project, told me the plan for this initial NAHBS showing is:
a.) That we are bringing back the original Fuso and geometry and keeping that to an affordable price, frame and steel fork
b.) Introduce a compact design, with one that uses lugs, and another that is tig welded. Both using a more current design and oversized tubing, and a carbon fork, or optional steel if requested
c). Show some prototype version like the double down tube design
The bikes shown are as follows:
1.) Lugged oversize frameset (31.8x31.8x 35 down). Lewellen lugs, Columbus life/spirit tubing, 6 degrees sloping top tube, stainless steel chainstays, English BB.
2.) Tig welded oversize frameset (35x35x38down , 38 headtube), Columbus zona tubes, 6 degree sloping top tube.
3.) Tig welded oversize frameset with double downtube (35x35, 37 headtube), Nova tubes.
I am pleased that Russ (Picture right.) is sticking with the original geometry; this is a proven design.
The ride quality and the handling characteristics of the original Fuso is one of the reasons why it was so popular, and remains so amongst collectors today.
When I first introduced the Fuso name in 1984, I did so because I realized there were limitations to the extent my business could grow as an essentially one man operation, building one off custom frames.
By the same rule I could not plunge head first into a large scale production setup. I did not have the required capitol to make that happen, or money to launch the huge advertising campaign that it would take to generate the sales needed to support such a venture.
What I did was to make what I believe was a good compromise that proved to be successful for a number of years; I built the Fuso as a limited production frame. By having employees prepare and feed me materials, so I could devote my time to that which I did best, namely brazing the frame together.
Employees then did the finish work and painting. I built batches of five frames, (All the same size.) and for the most part managed to keep every size in stock for a quick delivery once an order was placed. At the height of production I had around six employees.
Many of these frames I built back in the 1980s, or perhaps I should say me and my team built, are still being ridden today; many are still owned by the original owners.
An even larger number still have the original paint intact; which speaks volumes for another American product, namely DuPont Imron paint.
Over the years I built up a network of bicycle dealers all over the US. This strategy was my success but in the end my downfall also.
When bike dealers switched to mountain bikes in the early 1990s the road bike market disappeared.
Today being in a small business is a whole different game. With the Internet and social media a framebuilder can have direct contact with his customers. A framebuilder can serve the individual customer better and still make a profit.
When Russ took over my business he had worked for me for eight years and could do anything I could. He survived during the hard times by building frames for other people.
It has been almost 19 years since I left, and in that time Russ has built a lot of frames. That is what it takes to become a world class framebuilder; you just need to build a lot of frames.
Although I am not directly involved in this latest venture, I am still excited for Russ. He has promised to build me one of the new frames and I look forward to riding it and writing about it here.
Watch this space, as they say