Last year I managed to find a 49cm. Fuso frame for $350, Shipping cost rounded it up to $400. The frame built in 1985 was in mint condition, at looked like it had hardly been used. I built the bike up for my wife to ride. (Picture above.)
I spread the rear end to 130mm, all frames I built in Southern California were 6 speed 126mm. I bought brand new components, 11 speed Campagnolo Athena Group, new wheels with Mavic rims, Modern bars and stem, fitted using a Deda quil stem adaptor so the original fork was used. (Picture below right.)
I don’t have the exact dollar amount, but the whole bike I think came out around $1.500 or $1,600.
My wife loves the bike, it fits her perfectly. In recent months other Fuso and Recherché owners have written and sent pictures of bikes built up in a similar fashion.
It is a way to get on a nice riding, top-of-the-line bike, with all the advantages of modern gearing, etc., for not too much money. That is providing you are not obsessed with the weight of your bike. Most people riding for exercise and pleasure, find their bodies to be at least 10 lbs overweight, so what difference will an extra 3 lbs on the bike make?
Fitting a carbon fork would cut the weight considerably, however, it will add to the cost, and you won’t find a carbon fork with the original 35mm rake, so the handling would be compromised slightly. Not enough to be a real issue as such a bike will probably not be used for racing.
A 52cm. 1st. Generation Fuso recently built up with Campagnolo Athena. Owned by Martin Worsdall.
Fuso and Recherché frames were built with shorter top tubes than other frames of the era. My theory was, use a longer stem, get the weight over the front wheel, and the bike will handle better.
Today it means if someone is building a bike with a more upright, relaxed position, they could use a slightly bigger frame, which would bring the handlebars higher in relation to the saddle. The shorter top tube might be nearer the smaller frame that person rode “back in the day.”
Another consideration: Instead of raising the handlebars level or even above the saddle height, use a shorter stem, set just below the saddle height. This means the same relaxed back and neck angle, but better weight distribution, with some weight on the arms, and less on the saddle.
A Fuso FR1 circa 1989, with modern equipment. Owned by Elijah Lyons. This bike has the tire clearance issue mentioned below.
One small issue has been brought to my attention. The wider 25mm. and 28mm. tires that are popular now, were not in general use back in the 1980s when these frames were built. The chainstays were a standard length across the range of all size frames.
On the larger frames that have a 73 degree seat angle if the larger size tires are fitted, the tire hits the seat tube when removing the rear wheel.
This is a fairly easy fix. (See the picture on the left.) Use a hacksaw and a flat file, and remove the bottom tip of the rear dropout on both the left and right sides.
This will not compromise the frame structurally, and will give as much as a quarter inch of extra clearance when fitting and removing the rear wheel.
This is not an issue with the smaller and mid-size frames as these have slightly steeper seat angles, resulting in more clearance.