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New Fuso: Back to the future

After my last article about building up vintage Fuso frames with modern components, longtime friend and regular reader of my blog, Steve Farner sent me pictures of his brand new custom Fuso built by Russ Denny.

Russ revived the Fuso brand name two years back and customers can have one built in pretty much any configuration they wish.

Modern oversize tubing, or as Steve chose here, the traditional size tubes with brazed lugs.

Steve also went with the original Fuso seatstay caps, and a level top tube.

A classic style flat fork crown with square shoulders completes the traditional look. (Picture right.)

The steel fork has a 1 inch threadless steerer, with a Thompson 1.125 in. adaptor fitted. It has a Chris King 1" Sotto Voce threadless headset, and the English threaded Bottom Bracket is fitted with Chris King ceramic bearings.

The component group is Scram Red, and with a Mavic Ksyrium wheelset, the bike weighs in at 19 lbs. Who wouldn’t be proud to own and ride such a bike? A frame like this will easily last 50 or more years, the last bike anyone need buy. Here are some more pictures.


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Mixing the old with the new

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.


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70th Anniversary of D-Day

Seventy years ago on the 6th June 1944 the Allied Forces invaded the beaches of Normandy, France, otherwise known as D-Day. It was the turning point of WWII.

At the time I lived in rural Hampshire, in the middle-south of England. We were not far from Portsmouth where most of the invasion fleet set out. I was eight years old, not old enough to fully understand what was going on, but old enough to have clear memories of the events of that time.

I remember the American soldiers coming over to England in the months prior to D-Day. Suddenly appearing one afternoon as I walked home from school, arriving in what seemed to be an endless convoy of army trucks, each full of young men, smiling, waving to us as we waved back.

In the weeks and months that followed that is how I remember the Americans, always smiling, laughing, goofing off, a lot of horse-play and kidding around with each other. At the time they seemed like adults to me, but I now know that most were only 10 or 15 years older than I was.

They were teens or early twenties, goofing around as teens will do. To get it in perspective; if this were today an eight year old would have been born in 2006, many of these young soldiers would have been born in the mid to late 1990s. No age at all, really.

Prior to the arrival of the American Army, roads were pretty much devoid of all motor traffic because of petrol rationing. When the Americans came, there was a constant flow of army trucks, Jeeps, and even Sherman Tanks going up and down the roads.

Soldiers were training, playing war games, in the local fields and woodlands. I saw paratroopers jump from airplanes, and I can still visualize the sky filled with hundreds of descending parachutesThey fired blank rounds during these exercises, and after we would go out colleting brass shell casings. 

There was a large US Army camp close by and we would go hang out there at the weekends. The soldiers would give us chewing gum and candy. This was a big deal because sugar was rationed during the war, and we had to make do with 2 oz. of candy a month. I had never seen chewing gum until the Americans came.

Just as suddenly as the Americans appeared, they all disappeared. I came home from school one day around the first week in June 1944 and they were all gone. I went to the army camp that weekend and it was completely empty. It was a surreal experience that I didn’t understand, any more than I understood anything else that went on during that period of my life.

It wasn’t until ten or so years later when I became a young adult myself did I realize what had happened. To an eight year old it was all a game, an experience, and those young men with their happy, smiling faces never led me to believe it was anything else. But after they left and things got serious, they died in their thousands on the Beaches of Normandy, and others in the months that followed.

It had a profound effect on me. Because today I still see the happy faces of those young American soldiers. I will never forget the sacrifice they made; a sacrifice not of their choosing. But one they made none the less so I would never have to do the same.

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Cycling Specific Prescription Sunglasses

I have been wearing prescription glasses for 30 years now, and for whatever reason have never previously owned a pair of cycling specific prescription eye wear.

Having taken delivery just over a week ago, of a pair of Rudy Project Horus frames, (Picture Right.) with fully progressive bi-focal lenses, I am now wondering why on earth I didn’t do this sooner.

I can only put it down to ignorance, and never taking the time to research what was available. I have always made do with my regular prescription glasses with clip-on sunglasses. That seemed to be my only option when I went to my local eye wear provider.

Last month I discovered Sport RX, a company in San Diego who specialize in sport eyewear and sunglasses. It had never occurred to me that the wrap-around style of lens that cycling sunglasses have could be easily made up with prescription lenses just like any other glasses. So I ordered a pair.

I spoke on the phone with Rob Tavakoli who went over my options. They had a wide range of frames available including Oakley, Nike, and all the other popular models. I chose the Rudy Project Horus frames in Grey and Anthracite. I liked the shape of these made in Italy frames. They were available in other colors, but I felt the more conservative grey was more my style.

I explained to Rob that most of my riding in South Carolina was done in extremely bright sunlight. He suggested what he called their “Win, win” lenses. So called because they are silver coated outside and so block out a lot of glare and harmful rays, but at the same time looking from the inside, out, there a lot of color contrast and clear visibility.

Above: Win Win Lenses in Oakley Flak Jacket XLJ

This is achieved with a rose/copper tint to the lens. Rob explained that with some grey or green tints, shadows blend in with the grey asphalt, and it is not so easy to pick out wet and dry patches, and bumps and potholes in the road for example.

With these lenses the colors pop, and on many of my summertime rides, because of the heat, I set out early around 6 am. just before sunrise. With these glasses I can still see clearly even in the low light.

Rob offered to send me frames to try on, but I didn’t feel this was necessary, as I gave him my helmet size, and my head measurement. The glasses fit perfectly. With my regular glasses that I have always worn, there was a lot of glare coming in all around, especially from the side. 

My previous regular glasses tended to slip down my nose, especially when I started sweating, and I end up peering over the top of the frames. These glasses being cycling specific fit firmly but comfortably on my head and don't move.

Although the frames are quite thick and go all around the lens, because they are curved and fit closer to the face, the frames are not in my line of vision if I look up, down or sideways.

One of the biggest safety aspects I have found, with my regular glasses, when I turned my head to look behind, the edge of the glasses and the frames were always right in my line of vision.

With these new glasses, when I turn my head I am looking through the lens, where it appears the corrective prescription works right around the curve to the edge. Plus there is no glare coming in the sides.

The reason I had the glasses made in no-line progressive bi-focal lenses, is because I may occasionally need to read something, or fix a flat, or make some minor adjustment to the bike. With these being bi-focal there is no need to carry a separate pair of reading glasses.

Having the very bottom edge of the lens made for close up reading, does not affect the distance vision of the rest of the lens. Riding my bike, I am leaning forward, looking up anyway.

As I started out saying, I cannot understand why I didn’t treat myself to a pair of these glasses before. Like many other cyclists, I spend money on all the right equipment. Clothes too, shoes, helmet, my comfort is important.

And yet all these years I have neglected the vision part, which is important for my eyes, my safety, and is just one more thing to make my cycling experience just that much better.

Like many aspects in life, ignorance is bliss, and I never knew what I was missing until I tried something that is a vast improvement.

Thank you Rob, and all at SportRx.


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Everyone's a photographer

Everyone has a camera in their pocket, their cell phone. But just because you can take a picture of just about anything at any time, doesn’t mean you should. Just because you are in a Starbucks and you have a camera, doesn’t mean you should take a picture of your cup of coffee and post it online somewhere.

Such behavior twenty years ago would warrant incarceration in a mental institution, today it is common place. At the Giro d’Italia recently, German sprinter Marcel Kittel won a stage, and briefly collapsed at the roadside, to catch his breath. A young fan took it upon himself to take a “Selfie” with the temporarily incapacitated Kittel. (See above picture.)

I doubt he asked permission first, and even if he had, did Marcel Kittel have the breath, or fully functioning brain to even grasp what was happening? And what is the purpose of this exercise? Does taking one’s picture with a famous person, somehow cause that person’s fame to rub off on the picture taker.

The other point that seems to be missed, is while everyone is so busy filming or taking pictures they are missing out on the actual event that is taking place. We have always had a “Camera” with us, it is called a memory.

I can remember 1951, a long time ago. I was 15 years old and had my first lightweight racing bike. I rode with a friend some 40 or 50 miles to watch the first Tour of Britain bike race. The memory of waiting by the roadside for the race to come by, and seeing the actual riders in the flesh, rather than black and white pictures in a paper, is still fresh in my mind today.

A 15 year old today going out to watch a similar race, will probably whip out his cell phone and record the race as it goes by. He will miss seeing his heroes in the flesh because he will be staring at an image on a tiny screen a few inches across.

Will today’s 15 year old fan have the same vivid memory of the event 63 years from now? I doubt it, and the pictures or video he took will be long gone, lost or deleted along with all the countless other pictures of cups of coffee, and bowls of guacamole.


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