While we’re on the topic of bicycles from the East, here’s an interesting example of a vintage Japanese-made commuter. At first glance I thought it was Chinese-made based on the rod brakes, enclosed chaincase, hairpin saddle and black paint, all standard issue for bikes in China. Upon closer inspection it is indeed Japanese, with plenty of badges indicating its origin. It even has old Araya rims, something that many more modern Japanese road bikes used. An internet search produced nothing on Undes, Hayashiya or Best bicycles, all names that are present on it. I know that bicycles from the orient often have multiple names on them, any of which can refer to the manufacturer, distributor, model etc., but was hoping one of them would provide a starting point for research. Alas, nothing. So, if you know something about these please share. Also, if you know how to read Japanese and can decipher any of the markings I’d be very appreciate.
I’d known about this bicycle since 1988 (or so) after seeing it hung in the corner of my friend Leo’s garage. Leo was a horder extrordinaire, meaning the garage was packed to the rafters with all manner of stuff. The bicycle was of course stowed in the very back corner of the garage, effectively walled in by a mountain of old toasters, boxes of newspapers, vintage toys, broken light fixtures, tin cans full of straight nails, old car parts and pretty much anything else you could think of (and some you’d could never imagine). I didn’t know until many years later than under all that junk there were actually three cars, a 1927 Buick, a Maxwell (I forget which year), and a 1909 Sears. All runners, all beautiful, but all filled, then stacked on until you couldn’t see so much as a headlight, a tire tread, anything.
Leo passed away in 2012 and the family began the monumental task of de-hoarding, no small feat, even for the five siblings. By July of 2019 there was some semblance of a goat trail towards the back of the garage. Not all the way, mind you, but for a bicycle junkie, it was enough.
It took some low-level mountaineering skills to reach the bikes, and then 4 people and a bucket-brigade effort to cut the twine holding them to their nails and finally shine some daylight on them. I don’t think the family was thrilled that I had to stand in the Maxwell, and at one point, on the Sears, but again, bike junkie.
I can see where Leo would have acquired the other two bikes, a balloon-tire Schwinn and an old Brit racing bike; those probably turned up in town, at a yard sale perhaps. But the Undes? I’m pretty sure the brand was only sold in Japan, never meant for the American market. We already had tons of bicycles that more than filled the market niche that the Undes would have served. With one gear and weighing nearly 50 pounds it certainly didn’t surpass the standard American iron of the period. Maybe a serviceman brought it back, or it could have possibly been shipped here as a novelty after someone visited Japan. It’s all guessing at this point. For the sake of the bicycle’s history, or at least to quell my curiosity, hopefully someone out there will be able to offer some insight. Fire away with your thoughts, opinions or whatever.
The sum total of knowledge I possess of pedicabs could easily fit on the head of a pin. I’ve ridden in a couple, mainly along the waterfront in San Francisco. I’ve never pedals one, and being more than a little agoraphobic, have never laid eyes on one outside the U.S.
It looks like I’ll be getting a crash course in them, as 4 are now here. Three are marked “White Horse” and are supposedly from Thailand. The last is a Neelam made in India. None are assembled so that’s where my education will begin. Along with the larger frame pieces are buckets and boxes and plastic tubs of smaller bits, many of which little resemble bike parts. Who knows, maybe I got the makings of some pedicabs filled in with old swing set parts. Side note: When I was in my twenties I actually harbored visions of collecting swing sets.
Obviously this will be continuing story so check back if you’d like to see how this all goes.
Thanks to Robbie for hooking me up with his fine pedicabs. I’ll post the story of how he ended up with them in one of my updates.
I thought I was doing great this year. I got so many bikes done during the winter that I kinda slacked off. The problem is, things kept coming in. Good things too, like old Masi’s, some pretty Raleigh 3-speeds and a ton of older mt. bikes. With only 5 days left I’m now way behind. Better put on my rally cap and get down to business.
Here are a few of my Top-Ten favorite bike models that College Cyclery carried during my 11-year tenure there. The mink blue Raleigh Professional- the first bike I ever pined for at the shop; Fuji Touring III’s, IV’s, V’s- those bikes were beautifully made and very well equipped. ..And then there were the 1985-1987 Fisher Montares. They were just, well, pretty.
Of course they were also nicely made and were sturdy, durable and dependable beyond all measure, but I was sold before I ever even rode one. Unfortunately, I could afford a $750 mt. bike about as much as I could swing a Porsche 911 back then so I was left selling them to other lucky people. Scott Clarke, one of the mechanics, had a green one, the lucky dog. The red Montares were ok, but I was over the moon for the green ones.
While pile hunting at the Reno Bike Project recently I ran across this 1986 Montare, the ultra-neato version with the rear cam brake. It was in rough shape, enough so that it had been donated, but of course I couldn’t see that at the time. All I saw was GREEN Montare. Needless to say, when it comes to old bikes I tend to miss the forest for the trees.
Back at home I discovered what I’d really gotten myself into; beyond regular wear and tear the bike had significant rust, mainly on the components, but pretty much everywhere. Even the sealed b.b bearings were rusted to the point where the cranks were frozen. The seat tube had a Pinole, Ca. shop sticker, so my detective brain told me the bike had indeed lived near (possibly in) the Pacific ocean.
Knowing when to quit is a sign of intelligence, but I convinced myself that knowing when to quit and then pushing forward is the truest form of dedication. More likely, it’s a sign of a obsessive-compulsive disorder, but that ship sailed many years ago. Far, far away.
So, here it is, rust be damned. It actually does ride really well and those new bottom bracket bearings are butter. Butter, I tell you!
Yeah, I don’t know what it is, but it’s big. At 65cm, it fits someone that has to be at least 6’2″ or 6’3″. At 5’10” I can’t begin to get a leg over it.
At first glance it looks European, possibly a Raleigh. It has a British-type fork with the little bowls on the ends of the crown. The seat stays also clamp at the seat binder, so overall, Raleigh looking.
Many bikes made in the Orient have some of the same characteristics of English-made ones though, so it could also be Chinese made. I don’t see any marking on the hubs, nor any Chinese lettering anywhere, but I’m not ruling anything out.
Things gets more confusing as it has some American parts, as well. There’s a Wilburn decal on the seat tube, but that looks to be the name of the shop where it was either sold or serviced. The bike has 28″ rims with Wards Riverside single-tube tires, Torrington pedals, and a Delta Rolite generator and light, all American made. The pedals and the light could have been added, but those 28″ wheels and Monkey Wards tires look original to the bike. They befuddle me. I’m perfectly befuddled.
The bike previously belonged to Robert Edwin Worley, physics professor emeritus at UNR. “Sammy Schwinn”, as it was named, was the mate to “Suzy Schwinn”, Ed’s wife’s bike. Though Suzy may indeed have been a Schwinn, it’s pretty clear Sammy isn’t. Nevertheless, the erroneous surname can be forgiven since the word “Schwinn” was pretty much synonymous with “bicycle” back in the day.
Ed’s son David and daughter Kathleen generously donated the bike to our little museum in December. While getting some background on the bike and Ed himself, I mentioned that he must have been a rather tall man, but David noted that his father was only 5’8″. Amazingly, he regularly commuted on “Sammy”. If not a tall man, Ed was certainly a brave one.
This Bertin was supposedly owned by a California bike shop owner’s wife. Based on its overall condition it looks like it was only modestly used, but very well cared for. The bike is nearly 100% original with the tires being the only update I can see.
How’s it ride? Well, from my short time spent on it, I’d say just about typical for a lower-to-mid range 1970’s bike. I don’t feel a lot of difference between the Bertin and, say, a Peugeot UO-8; that is, with the exception of the rims. Where most 70’s bikes ran soft, heavy steel hoops, the Bertin has wonderful aluminum Milremo rims. It might seem a small upgrade, but the wheels do feel stiffer and braking is much more “grippy” (see, “much less scary”). …And though the rim sides still have perforations, they don’t have the jet engine scream of textured steel rims. The Milremos sound more like a modern business jet as opposed to a Century-series fighter.
If my research is correct, this Bertin is a model C31. Hopefully someone will chime in if that’s not right. It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve been wrong, nor the one-thousandths, nor the millionth…
(Thanks to the gang at the Reno Bike Project for providing both parts and some really special bikes over the years.)
This DS was commissioned by its original owner in 2002 and found its way here in 2014 where it joined the semi-official Della Santa museum. I say “semi-official” because Roland doesn’t have much use for bikes that just sit around. He builds them to be ridden and scoffs at bikes that are mere garage queens. You can thus imagine how he feels about a gaggle of them.
He also doesn’t consider his bikes art in any sense and tends to go off on people who nerd out over his framebuilding. You know, people like me. Knowing him for 34 years and living within a mile of each other, he’s had many opportunities to make his opinion clear, but that doesn’t make me like him or his bikes any less. Probably more, in fact. Thus, the semi-official museum that exists without his blessing.
…And now that this particular bike is out and sitting here with me, maybe I’ll honor him by taking it out for a ride this afternoon. It’ll no-doubt be like riding rolling art, after all.