Undes Bicycle- Chinese looking, but Japanese made

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.

 

 


1970’s Bertin Cyclotouriste

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.)


Prewar Sterling- Before

This poor old Sterling showed up at the Reno Bike Project a couple months back. Raymond Eliot was nice enough to call me to come get it before, well, I’m not sure what would have happened to it. Probably nothing good. (Thanks, Ray!)

As you can see, a fair amount is missing or is wrong; I’d need to hunt down wheels and grips (the existing are incorrect). I’d need tires, saddle, seat post, grips, chain, pedals, parking stand, parking stand clip, rear reflector, some missing bearings, spacers, etc… Also, an original chainguard in matching blue and white with the right amount of patina, the hardest part by far.

I was thinking I’d pass it on to someone who’d be willing to find all the missing parts and put it back together all original-like, but then again, uhhh, isn’t that what I’m supposed to be able to do?

Damn. I guess I’m now working on an old Sterling.

 

 

 


Trio of Medicis

Yep, not one but three of these cherished beauties just arrived (when does that ever happen?) The burgundy racing bike was acquired second-hand, but the same owner bought the two touring versions brand new. What a lucky dog!

All three are Campy-equipped, with the Gran-Turismos employing Nuovo Record triple cranksets and Rally rear derailleurs. I’ve always had a thing for Campagnolo triples, probably because they don’t turn up very often. …And those Rally derailleurs. Who couldn’t fall in love with them.

Medicis are cool not only because they are desirable and their production was relatively low, but also because the bikes are linked to the storied Masi franchise. Rather than re-hash the history of the Medici and how it morphed from Masi USA, I’ll simply post a link that give a ton of background, and at times heated debate over the origin of the brand.

http://www.classicrendezvous.com/USA/Medici.htm

 


Croll road bicycle- Minnesota goodness

It’s good news when a bike doesn’t fit. To be clear, it’s good news only when it doesn’t fit you, but it does fit me, and obviously, at that point it’s only good news for me. Such is the case with this candy apple red Croll. My friend Noah originally bought it on CL for his girlfriend as the height (52cm) was just about right. At nearly 57cm, turns out the bike was more akin to a top-fuel dragster in the length department, not even close to right. For me, however, it was pretty much a custom fit, so here it sits. Hopefully I’ll even swing a leg over it from time to time (If only my riding habits matched the energy expended in such acquisitions).

From what I’ve gleaned, later Crolls were decent enough quality, but the early ones were fantastic as they were handbuilt by Walter himself. The Croll name was eventually sold, and as so often happens, when the namesake isn’t involved the product suffers.

I’m guessing this bike was commissioned in the early 1990’s based on the Shimano tri-color component group if nothing else. Also, the paint is as brilliant a red as I’ve ever seen and Walter’s bikes were known for their paint jobs. When you get this bike out under the sun it looks like it is plugged into an outlet. The old saying that the photos don’t do it justice is more than applicable here.

 

 

 


Haack’s Schwinn Racer

Schwinns could be badged and sold under a host of different names. Everyone from big department stores to little bike shops could contract with Schwinn to put their name on the bikes. One of my favorites is Haack’s, a little shop out of Madison, Wi. Their badge had  a top-hatted little character named, “Mr. Bicycle” prominently positioned on the head badge. To make it clear who he’s working for, his body spells out the shop name. Fantastic.

From what I’ve seen, other Haack’s badges don’t feature him, which is why I like this particular one so much. …And with a name like “Mr. Bicycle”, you can bet he knew his stuff, even if it looked like he hadn’t been on a bike in a while.

This particular Schwinn also has the “Hat in the Ring” graphics on the seat tube. Not sure if this was a nod to Eddie Rickenbacker’s Flying Circus or not; nevertheless, I put a little Schylling monoplane on the handlebars in case any Pfalzs or Fokkers cross my path.


Of Faggins and Moosehead

I recently went to Carson City to pick up an old British Dayton 3-speed. My attention quickly switched to this Faggin, which accompanied the Dayton in the storage unit. The current owner had bought it to turn over. The Faggin thus joined the Dayton for a trip back to the shop. It hadn’t seen the road in some time and was a bit roughed up. It was also missing some of its original bits, but I suspected it would come around well enough. It did, too: Heck, even the Cateye computer fired back up.

The biggest problem with some older Italian framesets like Faggins is that their decals aren’t placed and then clear-coated over. The decals, more like stickers, can also be put on crooked, or barely at all. I briefly considered a repaint since that would have solved the decal issue, but it would have created the “what’s this bike going to have to sell for now?” issue. So, it stayed as-is. Call it being cautious, or if you’re feeling more generous, sticking with originality. I do tend to get up on that soapbox at times, so go with that.

 

That other shop…

The frame sticker on the lower downtube states that the Faggin was originally built up and sold by Stewart-Hunt Cycles here in Reno. Back in the 1980’s the shop was a direct competitor to College Cyclery which is where I worked/lived. Among the bevy of competitors, S-H owner  Jim Patterson was considered more kindred spirit than adversary, though. Stewart-Hunt was actually the first shop I frequented upon moving to Reno and I often think I might have ended up working there if College hadn’t picked me up.

Stewart-Hunt is long since gone, but I’m hear to tell you that the cycling community still misses Jim terribly. A Tuesday night race will never be the same without Jim’s happy demeanor and heavily mustached smile, drops of Moosehead beer hanging from the latter. The cycling community garners more than its share of one-of-a-kinds. Amongst them, Jim was the One-est.