Last Updated: 11/05/2008
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One of the reasons why I love the sport touring frame design is how versatile it is. I'm lucky to own 3 bikes (still can't believe that) all of which have the same basic geometry - 73 parallel angles, around 5.5cm fork rake, about 44cm chainstays and set for 47-57 calipers.
This Fuji S-12-S Ltd is set up as a loaded touring bike, even if it fails to fit the modern definition of a loaded touring bike. In fact in the years just before the vintage of this Fuji, it was not uncommon to see 10 or 12 speed bikes sold as touring bikes. This S-12-S Ltd came out just a distinction between sport touring and (loaded) touring bikes was beginning to develop.
Sometimes this distinction was nothing more than the difference of a double or a triple crank. This S-12-S Ltd was generally speced as a 12 speed bike, but in some years it was sold with a triple, as was the America, which was the top of Fuji's touring line. The America, the S-12-S (in all its versions) and the rest of Fuji's non-racing bikes all had essentially the same 73 degree parallel geometry and were all set for 47-57 reach caliper brakes. A similar lack of distinction was seen in the Schwinn Paramounts and Treks of the late 70s. A review of Japanese touring bikes appearing Bicycling in 1980 compared the Fuji America, the Miyata Gran Touring and Univega Gran Turismo. They were all very close to 73 parallel designs (the America was specced with a 73 SA but was reported as 72.5 and the Gran Turismo was reported as having a HA of 72.5 - manufacturing variances, perhaps) and the Miyata was unique in having cantilever brakes.
One of the first dedicated touring bike that was widely available on the US market that resembles our current understanding of a loaded touring bike was the Miyata 1000, which was introduced in 1981. This bike had the 72 degree parallel angles, cantilevers and copious braze ons for racks that we now associated with dedicated touring bikes. By the mid '80s both Fuji and Trek also had dedicated touring bikes too.
So, the S-12-S Ltd shown here differs from our current understanding of the dedicated touring bike in a couple of ways. First, it has slightly steeper angles. Second, it is constrained to run slightly narrower tires. As it is shown, it has Dia-Compe centerpull brakes, fenders and has been converted down to 700c rims (from the original 27"). With this combination, it can fit 32mm tires but nothing wider. I've found 32mm to be sufficient for most US touring, on normal US paved roads and some moderate dirt roads. But the modern touring bike will take even wider tires. Third, the tubing itself is likely a bit thinner and more flexible than what is used in some modern dedicated touring bikes. For these reasons, I consider this a sport touring bike set up as a touring bike, not a dedicated touring bike in current terms.
The fact that this is not a dedicated touring bike doesn't mean it can't or shouldn't be used as a touring bike. Assuming moderate loads and moderately good roads, bikes like this tour just fine, in my opinion. And again in my opinion, they have the added benefit of being nicer riding bikes when they don't have full bags on them.
A few words on the frame... The specs from this year say that the main tubes are double-butted cr-mo and that the fork is hi-tensile steel. I assume that the stays are also hi-tensile steel. The America, which was the next step up in the Fuji line was the first bike in the line that year had cr-mo through out. The chromed forks and stays are somewhat tied to the tubing. It was the practice of Fuji (and perhaps some others) in that era to denote all hi-ten frames with fully painted bikes, straight gauge cr-mo with chromed forks and double-butted cr-mo with chromed forks and stays.
Fujis hold a special place in my memory as this was the line of bikes that I first learned as I worked for Chuck Harris in Ohio as a high-school kid. The S-12-S Ltd was the top end bike that we would stock and was beyond my reach as a kid. I eventually worked my way up to a Royalle II and considered myself lucky for that! I love the chromed fork crown but, the short point lugs on the old Fuji's have always struck me as being sort of brutish and utilitarian. A part of this can be blamed on the Trek that hung in our shop's window. I thought that bike was just stunning and the mid range Fujis just didn't have the same appeal to my eye.
The paint is supposed to be ebony black. In most light, it appears to be gloss black. But in direct bright sunlight, the paint turns to a deep metal flake midnight blue. You can see just a bit of this in the picture of the frame material sticker on this web page if you look just above the rainbow Fuji sticker on the seat tube. The portion of the frame lit up by the flash reveals the blue metal flake. I would love to learn more about the paint process used by Fuji to get this affect so if you know about it, please contact me.
The last comment on the frame is to report that the steer tube is stamped with the word "Ishawata". This lines up with other reports I've read that have said that Fuji used Ishawata tubing. But, I don't know if the main tubes are Ishawata and if so, which type of Ishawata they are.
This bike is one of those $100 Craiglist finds and it came to me in pretty rough shape. The chrome was badly rusted and pitted and one of the fork blades had been bent in a wreck (it's been straightened and realigned by Peter Mooney). All of the parts have been changed, except for the seat post, shifters and derailleurs. For those who like parts lists, here it is:
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