Last year, I came upon a spectacular Craigslist find, a 1975 Bridgestone Kabuki Daimond Touring, a bike with an interesting history.
Bridgestone is a Japanese manufacturer known mostly for its automotive tires that also makes bikes. During the 10-speed "bike boom" of the early 70s, they began marketing their bikes under the Kabuki brand, apparently because it sounded more fashionably Japanese. During the 70s and 80s, Kabuki were best known as mid-range bikes with some funky design details like forged aluminum hubs or stainless steel tubing. They also created one of the best bicycle headbadges ever.
One of the first Kabukis in the US market, tho, was the Diamond Touring, the top of their line in 1974 and 1975. With a double-butted Ishiwata Cro-moly frame, the Diamond Touring wasn't as funky as it was functional. What really sets it apart tho is its glowing paint job and chrome lugs & droupouts. It may not be the lightest bike ever, but it's a real head turner.
Originally, the Diamond Tourer would have been equipped with a Suntour groupset, but it was significantly upgraded before it came to me.
It also came to me with swept back handlebars, thumb shifters, and a funky touring seat. Right away, I swapped these out for a wide set of touring bullhorns, an 80's Brooks Professional saddle, and some Suntour stem mounted power shifters. I resisted the urge to convert to fixed gear, thinking that it'd be nice to have a bike better suited for longer rides.
At first, I thought its 25" frame was too big for me, but I quickly learned that the other bikes I had been riding were actually too small. Large vintage bikes are a lot larger than today's large sized bikes and the seatpost is usually shorter, too. Call me a large frame convert.
I rode the bike all through the summer and fall of 2018, including during the second half of the Powderhorn 24, when I was glad to stop riding fixed gear after 70 miles. When the snows came, I hung the Kabuki up in my garage, taking the pedals off so I wouldn't be tempted to ride in the snow.
When I rode it again for the first time this spring, tho, it felt kinda sluggish, especially compared to my spry Juvela. I blamed the tires, but with 27" wheels, my tire selection was extremely limited. I had tried last year running some Panaracer Paselas, but I kept getting flats, including a sidewall blowout on my first ride. I ended up replacing them with some $12 cheapies.
The 80's Araya single-wall rims were also showing their age. They're pretty heavy and not very strong. More than that, tho, I wanted a bike built more for comfort that I could take on the occasional longer ride--maybe ride my first century or more. A bike that could handle gravel roads and potholes with a minimum of bone jarring.
Lacing wheels is kinda fun. Very putsy, but fun. The hardest part is measuring everything and ordering the right length spokes. I used two different online spoke calculators to make sure I got the right results. Then, building the wheel is mostly just following a pattern and slowly working around the wheel to make the rim true and the spokes tight.
I chose 35mm Clement Ush tires, which can handle both pavement and gravel and run at 40-60psi. They still need tubes, which is fine with me--I'm not really sold on the whole tubeless thing.
I also cut down some old alloy drops bars to make some new bullhorns which are narrower than what I rode with last year. I really want the same bar and braking setup on all my road bikes so I won't have to think twice about how to stop. I thought briefly about using actual drop bars, but I really don't like them. No one ever rides in the drops and braking power is a lot less when riding on the hoods.
On my first ride, I was surprised at how much faster the bike felt. I rode the Gateway Trail all the way out to the North Saint Paul snowman. Even at 60psi, I feel like I'm going as fast as I do with 120psi Gatorskins on my fixed gear bikes except I don't feel every single bump.
I will say, though, that I still kind of prefer riding fixed for most things. Thinking about gears and shifting seems to interrupt my mind, making the ride a little bit less relaxing. I seem to prefer less thinking and more pedaling. Nonetheless, I think I'll be riding my Kabuki quite a lot this year, especially for longer rides. At 45 years old, it's good for many many more years.