TAIPEI, Taiwan (BRAIN)—Fuji is honoring its 111th year in business in 2011 by returning to its Japanese roots. The brand, originally established as Nichibei Fuji in 1899, will spec only Shimano drivetrains this year, solidifying an exclusive partnership with the 89-year-old Japanese components company.
Additionally, some Fuji frames will be handmade in Japan, said Pat Cunnane, chief executive officer of Advanced Sports Inc., Fuji’s parent company, speaking to a crowd that gathered Wednesday night at the Grand Hyatt in downtown Taipei to celebrate.
“This is not for nostalgia or looking back. This is about looking forward,” Cunnane said before inviting guests including Shimano chairman Yoshi Shimano and Chairman Chang of Ideal Bike, part owner of ASI, to participate in a traditional Japanese sake barrel opening ceremony.
Fuji was the first Japanese brand sold in the U.S. in 1971, and ASI was formed in 1998 to buy the brand. It’s now sold in 35 countries through 3,000 dealers worldwide. Last year, it ranked as the No. 5 brand in the U.S., Cunnane said.
“That’s our highest ranking ever,” he added.
To celebrate, Fuji is releasing a crop of 111th anniversary bikes this year, including two handmade steel bikes inspired by the brand’s original road and track models. Fuji will produce 111 of the Yaiba road bike and the Kissaki track bike, each numbered and signed by the frame maker, Mr. Tetsuya Ishigaki.
The Yaiba is spec’d with Dura-Ace and comes with the original Fuji headbadge and leather accessories including a classically designed saddle bag, tape, toe clips and toptube protector. The gold-plated chain will spin on a Sugino chain ring.
The Kissaki is a fixed-gear handmade by Cherubim, Fuji’s original frame maker. The steel tubing is constructed of Japan’s Kaisei, and the brazing and alignment of each frame was made by master frame maker Mr. Konno.
Fuji is also launching a new line, the Nichibei series, decorated with minimal graphics and a polished, clean finish using an innovative painting process. Models include the carbon fiber Nichibei SST, the Nichibei ACR, the Nichibei Roubaix, Nichibei Finest and men’s and women’s Nichibei Absolute.
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