Peter Kohler

Peter Kohler

Posted on 05/21/2013

Photo taken on March 31, 2013

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IMG 4333

IMG 4333
Serial no. H 440

Purchased on eBay 13 December 2012 for $667 as a frameset, back on the road 30 March 2013

Founded in 1965, the Osaka-based Zunow (Japanese slang for genius) Ind. Ltd. firm had as its true genius and founder master framebuilder Takeru Kageyama. Before starting his own company, he made NJS stamped and approved track racing frames of the highest quality. Like many Japanese framebuilders of his era, Kageyama was initially heavily influenced by Italian racing bike design and details and his early models were not only Italianate in concept with short top tubes, short wheelbases and sloping fork crowns but in lug details including the De Rosa-esque spade cut-outs and even Campagnolo drop-outs on some models. Many of the top-end models had a mix of both Campagnolo/Cinelli and Japanese components. Almost all of the production of this era was custom ordered with the "KGYM" series of road, track and touring models made to order.

If the 1970s were derivative in frame design yet establishing Zunow as one of the top Japanese framemakers in terms of workmanship, the mid to late 1980s was revolutionary with Kageyama pioneering and patenting a number of unique and innovative designs under his own name. These included the "Pentagla" pentagon-shaped chainstays (1985), "Ditchex" frame tubing with built-in cable channels (1985), "Trited" tubing (triple-butted Tange) (late 1970s), a pioneering range ("Zero")of lost-wax process propriatary bb and lug castings (1985) and unique mono seatstays (1993). Zunows were renown, too, for their spectacular and unconventional paint and decal schemes and extensive pantographing of components (even bb spindles!). Introduced in 1986, the Z-1 Ditchex Road Racer incorporated all of the latest Zunow innovations of the time, other models included Di Picce (c. 1990) and the Hummingbird mid-priced range that was designed by Kageyama but built by sub-contractors. Zunow was an early pioneer of aero designs as well with the Aercs model introduced in 1984.

At the heart of Kageyama frames was superb bespoke craftsmanship and his racing bikes were appreciated for their handling and cornering. With just 600 frames turned out per annum (circa 1986) by Mr. Kageyama and two assistants and only 20 per cent exported, Zunows are not common. As such, the marque is cherished today both in Japan and abroad both for its quality and comparitive rarity.

Mr. Kageyama retired from framebuilding in 2002 and although bikes are still made under the Zunow name, the true "genius" of the firm is sadly missing.

The 1984 Zunow showcased here is in many ways the antithesis of the very progressive and almost provocative Zunows of the late 1980-90s but equally representative of many of Kageyema's earlier Italianate racing models in its simple yet elegant pearl white (over a fully chromed frame) and conventional yet distinctive frame details: the Zunow hummingbird trademark pantographed seatstay caps, chromed head lugs with Italianate spade cut-outs and the elegant bird-like bb cut-out. In many aspects, these are the most Italian of Japanese-crafted frames yet with a bespoke craftsmanship and quality that frankly had vanished from many Italian marques in the 1980s.

This particular frame came from California and was prior to its eBay offering a complete machine with, like so many Zunows of the era, mainly Shimano 600 components with Italian stem/bars. The large size is unusual for a Japanese-made frame and it is shared by several other similar examples in the US most of which seem to have been bought in Okinawa by US servicemen stationed there. Most of these have the same pearl white scheme and details as this frame and date c. 1980-85.

In restoring this frame to the road, it was decided to leave the somewhat cosmetically challenged paint alone to retain the originality of the characteristic Zunow finish and to kit it out in the best of all-Japanese componentry of the late 70s-mid 80s. The only things not made in Japan are the Czech tyres, Swiss spokes and Italian water bottle.

The Ride
Avoiding the extremes that so large a frame might present, the geometry of this is unusual for the era with only 72 deg parallel angles giving a short toptube and a ride that's both stable and comfortable but also very responsive. The cornering manners are especially pleasing and a hallmark of Zunows and the whole machine exudes a solid, quality "feel", a custom-built job that's as ideal in size and handling for its present owner as I assume it was for its first.

Material: Zunow Trited Tubing (triple butted Tange) frame and forks
Finish: (original) pearl white over chrome with chromed head lugs, front fork, driveside chainstay chainslap apron, rear drop-out facings and seat stay caps
Size: seat tube 62.5 cm (c to c ), 64 cm (c to t) top tube 58 cm (c to c)
Chainstay length: 42 cm/16.5" (c to c)
Wheelbase: 40 inches (c to c)
Bottom bracket height: 10.50"
Angles: 72˚ (head) 72˚ (seat)
Fork offset: 2"
Rear spacing: 126 mm
Lugs: Prugnat type S with Zunow spade cut-outs on chromed lower head lugs
Fork Crown: Tange C-22 investment cast sloping crown
Dropouts: Shimano EF forged date code IG (1984 July) rear and Shimano front
Braze-ons: gear lever bosses, chainstay gear cable stop, bb cable guides, chain rest, top tube brake cable clips and pair of bottle cage bolt bosses on downtube
Frame features: chromed and pantographed (Zunow hummingbird) seatstay caps, spade cut-out in lower head lug and bird-shaped cut-out in bb shell.

Rear derailleur: Shimano Dura-Ace EX Black Series
Front deralleur: Shimano Dura-Ace EA-100 Black Series
Gear levers: Shimano Dura-Ace SL-7200 Black Series
Chainset: Sugino Mighty Competition MCVP black, 42t x 52t drilled black chainrings, 173 cm cranks, date code G-7 (1977 July)
Bottom bracket: Sugino Mighty English thread, 68-112 spindle
Headset: Shimano Dura-Ace UA-100 Black Series English thread
Stem: Nitto Pearl, black anodised, 100 mm
Handlebars: SR Royal World Custom 39cm, Cat Eye shiny yellow plastic tape and plugs
Brakes: Shimano Dura-Ace EX 7100 Side-Pull Black Series
Brake levers: Shimano Dura-Ace EX 7100 slotted
Brake/gear cable housing: generic lined yellow
Seat pillar: Sakae Laprade Four Sir P5 26.8mm, 200g
Seat binder bolt: Sugino Allen bolt
Saddle: Koga, 350g
Pedals: SunTour Superbe PL4000 290g
Toeclips and straps: MKS black anodised alloy and generic yellow leather straps
Rims: Araya R50 415g 700x20.5 36-hole black anodised
Hubs: Shimano Dura-Ace HS-731/HS-831 36-hole small-flange Black Series with Dura-Ace quick release skewers
Spokes: 3x DT Revolution double-butted black anodised stainless steel
Tyres: Tufo Jet Pro sew-ups
Freewheel: Dura-Ace six-speed 13-19t
Chain: Shimano
Accessories: Minoura AB100 bottle cage 41 g./bottle
frame: 4.5 lbs
fork: 1.6 lbs
complete machine: 21.5 lbs