Jonny’s Azuki Pro with Joe Bell Paint is Ready for Eroica California

When Jonny first rolled through the doors at Golden Saddle on this bike, I honed in on it. There was something familiar about the bike, yet I had never heard of the brand painted on the downtube. For some reason, it reminded me of an Eisentraut, or a Sachs. After talking to Jonny, he told me he works for Joe Bell, a literal living legend in the framebuilding world. Joe Bell, or JB as Jonny calls him, paints and has painted the frames of some of the most outstanding builders over the years.

So what about this brand, Azuki? Well, there isn’t a whole lot of them in circulation, but Azuki was a brand made by Nishiki. These made-in-Japan frames were typically very affordable road racing machines, yet the Azuki Pro that Jonny owns was the by-product of a small, boutique subset of the brand, made with a more acute sense of detail and construction. The frame was made in the mid-1970’s of 858 steel tubing. Most likely Tange. The name “Azuki” translates to “red bean” in Japanese.

Jonny bought this bike when he was 18. It was his first road bike. He rode the shit out of it and then he was hit by a car, which wrecked the fork. The bike sat for a while until Rob Roberson repaired it. Rob was the head builder at Masi when the company opened their California department and he did an impeccable job on the repair. Afterward, Jonny painted the bike Cepheus blue, a classic color used by Joe Bell.

So now he had a bike, in this beautiful JB paint, just aching for a proper road gruppo. At some point, Jonny found some Centaur Century Grey brakes, and then the whole groupset. Jonny finished the build out with an SR stem with drillium and Nitto bars.

This bike and Jonny will be crashing – not literally – the Eroica California this weekend. So if you see him, make sure to ask about the bike. He does a much better job at describing its history than me!

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  • Joshua Eric Sawyer

    Beautiful bike and great story.

  • Bluejaystr

    This thing is gorgeous! I wonder if Johny considered a 650b wheelset with plumpier tires?

  • Blue with gold is always a winning combination. Absolutely beautiful bike, and the personal story only makes it better. I remember a while back nearly snapping up an old rod brake Raleigh roadster frame that was 1: too small for me and 2: useless to own as I didn’t have any of the parts. simply because it had a JB paint job with similar painted ‘decals’ in gold, including a hand painted ‘made in england’. It was beautiful. Thankfully my common sense won. Still regret it though.

  • nothingfuture

    It looks fantastic.
    Look, I understand all the advantages to compact geometry frames and disc brakes and fatter tires and compact drive chainrings and wide range cassettes and carbon and threadless and and and.

    But bikes like this will always be what I picture in my mind, first, when I think of a road bike.
    Steel- not too much. Steel fork, too.
    Horizontal top tube.
    Lugs.
    Campy.
    Skinny tires.
    Double chainrings.

  • Jason_Adams

    Vertical dropouts in the 70’s? Very rare…

    • JLN

      Yeah it is strange. My wife has a beater bike that also has this, and it also has the above BB cable routing. No idea what the frame is.

    • 70s Japanese bicycle companies and frame builders don’t get near the credit they deserve for being so far above and ahead of everyone else at the time. Certain companies like suntour, shimano, nitto get recognition, but the builders and even the tubing companies like Tange and Ishiwata have gone largely unrecognised in the west, beyond what most would call “cheap” bikes, like budget model miyata’s or Fuji’s. I recognise marks like Nishiki, Kawamura, Amanda, Asuka, Kuwahara, Kalavinka, etc. as building some of the best frames in the world at the time. Not to leave out of course marks like 3Rensho, Cherubim, Nagasawa. Panasonic/Bridgestone built most of Raleigh USA’s bikes starting around 1980 and I can personally attest that they are better built than the last of the late 70s Carlton built frames.

      • Datech Dahaus

        Nice Nishiki. I saw a beautiful Nishiki cromoly bike at a flea market in DC a few weeks ago with no rust in frame. The bike was in great condition. I should had purchased it. It had all Japanese components with down shifters and brought back memories to my old blue Botecchia.

  • Dexter

    She’s a beauty!!

  • jw dubensky

    Beautiful bike, but the Eroica Classic rules stipulate no aero style brakes (or clip-ins). Still a super flossy bike- looks a lot like the 1985 Miyata Pro with diacompe/suntour I’ll be on.

    • Superpilot

      They allow aero levers, but supposed to have DT or bar end shifters. Maybe it will be used on the Nova (modern bikes)? Who knows, it’s rad..

  • Peter Chesworth

    Proper bike.

  • skog_smog

    Beautiful bike. And nice selfie in #27!

  • https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/8ef6414fbe86de3636940ba7234b6b37bde0c3be513b3ea7811961f730a36f80.jpg
    I have never heard of Azuki. But I found this fascinating. Why? Because I bought a Nishiki Pro frame new in 1977. I raced it in the 70’s and still own it. I took a picture of the head tube today. Look familiar? The bikes are nearly identical. I would bet they were made in the same shop, maybe by the same craftsman. And yes, people may not realize today that vertical dropouts were extremely rare in the 70’s. My Nishiki Pro has them as well. I may have to restore mine after seeing this Azuki.

    • Bend Velo

      Nishiki ONP, I have a few, they are amazing frames

  • Renato Silvestri

    Really nice bicycle! Is this a Nitto M151F handlebar? It fits the ergos perfectly.

  • Datech Dahaus

    Nice looking bike, I guess some riders can get by one water bottle or make a lot of pit stops for refueling the body.

  • Jake Dean

    Brilliant shade of blue. Technically this build isn’t to Eroica standards, but I’ve seen worse offenders participate. Brake cables are supposed to route externally, no brifters, no clipless, all that jazz. But I suppose if it weren’t for the rules, it wouldn’t be Eroica.

  • Steve Reynolds

    Serious question: Since this bike isn’t to Eroica spec, is it allowed to participate? ie. can we ride too with not Eroica spec’d bikes? And beautiful bike, btw!

  • Mark Rothschild

    H+SON…Own the Classic Rim Market…for Good reason

  • Bend Velo

    Sure looks like a Nishiki ONP to me.