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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