A fax from Bridgestone

by | Feb 23, 1993

You’ve read the text from the lug hangtag that brought you to this web page. Here are some additional anecdotes that speak to the legacy of these special lugs. Remember – I originally carved them for Bridgestone Cycles U.S.A. in the very early 1990s.

This is the text from a fax I received more than a year after I did the design work.

February 23, 1993
To: Richard Sachs
From: B.C.U.S.A.

Hi Richard.

I’m sorry I haven’t been in touch, but until recently there hasn’t been any news about the lugs, and now there’s just a little. But of course a little news about lugs is big news anytime, so here it is. As you will see nothing is final or set or secured or anything like that. (In this and future correspondence, “BSC” means Bridgestone-Japan (BridgeStone Cycle), “Tom” is Tom Iijima, my main contact here, not a technical guy, but he knows BSC procedures well, and it his job to work with us on specs and to report to his boss-the manager of product planning for BSC. Tom must turn in a profitable report card-on paper at least. This is a challenge in this land of expensive labor. Tom is also famous in all circles as a pessimist in all matters, and he uses himself as a shield to his bosses…I may use “Nikko” and “Kimura-san” interchangeably; Nikko is the company, the Kimura brothers are Pres and VP. “Imaizumi-(san) is a friendly framebuilder in our version of Reparto Corse (sp?). Matsuura-(san) is General Manager of the Asahi factory. It’s in northern Japan and it’s the factory that builds our frames. I think that’s the main names you need to know to follow what follows.

I am numbering the paragraphs and points to make it easier to follow. But I can’t guarantee that their order is logical. I’ll try my best.

1) Tom saw the lugs, showed them around a little, and reported that it was nearly impossible to build with them. he said it would increase the cost of our bikes by 200 percent (probably), and that we’d probably be able to get only 20-30 per year. The problem, he said, was that it was too fragile and the skinny points would cause production problems.

2) But he didn’t say NO and I am used to his pessimism, so I can read it a little. The next day, we took the lugs to Matsuura-san at Asahi and he said “Sure … anything is possible. But first we need Ageo’s okay.” (“Ageo” is the factory where Tom works. It is our technical headquarters and the approval he is seeking is from the design section. He fears the lugs might not be strong enough. (?)

3) The next day I got a fax from Nikko saying they were anxious to see the lugs. So I talked to Nikko by phone and said I was equally anxious to get them to them, but I should talk first more to Ageo people. I expressed my concern that Nikko might destroy them in some kind of testing or something, but Kimura said DON’T WORRY-we can tell just by looking whether or not we can do it. (It’s interesting … a guy with a hacksaw and a file can make them, but there’s some question as to whether or not a computer controlled laser beam can cut them!)

3.5) Kimura said something interesting and baffling: He said that I should talk with Imaizumi-san about the lugs; and that Imaizumi-san was working on a Yoshi Konno (San Rensho) style lug for, I think, our bikes. Anyway, he said talk to Imaizumi-san. Up until this point I had never heard of Imaizumi-san. I asked Masa, my USA-based Japanese co-worker (and a bike nut, especially handbuilts, especially FRENCH) who Imaizumi-san was, and he didn’t know.

3.75) I told Kimura-san that if by chance or bad luck we couldn’t use these lugs, that I still wanted to see them, and try to get a quote to you (via me, if that makes it easier). I don’t know how interested you are in that, but you might as well find out.

4) Later that day on an Ageo factory tour (which included the Reparto Corse), out on the main floor at one of the stations, a guy recognized me (I don’t know how, but there were only 2 other Americans in the factory) and he said my name and a bunch of Japanese stuff and bubbly said “lugs” a few times, and then said “I can do it-I can build your frame. It’s easy. Let me do it”. Masa translated. This was Imaizumi-san, and he saw your lugs and welcomed the challenge, and offered to build a frame for me with them if I just provide him the lugs.

5) Well, that’s impractical for a zillion reasons, and of course I thanked him, but the main thing isn’t another frame for me, but getting these lugs into our production bikes, built in Asahi factory. (I am starting to leave out “the”. It’s time to go home).

6) So, anyway, I will leave the lugs here for Ageo to study, and I have already told them Matsuura-san said yes, anything is possible, he can do it, and it just needs Ageo’s approval. And my boss, the president of BSC-America (Tad Kodama) is on our side here. Tad was a cheerleader in college (true) and he likes to champion tough causes like this one. He still boasts that it was he who convinced BSC to make the new cast crowns, and he’s probably right. So he’s ready to go to bat for us on this one, too—if he can again be a hero.

7) I have told BSC that can be no compromises on your design without your blessing, and that any compromises would be of the sort that you suggest, not them. In other words, they may NOT chop a point or change a radius, but they may request a shorter point or a tighter radius, or fewer points—and leave it to you to do.

7.5) But I have to be emphatic that THIS is the lug we want, that we DON’T want another easier lug, that we are lucky to have you participate in this, and that you are—well, Richard, I know this may sound dumb, but I know how to get points across, so I said having your design on our lugs was like having Michelangelo offering to paint our ceiling, and we shouldn’t interfere. I have made it clear that a compromise lug would be okay for our RB-1, but we still want these lugs for our RB framesets.

8) I don’t know the status of Imaizumi-san’s lug.