Bushido 1987: Two-Wheeled Nostalgia

Bushido, a Japanese term associated with codes of honor for the samurai way of life, was the Holy Grail for mountain bikers in the late 1980's. 

Most individuals never saw a Bushido unless they either attended Interbike in 1986 or 1987, or saw a picture of one in the inaugural issue of Mountain Bike Action magazine. Those fortunate enough to see the bike in the flesh looked on in amazement as though they were viewing an alien space craft.

In early 1987 I started a new job in Santa Monica. One day while dining at the local “gas station” (chili parlor) there was a sign on the bulletin board announcing a new mountain bike club hosted by a West Los Angeles bike shop. Accordingly, I visited the shop one afternoon in March 1987. Roger Piper and Bill Townsend presided over a sprawling warehouse-type facility that repaired bikes, customized them for improved off-road performance and full custom builds.

The 'Bushido Bike' as pictured in the company's 1987 product catalog.

The many Vespas in various stages of restoration and plethora of Teledyne Titan titanium frames and forks (some even without cracks) exhibited other passions they enjoyed. Bill and Roger were affable and very knowledgeable individuals who answered questions from a fledgling mountain biker graciously. Their enthusiasm for the sport was infectious and I started implementing the advice I learned from them. Their most important lessons revolved around maximizing the utility of components without excess weight penalties.

The huge surprise at the shop, however, was the bicycle that dominated their small showroom. The full-suspension bike, which could be constructed with a steel, aluminum or titanium frame, had 11 inches of front and rear travel, a 12 inch high bottom bracket, air-sprung forks with sealed damping cartridges, CO2-sprung shock absorbers, pneumatic seat post, under-bar shifters and adjustable hydraulic disc brakes with alloy calipers that weighed less than 100 grams and carbon fiber discs. The bike came in one size, nineteen and one-half inches, and weighed about 25 pounds.

The 'Bushido Bike' as pictured in the company's 1987 product catalog.

The Bushido generated tremendous interest in the cycling community although many felt that the designers had gone too far with the amount of suspension travel.  Disaster befell the company when several bikes were stolen, never to resurface, and there was a devastating fire at the bike shop.

Ultimately, the Bushido was pronounced non-viable since the numbers that would need to be sold to be profitable were too high, and the price too steep for the market. Several attempts to revive the project have not been successful and it appears as though the Bushido will be a footnote in history.

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