1983 Kobe Limited
Jeff has two of these Kobe road bikes in the museum collection, and one is still in the original box, brand new.
These bikes aren’t museum worthy because of artistic construction. They aren’t worth keeping because of some famous racing pedigree or athlete endorsement. These bikes are historically significant simply because they represent the changes to the bicycle world brought about by Japanese manufacturers in the 1980′s.
Japanese brands like Kobe, Fuji, Centurion, Kuwahara, Miyata, Panasonic, and Bridgestone came along with reasonably priced bikes with innovative features (like indexed shifting, gel saddles, wide ratio gearing) and grabbed a big slice of the bicycle market share. For bike shops, Japanese brands meant consistent quality assembly, straight frames, and much less prep work than other imports of the day. Japanese production capacity meant a lot to shops when the bike boom of the seventies turned into the mountain bike boom of the eighties and early nineties.
During this era, bike riders and bike shops sometimes found the old-world brands lacking. There were Italian and French bikes with strange size fittings and threads. Many European brands had good selection when it came to road racing bikes, but little choice for the average rider.
Ultimately the Japanese bike boom didn’t last. By the mid 1990′s Japanese wages and currency exchange rates made their bicycles a tough sell in the U.S. market. American brands Trek, Specialized, and Cannondale, along with Taiwan’s Giant, squeezed the Japanese labels off the sales floor while European brands that were caught off guard by the mountain bike boom began taking back floor space in U.S. bike shops.