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Araya is best known in the west for making bicycle rims, most notably the Araya 7x which was equipped on most mountain bikes in the early 80's. They are also Japan's earliest mountain bike manufacturer, starting with their Muddy Fox models which continue to be made by Araya today1)2).
Araya started making wooden bicycle rims in 1903 in Yamanaka, Japan. 3)
In 1980 it launched its industry changing 7x BMX rim: a light weight, highly robust, 32mm wide aluminum rim. Not only did it drop pounds off klunkers, it could brake when wet, it could survive Repack and it was cheap 4). In 1982 Araya introduced the Muddy Fox mountain bike, which was famously resold throughout Europe by S&G Cycles starting in 1983 and which continues today as an independent brand using the same name.
By 1983, Araya's series of mountain bikes spanned a range of twelve models 5), all of which were called Muddy Fox. Prices ranged from $800 for a fillet brazed version 6) to $260 for a basic lugged, but quite competent, complete mountain bike.
The … Muddy Fox, the first mountain bike in Japan in 1982, [Araya] quickly focused on MTBs that had just sprouted in the United States. Araya history at araya--rinkai.jp
Odd statue at Araya HQ google maps streetview
2021 Araya Catalog http://araya-rinkai.jp/catalog
Araya 7x: Aluminum alloy. 26” 32.2mm wide. 620g.
1980 Araya Rim Catalog araya archive
1982 Muddy Fox
Araya claims that they started making Muddy Foxes in 1982 and this example may be authentic. Araya logo on seat stays. The rear (plastic!) derailleur feels like a cheaper version of 1992 SunTour XCT - and is not original. Other components are stamped for 1982 (brakes, hubs and the frame have a June 1982 date code.8) See all pics here.) The stem is not original.
Five speed freewheel. The rear derailleur cable mounting goes through a strapped on guide, then through a glued-on? mid cable housing, over the top of the bottom bracket and finally along the top of the chainstay.
1982?? Muddy Fox mystery SunTour derailleur offerup
1982 Muddy Fox offerup
1983 Muddy Fox MF26-I SPR
SunTour Le Tech (1982-4), faux fillet brazing on top of TIG welding, the same rear derailleur cable journey, but now with a proper braze on for the derailleur cable and no weird side cable housing. Proper logos (was the 1982 above repainted?,) added fender mounts, unicrown fork.
Alternatively, the 1983 Araya MB-MF26DX 9) is most similar to the 1982 Muddy Fox above, with much of the same frame and fork features.
31 pounds, $800
1983 Muddy Fox 1983-5 catalog
1984 Muddy Fox MB-MF26A
This has been rebranded as an S&G Cycles “Muddy Fox” “made by ARAYA.” Technically, this is no longer an Araya, and S&G Cycles would go onto get exclusive rights to “Muddy Fox” throughout Europe and later break its supply arrangement with Araya so that European Muddy Foxes would no longer be made by Araya. This is a good example of confused triple branding.
Shimano RD-AL11 derailleur (1984-5.)
1984 Muddy Fox/S&G flickr
MountTech GTL (1982-83). Is this a Muddy Fox? The mixte frame doesn't leave any advertising space for a model name, other than the tiny MB26L on one of the “top” tubes.
1985 MB26L facebook
1986 Muddy Fox MF24-2
24” version of their small frame Muddy Fox. Shimano RD-Z501 derailleurs (1986-9) The outlined lugs do not show up in any of their catalogs. The cable routing is now reasonable.
1986 Muddy Fox facebook
1987 Muddy Fox SuperPro
Shimano XT M730 (1987-88) gruppo.
1987 SuperPro gino.shop-pro.jp
1988 Muddy Fox MF26-SUP-F
This was their “expedition heavy-duty model” and the top tube reads “All Terrain Speciality,” as in the mid-80s it became fashionable to put English lettering on Japanese products.
Shimano RD-MT60 Deore derailleurs (1987-8).
1988 Muddy Fox miyazakicycle
1990 Muddy Fox MF26CRM-K
Deore DX/XT, rapidfire shifters. “Safari Red” paint job.
1990 Muddy Fox landlordscycling
1991 Muddy Fox MF26EXP-ODA
Deore DX. Starting in 1991, Araya started using triple top tube cable routing.
1991 Muddy Fox 1991 Araya catalog