He studied insects at college, but chose motorcycle mechanics as a career. It was a smart move: he quickly shot to fame in the 90s building ‘samurai choppers’ at Zero Engineering, a company he founded with backing from the aftermarket parts giant Plot Inc.
Several hundred low-ridin’ choppers later, Shinya Kimura left Zero, left Japan, and moved to the small town of Azusa in California. In 2006 he set up Chabott Engineering and now builds three or four bikes a year, reputedly costing $100,000 or more. The waiting list is well over a year.
Kimura works on his own terms. He doesn’t build bikes to order, and doesn’t follow trends. So it was a surprise to hear that he’s just built an ‘official’ custom for Yamaha Europe. But digging deeper, maybe it’s not such a surprise: his very first bike was a Yamaha.
“I have an emotional attachment to Yamaha,” Shinya says. “The first large motorbike I bought was the DT-1. I also loved the SR series, and I’ve always owned one or two of the SR400, SR500 or the XT500 since I was a teenager.”
Yamaha’s product manager Shun Miyazawa set the wheels in motion for the build. “We have been discussing with many custom builders, including Shinya, what role Yamaha should be taking in this growing custom world,” Shun reports.
“We had some ideas in mind already, and Shinya Kimura proposed exactly the same starting point—our modern 700cc liquid cooled twin engine.”
An MT-07 (AKA the FZ-07 in the USA and Canada) was delivered to Shinya’s workshop. The middleweight roadster has garnered rave reviews from journalists and owners alike, and Shinya was similarly impressed.
Despite his focus on traditional metalworking and craftsmanship, he doesn’t believe manufacturers should revisit past glories. “It wouldn’t be right if you replicated the old designs and started selling them just because they look cool.
“Respecting old design and assimilating it, and then creating something new, should be the way to go for those who create and build today, including me.”
The bike is called ‘Faster Son.’ It’s the first in a planned run of high-end customs mixing modern technology with vintage style—forging a connection between Yamaha’s current products and the iconic machines of the past.
So Shinya has completely reworked the MT-07 without diluting its usability. “I wanted to express my own taste without spoiling the important functions, such as riding, stopping, speeding and cornering,” he says.
“The engine is the latest technology from Yamaha; it’s not like the vintage engines with beautiful cooling fins. But the overall design of ‘Faster Son’ does not obstruct the newer design elements, or the nostalgic element, but rather flows and blends the two together.”
“They are bikes that never look dated, and continue to look beautiful in everyone’s eyes. That’s what I hope to inspire in current motorbikes…I was aiming to create a line for the bike that flows. In another words, a harmony, just like the XS1.”
It sounds like a hard task given the MT-07’s ultra-modern hardware, but Shinya has made it work. ‘Faster Son’ was revealed at the Wheels & Waves festival in France, and immediately stood apart from all the other customs on display. The metalwork is extraordinary, and it doesn’t wear any influences on its sleeves.
It’s not a cookie-cutter “café racer.” It has fenders, a functional mirror and exhaust system, full instrumentation, and grippy Pirelli Phantom Sportscomp tires.
“Always at the front of my mind is making motorbikes that I want to see, that I want to ride, and that I can have fun with. It makes me happy to create timeless beauty without following trends and fashions.”
But Shinya Kimura has set the bar high. We can’t wait to see the next offspring.