The wisdom of Shinya Kimura

Dailies -



While Grant was shooting Shinya Kimura’s shop for an upcoming feature, I attempted to interview the Japanese motorcycle artist. Doing so was somewhat difficult. There’s the language barrier, of course, but cultural differences also play a role. Shinya doesn’t ramble on in American fashion, creating good fodder for interviews. Instead he prefers to quickly, politely and succinctly answer questions. Typically with a maniacal laugh. But, listening to the recording of our afternoon-long conversation I realized that while we didn’t have a great interview, we did have a good selection of wise sayings which, as a whole, paint a telling picture of Shinya’s approach.

Photo: Grant Ray

So here we go, the world according to Shinya Kimura:

“I have no idea where my ideas come from. No thinking. Just do it.”

“I don’t count how many hours I spend. It’s almost a full year. Chicara Nagata, he counts [maniacal laughter].”

“These bikes are originally handling bikes to go to mountain. I want to keep concept to original.”

“Sometimes I make chopper, bobber, vintage, cafe racer. I don’t want to be categorized to any category.”

“I love all kind of motorcycle. But especially I love cafe. Hmm, not cafe, just racer.”

“I retired from directing people.”

“The shapes and beauty of the motor are very important to me. Older bikes have beauty. Modern bikes…I don’t have any favorite shapes.”

“I have been making motorcycle which I want to see and I want to ride.”

“I ride everything. I am testing always.”

“I like to look at concept motorcycles. I can feel the designer’s mind in them.”

“I am not making bikes for everybody. As long as one customer likes it, it doesn’t matter if everyone else hates it. But for Yamaha [or any other OEM], many people have to like it.”

“I have an English wheel, but I don’t use it much. Maybe once in two years. I just make sheet metal by mallet only.”

“Older tools are much tougher. Heavy duty.”

“I love scramblers. Maybe I will try that bike next.”

“I am repairing everything. Tools, bikes, cars.”

“Honda, they have no pulse.”

“Many people are looking back right now. But the people back then were doing futuristic things. I don’t want to be repeating the past. I don’t want to do the same thing. I like the spirit of making something new. People back then were trying to make something new.”

Previously, we exclusively unveiled Shinya’s MV Agusta 750 S America and the 999 R-based Edge; had him review the Aprilia RSV4 and ran a really neat mini documentary on him. Check out our Shinya Kimura tag page for all articles on the artist and look for Grant’s Shop feature next week.

  • nick2ny

    Make note of that last one, everybody.

    • pavinguire

      Shimura = Mcqueen

    • tomwito


  • 2ndderivative

    You guys seem really taken with him. What’s he got that the Teutuls don’t?

    • seanslides

      Hmm… Skill, talent, a brain, taste, rideable motorcycles, a land speed racer? It’s a long list man. Technically, that crap the teutls build can be considered motorcycles, but other than both building bikes, they’re pretty much polar opposites.

      Those douche bags built an empire on corporate theme bikes, and reality TV. Shinya builds bikes that he likes, and takes his wacky harley to El Mirage to go land speed racing.

    • robotribe

      My earned respect.

    • Richard

      OCC is nothing more than an marketing firm that’s on television. They dont build motorcycles, they build rolling billboards for companies that hire them for not only the bike but also the hour long commercial at airs on Discovery, or is it TLC. Shinya acutally builds motorcycles.

    • Wilbur

      not sure if troll?

    • pavinguire

      Teutul’s = Hasselhof

      • Mark D

        That’s being unfair to the Hoff. At least he has a sense of humor.

  • jason

    Well, for one, he is not a loud, fatso, slob. which is a relief, or a hopeless loser like Jesse James. The work speaks, No need for reality show.

    • Ducky


  • Core

    That bit toward the end was the most interesting. Especially that bit about Honda having no pulse.

  • muckluck

    I can see the reason of looking back, at least in car design, everything looks the same these days.

  • Your_Mom

    I guess he’s implying that he’s looking forward but there’s nothing “groundbreaking” or futuristic in any of his stuff – to me at least. I think his stuff is right out of the props department for a Buck Rogers film. He’s trying to recapture the futuristic look of the 1930s……

    • dux

      Maybe. But raw metal is always cool

  • miguel

    Hwe is just amazing!!

    • miguel

      He, I mean

  • Miles Prower

    My fave quote:

    “I am not making bikes for everybody. As long as one customer likes it, it doesn’t matter if everyone else hates it. But for Yamaha [or any other OEM], many people have to like it.”

    • stempere

      If only OEMs had that philosophy in mind, maybe they’s build bike some people like.
      Case in point: shamu. Trying to build a bike that does everything and that appeals to everyone will obviously just end up beeing a turd. Being (at least to some extent) radical is just the beginning when it comes to motorcycle…

      • fearnow


      • Miles Prower

        Or consider the Ducati 999 vs 1098. The look of the former was driven by one man’s aesthetic vision; the latter by a company’s need to make money. With dismal sales and a trickle-down effect on the brand image, the 999 almost sank Ducati. On the other hand, the 1098 appealed to the conservative senses of the many, helping to save the company.

        To a certain extent, big companies need to design for the crowd in order to survive.

        (Personally, I think all of Terblanche’s designs lack balance visually —
        but I do own his gen-1 Multistrada.)

      • Kevin

        WTH is up with the VFR1200 hate? Most reviews are quite positive. The looks aren’t for everybody. It’s not cheap, but when I buy in about a month that’s what I’m buying. It fit me, it spoke to me, so I’m glad Honda are making it. If it doesn’t sell, it will go away.

        • Wes Siler

          Well maybe in setting out to create a bike that could appeal to everyone they ended up with one that appeals to a very few. Sort of an unintentional Kimura effect.

        • Mr.Paynter

          I agree with Wes, I’ve only seen Shamu in the flesh once and I liked her!

  • BuellDoc

    I wish Harley could adopt his last words of Wisdom..The New always seems the old:Springer,Classic,Softail and now “48″
    An American company with the Best Engineers our Universitys can produce and we can’t beat
    our foreign competitors..unless it is a Cruiser Chopper.

  • jwinter

    People like this and profitability seem to be mutually exclusive. It’s sad on one hand but you’d hate to see Kimura waste his head on marketing.

    • dux

      I’m guessing he does pretty well. He makes stuff for movie stars – sometimes craftsmanship is the best marketing. Or making a bike that Brad Pitt rides (isn’t that the one?)

  • Lawrence

    a true artist