Its 4:30 on a Saturday afternoon. The cool California breeze passes through the workshop. Classic jazz flows smoothly
from a dated radio sitting in the corner. Naturally filtered light through the wooden loft above casts careful shadows
upon memories of the past as they cling to the walls.
Within this space old tools,
swap meet finds and a collec-
tion of toolboxes that would
make an aficionado proud find
use at the hands of one of
the worlds most skilled arti-
sans. I humbly find myself on
top of a hand-made wooden
bench nestled in the nook
of Chabott Engineering, sit-
ting across from Shinya Kimura
and Ayu, his faithful partner....
What a place to be.
As we sip coffee, conversation is light. Shinya is a man of few words, for not only is he one of a dying breed of
craftsman, he is also extremely modest attributes lost amongst the sea of acidic paint jobs, fat tires and desires to
please the crowd instead of ones self. What he does say though, forever changes my personal viewpoint on what it
is to be a true custom motorcycle builder. Of course, that epiphany did not come until much later
Upon my arrival at Chabott Engineering I was greeted by the friendly wave of Shinya from just inside the work-
shop. I parked my big grey shark and
counted to three before taking a deep
breath and stepping out. A man has to
do that sort of thing when hes about to
stand at the feet of his idol. You cant
practice for this sort of thing either, so
you just find yourself gasping for breath
and hoping you dont say or do some-
thing to offend him. This is tricky busi-
ness - its not like interviewing your high
school shop teacher.
As I make my way into the workshop
my senses reach perception overload
almost immediately. A 1915 Indian sits
directly adjacent to Flash, the famous
1974 750cc Ducati racer Shinya previ-
ously built in 2008-2009
I am riding the Indian in the Cannonball run. Shinya says with a smirk.
How long is that? I say with a cantankerous smile.
He responds...3,000 miles.
Moving back to the Ducati I am unable to comprehend the metalwork
that makes up Flash, let alone the design elements. Then it dawns on me.
It only makes sense that Shinya would be piloting a 1915 Indian on a 3,000
mile journey in one of the most epic rally races in history.
Shinya KimuraThe Silent Warrior
Words & Photos by: Paul Henry Harrington
At this point, ten minutes into my
visit, despite my efforts to keep my
cool, I break down like a school girl
in the 80s at a Bon Jovi concert. The
room begins to spin, my eyes get blur-
ry and my heart begins to pound un-
controllably. Im sure Im done for...
Here it is, the moment I feared.
Shinya notices this and in an ef-
fort to keep from cleaning me up off
the floor he continues to indulge me,
bringing me further inside Chabott.
As we move through the workshop
Shinya is reserved. He carries him-
self in a centered and peaceful way,
his every move and action reflects
years of wisdom. His modesty, though,
as it pertains to these works of art
in motion, is something that I have
never experienced when talking with
another custom motorcycle builder.
The reason for this becomes evident
in our conversations as the day and
Ayu, Shinyas devout partner and
other half of the Chabott legacy,
comes into view from the office and
shakes my hand with a soft, yet con-
trolling grip and flaunts a smile that
could sway even the meanest judges
of American Idol. She welcomes me
and immediately joins Shinya in this
fun new game of watching me fumble
and try to keep my wits. Its a good
time. Im sure of it.
We make a full pass of the bot-
tom floor in the shop. Antique weld-
ers, buffers the size of small Volk-
swagens and a barrage of hand
tools inside individually labeled
drawers make up only a small por-
tion of the armament Shinya uses to
produce his creations. Interestingly,
I begin to realize that his tools, the
machines, the shop itself all of the
elements of his surroundings have
an inherent beauty
I spent the majority of the afternoon trying not
to get in Shinya or Ayus way as they both went
about their duties. Ayu noted she is constantly
working on translating the details behind Shin-
yas works from Dutch (and a handful of other
obscure languages) to Japanese and back. He
gets a huge amount of international interest. Some
people cannot even register the bikes on the road
when they get them, but that doesnt stop them.
They just want his bikes.
As they shouldCreating hand crafted, bor-
derline fanatically ornate details, Shinya lever-
ages his years of experience from running one
of the most successful custom shops in Japan.
He melds steel, aluminum and brass in a way that
completely balances form and function like no
other and the result is simply awe inspiring.
I pass by Spike, the infamous 1946 Knuckle powered Harley Davidson no-frills speed bike Shinya has been seen piloting to the-ton countless times at both El Mirage and Bonneville. I stop for a moment and with a quiet murmur I note to myself, as if I needed to, Ill be back for you later. I told you, this line of work isnt meant for every man.
You could spend countless hours circling one of his
pieces only to find five more things you did not notice
the first twenty five times you went around it. Subtle yet
pronounced, like he himself, Shinya Kimuras creations
are Silent Warriors forged from years of passion, patience
and perseverance waging a war on time. He truly is one of
the last of his kind.
With a tired shutter finger and an even more exhausted mind I make my way up the stairs into the loft where at the back
I find Needle, a 1957 Triumph - another one of Shinyas built for speed creations. The lines are low slung and raw. The
raked front end, brass work and creative use of space to house vital fluids provides for an extremely poignant presence.
I would imagine it takes over the road (or salt) with the greatest of ease and commands anything else within proxim-
ity. That is, of course, with Shinya calling the shots. Let us not forget that this man lives for feeling the wind against
his leathers and stops at nothing to attain that visceral experience time and time again.
Towards the front of the loft,
no taller than my thigh sits Excel-
sior, a 1914 Excelsior twin cylin-
der. Steam-punk meets salt-racer;
Excelsior makes contact with the
ground care of new old stock 1920
Olympic tires Shinya handpicked
from Japan. The engine detail, the
ornate fuel tank work and the Moto
Guzzi damper take you backIt
is evident that Shinya builds his
motorcycles to be pushed to the
edge both aesthetically and me-
chanically, the traces of dust and
salt left behind from past exploits
After a quiet dinner we make our
way back to the workshop in Ayus
Plymouth Duster. Shinya sits in the
back with his arms crossed on the
seat back behind Ayu, and we dis-
cuss everything from our favorite authors and movies to why Facebook will be the demise of future generations. Relish-
ing in each others favorites Shinya gathers a big smile when Ayu mentions Grand Prix and he replies with a strategic
Gumball as I smile in return. The mood is relaxed now. We have had a chance to get to know one another a little more,
and the tension I created in my own head no longer exists. We are left with a common bond; the love of the art found
Back at Chabott we move past all the old souls back to the nook. Ayu disappears into another recess in the shop
I have not yet explored and comes back with a smile and small sake glasses. We toast to friendship and spend the
night talking about Shinya and Ayus desires for the future.
Through Chabott Engineering Shinya and Ayu work as a team, carefully creating some of the highest quality
functional art I have ever had the fortune to see. They produce two, maybe three bikes per year and truly do nothing
but live and breathe their passion.
When I asked Shinya what is currently on the plate he pointed to the 1974 Moto Guzzi sitting on his main operating
table. A completely custom aluminum tank, fairing and seat are only the beginning of what will undoubtedly shape
up to be yet another timeless creation. I am surrounded by authenticity...
We talked a great deal about racing. Its no
surprise that Shinyas obsession with speed
led him to follow and collect a multitude of
racing magazines, rare printed books and
works of art as it pertains to the industry.
He shared with me some of his most rare
printings and we both looked upon the
pages together, he on one side of the
bench and I on the other gasping and
pointing and trading facts. Truly a connois-
seur, he has an intense appreciation for the
mechanics it requires to move a man on
this earth. The old way that iswith petrol
I asked him at one point, If you could meet