Lowside, Shinya Kimura

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An intimate portrait of one of the most influential motorcycle builds of all time.


  • 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

    night ensue.

    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

    are proof.

    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

    in motorcycles.

    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

    and pistons.

    I asked him at one point, If you could meet

    anyone, dead