120 years since a former gunsmith, Eisuke Miyata, built the first Miyata bicycle, this esteemed name in Japanese bicycle history is returning to its manufacturing roots, with a new project that promises to deliver catatonic doses of nostalgia to Baby Boomers and Gen X’ers.
Unlike modern-day bicycles, dimensions of another’s design did not inform fabrication of the first Miyata; it was built from proprietary tubing in the same factory where guns were made. The first Miyata’s were bolt-upright town bikes (which have lately become fashionable as inner-city café props). Over the decades, Miyata established a good foothold in the bicycle market, becoming contracted by multiple local brands to build their bicycles and ultimately attracting Panasonic Corporation to become a shareholder in 1959*.
By the late 1960’s, Miyata’s production favoured touring bikes, a precursor of the lightweight road bicycles it would later produce. [Of note, Miyata was also responsible for the first all-Japanese manufactured motorcycle. Sold under the ‘Asahi’ name from 1913, production was blunted by local preference for imported motorcycles and ceased after only four years. Miyata resumed production of its motorcycles again in 1935, on the back of swelled interest in motorcycle racing.]
Miyata, circa 1890
Non-Japanese cyclists, particularly those in Europe and America, would probably recognize the Miyata name from its long collaboration with Dutch bicycle brand, Koga. Koga’s founder, Andries Gaastra, envisioned bringing a range of lightweight bicycles to the Netherlands market, though he started modestly by building the first Koga at his home following the company’s commencement in 1974.
With a build-quality imperative that demanded the best components, Gaastra sought importation rights from Japanese manufacturer Shimano. After a trading relationship was formed, Koga would then be introduced to Shimano’s extensive network of peers, which included Miyata. Seeing the opportunity to source a quality frame at competitive pricing from Japan, Koga entered into a partnership with Miyata, which led to the first ‘Koga Miyata’ road bike in 1976.
A year later, Koga Miyata sponsored the Belgian ‘IJsboerke’ professional cycling team. This entry into professional cycling team sponsorship bore significant fruit when, in 1981, Dutch rider Peter Winnen, riding for the Koga Miyata-sponsored ‘Capri Sonne’ team won the 230km 17th stage of the Tour de France, from Morzine to L’Alpe d’Huez. According to Koga’s website:
“The winning bike used by Peter Winnen was delivered to L’Alpe d’Huez by Team Capri Sonne only on the morning of the stage. This special, even lighter version of the team bike had in fact only been finalised the day before, and was transported overnight to the Alpe d’Huez stage start personally by Koga assembler Aart Boer. Some of the riders decided on the spot to use this new team bike, and among them was Peter Winnen.”
At this stage, Japanese-made racing bikes were already highly regarded for their build quality – Specialized founder, Mike Sinyard, even sourced his company’s first ‘Allez’ road bike from Japan in 1979 – and Miyata enjoyed great success throughout the sustained touring and road cycling boom of the 1970’s and 1980’s – right up until the USD bombed and Japanese-made bikes became uncompetitive; a product of the nascent Taiwanese manufacturing era.
By 2000, Koga began extricating itself from the Koga-Miyata partnership, initially with exclusive ‘Koga’ branding in the premium road cycling segment. In a sense, the “Japanese-made” allure had well since worn off anyway: Koga Miyata frames had for years been made by a Taiwanese subsidiary of Miyata Japan. By 2010, Koga officially announced its complete separation from Miyata production and distribution infrastructure.
* the founder of Panasonic (nee ‘National’), Konosuke Matsushita, grew up in a family that owned a small bicycle store, and developed a passion for cycling and bicycles. Panasonic sold a 10% stake of Miyata to fire engine maker Morita Holdings in 2001, before fully divesting the remaining 90% to Morita in 2008. In a twist that I personally found interesting, and ironic, Taiwanese bicycle manufacturer, Merida, bought a 30% stake in Miyata in late 2010.
BACK TO THE BEGINNING
In November 2011, Miyata announced – with all the social media bells and whistles – it was returning to its halcyon days. Once again, Miyata would create lugged, triple-butted, steel road bicycles under it’s ‘Miyata Japon’ program. Adding dimension to the marketing hook, and proving value of sponsorship often goes beyond its initial scope, Winnen’s 1981 TdF stage victory lends the launch a mystique and historical gravitas more often associated with Italian brands – as do the words of Kazuhiro Tohyama, Miyata’s Chief Development Director.
Well, GQ seems to like the story – so far, so good.
November 2011: the Miyata booth nearing completion, prior to 2011 Cyclemode Tokyo -Japan’s biggest bicycle exhibition
At a product-based level, the concept targets affluent and dewy-eyed consumers: each Miyata frame, liveried in ‘Legend’ blue or ‘L’Alpe-d’Huez’ red/silver, is built to order with a turnaround of four months. Consumer orders are placed online, though display models will be available at select Tokyo dealers. Production was to commence this month out of Miyata’s Chigasaki factory, in Kanagawa Prefecture.
As reported by Japanese news source, ‘The Nikkei’, Miyata “anticipates growing demand for these bikes amid the growing focus on fitness and health in recent years” and “expects orders for 100 units in the first year.” In all seriousness, 100 units might be all the company can reasonably expect to sell, unless it expands the program internationally: complete bikes start at JPY439,000 (USD5,600), whilst framesets are priced at JPY339,000 (USD4,400).
Miyata Japon website
From my experience, beautifully built and fine frames. Perhaps we will see a resurection of the Koga Miyata link for European enthusiasts.
I have an 86′ Miyata and would not trade it for the world. Its the last year of the Japanese factory frames and handles like a dream. Keep your Alum and Carbon. Glad to see them getting back in the game!
I have a myiata 1000 LT since about 15 years. I would like to be informed because I am looking to buy a new one with the same characteristics. What shall I do?
I like to buy a new touring miyata like the old LT 1000. Where shall I go? Thank you.
Hi Michel, you could try contacting Miyata Japan directly – I’ve found them to be very helpful
That price is nuts! I have a bunch of bikes, a 1985 Miyata 710 is the choice most days.
Simon, I still have my 1985 Miyata 710, steel grey, gold headpost that I purchased brand new for $300. something dollars. Beautiful frame/lug work and it rides like a dream. If my daughter’s friend didn’ ride and crash it years ago, it would be almost pristine.
Id never sell it, quality of this level isn’t easy to come by now a days regardless of price. I’m not surprised that your ’85 710 is your ride of choice. Is 1985 considered a good year for this model?
For almost all Japanese bicycles, especially miyats, 1985 is the best year, in some cases, by far as compared to say1989. ZAC
I have a Miyata 1985 1/2 Roadrunner SE (all original, except for 1 tire and tubes). I have made inquiries (worldwide) and I think that this might be one of the very few, if not the only bike of its kind and condition in existence. I purchased this bike new in Hawaii and it still has its original Hawaii License sticker. I would consider parting with it for the right price. The posts are correct. The steel frame is an amazing ride. This bike is super-high end w/deer antler etc. This is the Japanese Model. From what I can gather only a handful of these model bikes were made. I was not able to inquire on the Japanese site, but I will continue to search for information from anyone / anywhere. No one anywhere seems to know much of anything in that regard. Another party thought that he might have this bike. It was in rough shape. There were differences too. My bike has a black label for starters. Interested parties might respond to this post and we can go from there.
Simon. I still have, and still ride my 1985 Miyata 710, steel grey frame, gold headpost, and understand why the 710 is “the choice” most days for you. Incredible frame/lug work and this bike rides like a dream and is very fast.
I bought mine new in 1985 for less than $400.00. I doubt that a bike for less than $1,000. could be purchased that approaches the workmanship that this Miyata has.
We are lucky to have them and enjoy them!
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My brother and I own (one each) the 1985 Team Aero, absolutely stunning, only ten of these gems were brought into the US market
Beautiful frame. If you don’t mind me asking, do you remember how much you paid? It would be really interesting to compare that with today’s new Miyata Japon frames.
As a price point of reference… my 1981 Miyata Pro cost $650. I recall that the 1982 models, that did have aero brake handles but no other big changes, were about $900. In 1981 the prices of eggs and gas was about 1/3 of what it is today….
I have been riding a well cared-for “Legend” blue Miyata Pro since I bought it in 1981. I love the way it rides! (and a few pounds of weight over a carbon bike just isn’t relevant for me). Woo-hoo – Miyayta returns.
It seems Miyata’s appearance in last weekend’s Cycle Mode exhibition has forum members excited, too. Thanks for dropping by!
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I suppose that we all have an interest in Miyata, and I have indulged that interest with three Miyatas: the 912, 1400a, and TI6000. The prices for the new Miyatas are steep, I will admit, but if Miyata can increase volume (without sacrificing quality) perhaps more of us will be able to afford them. Regardless, I look forward to the company’s revival and wonder if we can do anything to help market its products.
please i want to do business with this bicycle company
Need info on miyata 10 speed bike from 1972. Single M on neck. Earliest I can find is 1972.
I bought my Miyata in 1986. I love this bike. Have never had any problems. I am now looking to buy a new bike – lighter, faster – but keep going back to my old bike. Glad to hear they are coming back.
I have a Miyata Elevation 5000 aluminum bonded frame. My concern is if the stuff used to join the pipes have a long period of life. The serial number of My frame is: UX06342
I reached a temporary halt on this as I need to service (or replace) the headset. I then fell at home (don’t ask.. it involved a vacuum cleaner and a Jack Russell), have since convalesced. Will finish it ‘real soon now’ (IBM~70s).
Here are a few pics.
I have a Miyata 1985 1/2 SE Mountain bike in very good condition. I purchased it in Hawaii (new), and it still has the 1986 green Hawaii license sticker on the frame. If I lightly spin the front tire it will continue spinning for several minutes (this is an example of the quality of the bike throughout). I am curious to know if this bike is one of the better examples that has survived all these years. Every part of this bike is original except for the kickstand; moreover; I think that the tires may be original.
If you haven’t do so already, you might try to identify your bike on http://www.miyatacatalogs.com/. This is a collection of Miyata catalogs from about 1981 to 1994 and let everyone know which model you have. That should help others tell you what you want to know.
Hi Norm, thank-you for the suggestion, which might help most identify Miyata bikes; however, I learned that the 1985 1/2 Miyata Ridge Runner SE is not in the catalogue; nonetheless, a single picture of the bike can be found on Pinterest. How can I post multiple pictures of my bike?
What I learned from a store in Hawaii that has been around for over 100 years is that it is very rare, and quite possibly “one of a kind.” It is different than another bike posted said to be an SE. The Koga Miyata version of this bike sold for 1400 USD. My bike looks identical to the SE shown on Pinterest. However, one difference, this bike is the Miyata model, which was made in Japan. It is in excellent condition (better than good as previously mentioned). I have the deer antler Shimano everything and the rest of the bike is the same quality. I can spin the wheels lightly and they will continue spinning for several minutes. It is difficult to describe how smooth the ride is and how it shifts (perfectly) through its 18 gears. The front label is black not red as depicted on a bike suggested to be the 1985 1/2 SE model (sorry). This bike is original in every way, but I may have changed the rear tire (I am unsure). The owner of the Hawaii bike store confirmed it was a high end bike in every way, and suggested further that I pass it down to my kids. I am unable to explain how nice the ride is, but having owned a Ferrari and other high end vehicles, it is similar, but in bicycle terms. I recollect paying a hefty sum for this bike in 1985 (approximately 1k). It still bares the green Hawaii license decal. If I am wrong, and any one else owns this model please let me know, I really believe this is the only one in existence. I contacted Kogan Miyata in the Netherlands, thus far they failed to respond.
Ed ( or anybody)… I wonder if you can help me with info on a Miyata bike…..it is a ridgerunner SE but I can’t find any info on the net for the SE model, looked in catalogs and can only find a SE listed in 1990 but I know the original owner purchased it before then (he has moved away) and mine is grey but grey is not listed as a colour choice anywhere for the SE, where would I like for model/serial #’s to help identify year made? I know this will hurt but I know nothing about bikes it was given to me by the second owners family when he passed away. Thank you for any help
the average rider does not need a road racing bicycle. In fact the 210 and 610 of yesteryear are by far the best type of bicycle Sport Touring, for the average rider. Somewhere people got it all wrong and started riding racing bicycles around. They use Corvettes to go to the grocery store, when a minivan is ideal (210). But instead they ride 23c tires and think its a great ride…hahahha. More is less.
It’s going to be finish of mine day, but before end I am reading this fantastic paragraph to improve my knowledge.
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Hmmmm …….. Weld a couple steel tubes together and you have a product you can sell for $4,400usd? Wow, I am in the wrong business. Here I thought that the price for a quality carbon frame had at least a little to do with the process of manufacturing being a bit more involved.
I have a better idea. Look for a quality used bike or frame someone is selling and have it stripped, refinished, restored with a new groupo and keep the planet green without manufacturing needless enthusiast, look-a-likes from yesteryear that create manufacturing waste byproducts. We as a human race throw away for too many things that could be kept and restored ….. like ALL the Miyata bike that were ever made from 1985 or whatever you favorite year of choice is, most of which that probably ended up at a scrap yard.
I recondition older 10 speeds and have worked on bikes for over 50 years. Anytime a front wheel continues to spin, it means it is out of grease.