Bicycle Industry

MIYATA | Japanese road bicycle legend re-born

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).

More information

Miyata Japon website

Discussion

20 thoughts on “MIYATA | Japanese road bicycle legend re-born

  1. From my experience, beautifully built and fine frames. Perhaps we will see a resurection of the Koga Miyata link for European enthusiasts.

    Posted by Brian Wright | January 26, 2012, 22:53
    • 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!

      Posted by Just... A guy | February 14, 2012, 06:37
  2. 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?

    Posted by Michel Mercier | February 14, 2012, 10:08
  3. I like to buy a new touring miyata like the old LT 1000. Where shall I go? Thank you.

    Posted by Michel Mercier | February 14, 2012, 10:10
  4. My brother and I own (one each) the 1985 Team Aero, absolutely stunning, only ten of these gems were brought into the US market

    Posted by Yenski | April 16, 2012, 01:18
    • 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.

      Posted by cyclingiq | April 16, 2012, 08:37
      • 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….

        Posted by DennyH | March 26, 2013, 02:08
  5. That price is nuts! I have a bunch of bikes, a 1985 Miyata 710 is the choice most days.

    Posted by Simon White | August 26, 2012, 02:19
    • 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?

      Tom D’Antoni

      Brick, NJ

      Posted by Tom D'Antoni | August 14, 2013, 04:01
    • 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!

      Tom D’Antoni

      Brick, NJ

      Posted by 65strad | August 14, 2013, 04:08
  6. 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.

    Posted by DennisH | October 30, 2012, 16:15
  7. 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.

    Posted by Norm Landes | December 6, 2012, 23:49
  8. please i want to do business with this bicycle company

    Posted by zackaria | May 7, 2013, 06:44
  9. Need info on miyata 10 speed bike from 1972. Single M on neck. Earliest I can find is 1972.

    Posted by W. kelly | May 13, 2013, 22:57
  10. 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.

    Posted by Skeezicks | July 24, 2013, 19:24
  11. 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

    Posted by Alfredo Rabago | April 25, 2014, 13:32

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