Interview – Shun Miyazawa
Shun Miyazawa is the Product Manager at Yamaha Europe and also the man behind Yamaha Yard Built. I had the pleasure of meeting Shun Miyazawa last year at the European launch of the XJR1300. Shun is a great guy and his passion for motorcycles is second to none. He also has one of the best jobs in the world…
When did you start riding motorcycles and what was your first bike?
At 18 years old I had my first bike – a 50cc Honda Shadow 50. When I turned 20, I got my first “real” motorbike, a Yamaha SR400, which then got transformed into rigid frame board tracker bike over the next 3 years.
What do you ride now? I’m guessing a Yamaha?
Yes, it’s Yamaha XV950 Bolt Yard Built special, personalized with some of the many available bolt-on parts from RSD, Wrenchmonkees, Matt Black, Kingston Customs and Bratstyle.
How did the Yard Built series come about?
Before the Yard Built project, I did something called the Hyper Modified project around the VMAX working with three of the world’s top builders. They were Roland Sands, Marcus Walz and Ludovic Lazareth, and it was started in 2010. Back then it was just three one-off show bikes built in order to inspire VMAX owners by showing them what they could do. After we showed the three bikes in 2011, I got a lot of request from owners wanting to buy the parts used in those projects.
That gave me the idea to start Yard Built. The goal was very clear; inspire Yamaha owners by showcasing stunning show bikes (in many case without hard modifications such as frame cutting and welding) and urge custom builders to offer the bolt-on parts used on the builds to consumers. We started the first collaboration with Wrenchmonkees on the XJR1300 in 2011. While our prime goal was to increase the custom parts availability around modern Yamaha bikes, our close relationship with custom builders also gave us a great additional effect; we started to listen more carefully to what they wanted from mass production bike like Yamahas. Put simply, they wanted easy customization.
Many of the Yard Built collaborators gave us key inputs into how we should be designing and engineering our bikes so that both normal consumers and pro builders could easily personalize them. The result of this is reflected in our recent bikes such as the XV950 Bolt, the new XJR1300 and the XSR700.
In our eyes, you probably have one of the best jobs in the world. What’s the best and worse parts?
Being the husband of my lovely wife and father of 2 children, toughest part of my job is lots of traveling. Yard Built projects involve talented builders from all over the world, so I have to visit them often to talk about bikes and ride together. It’s a great pleasure and something that truly relates to my personal roots and passions. But sometimes it’s very difficult to balance this with my family.
On the other hand, the best part is always the surprises. Of course you are buried deep in the process of building a new custom bike from day one, but every time I see the final bike’s design or ride brand new Yard Built bikes, often they are much more than I expected. This is the best part of my job I believe; I feel very lucky to be in this position.
You are based in Amsterdam. What’s the bike scene like there?
The new custom scene in Amsterdam is growing fast. There are many young builders such as Nubmnut MC and Nozem that are pushing the café racer scene here. Traditionally in the Netherlands we have great tuners and radical chopper builders as well, and a mix of new and old custom scenes that make the bike culture here very rich.
Do you have a favorite Yard Built bike?
I have emotional attachment to all the Yard Built projects, as I put my passion into each and every project. Choosing a favourite one is difficult. Not from a bike design or concept point of view, but from collaboration experience point of view. There are a few bikes which I will never forget; the very first Yard Built bike still remains one of the best – the “Monkeefist” by Wrenchmonkees. This is the machine that started everything. The B.S.R SR400 by Bratstyle and the “Faster Son” XSR700 by Shinya Kimura are special as well, since these two guys were heroes for me in my youth and they really influenced what I do today.
You travel the world riding and hanging out with bike builders. What’s the best road or location you have ever ridden?
Malaga in Spain. Just behind the Matt Black custom shop they have an almost endless, twisty mountain road, and so far it is my favourite. After the riding it you get to cruise down the street right next to the beach, showing off your personal ride and enjoying the Spanish tapas and wine!
The SR400 has been such a great bike and part of that success has been that it hasn’t really changed for 40 years. There’s so many parts available for them. Is Yamaha planning on making less drastic changes to new models as well?
Absolutely. We know our Sport Heritage bike community that’s evolved over the years together with our aftermarket suppliers (including our YB collaborators) well. They have all told me not to drastically change the production bikes, and to respect ‘eternal’ parts fitment. I guess I have to keep my promise.
There were rumours that Yamaha were planning on manufacturing the XS650 again. Is there any truth to this?
I guess the rumours were about the XSR700, which drew much inspiration from the XS650.
What else is Yamaha planning in the future?
There’s more bikes to come that follow our “Faster Sons” philosophy; respecting simplicity and the material beauty of historical Yamaha bikes. They will blend these core elements with the latest technology. The XSR700 is a first attempt.
Finally, can I have your job when you decide to leave Yamaha?
If you have the passion to support the custom bike scene and you are motivated to constantly offer stimulation and new ideas, then you are more than welcome to join our team!