I met Shinya and Ayu at last summer’s The Quail Motorcycle Gathering in Monterey. We talked briefly and I told them that I would love to see them in Azusa once I made my move to LA in a couple of months. We kept in touch and I went back to San Francisco to start packing for the move.
Seeing that Shinya and Ayu had successfully finished the Motorcycle Cannonball and were now back in Azusa I knew that the time had come for me to make my way to Chabott Engineering.
I had been waiting to see his shop/studio for years. I can’t remember the exact moment I first saw one of his creations, but I do remember the feeling. The same feeling I get when seeing an amazing piece of art for the fist time. I can describe motorcycling to a person in so many different ways. The shapes, sounds and vibrations that come from a motorcycle are what my senses gather to fuel my love for the two wheeled machine. But the emotions that Shinya evokes from his creations go beyond the sensory.
The night before my visit I sat and began my process of sketching one of his bikes. As alway, I started by choosing a favorite picture from my roll. That was the moment I understood what Shinya means when he says he builds without a plan. It is almost like he is sketching when he is building a bike. A spontaneous act that is deliberate but free and only provoked by emotion and imagination. This was exactly my thought when I was trying to mimic his lines on paper. A few hours later and a few pages crumpled on the floor, I was done and ready for my vist the next day.
Shinya and Ayu gave me a warm welcome to their shop. Shinya was busy working on a Bell helmet for the See See Motorcycles 21 Helmet Show when I arrived. Chabott Engineering is an amazing place. I was instantly drawn to his work spaces. The floor is lined with his motorcycles, each one as commanding as the next. At times, Shinya also does alot of art. His pieces are scattered around the shop like little guardians, surprising you at every corner.
Shinya gave me a tour of the place and we talked while I took pictures. I was surprised that he ended up asking me more questions than I had planned to ask him. I had a chance to ask him about his work process — where do you usually start? “Sometimes I start with the wheels. Then as usual I don’t have any idea how it’s going to go. I just start where I feel like.”
What about a dream bike? Is your dream bike one of yours or from someone else? He smiled and said, “I like them all! I can’t concentrate on one particular type of bike. I do love the bikes from the 70’s and 80’s…but it’s just too hard to choose.” I nodded. I feel the same way.
I wandered around the shop and took my last few shots before I prepared to leave. Shinya is always creating, always making something. I saw bits of creation everywhere. As humble and laid back as he was, I can’t help but respect and admire his discipline in perfecting his craft.
Before I left I asked him, why Azusa? “I have a great canyon here. I can ride everyday.”
Stupid question, I thought to myself.
I bid Shinya farewell, promising to return on two wheels my next visit. The following hour I spent driving home thinking of all the amazing people I’ve met since moving to LA. Shinya is definitely there at the top.
Thank you Shinya and Ayu for your hospitality. I hope to see you guys soon.