25 March 2016

Seeing Red In The Gray Before The Neon: 1983 Miyata 310

You know the '80's were, like, totally, about big hair and leg warmers.  Yeah, totally.  And neon.  Neon, totally.  The '80's were just awesome!

All right.  I didn't talk like that in the '80's.  Even though I was, like, young enough.  

That is the '80's everybody seems to remember.  Or, at least, that's the stereotype of the decade.  You had to love it, though.  In what other decade could The Cosby Show and Miami Vice have made their debuts during the same week?

Those '80's really began, I think, around 1984.  Before then, during the early part of the decade, the '70's were hanging on:  Men were wearing ridiculous moustaches and even more ridiculous sport coats and ties, and young women could be seen in butterscotch-colored leather jackets and boots.  But leisure suits were gone--thankfully!--along with men getting perms.  

And--something else for which I'm thankful--some very, very tasteful and functional bikes were being made.  In 1983, while I was working at Highland Park Cyclery (before I embarked on life as a New York City messenger), it seemed that every bike manufacturer--at least the ones whose bikes I assembled and we sold--offered at least one model in charcoal gray with red highlights--whether the decals or transfers, head tube, seat tube panels or bands, or some combination thereof.  The red really was a highlight:  It accented the understated nature of the gray finish rather than called attention to itself, as the red-white-and-black blocks and and bands on every other new bike sold today seem to do.

That year, I assembled bikes from Panasonic, Motobecane, Trek, Miyata, Peugeot and Ross--the latter's "Signature" series as well as their cheaper bikes.  I saw red and gray in every one of those brands' gray bikes.  But I didn't get tired of it:  Those bikes all seemed tastefully finished, especially this one:

The 1983 Miyata 310 was--is-- a very nice bike.  I think they, along with Panasonic, made some of the best mass-market bikes I've ever seen.  Their lugwork was on par with all but the small builders.  Their component choices always seemed to be made with function and value in mind:  lower- and mid-priced alloy parts from Shimano, SunTour, Dia Compe, Sugino, KKT, MKS and the like.  And, of course, SR Laprade seatposts.

It seemed that every bike and component maker had a product or line called "signature".  I know, it was a marketing gimmick, but it was pretty inoffensive, I think, compared to some that I've seen since.

Shmano made derailleurs with the "arrow" you see.  This version, as far as I know, was made only for the Miyata 310 and a couple of other manufacturers' models:  The derailleur was usually finished in silver and the arrow was gold-toned.  Shimano didn't call them "arrow"; they just had some boring numerical designation.  Nobody--not even the Shimano sales rep who came to our shop--seemed to know what, if anything, the arrow meant.

Sarcasm aside, seeing the bike reminded me--in good ways--of what bikes used to be:  nice lugged frames and components that had real functionality.  Today you have to go to small builders like Mercian or Royal H to get new bikes like them.

I wish that Miyata weren't locked up behind a fence:  I would've liked to have taken better photos.  I hope that I still managed to give you a taste of what people could buy off a showroom floor in the moment before reason and taste vacated much of the bike industry.

Note: There's one thing I don't like about the 310:  the shift levers.  But they're forgivable on a bike that has so much else going for it!


  1. Charcoal gray was all the rage in the early 80s, wasn't it? The neon and Miami vice colors ( like pink and turquoise) were definitlely 85 and later. I agree that Miyata had some real nice workmanship at the time. In fact, they built bikes for a lot of other brands too, including Univega, and even some of Specialized's bike models.

    I'm curious what you don't like about those shift levers. I know I'm not crazy about those top- mounted levers, but my objection is that they never really caught on, so when you encounter them today, they pose certain compatibility issues. Suntour had some that automatically adjusted the front derailleur when one shifted the rear. Some loved it, others hated it.

  2. Brooks--My objection to the shift levers is the same as yours. I never had top-mounted shifters on any of my own bikes and never rode the shifters for any length of time. So I don't have any real objection to them per se: I just worry about having to fix or replace them. Same with SunTour's synchronized shifters. They seemed good on the workstand, but I never rode them for any amount of time.

    The 16th of September, 1984: That was when the end of the world as we knew it (Well, at least the world of charcoal-gray bikes) ended. That, of course, was the day "Miami Vice" made its debut.

  3. Hi Justine, thanks for sharing the post. A 310 in the same color scheme just came into my possession. The drivetrain and headset are original, but not the other component. It's a beautiful frameset. I can't wait to built it up - thinking more of a light touring set up. - Charles

  4. Charles--I think your 310 would make a great light touring bike, or a bike for day trips. You are lucky to acquire the bike.