Hiroshi Uehara is a key player in the Japanese flatland scene. He ist not only owner of the 430 brand but also supports young riders and makes the BMX flatland sport more accessible for a broader public in Japan. Read Hiroshi’s interview by Aaron Nardi and learn more about the Japanese style!
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Great interview with York Uno from FlatWebTV.
“Legendary Japanese Flatlander York Uno sat down for a rare interview with FlatWebTV’s Anthony at the end of 2012 to talk about everything from his riding, to his work at Ares Bikes to his dedication to mentoring the next generation of Japanese flatlanders. Kick back and enjoy!”
Hiroya Morizaki aka Hiro, is a japanese flatland-ninja, well known for his whip tricks and technical riding style. After 18 years of riding he still competes and wins. His hunger for flatland and progression didn’t stop. Flatland became a part of him. Read what he has to say about style, the european flatland scene and contests.
The interview was planed for a long time, but I was very busy the last few month, so it took me some time to finish it. This is the second interview in a series of ARESBYKES riders interview. I’ll try to finish the next one quicker. Enjoy!
Hit the link for the french version: www.artbmxmagazine.com!
Translation: Aaron Gratton
Hiro website: www.hiroyamorizaki.com
1. Give us some basic background information about yourself (age, years of riding, hometown)
Born 01/04/1978 (Age 34)
Riding 18 years
Born in Tokushima, currently residing in Tokyo.
2. How did you get involved into flatland? What gave you the motivation to start riding flatland?
I first saw BMX in a commercial on TV, which is what got me interested.
3. What does flatland riding mean to you? How often do you ride and what inspires and motivates you to keep on riding?
To me, BMX is a lifestyle. I like to practice about two hours a day when I have the time.
It’s such a part of me that I wouldn’t dream of quitting, but a lot of my motivation comes from new ideas I get from going to contests and other events.
4. How does a normal day in your life look like? What is your job at Aresbykes?
A normal day for me includes practice, doing shows at events, school, contests, and TV and magazine appearances. At ARES, I do company promotions and design testing for frames and other parts.
5. How do you see the development of flatland over the last few years, and how do you see its future?
I think nowadays, there are a lot more riders focused on style. I see a lot of development going on in air tricks. It’s moving closer to being perfected as a style.
I believe it’s going to be a lot harder to develop new types of riding. I think we’re going to see a lot more riders take existing tricks and fit them into their own individual styles. But, personally, I’d really like to see a rider come out with a totally new type of riding, someone who can influence other riders.
Aside from tricks, there are a lot of cool things going on in the flatland scene, which I think has a huge effect on how the culture and fashion is viewed.
6. Are you following what is happening in the European flatland scene? If so, what do you think about it? Any favorite riders in Europe?
Europe puts out a lot of great riders, but it seems to me that only the top pros ever make it out of Europe to compete. We need to challenge more expert-level riders to travel and compete in places outside of Europe. An increased level of awareness in each rider would be a pretty big factor in the evolution of the flatland scene and its culture.
7. How do you see the influence of the internet on flatland?
I think that instant access to information has really hastened the evolution of BMX. Now, since you can buy goods online and watch contests live on USTREAM pretty easily, it means fewer people are supporting the scene by turning up at events. Back in the day, people would come to support the riders they saw in videos, and I think they had a lot of respect for the top riders.
I think the bonds between riders have become a lot more virtual than they used to be. With the convenience of the internet, finding good places to ride, yourself and your bike, and the people you ride with seems to be the reality of the scene.
8. If you ask a flatland rider in Europe about the country he would like to visit, 90% will answer “Japan”. Any favorite country you would like to visit in Europe?
I’d like to go to any country I haven’t been to yet. I’d really like to visit Spain, Switzerland, England, or Italy.
9. A bit more than a year ago, Japan was hit by a terrible disaster. In how far has your life changed since then? How is the situation now? There’s not much news here any more about it.
There were a lot fewer events in the wake of the disaster. People are a lot more conscious about conserving energy now.
10. You are 34 years old now. Is it harder to learn new tricks when you get older, or do you even learn faster because of your riding experience?
I’m always trying new things, so I’m not sure if my age is having an effect on the time it takes me to learn. But I am feeling it in my body. I have chronic pain in my elbow and other injuries that won’t heal, and it takes me longer to recover from runs.
11. What is the story behind your elbow injury?
I started doing whip tricks in 1999, and at the time I was doing stuff like hitchhikers back to whips, and half whips into McCircles during a 180 (a trick Matthias does now). After about three years of that, I started to feel something off in my elbow. I went to an orthopedic clinic, but it didn’t get better. I ended up getting a CT scan at a sports physician’s office and was diagnosed with Little League/tennis elbow. There’ve been a lot of side effects from the operation that have been hard to recover from, so I have no choice but to work with that.
12. How important is progression and style to you? What do you think about trends?
Progress is a necessity, but it needs to be progress in terms of style. Trends and such are important, but it gets boring when people just start doing the same thing. Leave it to the judges and you’ll see that the yawns come out when the riders all follow the same trend. There needs to be a demand in riding beyond just what’s trendy.
13. How important are contests to you? What about international contests? Any plans to come to Europe this year?
Right now contests are very important to me. I want to do everything I can do while I still ride, which is why I have to do what I can. Continually appearing in contests does take a toll though, and since I don’t take vacations I can really only make progress during the off-season. This year, I plan on going to the final match of the World Circuit in Berlin.
14. Your signature frame model “Garuda” disappeared from the market this year. Aresbykes launched a new model called “Aplus” frame with straight tubes. Who was involved in the development? What is the idea behind this short frame?
The Aplus frame was made to spread the word about the completion of the Aplus line. I oversaw the design of the Aplus frame, so the Garuda is coming off the market this year.
15. The name “Aplus” appears now more and more in your product names. Is it just a new name/line for marketing or is there a story behind it?
ARES + A = new and improved ARES products
You take the A from ARES and add a plus and you get Aplus.
16. Why did Aresbykes stop the Superb** project?
So that everybody at ARESBYKES could come together. We wanted to consolidate our product like with forks, handlebars, etc. of a similar design so we wouldn’t be taking our chances with multiple products.
17. Tell us more about the Aresbykes flatland school. From the footage on the internet, it seems that this project is growing. How much time do you invest in the flatland school (classes, organisation)? What is the average number of students in the flatland school? How many classes in how many different cities does Aresbykes provide?
The ARESBYKES BMX School has some ideas I’ve planned personally. We’re looking at appearances from riders like Yoshihiro Shinde and York Uno, as well as various offers from shops. Most classes are divided into three parts, mostly by which tricks you want to learn. On average, we have about 30 students in each class and we offer classes in Kyoto, Osaka, Aichi, Chiba, and Ishikawa.
Of course, we want riders to improve their riding skills. We also want to encourage everybody from children to adults, and especially new riders, to have fun on common ground.
18. Is the “Hiroo BMX school” another project?
I run the Hiroo BMX School myself. I took the name from Hiroo, where I live. It looks like my own name when you type it out in the Roman alphabet.
19. Any recommendations for beginners?
Have more fun than anybody else, travel, and go for the girls.
20. Where do you see yourself in the world of flatland in the future? Any specific plans for the future?
The flatland scene could get better, stay the same, or just disappear. It all depends on how aware people are of flatland riding. The scene getting better would mean that riders would have to keep trying to do what they can do. When it comes to riding, playing, contests, school, events, art, the internet, and media, it seems like there’s a bigger plan, or at least a lot more we can do like this.
21. Last words, any thanx?
Hiroya Morizaki talking about the development of the Arestic A-Class soft tire. Interviewer is Hiroshi Uehara, owner of the Decade shops in Japan. Hit the link for the original talk in japanese: http://www.decadeshop.com/talk/
We sat down to interview world-famous BMX rider Hiroya Morizaki, winner of King of Ground 2001 and Japan’s first world champion, about his self-developed A-Class Tire.
DECADE: To start off, what’s the story behind your development of the A-Class Tire?
Morizaki: The story? Well at that time (around 2004) there was really no tire around that I felt was right for me, so when FFC (my current sponsor) came to me and asked if I could make a tire for them I just kind of went with it and it started from there.
DECADE: Did you already have an idea of the sort of tire you wanted to make at the time?
Morizaki: I did. I wanted to make a tire that was ready to go as soon as I put it on. To put it more clearly, I wanted a tire with good grip that could also get good speed. At the time I started thinking of making a tire, the flatland scene was at a pretty big turning point from a riding style that incorporated lots of scuffing tricks to spins and turbines, tricks that use the pegs and really didn’t require a lot of scuffing. I was the first one to really pick up the scuffless riding style, but at that time there were still a lot of riders using scuffing and so the tires on the market at the time were made for scuffing; there weren’t any for scuffless tricks.
DECADE: I see. So you’re saying the A-Class tire is made for the scuffless riding style that’s more popular today?
Morizaki: That’s right. Of course that’s not to say you can’t do scuffing tricks, but that the A-Class Tire has the perfect balance that’s needed to perform both scuffing and scuffless tricks. Usually, a tire that’s made for scuffing has deep knurling and block patterning so they can provide good grip like you see in PRIMO’s Wall and Eighty-Eight’s F.O.U.R. Tire, but the blocks are so thick that even if you pump a lot of air into the tire they’re not really good for speed. On the other hand, if the knurling isn’t thick if enough you’re going to slide ‘cause you don’t have enough grip. That’s what I was thinking when I came up with the pattern on the A-Class. The knurling isn’t so thick so you can perform scuffless tricks with it, but I also made the pattern with lines on the side so you won’t slide around if you do want to scuff.
DECADE: So it’s a racing tire that’s also easy to scuff with. Sounds like you’ve made the perfect tire.
Morizaki: I’d say so. I’m confident that of all the tires coming out for flatland biking, this one’s the best. The extra special thing about this one is that it’s ready to go as soon as you put it on. After making the tire I was able to fine tune it for competition. The older tires I was talking about earlier would need about one month of practice before they were in their best condition. Around the time I was making the A-Class flatland hadn’t been dropped from the X-Games yet, so I’ve had the chance to compete in lots of contests domestically and abroad. If I didn’t carefully count and practice with the tires I was going to use from the day I was scheduled to participate in the contest I wouldn’t be able bring them to the competition in their best condition. Plus there was always a chance the tires could bust if I rode on them for too long. It was the worst when it wasn’t just a small puncture and the tire actually split open. You just couldn’t ride on a fresh tire and it could be a huge hassle in competitions. The frustration is what made me want a tire that I could put on and ride with right away. F1 tires are where I got my inspiration. I took the best parts of the F1 tires at the time and applied those to the A-Class. It really is that high class of a tire. That’s why you can change the tire on the day of the competition and still ride it with no problem.
DECADE: It’s got speed and you can ride with it right away without slipping. It really doesn’t have any weak spots, does it?
Morizaki: I honestly know that it’s a great tire. That’s not just me being overconfident; I hear good things from lots of riders too. Even Chase Gouin, the god of flatland himself, contacted me saying “Your tire’s great! Mind if I use it?” Even if Chase is the signature model for a different brand of tires it’s really unbelievable for me as a rider that the tire he’s supporting a tire that I made.
DECADE: You’ve taken the demands of the time and used them to make a great tire. We hope it becomes a rider-favorite.
Check out the interview with Yoshihiro Shinde on flatmattersonline.com (interview by Effraim).
Here is the interview with York Uno, japanese flatland pioneer and founder of ARESBYKES.
Back in 1998 York traveled to the US and was the first japanese flatland rider winning an international pro flatland contest. After this success he decided to start his own BMX brand, ARESBYKES.
Nowadays he is one of the most famous flatland riders in the world and still in business.
After 18 years of riding, he’s still searching for symbolic and original forms of riding.
Read what he has to say about flatland, ARESBYKES, music and the disasters in Japan.
This is the first interview in a series of interviews with riders from ARESBYKES.
Read the french version on agoride.com.
Give us some basic background information of yourself (age, years of riding, hometown)
My name is Yosuke Uno (York Uno). I was born 26th of May in 1975. I live Kanazawa. I have been riding BMX for 18 years.
How and when did you start riding flatland?
When I was in junior high school, I watched BMX on TV, and I fell in love with it. At that time it was hard to get a BMX bike, because there were only a few shops selling BMX. I made a big mistake and bought a MTB bike. After riding 2 years of MTB racing I finally bought a BMX freestyle bike. Around the age of 17, I decided to ride flatland seriously.
What means flatland riding to you? How often do you ride, what inspires and motivates you to keep riding?
Flatland is my lifestyle. I ride almost everyday, since 18 years. My motivation is the freedom I feel when I ride. When I spin, there is nothing in my mind, just the moment itself.
Only when I do shows or participate a contest I really focus on BMX riding as work.
What’s a normal day for you?
It’s different throughout the year. I have been working hard on internet marketing for the last 2 years. I update my blog and my facebook profile with my experiences frequently.
For myself it serves as a memo on what I have done and where I have been, for other people I hope it can help to read my experiences and maybe they can learn something out of it.
When I work at my office, I work from around noon until evening. In this time I coordinate the product schedule and organise my show schedule. Especially from spring to autumn it’s a very busy time, and it is difficult to organise my schedule.
How do you see the development of flatland in the last few years, and how do you see the future of flatland?
Before I started riding BMX, flatland was dominated by pogo tricks. When I started riding, scuff tricks were state of the art, nowadays turbine tricks are the new way of riding. We are currently moving towards an even more exciting, booming era of Flatland. Flatland in Japan is evolving, in a good way, with riders entering a new period of change that aims for a more distinctive riding style.This has the effect of narrowing down the riders who are able to survive in this period of change. I believe that this proves our current ability to make an accurate judgment as to which riders should stand out in this new era within the bountiful Flatland scene in Japan.
Do you follow the european flatland scene? If so, what do you think about it? Any favorite riders in europe?
There are many influences from Europe, like fashion, music or art I follow, it’s not only flatland I am interested in. I don’t have a favorite european rider. There are many good riders in europe, newschool and oldschool riders.
How do you see the influence of the internet on flatland?
With growing possibilities, we move away from reality. To compensate for this loss of reality, I think it would be great if one could use these new possibilities, such as the internet, to experience in a live transmission the real joy of riding. And of course, one could use other media channels such as TV and magazines.
If you ask a flatland rider in europe for the country he would like to visit, 90% will answer “Japan”. Any favorite country you would like to visit in Europe?
I would like to visit England and Switzerland, Italy and Czech republic. The reason is that I just have never been there.
We all heard about the horrible disaster in your country. In what way did that incidents change your life and your way of thinking?
Yes, it has changed a great deal. The earthquake disaster has made me realize that I am always living in a state of danger. It used to be that accidents and earthquakes only occurred on TV and films…
But now, I am living my life accepting that these events are part of my reality.
Bikes are driven by natural energy so I would like it to become more widespread. Bike culture is definitely more advanced in Europe than in Japan, so I feel that this is the right time for Japan to undergo a shift in mentality.
After riding 18 years of flatland, you still have a very contemporary riding style. How important is progression and style for you? What do you think about trends?
Musicians who create hits can gain plenty of fame and fortune with just one track…
But if it was me, I would feel that true progress is the ability to continue creating masterpieces that surpass those hits. My own personal challenge is to think of new symbolic, original forms and riding lines, and to always keep on trying.
The perception is that the current trend has taken flatland one step further to become an exciting biking genre. Riders possessing their own personal style always seek to improve it, regardless of the fashion at the time.
How important are contests to you? Do you still participate many contests?
I am planning to participate in contests taking into account how they fit in with my plans and schedules.
I tend not to think of a particular contest as important. But rather, I take the view that all contests are important as that is why they are being organized in the first place. I intend to participate in various contests regardless of their size, but in doing so I will be taking into account their timings, distances, estimated costs, etc.
How is it that the japanese flatland scene is so big? Is it still growing? How are you involved in supporting/encouraging young riders in Japan to ride flatland?
I think that the Flatland scene in Japan is larger than in other countries, but compared to just recently, it seems as if the flatland fever has actually gone down. To some extent, I believe that this is because Flatland riders around Japan are unable to envisage what should come next. By this I mean, for example, what happens after winning a contest, or after reaching a professional level. There are very few riders in rural areas of Japan who are able to head towards a specific direction, staying within the flatland scene but being outside of bike riding itself. Everything is just concentrated in Tokyo. Having a breakthrough or coming up with a new way to develop the flatland scene is something that is done locally by local people.
When and why did you have the idea to launch your own BMX brand?
In 1998, I started by imagining a future strategy whereby I would be the first Asian person to win an international contest.
As a rider, when do you reach your limits? There is no way of knowing. And so in order to compete in equal terms with the rest of the world, I decided that it was necessary to have a sponsor.
Compared to today, it was much more difficult for me to find a sponsor around that time, which naturally led me to the idea of creating my own brand. Mr. Sera, president of FFC (funfancy.jp), still continues to support my brand to this day. And thus, ARESBYKES was born, with me looking after product design and ensuring riders have a good product range to choose from, and Mr. Sera being in charge of financing, product sales and marketing.
Who is responsible for the design of ARESBYKES parts? Where do you produce them? What is the most important thing for you when you design a part?
Basically, the riders create new products. Market design and logo design is done by Mr. Masashi Nakamura.
My main focus when designing our products is to use the best qualities in the materials to achieve strength and lightness.
I design flatland products that allow Japanese people to control the bike easily without physical efforts, so they can perform well out in the world.
How are the other ARESBYKES riders involved in the daily business of ARESBYKES? Who is part owner of ARESBYKES or part of the business management?
Within ARES & Co, I am the person in charge of products and the management of the riders.
Overall management is done by Mr. Sera, and Masashi is in charge of the overall design.
Although, of course, there are many other people involved as well…
Other riders contact the managers as and when required. My role within ARESBYKES is to unify everyone in an environment where there is a tendency for people to do their own thing. And to this end, I can sometimes take an approach that could be considered rather determined.
This is because I have decided that ARESBYKES, a brand that I have created myself, will only finish when I have finished with the sport myself. Maybe it’s something like a samurai spirit? The beauty of the ARESBYKES brand is the Japanese way of thinking: “if I am going to lose, it will be on my own terms.”
Why do you make a difference between ARESBYKES and ARESTIC? What is the idea behind it?
Basically, ARESBYKES is for the body of the bike. ARESTIC represents the bike parts.
There is so much going on with ARESBYKES lately. Superb**, Folk city bike line, many new ARESBYKES stuff. What is planed next? What can we expect in the future from ARESBYKES?
There are only few flatland only bike brands in the BMX scene. ARESBYKES aimed to have the first success, and then proceeded to develop a new line straight afterwards. Everything until now, as well future projects, has been and will be a challenge for us. We can not to give you any more detailed information at the present time, but we are still in the process of working out our future strategy. Stay tuned!
Most of your edits include your own music. How important is music to you? How much time do you invest in music?
I heard that if you exceed 10,000 playbacks on YouTube then you get into copyright issues.
Because of this, I started creating my own music as much as possible.
With music, the amount of time spent listening is definitely longer than the amount of time spent creating it.
As I want to be influenced by a variety of genres, I always try to listen to a wide range of music.
Any recommendations for beginners?
If you enjoy riding flatland, don’t think, and just get on the bike. That’s the main thing. Once you become good at it, you will have plenty of time to think. The main thing I would like is for everyone to chill out and enjoy Flatland.
Last words, any thanx?
Thank you for the interview.
Interview by Adrian Badertscher