Miyata was founded by Eisuke Miyata (1840-1900), a bowyer and engineer from Tokyo who also made components for rickshaws. Eisuke’s second son, Eitarō, apprenticed in a local munitions facility and later earned a degree in mechanical engineering from Kyoto University. In 1874, Eisuke moved the family to Shiba and in 1881 opened Miyata Manufacturing in Kyōbashi, Tokyo. The factory produced guns for the Imperial Japanese Army including the Murata rifle, and knives for the Navy. In 1889, a foreigner visited Miyata to ask the gunmakers to repair his bicycle. The engineers repaired the bicycle, and the company began to repair bicycles as a side business.

In 1890, Miyata opened a new factory in Kikukawa, and the company was renamed Miyata Gun Works. Eitarō manufactured the first Miyata prototype bicycle in 1890, using rifle barrels produced at the factory. The early success of Miyata’s bicycles was boosted by a request in 1892 from crown prince Yoshihito (later Emperor Taishō) to build him a bicycle. Nonetheless, Miyata halted production of bicycles to focus exclusively on arms manufacture during the First Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95.

Japan changed its laws in 1900 to allow the import of foreign rifles, and the subsequent flooding of the market with cheap imports hurt Miyata’s business badly. Upon Eisuke’s death on 6 June, Eitarō converted the business entirely to bicycle manufacturing, producing bicycles under the Asahi and Pāson brands. Miyata’s entire production of Asahi bicycles was purchased by the Imperial Army until the end of the Russo-Japanese War in 1905.

Many say Miyata pioneered triple butting, and revolutionized frame building techniques. The first Miyatas were bolt-upright town bikes. 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.

Panasonic Corporation, for a period the manufacturer of National and Panasonic brand bicycles, was Miyata’s largest shareholder from 1959 until 2008, when it sold its remaining stake in Miyata.

Throughout the U.S. bike boom of the 1970s and into the 1980s, Miyata competed with American companies including Schwinn, Huffy, and Murray; European companies including Raleigh, Peugeot and Motobecane — as well as other nascent Japanese brands including Nishiki, Fuji, Bridgestone, Centurion, Lotus and Univega — whose bikes were manufactured by Miyata. Japanese-manufactured bikes succeeded in the U.S. market until currency fluctuations in the late 1980s made them less competitive, leading companies to source bicycles from Taiwan.

Late 1970s to mid-1980s Miyata bikes have high-quality Japanese lugged steel frames and Shimano or Suntour components.

Miyata models carried numeric names (e.g., Miyata 710). By the late 1970s Miyata began using the same names, writing out the numeric names (e.g., Miyata Seven Ten).

Generally,[citation needed] 90 and 100 series were sports/entry level bicycles. 200 and 600 series and the 1000 model were touring bicycles, with the level of bicycle increasing with first digit in the series. In general, a 200 series touring bicycle would be roughly equivalent to a 300 series competition/fitness bicycle in terms of component levels, frame materials and value. 300, 400, 500, 700, 900 series were mid-range competition/fitness bicycles — with the level of quality increasing with first digit in the series. The top line, pro series bicycles were named non-numerically (e.g., Team Miyata and Pro Miyata). 1000 series and X000 series bicycles, with the notable exception of the 1000 touring model, were competition/fitness models with non-ferrous frames.

Often (but not always) the last two digits of the model number indicated the number of available gears, e.g., 912 was a 9-series 12 speed and a 914 was a 9 series 14 speed.