In Conversation with BMW Motorrad’s Chief Designer – Edgar Heinrich
AJD: Edgar you mentioned about certain plans for BMW Motorrad. Could you elaborate on the 5-6 different motorcycle families and what you feel is intrinsic to each family? Let’s talk adventure bikes first
EH: You have to understand how perception works. We have to get the proportion right and the proportion has a lot to do with the packaging. So this is most important. The next thing is like a form language. We think the former language of a GS bike has to be a little rough and tough, has to look indestructible. Once in a while this thing falls down off road it has to look like it doesn’t hurt itself, if it was too shiny or too polished; you don’t want to take it off road. This is our philosophy. Other guys do it different and that’s fair enough. On the other hand, super sport bikes or touring bikes may have this integrated flowing design language where you know one part goes into the other. If you come to ‘90s or heritage style, classic style, it’s again very different. Here the people do not want this integrated design. They want this, what I call additive design. Where the tank is a tank, seat is a seat, seat cowl is a seat cowl, and headlamp is a head lamp. And this has to do with of course it speaks a little bit from the past while you have these entities of course, not integrated. The approach is different in different segments. And of course there is one more thing if you talk about the 90’s. The 90’s was a lot about customization, individualisation, where people wanted to have their own thing. If you have a fully integrated look, they won’t be able to do that. Because then if you have integrated design, you release one part and the whole thing is kaput. If you have an additive design you can take one part out and put in another part in.
AJD: When you said that you wanted the GS 310 have a lineage link to the bigger GS, considering the bigger GS are all 1000cc, 1200 cc and this is 310cc, how could you manage the proportion as well as the muscle?
EH: It’s a good example, the 310. This is also the feedback we get from the market. People say it’s a real GS and basically what we did is look at the big GS and say ok what are the icons on this thing, what is the typical thing on a GS. First of all you have this typical horse neck design and it goes up front to the beak. And you have the colour split. This is very iconic for a GS. And of course additionally you have these separate things like the head lamps and the handles which are holding the headlamps, which are holding the screen; this is all in blacked out basically like on the big GS. So this is a very iconic design which completely speaks what is learnt from a GS over generations. The same with this anodised aluminium coloured side panel. There is this silver thing at the bottom, which is also an icon for the GSs’. You also find it on these bikes. So basically what we did is we took these design cues or these icons from the big GS and transferred it on the 310.
SC: Your experience in India, how much of it has been gone into the GS and what has gone into it from India?
EH: Good point! I think like I meant before, we are used to big. The 310 was really something we never did before, such a small bike. The Indian customer is looking for value for money. So this is something we learnt that you have to make the bike serious. It should be something he will be proud to own.
AJD: You have been at the forefront of setting the pace as far as sporty motorcycle design in India is concerned. So now do you think with this completely diff approach with the 310, will open another new design chapter in India which is a different avenue for motorcycling?
EH: I think this avenue is already there in India. I mean there are other companies who do a lot now. Bajaj is working heavily with the Dominar and KTM is working with Ducati, all these guys are there now. It will also be interesting what Enfield will crank out. I mean they brought their retro continental basically. If you look at Europe after the war how they developed motorbike design from a utility thing to a luxury thing and then to diversification to segmentation and sub segmentation and finally individualisation, this took from the ‘70s to now, like 40+ years. I think there will be a similar development in these emerging markets like India but it will not take 40 years, it will take only like 6 or less years. They are learning.
SC: Last question, what are the biggest challenges today in bike designing?
EH: Homologation is a challenge since norms are getting more difficult. Also, engineers and designers have the same goals but they have their restrictions also. This is always the problem.