Das Highlight meines Besuches auf den BMW Motorrad Days sollte das Gespräch mit Ola Stenegärd, dem Chefdesigner bei BMW Motorrad werden. Im Vorfeld war ich davon ausgegangen, daß mehrere Leute gemeinsam ein Gespräch mit Ola führen würden. Umso größer die Überraschung, daß ich alleine mit Ola im Pressezelt saß und wir eine halbe Stunde Zeit zum quatschen hatten.

Ola Stenegärd und icke

Zu Beginn erstmal ein Kompliment: ich finde es sehr bemerkenswert, welche Entwicklung BMW Motorad im Design in den letzten Jahren gemacht hat. Concept 90, R nineT und Concept Roadster verändern aus meiner Sicht die tradierte BMW Welt. Wie ist der Spagat zwischen einem komfortorientierten, gut-situiertem K1600 GLT-Fahrer und einem performanceorientierten Streetfighter-Piloten, der sich von der Concept Roadster angesprochen fühlt? Ist das miteinander vereinbar unter dem Dach einer Marke oder wollt ihr bewusst Kontrapunkte setzen?

Als wir uns entschieden haben – actually, we do this in english? It is so much easier for me!
We really think in segments, that is the first important answer. Of course you have a DNA that runs through all the bikes. But each segment, a lot of segments have their own rules and their own codes and you really have to honor those to succeed in these segments. When we went in with the S1000 RR we really looked at what the segment needs or the bike needs in order to be accepted and successful. You’ve got to find those rules and you’ve got to play with them. But you have to do it in your own way to stay unique in that segment. With the S 1000 RR a big issue was the symmetry, but every aspect of it was function driven. And that is a typical way of BMW thinking. We want to push innovation as one of our cornerstones. And one aspect of that was for example the headlights on the S 1000RR, the asymmetrical headlights came from saving weight. You don’t need two big reflectors, you need a big one for the half beam, but for the high beam you just need a small one. By doing so we saved over 300 grams on the bike. Same thing with the asymetrical fairings: the fan is only on one side, you only need to shoot out the hot air on one side. And some of those features you also can find on the GS, for example the asymmetrical headlight that came for the same reason. So there you have the bridge that archs back between the bikes. But apart from that the GS is a complete different bike. A lot of GS riders don’t know that there is an RR and the other way round! And that is ok, the segments can be totally separated. And if you look at our bikes – even if you take the badge off – it can’t really be another bike, it can only be a BMW.

From you personal background, you knew how to weld before you went to school…

… (lacht) Me? Yeah, crazy father!

… or looking at the guys from your team like Sylvain Berneron or even Sébastien Lorentz from BMW France, who – as a marketing guy – puts together this incredible „Sprintbeemer“, how important is it to understand the mechanics of a bike as a designer?

It is everything! The guys that I have in my team are very very motorcycle-affluent, all of them work in bikes. And they all ride motorcycles, that goes without saying. And when I look for new people, new designers, I really look for that kind of people. If you don’t have an understanding how to ride a bike or how a bike works it’s almost impossible to design a motorcycle – in my personal opinion. If you work on the motor, the design has to be a shrinkwrap of what goes inside. And if you don’t know what is going on inside, it turns into pure styling. I think it is important to see the components of the engine, here is the crankshaft, here is the Lichtmaschine, you can still make a functional design around it, and make it visible what happens inside. And it is equally important to know how to ride a bike. My designer that works on the S 1000 RR is a racetrack guy, though and through. You don’t have to explain things to him. For me, this is a fundamental part of being a motorcycle designer in my team. Maybe I am a little extreme, but I built a bunch of bikes myself and it is what I learned from my experiences: a good bike designer knows how to work on bikes.

In that aspect, do you think that designing a motorcycle is harder than designing a car?

I wouldn’t say much harder, I worked a quick stint in the car industry before I got into the bikes and we also worked very close with the car designers, it is open doors between the studios. Designing a car is much more like designing a suit over a body, but you also have the whole interior which is super-complicated. They have completely different parameters that they have to work with, for example all the safety issues. When I see all the regulations and then see the result they produce I cannot believe they can get such a beautiful car out of it. So I think it is just different areas but the effort that goes into it is probably just the same. On a bike you’ve got to do everything from nuts and bolts to fenders and bodywork.

What I thought was striking about the Concept Roadster was the attention to details. Especially the exhaust that double-served as a spoiler, when design and function really comes together. Is it frustrating for a designer, when such ideas or a whole concept bike never see the light of production? Or is it just part of the game?

No, it is definitely not frustrating and it is also part of the game. It is two aspects: on one hand a designer can not only work on production vehicles. The production vehicle – if you compare it to football – that’s the game day. But you need to do the practice as well to keep you going and find new tactics and maybe find new ways to score. And the concept vehicle is the practice, this is where you can really try new things out. A good concept bike – in my opinion – will inspire the production bike. It let’s you think independently of production, of money and time constraints. And let’s you come up with an idea like the integrated spoiler exhaust. There have been similar ideas but none that completely integrated a motor spoiler and the engine cover into the exhaust. For us and all of the industry, one thing that we have to deal with in the future are regulations like the exhaust volume. It is getting bigger and bigger and you just can’t mount a 10 liter exhaust to the side of the bike. To propose such a motor spoiler into production would take years. But to propose it on a concept bike can also inspire the engineers. When you get that spirit in the team, that’s when you really can push mountains. And that is why the concept bikes are so important to us. For me it has never been frustrating, it is practice but also an opportunity to put things out there.

Let’s get to the R nineT, the idea behind the bike was relatively new to the motorcycle industry. You put a bike in the market that could be bought and driven as is, but you encouraged everybody from the beginning to play around with it and customize it. I think we saw very different versions of the nineT as of now, did you expect an output like that? Did you see things on the custom bikes that made you think „Hey, I didn’t expect that!“?

When we started the project we thought that it would be so cool before the bike hits the street to have a couple of really good customisers – preferrably that have some experience with BMW – and to give them a bike with no constraints, no rules and let them do their thing. In the end it is like a concept bike to us, it is inspiration. Some things are just completely unexpected. You also see how customisers deal with bikes. When you give it to someone on the outside, it gives you new feedback on the original bike, new ideas and inspiration. Looking at the „Soulfuel“-Customisers, on the one hand this crazy variety is what we wanted, but still it is so far beyond out expectations, the ways they went. When I see the bikes now and their different characters it is the coolest thing ever.

The bike that the UCC guys did, you can see that they are chopper guys with the extensive us of chrome…

… yeah, you can see where they are coming from. UCC is a company with 20+ years of experience, they put that thing out in five week, which is crazy! They know what to do, they start with the proportion, then they get into the surface, then they do the details. No shortcuts, the craftsmanship is exclusive.
Also the japanese guys that are working on their bikes at the moment…

I haven’t seen the results, are they finished yet?

One bike has just leaked – the Bratstyle one – and the three other bikes will be unveiled at the end of july. Up to now it has only been bits and pieces on the internet. What they are doing ist just throught the roof, it is crazy!

I can believe that, the japanese motorcycle culture is just so different…

Everything we do here the last 5 or 10 years or so they have been doing for the last 25 years. And we are like „Oh, this is the coolest thing in Europe!“ and they are like „We did this 15 years ago!“. I was telling some guys about the japanese customisers and mentioned, that Bratstyle is building a bike: „Oh, you are building a bike in brat style?“ „No, Bratstyle is building a bike!“ „There is a company called Bratstyle?“ „Yeah, that’s the company that invented brat style.“

What UCC did is just turning up the volume of the original bike, whereas El Solitario built this apocalyptic thing, i just love it. When you get that dynamic in there, that self-momentum, to see that happening ist the coolest thing ever.

One thing I find remarkable about BMW Motorrad is the way you introduced the Concept 90. Others would have introduced it at a fancy press event, but you took it to Wheels & Waves and raced the shit out of it. Or give the R nineT to some customisers and let them play around with it. In my opinion a very honest approach to the custom scene!

All the concept bikes we did before were static bikes. They were great exercises to work on, but something was always missing, because it is a static bike. When we had the idea for the Concept 90 we both agreed that this time it had to be a runner. We wanted Roland to build it an he just couldn’t build a non-running machine. This doesn’t even exist for him, when he builds a bike it has to be a runner. And Roland crashed it on the race track, on the shakedown run in the movie. But that is when the design comes to life, with a rider on it and Roland really thrashed it. He rode hard, and that is when it all comes together. Same thing with David (Borras) at The One Show, making huge burnouts. The bikes come to life!

One striking detail about the Concept Roadster was the LED headlights, maybe not something that is production-ready now, but maybe will be in the future and give designers new possibilities to shape the front end of a bike.

We are playing around a lot with the daytime running lights right now. For example on the GS you have what we call the paperclip, the U-shape. That is a really strong graphic. On the concept roadster, this could the DRL-graphic. Even if you play around with this on concept bikes there are always possibilities this could end up on a production bike. It’s the same with the taillight graphics.

Especially the DRL of the GS became a trademark…

… that was what I was hoping for.

Recently I was on tour with a friend riding a 1200 GS, I was the front-runner and I had to check in the mirror from time to time if he was still there. Even in the darkest forest, the U-shape was always visible and I knew, that he was there behind me on his GS.

And that is exactly what we want. You don’t always know if it is going to catch on. Same thing goes for the GTL with the angel eyes. There is no other touring bike that has that. Before anything else, you see those angel eyes in your rear view mirror. Those graphics are really important you can really play with that.

Ola, thank you very much for your time!

Und wer jetzt noch nicht genug hat von Motorrad-Design, dem sei dieses Interview in der BIKEEXIF empfohlen. Unter anderem auch mit Ola Stenegärd.