Friday, February 15, 2013

Dale Han on motorcycle design: “We are in a transition period of both evolution and revolution...”

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Yes, that's Dale, and he has some interesting thoughts on motorcycle design...

Based in Alberta, Canada, Dale Han is a young motorcycle designer who’s done a bit of design work for companies like Suzuki and BRP and who’s now working as a freelancer. We saw some of his work on LinkedIn and Coroflot and found it interesting, so caught up with him for a quick chat. If you’re looking at getting into motorcycle design, or even if you just have a passing interest in motorcycle design, what Dale has to say might be interesting for you:

“In these tough times of recession, finding design work in the motorcycle industry has been difficult. What I’ve learned from this experience is that location, a wide variety of skills and interests both in and outside of motorcycles, networking, and exposure are all necessities in this business. Location is a tricky issue, getting a visa to work in a foreign country is a bit tough right now. Thank goodness for good friends and networking – sites like LinkedIn, Coroflot, and motorcycle forums are all helpful in getting exposure. Falling back on other skills like clay or CAD modelling can really help pay the bills when there isn't design work available.”

“I have always had a love for vintage bikes. Every era had something special to offer – British parallel twins from the 60s and Italian bikes from the 70s are some of my favourite bikes to draw inspiration from. Other notable bikes are the Bimota Tesi 1D, and I think this has got to be on everyone’s list the Britten V1000! My all-time favourites are the bikes from the machine age. There seemed to be a great deal of experimentation with frame and engine design as well as the packaging bikes from the 20s as well as bikes from the 30s to the 40s. The stark contrast between these periods has always intrigued me. There approach from innocence and naive exploration of form in the ‘Roaring 20s’ to this stark conservative mechanical function in the 30s is a lesson in how quickly the social mood and mentality can change.”

“I’m always amazed at what new gem from the past I will find every time I search out historical old bikes. What’s more remarkable is the innovation these bikes represented, a lot of these old ideas have been repackaged and re introduced as new concepts, monocoque frames, frameless, monocycles, and auto transmissions are all old ideas, and all of them have resurfaced in some form or other! I'm not sure why, perhaps the timing was off or the technology was just not there to support the reality! It seems to me that the public seems to be much more accepting of new technologies and concepts. Automatic transmissions is a good example of this; 35 years ago it was a failure but in recent times auto's and semi autos have been re-introduced and they appear to be here to stay. I’m glad to see that old ideas don't die they just resurface with gimmicky new names. I really do believe this is a positive thing! Just because an idea doesn’t fly today it may very well be the answer to a question in the future!”

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See more of Dale's work on Coroflot

“The present is a very interesting time to be living in. I believe we are in a transition period of both evolution and revolution. It’s a time of old world and new world existing simultaneously. We’ve had over a century of gas powered motorcycles giving way to a new breed of electric and hybrid motorcycles. I don't think petrol engines will be leaving anytime soon, but I do think that their impact will be lessened in the years to come. It's sad in many ways, I think all of us are fond of the combustion engine, but the possibilities that new power sources represent are exciting!”

“New materials and technology have changed the modern motorcycle; we will see the traditional bike evolve with these changes. LED lights and LCD screens have already influence the styling and I think that this is just the beginning. Riding is rapidly evolving. ABS, traction control, launch control, automatic transmissions and portable cameras, all have added, for better or worse, to the riding experience. I think we can only expect to see more and more of this. We will be introduced to a great deal of new technology much of which will fizzle out. I always get excited about new technology, inside and outside of motorcycling; things we are told will revolutionize our way of life. Much of this technology will inevitably fail, and resurface again maybe in another 20 years!”

“As designers we are always thinking of the future, the next ten years will be an interesting decade where we transition from petrol to whatever power source we decide to choose as main stream. Electricity seems to be the present favorite but I wouldn't count out hybrids just yet, and who knows what crazy new power source will be discovered tomorrow. Electric and hybrid motorcycle proposals currently have fairly conventional layouts, but as motor, fuel cell and battery technology advance we can look forward to some radical proposals in packaging and styling in the years to come.”

“I can't predict the future, but I can certainly envision two hundred plus horsepower all-wheel drive motorcycles with pancake motors at each wheel, with ultra-light battery packs, used as stress members with a 500 mile range, and autopilot! The big influences we will be facing in design will be the social and environmental needs in our near future. Denser population in our cities, the heavy congestion on our roads, and our demand for safety and safer vehicles will all play a major role in future designs. On that note scooters will play a major role in this problem. We can expect to see a lot of advancement, as well as a great deal of variety in this segment. The offerings and variety of both petrol and alternative power sourced vehicles will expand. I think 3- and 4-wheel alternatives like the Can Am Spyder, and Yamaha Tesseract can be expected from the major brands as well as niche brands.”

“This summer I went for a group ride with a dozen riders up thru a really nice twisty road. One of the riders was a younger rider who recently bought a Hyosung 650 sport bike. Used, the bike cost about a grand, and with a bit of an effort he kept up with most of the riders thru the whole trip. The funny thing about that trip was that several of the riders on Honda's and Yamaha's were looking down their noses and making fun of the Hyosung and its rider. Fair enough, the quality of parts and finish are pretty crude by North American standards. I told the newbie that not to worry and that 20 years from now his bike will be a classic. This story illustrates some interesting insights to me. First those Japanese bikes have made leaps and bounds in advancement and that we can really lose sight of our humble beginnings! I believe these economic bargains flooding our shores now from China, Taiwan, Korea, and India, will be major players in the future.”

“Asia will play a major role in the influence of our designs. When I say Asia I don't just mean Japan, I don't see them going away anytime soon, but China, India, Korea and perhaps Brazil will all become major influences in the future. Not just because of their booming economy but their motorcycle industry will also grow! Their rapidly growing consumer economy, of course, will have heavy influences on the market. Their motorcycle companies that currently produce economical bikes and scooters will certainly grow into companies that will challenge the established giants. I think we will begin to see a major shift from the production of small economical commuters to the production of high end luxury products in the next decade from them. I believe the big question, at least for me, is what new element in design will they bring to motorcycles?”

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