Last week I posted images of, and thoughts about, one of Honda Europe's 2015/16 concept bikes, the Honda CBSix50. Within the hour, an old friend, the motorcycle designer Ian Wride, emailed me about some of the comments I made and put me in touch with the Six50's designer, Adrian Sellers. I'm a concept bike nut, and asked if Adrian was happy to answer a few question. This is what I got back.
What’s your role at Honda Europe?
Senior Designer, Concept and Design Development Department, Honda R and D Europe (Italia).
What projects have you been involved with that you can tell us about?
I'm mostly involved in advanced projects, so that pretty much eliminates saying anything! Of things you've seen, I've most recently been involved in the Forza 125, City ADV concept and accessories, and a number of special editions - and of course the the Six50 as you already know. I've also designed Honda's EICMA display and booth for the past two years.
Before working at Honda, I was with GK Design and Yamaha Motor in the US where I designed many of Yamaha's US market motorcycles, from cruisers to dirt bikes.
Top three fave bikes of all time?
Honda Elf prototypes
Number one current bike?
That's tough - I can't say I am really inspired by any current production motorcycle.
We’ve had the sportsbike boom, adventure bikes, then the whole retro thing (obviously still major sectors), but what’s the next emerging trend for Northern Hemisphere biking?
What was the brief for the CBSix50 and who wrote the brief?
I wrote the brief in collaboration with our planning department. It was based on extensive research we conducted over the past year and a half into areas of opportunity in the naked segment for the Honda brand.
It’s been labeled a scrambler. What do you call it?
Since the beginning, I've called it 'Urban Adventure' - it's more or less intended as a motorcycle expression of the SUV trend. The Adventure trend is strong now, in all markets, but most people who have 'adventure' vehicles don't use them off road. The point is to feel protected, tough and versatile relative to other drivers, so the Urban Adventure is aimed at this expression of power and toughness, with the off-road style aspects showing versatility and possibility.
What is the purpose of a concept like this to a company like Honda?
To communicate with our customers - to build excitement, and involve our customers in our design process.
What are the challenges for a designer of making a concept?
There are a million challenges, from the aesthetic to the political. The most important, of course, is being certain that your direction is correct There's always an element of risk that you get it wrong, but through research, discussion, and the intuition necessary for a designer, your margin of error is hopefully minimized.
Is it a dream come true to create a concept, or would you rather be working on production bikes?
Both have their exciting points - it's incredibly satisfying to see someone riding a bike you designed months or years after its release. But with concepts, you have a much more free hand - they can be a more direct expression of your dream - and because of this have the possibility to inspire others to a much higher degree than a production bike.
What is the pecking order of designers who get given a concept? Is it something for juniors (to push boundaries) or chief designers (to lead trends)?
concept can come from anywhere in design. Sometimes it's a product of research, sometimes the product of an inspiring sketch. Whether this comes from a junior or senior designer is largely irrelevant, but if a junior designer's idea is chosen, then a senior member will often guide their hand through the realisation process.
How much time do you have it this concept and did you, do the clay modelling? Do designers even do clay modelling in these times of 3D printing?
From concept to EICMA took over a year. We still work in clay - it's essential, given the the very visceral connection between a rider and the bike - but also fully integrate 3D into the process, often trading back and forth between the two to realise the final show bikes. To make a show model requires working with clay modellers, 3D modellers, craftsmen, and suppliers - it's a complicated process. For this model, I had the pleasure of doing some of the clay work myself, as well as building the 3D models for a number of the final rapid prototype parts you see on the bike.
The dash looks quite radical and really caught my eye - what is the thinking behind it, how does it differ to current dashboards?
Thank you for noticing! I really wanted to express a playful modernity that takes the form factor and high quality material expression that we are familiar with in mobile phones, tablets, etc., and blend it with physical buttons that reference video game controllers - familiar forms in a new context.
Is the bodywork on the concept painted clay or real, usable material?
What would have to change to productionise this concept?
We designed this and its sister concept the CB4 (below) to be as realisable as possible. Of course we take liberties with materials and technology that would be difficult to implement without extraordinary cost in production, but that's one of the joys of doing a concept bike!
What’s the likelihood we’ll see something like this bike from Honda, and if we do, will we recognise it as a very close relative of the CBSix50?
I can tell you that the response has been extraordinarily positive, so you never know!