The role of design in motorcycle engineering is often ignored, but offers plenty of food for thought, given bike fans’ ever increasing interest in the form, as well as the functional qualities, of their chosen model.

An opportunity to consider this aspect is offered by the latest creation of Amsterdam-based GK Design Europe, a subsidiary of the Japanese GK Design of Tokyo, which has designed the TZR50 for Yamaha. This lightweight, entry level model paints a clear picture of the Dutch team’s take on contemporary motorbike design.

In presenting the model, Project Designer Michael Uhlarik compares the current state of bike design to what’s going on in the automotive industry: “True design is actually a relative newcomer to the bike industry and has only had any real impact in the past twenty years. So it could be said to lag behind car design. And, of course, the two sectors operate to very different parameters, despite their similar manufacturing methods”.

In the two-wheeler market, trends and focus groups are all that matter whether you’re talking about a 50 cc moped, a medium-weight 600 cc, or a massive 1000 cc performance model. And while some buyers go for the pure sports bike or for cutting-edge innovation, just as many are traditionalists, who are still drawn to models like the twin-cylinder BMW or the Harley Davidson V2.

Every bike is different and that’s the way bikers like it. That, bike designers believe, is what marks a clear division between themselves and the car designers. “Unlike the standard car design, which is brand-related, bike design focuses on the model and its target market”, concludes Michael Uhlarik.

The article continues in Auto & Design no. 142

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