We look at the 10 movers and shakers who determine what we ride, what we wear, where we do it and even what the future holds
2: The designer - David Robb
BMW are among motorcycling’s most innovative, successful and forward-thinking manufacturers at the moment, and the main reason for that is David Robb, the Munich marque’s American-born head of design. Robb took over BMW’s bike design department in 1993 and since then has created a long string of bikes that have utterly transformed the firm’s old fuddy-duddy image as a producer of dull sports-tourers.
Robb was born in Boston, grew up mostly in Kobe, Japan (where his father was a missionary) and graduated in design from the renowned Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. He got a job at Chrysler, then after being made redundant moved to Germany to work for Audi, from where he joined BMW’s car division in 1984. Always a bike fan, he sharpened his riding on the Nurburgring and was eager to take on the challenge of modernising the marque’s motorcycle range.
“We had 19 different models when I started at BMW, and with the exception of two enduro bikes they were all doing the same thing. We said, let’s quit copying ourselves,” Robb says of his approach. The result has been a design-led explosion of different, imaginative models that have taken BMW in new directions and made them the darling of current design.
Robb’s revolution began with another sports-tourer, but this one was the K1200RS four whose 130bhp power output blew away BMW’s self-imposed 100bhp limit and showed the firm was serious about high performance. Next came the radical R1200C, which proved that it was possible to enter the cruiser market without copying Harley.
Since then Robb and his team have created bikes as varied and capable as the K1200R naked bruiser, the classy HP2 boxers and the F800 parallel twin, not to mention the massively popular R1200GS whose distinctive, typically Robb-influenced styling has been an important part of its success. Along the way, BMW’s charge has helped convince other firms, notably their Austrian rivals KTM, that bold and innovative design can pay.
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Posted: 01/05/2010 at 22:13
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