The Designer of the KTM RC8: Gerald Kiska

From the concept drawing board to the street, Gerald Kiska sculpted the KTM RC8

“The RC8 was inspired by KTM’s off-road bikes. I tried to bring the design language that I developed for their off-road bikes to the street market. The approach was a simple one, we tried to take the elements we used in the off-road bikes and transfer them to the on-road ones. The RC8 was what came out. If you look at the tank spoilers that you have on a motocross bike they are a plain surface, with no openings on them, this idea was then developed for the side fairing on the superbike.

Comparing the original 2003 Tokyo concept bike with the final version it seems very close, but it is not. Between 2003 and 2008 the design and fashion in supersports bikes changed quite a lot. The rider’s position has moved extremely far forward so that the distance between the handlebar and the seat is much shorter. The whole weight distribution of the superbike has moved further forward. We took elements and the design idea of the concept but changed the proportions quite a lot because of this and other problems we encountered.

There has been some issues with showing the prototype so long ago. A few other companies have seen that KTM’s design is successful in the market and people appreciate it. As soon as they realise this they have started to pick this and that and transferred it into their own designs and models. One of the methods we came up with in 2003 was the under slung exhaust, this was never seen before on a superbike at that time. Now, if you look, all companies are trying to develop similar solutions to our approach.

But our designs will always polarise people’s opinion, it is what makes them different. KTM is still a niche player so they do not need just any customer, but what they want is that as soon as a customer decides on the KTM brand he really knows what he is aiming for. It creates a certain tribe of motorcyclists that have a common view delivered to them in what the product should be like to look at and ride. We call them Orange Bleeders. With this community we can stay closer to them, they know why they ride a KTM and this is what we want to have. People say KTM is a cool brand and ask me where it comes from, is it the people or just something that has grown up around the company? I would say a bit of both. For sure the people who work for the brand are not the youngest guys any more, but they have a sense of freshness because this is how we see motorcycling and how the KTM engineers see it. As long as you stay in competition, in racing, you stay fresh.

With KTM you could compare the overall design language developed with Lamborghini. What they have done in the car world is pretty close to what we have done in the bike world. A niche and cool brand that people aspire to, which matters with street bikes. The biggest difference that I have found between designing for KTM’s off-road and on-road bikes is that design counts so much more when it comes to selling a street bike. The performance the product provided is a big part of the decision making process but definitely if customers don’t like the look of the bike then they won’t buy it. Which is where we are lucky. To be honest I think our statement is a little bit more bold than the Japanese, I think that because of this boldness our products have a longer life. If you are always close to what the customer expects for tomorrow he gets bored quickly, and this is the trick. If you go just a little bit further out it takes the customer a couple of years to accept the look to its full extent, this keeps the brand fresher.

If there is a certain example on how our brand will be different it is Ducati and the 916. If you do it right, as they did with the 916 and Monster, these bikes did almost a decade in the market and no one got bored with them. It is a compliment when people compare the RC8 with the 916, and we have the same feeling. There should be no need for a change to the RC8 for a few years, it will take the customers a few years to get used to this design so I feel it will remain quite fresh in the market for a certain period of time.”