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We speak to DAB Motors boss Simon Dabadie | Audacious motorcycles from France!

Visordown speaks to founder & CEO of DAB Motors Simon Dabadie about how it all started, what’s in store, and how the quest for singularity is going.

DAB Motors Simon Dabadie Interview Visordown

DAB Motors, a fairly recent startup in the motorcycle world, fills a niche in the motorcycle market as a bespoke manufacturer. Visordown spoke to Simon Dabadie, founder and CEO of the small Bayonne based French manufacturer aiming to disrupt the market with an audacious take on scramblers.

We find out more about DAB Motors, what makes them stand out for riders looking for a unique scrambler, and what’s on the way in the future - including their upcoming electric concept due for reveal in June.

Kicking off the brand with the prodigious LM-S 500, DAB Motors plans to continue testing the boundaries for the two-wheeled market.

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Visordown: Hey, Simon. Thanks for taking the time to speak with Visordown — How did it all start for DAB Motors?

Simon: When I started DAB Motors, it was about making a new kind of street-legal motorcycle. We all know the historical brands who have been around for 100 odd years, and I wanted to bring something new in terms of vision - a more audacious vision of the motorcycle, especially with the aesthetics. 

I was working in the motorcycle industry before starting DAB Motors, and I saw that something was missing for the people who wanted to stand out while riding on two wheels. If you want to stand out, you don’t have any choice except modifying your motorcycle, or just buying a motorcycle from any dealership from any brand, but you won’t be unique. 

So the idea was to create a brand which offers a new kind of vision in the motorcycle industry, one that offers a full tailor-made service. With the DAB Motors Configurator you can configure your own bike online without any knowledge in mechanics or design, but still have the ‘safe’ approach of a manufacturer as we have to respect some ground rules of motorcycle manufacturing - like every other brand - meaning full homologation, a warranty, the reliability.

It’s different from custom bike builders, which are not subject to the same rules. When you’re building custom bikes you’re not taking care of homologation, because depending on the country it’s legal or not. In your case (in the UK) you can modify a bike - you’re lucky! - but in France, in Germany, it’s very difficult. You’ll be stopped very quickly, and it’s almost impossible to ride with custom bikes.

We’re driven by the lightness of the motorcycle at DAB Motors. We won’t be building big cruisers, roadsters or superbikes - we are really passionate about lightness, and that’s why the first model (the LM-S) is minimalist, narrow, and we made a huge effort in design, engineering, and the overall experience.

VD: I can see the appeal for giving motorcyclists the chance to fully personalise their bike throughout the build process - it’s a unique chance to design your own motorcycle the way you want it.

I was inspired by the Nike configurator, and when I discovered that a few years ago my mind was going crazy with ideas, and I wanted to do the same with motorcycles. So we designed our own signature bike and added this customisation service to it!

But our work is not limited to the configurator. We speak to our customers a lot during the building process, and we can do almost everything in terms of customisation. That’s the global idea of DAB Motors.

DAB Motors. ‘Challenging traditions through intelligent disruption’.

VD: Can anyone create a special custom bike with you at DAB Motors?

Yeah, that’s exactly what DAB Motors is all about. We work a lot on design and creating audacious motorcycles. In terms of personalisation & customisation, as a small company it’s our strength - we are very reactive and able to realise all kinds of requests. 

We don’t have big rules like some companies may have. In a traditional dealership it’s complicated to make a personal bike, at DAB Motors it’s the opposite. Everything is built on demand & bespoke.

VD: Any special custom jobs? Anything you’ve worked on that is super interesting?

We’ve actually created a division at DAB Motors called the Art Division. There are some really exciting projects in the works, some are so special that we’re not allowed to talk about them yet!

One that we can talk about is the collaboration with Mathieu Cesar, a famous fashion photographer - he has a crazy portfolio, from Buzz Aldrin to Pharrell Williams.

We made a custom bike with Mathieu, which is fully black & white (because he only photographs in black & white) - he already did a collaboration with Ford & Mini [Cooper], it was great to work with him. It’s a special bike, still minimalist but representing Mathieu’s work. 

VD: Is it the Husqvarna motor you’re using on the LM-S?

Exactly, it’s the Husqvarna 501 motor that’s mounted on the SMR, the same motor still manufactured at the factory in Italy - which is obviously right next to France. We use this particular engine because it had been tested, it has history, and it’s now more reliable with the injection and new cartography. 

‘when we are talking about technical components we always make sure to work with the best brands’

We didn’t want to reinvent the petrol engine, that would be stupid, but when we are talking about technical components we always make sure to work with the best brands, and that’s how we choose all of the components we mount on the LM-S. Like Renthal handlebars, Öhlins or Kayaba suspension, Brembo brakes... the customer gets to choose each part on the bike.

We have a full R&D department in house, we’re a team of 4 people in Bayonne, in the southwest of France. Obviously we don’t have a huge factory that manufacturers everything, but we have a solid network of partners who are experts in exhaust welding, painting, composite fibres, carbon fibre, and electronics - all very high-end because of the nearby aeronautical industry. We work with all of these small partners who are manufacturing our components.

VD: So you’re working with the best-of-the-best for parts, and the best people locally working with you to create the bikes and put the LM-S together?

Yeah, we’re lucky to have the aeronautical industry nearby, so all the companies surrounding us are the best, they’re used to working with big aeronautical companies with high levels of standards. Due to our location we can work with these experts. All the bikes are made in Bayonne, near Biarritz, where Wheels and Waves happens, if you know it?

VD: Yeah, it looks like a fantastic event! 
From a UK point of view, if someone wanted some DAB motors in their life, would you build the bike in France and ship it over?

Of course, we’ve already delivered bikes in the UK. A lot of our bikes are shipped internationally, but Europe mainly - Germany, Switzerland, UK, Netherlands, France (obviously), and places like Japan and other countries which are far from France. 

We have full European homologation, up to the new Euro 5 standards, so we can register our LM-S anywhere we want in Europe and beyond, because European homologation is recognised in a lot of non-EU countries.

It’s a 2 months process to build the bike from order to completion, and we have a lot of interaction with the customer over that time to build their bike. 

If they want to, the customer can even come to the factory, have a tour and meet the team, and then have a ride their bike in the basque country - because we have a great area to ride the between the ocean and mountains.

‘there are great benefits to using electric technology in urban and off-road environments’

VD: Looking to the future, are you planning to create a new foundation for new bespoke models?

We’re already working on our new range. We have an electric bike on the way that we've teased, and we are planning on releasing a second petrol bike too. 

As a manufacturer we want to provide a range with the same DNA with different orientations, engines, functions; but the same vision that we carry at DAB motors. 

We completely believe in electric technology, especially for our bike. We’re all about lightness, and it’s a very urban bike, and I think there are great benefits to using electric technology in this kind of environment - for long distances it’s not quite as ready, because you need a lot of range.

Electric is ready for urban environments and off-road, the instant torque & silence makes it quite enjoyable - when you’re surrounded by nature on a bike creating no noise, it’s nice. But I understand the experience of riding a petrol bike with the sound and power curves! For our product you don’t need as much range, so you can use the technology, and I think it’s a great alternative. 

Purists may not like it, there are no gasoline smells, there is no noise - but it’s a completely different experience and I’m looking forward to presenting our vision.

‘Redefining the rulebook’

VD: What’s the LM-S after-sales support system, is there a network of dealers to help DAB Motors owners in the UK?

Sure, for standard servicing and maintenance over the lifetime of the motorcycle we’d rely on the KTM & Husqvarna dealers, as they naturally know the engine. We can therefore provide service all around the world, as there are these dealers around the world. 

For retail, we are starting to create physical points for DAB Motors around Europe (and the world). So far all of our sales have been online, digitally. We want to provide demo bikes for people to test - this year we are opening partnerships with dealers in the UK, Germany, Switzerland etc, to make the LM-S available for people interested in discovering the brand and the product.

In a retail store, we’d have the configurator open next to the bikes so people can play around and we can take the order from there.

VD: What has DAB Motors got coming up?

We want to stay exclusive. It’s our DNA, we want to be able to realise these kind of very personal requests, and personal objects. If you go too big you won’t be able to do it. 
The current goal at DAB Motors is within 4 years to be able to manufacture 400-500 units per year, with a range of 2-3 models. 

About the electric, we’re going to do the transition because it’s going to get complicated with pollution and noise. We will slowly transition to electric, there’ll be a period where we will have both petrol & electric bikes in our portfolio, but I definitely think in the future it will be a new technology - maybe not electric, maybe a new promising technology for motorcycles.

We’re all about innovation, we love new tech, manufacturing tech, engine tech. The idea is to push the boundaries in design, engineering, service. We want to be a more dynamic brand that people are used to. 

There are a lot of projects, and with that of course the team will be growing, and the idea is to develop the network around the world to give access to DAB Motors. It’s exciting!

We secured fundraising at the end of last year to develop our commercial network, we gained the trust of people and it’s encouraging to see people trusting us as a new brand - a brand thinking differently from a traditional brand. We’re trying to show that we have an audacious vision, and that it will be promising in the near future!

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Check out the DAB Motors site for more, and keep your eyes peeled on Visordown for the electric bike being fully revealed soon.

Find out more about the DAB Motors LM-S on Visordown! 

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