Building the Touratech R1200GS Rallye
with Jochen Schanz & Bart van den Bogaard
RUST: So, where did you start?
JS: I was really excited by the new R1200GS, I could see the potential. As it is it’s designed for two-up and touring uses, I didn’t need that but I liked the engine, the suspension and the frame, I could see from that base we could build a big rally bike with a good look, good design and nice bodywork.
BvdB: This is not the first bike I’ve designed, I’ve worked on many in the past. Also I ride a GS myself and have changed it quite a bit to my needs - again with a more sporty feel, with different seat and screen. So I was completely with Jochen on creating a ride position on top of the bike as against sitting in the bike. Being from Holland I’ve also enjoyed following the Dakar Rally and I’ve watched it from a young age. So I understood the idea of making a rally-style bike with high Dakar feel. It was very appealing to me. And then integrating that with the design language we have developed at Touratech. That’s why it’s got a lot of angles, because this is TT, we do a lot of angles. We don’t do rounded stuff!
RUST: You had just weeks to go from scratch to completion, did that compromise the design?
BvdB: All designers like a little more time… it’s normal. On one hand you can endlessly discuss your design and change it and change and change it. On the other hand it doesn't always get better when you take longer. The thing you have to trust to when you have limited time is your experience and gut feeling. With our experience - me, Jochen and Dirk - we could very quickly decide what is good or not good. It’s not the first bike for any of us, we have a wide range of knowledge to call upon. And of course if it feels good it probably is good. And that helps in a project like this. You need to make quick decisions. Every line, you should ask is this good? Yes or no. Then move onto the next line and the next.
JS: It was easier because we had a dream, a picture in our mind, it was really clear what the result of this bike had to be. We worked together with two bikes in parallel, one with our sister company TT-3D, with Dirk, for the clay modeling and one with Touratech for the technical parts, so we were able to speed the project along, halving the time.
RUST: Did you use computer modeling?
BvdB: No, it’s not computer generated. After initial sketches we started with cardboard, to do certain volume explorations. We designed in cardboard in just one week and when everyone was happy with that we went to clay. Clay is completely tactile, you have to work it by hand and quickly - because clay dries quickly. It’s very nice to do the whole design on a computer but still you need to have a product ready by a certain time. And as this had a limited time, this was the way.
Even where designers have worked on computers they’ve often found the design has not worked at clay model stage, the feeling is different - so you need to stand next to it and have the complete feeling. And with the motorbike this is even more important because you have to sit on it, it has to fit the person and that is very important, so research in seat height and handlebar position was crucial to the first stages of design. Get those right and the rest will flow.
RUST: Was there a big weight saving?
BvdB: Not so much, it was only 15 kilos lighter [not counting the exhaust], it’s not a huge amount. To save more weight you’d have to dig in deeper and change significant components like wheels, axles etc. The frame is a frame, you can try and take kilos off but it still has to function. The rear subframe you can make in aluminium and it’ll save you a kilo but then you have to go into every detail. With race bikes that’s what they do, they spend a lot of time and money on every detail. But that’s not the issue here. This was not intended to be a race bike.
JS: Also we wanted to keep certain items in-situ for safety, like the headlight - if you compromise on that kind of quality and performance you can save more weight, but that was not our focus. Functionality is important.
RUST: You’ve vastly simplified the bodywork compared to the standard GS. Was that one of your goals?
BvdB: Yes, for instance just around the tank area where BMW have six or seven components we’re down to just one.
JS: We designed it so that the parts can be removed very quickly, you can strip this bike completely of the bodywork in just one minute - there’ll be only the engine and framework left.
RUST: And now you’re taking it to Morocco to test.
JS: Yes, for a few days of travelling and testing. It will be possible to make special pannier racks and to add some aluminium cases. But for now I’d like to keep it as it is. We’ll be travelling light with a soft luggage system. I’m really looking forward to it!