Back in Bavaria after India.

Interview with Edgar Heinrich, Head of Design at BMW Motorrad.

After a brief stint in India, Edgar Heinrich returned to Munich to lead the BMW Motorrad design team. It was a happy return for the motorcycle enthusiast, who began his career at BMW in 1986. He spearheaded the design of many BMW motorcycles: the Paris-Dakar rally bike, the K 1200 S and R, the HP2 Enduro, the R 1150 GS, the R 1200 GS and most recently the S 1000 RR.

Before his time at Indian automaker Bajaj, he was also involved in the design of the K 1600 GT and GTL touring bikes as well as the C 600 Sport and the C 650 GT maxi scooter. All of them were successful products that expanded the horizons of this established market segment and attracted many new customers to the brand. In an exclusive interview with BMW Motorrad, Edgar Heinrich talks about his passion for designing, collecting and restoring motorcycles of all kinds.

The R 1200 GS had just been designed when you went to India. It was completed just in time for your return. And now you've been involved in unveiling the new bike. Are you happy with the result?
Yes, I was very happy, but not surprised. I was really pleased with the media response when we launched it at Intermot. It received so much positive press. Not a single negative review. Everyone seems to like the bike. I couldn't ask for better welcome back to BMW.
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Isn't it strange to work so far ahead of the "real world"? And to predict and define the trends of the future?
That time warp is just part of design. It's like you're working in another world, a future one. But you also have to stay real and work for the here and now. It often seems like such a long time before a new bike comes out. But when your "baby" is finally unveiled and you see people riding it on the street, it's the best feeling in the world. Designers really lead a kind of parallel life. And we're never satisfied. Once a bike comes out, we're already thinking about how we can improve the next model.
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What was it like with the GS? How hard is it to improve a design without totally uprooting tradition?

New designs are often a balancing act. You don’t want to alienate existing GS owners. But as a designer you always want to create something new. Changing such a successful design can be a little scary. How far do you go? How far do you have to go? The good thing is that many in the team – myself included – are GS riders and are already living the GS lifestyle. So we know what we want from a GS. It worked out perfectly with the new R 1200 GS. It was very important to create an authentic GS. One that is true to its roots, with the classic look and design, but with a new and dynamic interpretation.

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And what about new segments like Urban Mobility?
It’s very refreshing to be part of this new segment now. What’s really exciting is that we can bring our own interpretation to this segment. It’s great to make a design statement. Like we did with the C 600 Sport and the C 650 GT. It was an amazing experience for me to present the C evolution electric scooter to journalists and VIPs last summer. I was in London when the prototype was unveiled and test-ridden. As expected, both performed incredibly well, both technically and design-wise.
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What BMW bikes have you especially enjoyed working on over the years?
Every BMW bike is special and is fun to create. I really love working on the Dakar bikes, probably because off-road riding and racing are a passion of mine. And they're also the essence of what GS, dual-sport, means to me. One of the most interesting bikes I created was the K 1200 R. Definitely not a logical or obvious choice. And certainly not a ‘typical’ BMW for the time. But we did it, even though it was a bit far-out – and I liked that.
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Motorcycles are also a large part of your leisure time. Is it exciting for you to mess around with old bikes?
Definitely. I love to restore bikes, take them apart and rebuild them as something different – even old BMWs. That's not very popular here because most people think that old bikes should remain all original, but I’ve rebuilt and modified all my old BMWs. The only one I restored to original condition was my Honda CB 500, an iconic bike from my youth. I also have a 1954 BMW 51/3 that I converted. It was the inspiration for the Lo Rider concept. Finding a bike, redesigning and even reinterpreting it – just like customisers do– is such a cool thing. I'm really into it. And even my 58-year-old BMW, which I use as my everyday bike, has always been reliable.
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So what's in your garage at the moment?

Right now there are 16 bikes in my garage. Including some restored classics. Can a guy ever have enough bikes? I have an HP2, an R 51/3, an R 24, an R 100 GS Paris-Dakar model, several Ducatis, an old Matchless and an Enfield from my time in India, which has been scrambler-ised. There's also a '61 Vespa, very cool and all original. I even have a Gas Gas that I used to ride trials on. I also have a CB 650, a CB550, and a Honda Dominator.

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Has your engineering knowledge helped you in your design career?
I used to tinker around and modify my bike when I was a kid. I couldn't afford to go to a garage. It was the best way to learn everything. I always enjoyed messing around with bikes so it’s definitely helped me. Now I can talk with engineers and they realize that I understand and respect them. That way we can make informed decisions together. Motorcycles are highly complex. Almost all their technical components are visible on the outside. So we also have to understand and design the product from a technology standpoint.
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We also have to understand and design the product from a technology standpoint. »

Edgar Heinrich, Head of Design at BMW Motorrad

What are the biggest challenges for the brand in the future?
There are lots of bikes out there now, a clear sign of the times. But globally you have to stand out from the crowd. We need strong, evocative bikes that work perfectly and always deliver that little something extra.
Other exciting challenges include new regulatory standards and the demand for greener, more environmentally friendly mobility solutions. Two-wheeled vehicles can play an important role here. At BMW Motorrad, we want to do our part by delivering innovative solutions.
Edgar, thank you for the interview.
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