toggle menu
Episode 03

Miguel Galluzzi is the head of Piaggio Group’s Advanced Design Center in Pasadena, CA, where he is responsible for the design of Aprilia, Moto Guzzi, Derbi and Gilera motorcycles, working in close coordination with the Piaggio Group Style Center as well as with Piaggio’s research and development centers in China, India, and Vietnam. On this episode of Mobility+, the PFF Podcast, Miguel and Jeffrey discuss design, passion for motorcycle riding, the many trends that shape travel around the world, and how the pandemic will accelerate design changes that were already being thought about to address the need for affordable mobility options.

Transcript

Welcome to the Piaggio Fast Forward podcast. Join the conversation by subscribing to the PFF podcast at https://www.piaggiofastforward.com/podcast.

Ryanne Harms

Welcome to the Piaggio Fast Forward Podcast. Join the conversation by subscribing to the PFF podcast at podcast.piaggiofastforward.com.

Jeffrey Schnapp

Welcome to Mobility +, The PFF Podcast. I'm your host Jeffrey Schnapp Chief Visionary Officer at Piaggio Fast Forward. Today's guest is an old friend, the legendary industrial designer, Miguel Galluzzi. Miguel is the head of the Piaggio Group's Advanced Design Center in Pasadena, California, where he is responsible for the design of a Aprilia, Moto Guzzi, Derbi, and Gilera motorcycles working in close coordination with the company's styling headquarters, the Piaggio Group Style center, as well as with Piaggio's research and development centers in China, India, and Vietnam. Miguel is known worldwide for such designs as the Aprilia RSV Superbike and the revamped line of Moto Guzzi products from the 1400 California to the V 85 TT Adventure. Before joining Piaggio, he worked for nearly two decades at Ducati's parent company Cagiva where he designed some of the era's most memorable two wheeled vehicles among them, the Ducati Monster, the iconic naked bike exhibited in the Guggenheim Museum's 1998 exhibition The Art of the Motorcycle. Miguel Galluzzi, it's a genuine pleasure to welcome you to Mobility +.

Miguel Galluzzi

Thanks Jeffrey. Nice to be with you.

Jeffrey Schnapp

To begin our conversation today, Miguel, I was wondering if you could tell our listeners a little bit about what the Piaggio Advanced Design Center in Pasadena, California does exactly.

Miguel Galluzzi

Yeah. PADC, as we call it, was the brainchild of the president of Piaggio and was started after a conversation I had with him relating to what was going on in the world in which the company has been involved with for almost now a hundred years. And that's mobility: but then scooters and motorcycles. And the way the markets were behaving at the time, it’s been almost twelve years since we’ve been here, and the idea was to create this window, a physical window, into a city like LA, Pasadena, the whole California experience, where a hundred different ethnicities of people that live in a city and create (without even paying attention) many trends that shape the world and travel around the world.

So to have this office, this little place here in LA/Pasadena was just that: to be able to think, not so much "outside" of the box, as far away from the box, so as to improve the conditions of people moving in cities like Bombay or LA, or wherever. We've been doing this for a long time now. But the problems are still there. And again, what's important for us from Pasadena is to bring ideas to the main office in Italy and to make people think, maybe for a day or a week or a month or whatever, completely outside of what we do every day. We know what to do tomorrow. But for the next 10 to 20 years, we don't know. We have to dream about it. So that's the whole idea for having our office here in Pasadena.

Jeffrey Schnapp

The Piaggio Group produces vehicles that range in size and scale from 50cc scooters to superbikes to three wheelers, like the Ape, to four-wheeled vehicles as well. Does the PADC get involved in all of the different categories of vehicles that the group produces?

Miguel Galluzzi

Our main goal, because it' s not something that we have to "do," is to think: to think freely of the way we're going to be able to move in the next 10, 15 years. But, at the same time, while we are doing that, there's the possibility of creating something more immediate like, for example, the Moto Guzzi racer of 2010, is getting the attention to certain movements in markets that allow us to create a specific model for that specific time in the market. The Moto Guzzi cafe racer, the V7, was just that: an expression of something that was going on in the underground of the motorcycle world, meaning the customization of bikes, thus being able to bring about a useful means of mobility while creating something that is really cool because it looks different than everything else that's on the market. So that was an example of how we can think outside the box, bring that into today, and satisfy a need from the client that nobody thought of before.

Jeffrey Schnapp

In your own process of absorbing some of those stimuli that are coming from outside, but also proposing new visions of what a light mobility platform like a motorcycle might look like. Do you spend a lot of time--and by you, I mean, you and your colleagues--also looking at emerging bottom-up customization subcultures, people hacking at vehicles, personalizing them, modifying them. Is, is that one of the sources that you draw inspiration from in your own work?

Miguel Galluzzi

I always say I am a motorcyclist. Then I became a designer from my passion. Because design was the thing that would allow me to do whatever I felt in that moment in the motorcycle world. But, you know, I always say to my designers that work here: you don't need to be in the office from nine to five. If you want to be really creative in any kind of discipline, you need to be out in the streets. Which in our case means monitoring the customization world which, for the past 10 years, has been a big influence on everything that has been going on in the motorcycle market. If we want to look at a parallel case, take that of superbikes. For people who don't know, the superbike is the most extreme expression of what we can produce as a two-wheeled vehicle. We're talking about maybe 250 horsepower, 180 kilos, very light, very extreme pieces of machinery. This world of machinery has been overshadowed by the customizing trend which is a worldwide trend.

You can go today from Vietnam all the way to Azusa here in California, and you find people doing stuff that is a very artistic expression of what our world is. But, on the other hand, it is also letting a lot of people get into the motorcycle world in an affordable way, because we are not talking about expensive technology or crazy stuff. You know, we are just talking about buying a normal Japanese 1970s bike that was left in a garage for four years and then grabbing it, cleaning it up, maybe getting some black paint on it or cutting some pieces to make it work. And then you have a motorcycle. As I always say, this is an affordable way to move around... a very intelligent and affordable way to get around any city in the world too. So, yeah, it's a very, very good inspiration for what we do.

Jeffrey Schnapp

On that very point, I wanted to ask you a little bit about the role that motorcycles and scooters play in the larger mobility ecosystem. In some parts of the world, particularly Southeast Asia, two wheeled vehicles like scooters and motorcycles are absolutely the backbone of the mobility system, whereas in the world that you most immediately inhabit around Pasadena, the automobile is king, even though there's a very passionate subculture of motor sports associated with lighter mobility platforms like scooters and motorcycles. What do you think the reason for resistance to motorcycles and scooters is, or has been at least in North American culture, by comparison with some of those environments like Southeast Asia, where the scooter and motorcycle really are such a dominant presence.

Miguel Galluzzi

I can give you an example of something that goes back to the beginning of our conversation: from 2010 to 2013. Our office in Pasadena has a great big window that opens onto the main street of Pasadena, Colorado Boulevard. Opening up every morning, I started seeing a lot of young kids riding bicycles (and in Pasadena seeing somebody ride a bicycle at the time was kind of crazy). Today there are a lot of people riding bicycles, even in Pasadena. So the culture in the US has been always been centered on cars. Los Angeles in the 1920s had the best public transit around, you know, but this was supplanted by all these cars because that was the direction the economy was going. But after the 2008-2009 Depression (or whatever we want to call it) lots of persons found themselves understanding that you can move around even LA or small towns like Pasadena with a bicycle or with a scooter or with a motorcycle because it gives you the flexibility even with parking.

For example, all the parking lots in Pasadena allow motorcycles to park for free, whereas usually you have to deal with the parking lot machines. It's usually a hassle. So people started discovering that. We've been talking about this within the company. This moment we are living in because of the virus is going to accelerate everything we are saying. So, in certain areas, like even in New York, you start seeing people riding bicycles, which is the beginning of the two-wheel mobility that we are talking about this morning. I was reading the news about the motorcycle market in Italy (which has been closed for almost three months) and already May saw a 25% jump in sales as compared with before. So people are understanding that you need less in order to do the same that you were doing before the virus. The advantages of a two-wheeled vehicle--not only the space, the parking, the gas... all the advantages you have--they are going to discover. So I think it's just a matter of time now, as we go through this pandemic, that even attitudes in the US will change with respect to their use of two-wheeled vehicle.

Jeffrey Schnapp

So you're optimistic that some of the changes we've seen accelerated by the pandemic, but that were already underway (as you were hinting in your response), that those changes are going to leave a trace in people's habits, in their shifting attitudes, towards light mobility, rather than automobiles?

Miguel Galluzzi

Exactly. I know you like history a lot--I'm a hobbyist historian myself--and, as you know, the big changes in the world of the motorcycle that we have been talking about happened because of big changes in the whole culture of the world. You know, if we go back to World War Two, the bobber movement in the US was born of all the Harley Davidsons and Indians that were left over after the Second World War. The GIs, when they got back here, would modify these bikes that then, by the 50s and 60s, became choppers. And choppers became a symbol of the 1970s. But they're still around because they give you that feeling of being able to have your own expression in whatever you are riding. That's something that right now, because of the virus, is going to accelerate. And whatever it's going to take to get people onto a scooter or a pedal-assisted electric bike or whatever, it's going to accelerate faster than ever.

Jeffrey Schnapp

You have designed some of the really iconic motorcycles of the past 30 years, the Ducati Monster in particular, and a number of the really iconic Aprilia bikes, like the RSV. How do you feel about electric motorcycles? They've been around now for some 15, 20 years and have had a growing market: how do you feel about them from the standpoint of design and how do you feel about them from the standpoint of performance and riding? I assume you've had the experience of hopping on one at one point or another.

Miguel Galluzzi

I was very skeptical about it until 2010. That was the moment, as I told before, when we came to the US to open the studio here in Pasadena. At that time I was invited to ride the Mission electric bike. If you remember, it was an extremely high-performance motorcycle and, even at that time, they had a series that they were racing here in the US. So I said, okay, let's see. And then we went for a ride in the canyons here on the back end of the Los Angeles Crest highway. We spent a whole morning going back up and down, up and down, up and down. And I think it was maybe by the third time that I went up that I was suddenly illuminated and thought "this is extremely cool." This is something else because not only is the performance completely different from the regular engines that we have today in motorcycles, but the possibility the bike had the breaking in the gas. That you can turn the accelerator in the opposite direction and it would brake - the electric engine would brake itself. So the whole experience became something different than what I was used to.

At that time, I was with my oldest son, who was completely into motorcycles and their noise. Even the noise was completely new. It was a different noise. So to me, that moment said: we are into something new here. And I remember getting off the bike and saying: the day you are able to do a quarter of this bike, meaning reduced weight, battery capacity, engine--you know, because we don't need all that much--you'll be able to do something great that people need. And I was not talking about a pedal assisted electric bike, but maybe something a little bit better. So you can go further, further than a bicycle. I think there is something there and something that we have to look into even if the battery remains a problem. You know, as a designer, you start thinking about the layout of the vehicle and the battery becomes a problem because it's always going to be a big heavy box, but that's where the thinking starts. Perhaps we don't need a battery that produces electricity. Maybe we need an accumulator and then I can connect to the electrical system of my house and adopt a completely different approach to mobility in the city.

So I changed my way of talking about electric vehicles, because there has to be an alternative to what we have today. There is no doubt that we are going in that direction. And again, I know this virus is going to help that. And then, we are going to get into something that is going to be more independent from everything we had before. Going back to the feeling of riding a two-wheeled vehicle, the freedom of having that kind of possibility of a very dynamic way of riding and getting around, you know, that's going to be a new frontier for everybody.

Jeffrey Schnapp

One of the interesting aspects of this question that seems to me implicit in your responses, that when we first adopt new technologies or new solutions or new power plants, what we typically do is we strap those new approaches to an existing vehicle concept. In the case of the motorcycle, you have a hundred years of motorcycle engineering and design, and along comes an electric motor. You try to figure out where you squeeze the batteries in, where to locate them in terms of the center of gravity, the mass of the vehicle. But you basically don't totally re-imagine what a motorcycle is as an electric motorcycle. But maybe the real moment of innovation and design practice happens in a kind of second stage where you start to really rethink all kinds of fundamental aspects of the vehicle itself, the kind of experience that it provides, around that new set of components that allow for a different experience than the kind of throbbing of an internal combustion engine that shaped people's imagination of the bobber which you alluded to before.

Miguel Galluzzi

The problem is the way we talk. Because we are talking about an electric motorcycle which, by having those two words together, automatically brings you into another motorcycle layer that we have today. And the other aspect of this is that when you talk about a motorcycle (and this is what we've been doing for the past 10 years), most of the people that are developing electric bikes are just doing electric motorcycles, meaning we are still using the client of today trying to convince them that we are selling an dielectric motorcycle, which is in and of itself is a contradiction because an electric vehicle is used in a completely different way from the combustion-engined bikes that we have today. So we are still looking for the same client that we've been looking for the last 15 years without understanding that we actually need to look for a new client, who is maybe the 10 year old today.

I'll give you an example of what I'm saying. If you're of a certain age you know that Honda in 1960 came to the US with a little motorcycle. They did a campaign talking about how the "nicest people" were riding a Honda. At that time, in 1960, most of the people that were in the motorcycle world used to laugh at it. If you turn the clock forward 15 years, by 1975, Honda was selling millions of motorcycles in the US. So, in order to change the perception of that vehicle of two-wheels and the biker (the image was of Marlon Brando in The Wild One) image, Honda came out with something new.

They became the owners of the motorcycle world because, at that time, they had something that was completely different from everything that was done before, which was the Honda Cub: still the biggest seller in the history of motorcycle two-wheeled production. And if you go back to what we were talking about with respect to Southeast Asia and you go to a country like Vietnam today, most of the bikes that people ride are based on that build. There are actual people, families, that don't buy a car because you only can move in a two-wheeled vehicle because of the traffic conditions in Hanoi and big cities like Hanoi. Seeing it personally for the first time when we went there because we have a couple of factories there for the home market, seeing these, I was like, wow! There is a moment at five o'clock in the afternoon that you have to get off the streets because people get out of work and the streets are so full of two-wheeled vehicles. And even though today people can afford to buy a car, they still ride two-wheeled vehicles because it's the best way to move around the traffic. So, in that sense they are ahead of many, many other societies.

Jeffrey Schnapp

Speaking of the challenge you were just alluding to: namely, the way in which--you cited the example of Honda-- the sort of image, the cultural context, the sort of messaging, the storytelling around particular vehicles creates and shapes a particular audience of consumers. Right now young people, from 10 years old to 18 years old, who would have historically been the sort of demographic that dreamed of scooters or mopeds, the kind of entry level light vehicles that often shaped those same persons' later preferences for motorcycles and eventually automobiles; a lot of that demographic today is fascinated by smart devices. My 15 year old son would not pass on the latest iPhone, but might pass on a moped. So from the standpoint of a designer who's engaged in thinking creatively about new and emerging vehicles that will seduce and attract that kind of generation, I'm curious to hear your thoughts about what we need to do to make those kinds of vehicles, whether it's an e-bike that uses pedal assist in some form, or it's a new kind of light electric motorcycle, or maybe even just an extremely clean burning internal-combustion-engined, light motorcycle, what is it that we need to do to tackle that challenge today?

Miguel Galluzzi

I will tell you a story because it's very relevant to what you have asked. One of the reasons we came to the US ten years ago was because most of the service in Europe they were doing at that time, the marketing people would come to the meetings and say, much as you said, that the younger generation is not interested in motorcycles anymore and that the smartphone was going to remain more interesting and stuff like that. But, in my case, coming to Southern California with my son and both of us being motorcyclists and enjoying riding around, I met a lot of his friends that were riding motorcycles and were more passionate maybe even than myself. So there was something going on that that was not very mainstream.

And that's how I understood that it's not a change in tastes of young persons today. I think the big problem we have--to answer your question directly--is that a ten year old today doesn't have the chance to have this kind of experience. When I was seven years old, they gave me a motorcycle but I wanted a drum set. I said "no, I don't want a motorcycle." But then when I jumped on the motorcycle and never got off. So that moment in which you are able to test the dynamics that we were discussing before of two-wheeled vehicles, experience that unique moment in which you are connected with the environment in a different way; when you are not enclosed in a car, you smell, you feel the heat, you feel the sounds... the younger that gets into you, the less it lets go of you.

Remember when you were young, how many kids had play bikes? You know, the little bikes that you could ride in your garden and had lawn mower engines and went rumrumrumrum! It was a moment of discovery of something that was very emotional, because, as I said, once you experienced that moment (which was better than the bicycle you had before because the bicycle you had to pedal) and could jump and drive off... you started discovering a completely different world.

It stays with you for the rest of your life. And this is something that we don't have anymore. Most kids are taken to the school by their parents. I used to go to school walking, then taking the bus a little bit later. But those moments in which you discover the world in a different way are missing. Yeah, you are connected. But once you get that experience, as happened to these kids who are my son's friends mostly in the 18-20 age bracket, things change. They started when they were 17, 18, and they are still riding today because once you get to that moment and understand what these things are, it doesn't let go of you any more. This is something we are not allowing kids to do.

Jeffrey Schnapp

Do you think that part of the problem in this regard has been the tendency of manufacturers to constantly engage in an arms race, creating more and more powerful, high performance motorcycles, rather than focusing on entry level motorcycles, where the profit margins are low? I mean, if you look at the superbike category and you compare the performance levels of bikes today that are for sale at the $10,000 (or close to that level), they're literally the race bikes I was racing on 10 years ago in terms of absolute track performance levels. And yet you can barely get them out of third or fourth gear on an ordinary street or highway.

Miguel Galluzzi

I do think this is one of the problems we have. I mean, as you know, at Aprilia we have the RSV4, which is the most high performance superbike in the world still after 10 years. But the budget we devote to the electronic control systems in order to be able to sell it represents almost a quarter (or even sometimes more) of the budget of the whole project. So there is something that we missed during this crazy race in order to create something that everybody wanted for a while. This began in the 1970s and was just an evolution of something that started in a very innocent way. But there are moments in which the manufacturers lose sight of what actual customers need.

And then you start looking in the other direction, which is the case of some brands that always do whatever they want to do without thinking about the customer. And then you wonder why you're not selling! So that's another aspect too, perhaps due to the inertia of the whole industry. You struggle to do new things because it's difficult to think in an alternative way from what you've been doing for the last 34 years, 50 years, or even a hundred years. So, yes, there is not only one aspect. As I said before, it's a good moment now because this impasse and pause we are experiencing is going to make us accelerate in many, many other parts of our thinking as a manufacturer of mobility on two or three wheels like we are at Piaggio.

Jeffrey Schnapp

One of the most innovative vehicles that has come out of Piaggio over the course of the last decade or two is the MP3 three-wheeler, which for members of our audience who don't know it is a vehicle that leans like a motorcycle but, because it's a three-wheeler that stands up, doesn't require you to keep your feet on the ground when you come to a standstill, like you have to do on a motorcycle. Has the PADC been involved in the redesign of the MP3?

Miguel Galluzzi

Not the redesign. Again, the MP3 is a good example of something that was trying to solve a problem. My mantra is always that, as a designer, I'm a problem solver first and foremost. After I can be a stylist or whatever else is needed. The problem-solving aspect in this case was dictated by the client: in cities in Europe you often encounter paveé (cobblestone) streets in the Winter that are wet and slippery. So the stability provided by a third wheel helps. But at the same time, the MP3 created a new category of vehicles that, in our case, in Pasadena, we've been able to explore in many, many ways.

You can go from a little light three-wheeled bicycle all the way to the production vehicle we have today, and even bigger than that (but without getting into the category of a car), so, yeah, we've been exploring all of these. We are still trying to figure out which is the right solution because, at the end of the day, we need to figure out what the client has in mind and is willing to pay. But again, we keep on proposing stuff. Sometimes we throw ideas away. Sometimes we work with the engineers to figure out the ways to solve both technical problems and questions of price. So, yes, it's an argument that we can not leave there. We have to keep on upgrading and revising our thinking to get out the right product for the right moment.

Jeffrey Schnapp

One conversation that I've heard taking place among motorcycle designers and engineers involved in the development of motorcycles, and also people who are passionate about motorcycles, is something that we haven't really tackled directly, but it's been implicit in a couple of the exchanges we've had. And that is, is the future of the motorcycle one that will increasingly diverged from the world of smart devices, these little computers that we carry in our pockets that have invaded almost every aspect of our lives, or is it going to be one where there's a convergence where motorcycles become increasingly smart, interconnected, they integrate safety and sensing systems like the systems we’re increasingly finding on automobiles, maybe even they develop some features of autonomy? Those are two scenarios that seem to point in very different directions. And I'm interested in your own feelings about this as somebody who's both passionate about motorcycles and very much engaged in the kind of cutting edge of design and development.

Miguel Galluzzi

As Piaggio Group we have a big advantage in the sense that we have the scooter world and the motorcycle worlds under one umbrella. Let me explain myself: the scooter is the most practical vehicle you can get. And I see a lot of what you're saying flowing into the world of scooters. And I think we've talked many times about this at Piaggio Fast Forward. The area where I don't see prospects is that of complete autonomy, because it doesn't make any sense. You wouldn't have to go anywhere if you already had something that can take you there. But I do see mixtures in which new technologies create something that maybe we can't even think about right now or wouldn't understand quite what it is. More than the scooter world, the motorcycle world has a very emotional, romantic aspect.

It's like our brain. We have two parts. So the most romantic aspect of the motorcycle world is always going to live there because, as I said, it's a very emotional experience. I'm not going to over-romanticize it. But once you understand what riding a motorcycle is all about, then it's something that stays with you. Take an example from the last five or six years: the resurgence in the chopper mostly with 20-somethings who are rediscovering something that was done in the 1960s by a fringe of the motorcycle world that was an outlaw part of it. But now are very mainstream and kids are going around the US on motorcycles that are, as you know, very difficult to ride but good for enjoying the scenery.

You're enjoying the trip to go to some place, stop wherever you want, and sleep under the open sky. And so you are rediscovering something that is, as I said, a very romantic aspect of what we are talking about. I don't think that part is going to change. On the contrary: like these kids rediscovering choppers, once it gets into you, that's it. Then we have the other part of the world that I wouldn't call "pure practicality" but that involves maybe 80% practical thinking. This applies to when you go to buy a scooter that you are going to use to go to work: a vehicle that you don't care quite so much about and that, as you see in cities like Milan and Rome, you leave or park on the street.

It's just a practical way to move around because it's the only way; just like it is for people in Vietnam, in Hanoi. So this is the kind of vehicle that is eventually going to evolve into something new. Right now, for example, Piaggio has the Vespa Elettrica because, after 70 years, the world has changed. We needed to take the next step. So, as I always say, the Vespa right now is in a radical moment of change. We know that in 20 years it's going to still be the Vespa. But it is going to satisfy new customer needs. So Piaggio's electric Vespa is showing that something may be completely different within 10 years even though it's always going to remain a Vespa: you will always understand the "Italianity" or Italian feeling of the design. That will always be there, but technology will be reshaping the vehicle. No doubt about it.

Jeffrey Schnapp

Speaking of this highly personalized relationship that we have with two wheeled vehicles in particular, I think for most motorcyclists, it would not be an exaggeration to say that they have a passion for motorcycles and motorcycling for all of the reasons that you touched upon. I'm curious to hear what you have in your garage that, um, is, is a particular source of passion for you. That's part of your own personal history in one way or another, that you'd be willing to share.

Miguel Galluzzi

I grew up in the 1970s, when motocross was becoming huge. And the products were mostly European. There were brands, many of which no longer exist, like Maico (which is a German brand), Husqvarna, and Bultaco (from Spain). And I grew up at that moment in which the market for off-road bikes was exploding and the technology behind the products was changing every six months: especially the suspension components, engines, and materials. So in my garage I have bikes that document key moments with respect to these technology developments like, for example, the Maico 400cc from 1974. Actually it's called the Maico1974.5 because they modified the rear suspension mid-year.

They moved the shock absorbers forward from the then standard position, so that the rear wheel could move much further than everything else. And this became the moment in which everybody understood that motocross bikes didn't need to have the same suspension as street bikes; you could create a motorcycle that could have, (like we have today) fully 280 millimeters of suspension travel. (At the time we were talking about maybe eight centimeters of travel instead of 280). So technology developments at that moment were amazing. So I have a few of those. I have a Bultaco from 1974 on which the shock was moved even further into the bike, as was the case on 74-75 models. Then, in 1975, Yamaha came out with the monoshock, which from my then youthful point of view, made me think: Wow, this is revolutionary! (If you go back in history, it was really just the same suspension that the Vincent in 1935-45 had on their bike: a monoshock solution with one shock absorber inside the bike with a link on the swingarm on the back.) But for the motorcycle world at the time, the monoshock was extremely radical.

So again, my motorcycle moment right now is more about restoring old stuff because it helps me to understand a little bit more of the history, to understand the thinking of people that were involved in designing bikes at that time. And that allows me to engage with the moment I'm living in as a designer, to explore new and different directions as when we decide to move the shock absorber, maybe only on the back, because we cannot modify the front, the top. That's because, if we can do things quickly, then we can get into the market faster and maybe make more sales so that people can have even better products. So even that moment when you think of how they were thinking in the past is helpful: by the way, the example I cited was done here in the US alone because the bikes were already imported into the country and were modified here. So to have one of those bikes today--I think they may be 200 such bikes at present--is like finding the Holy Grail of the motocross world.

Jeffrey Schnapp

Do you think this particular attention to motocross bikes has had an impact on your work as a designer? I'm thinking in particular after the 17 years you were at, at Cagiva, which was Ducati's parent company during that period, your work for Ducati, the monster, the focus on naked bikes after a period when bikes had been covered with all kinds of different fairings and wrappers, that the Monster is really the statement of a kind of pure image of a stripped down motorcycle that really focuses on core components and core characteristics. My question really is, do you think that that motocross orientation was a shaping influence in your own approach to motorcycle design?

Miguel Galluzzi

I tell you two little stories, because I think they can answer that question. I come from a family, from my grandfather to my father to my uncles, that raced motorcycles: bicycles first, then motorcycles, and in the case of my father, racing cars--that was the standard progression. They were all road racers. Me and my brother and my friends at that time, we were different. We are talking about 1969, 1970. We used to have long hair and go out to race on dirt. I always remember my grandfather saying: "you look like a girl and you're riding on the dirt; you're crazy!" So it was a very generational thing. Times had changed; I wanted to do completely different things than my ancestors did.

So motocross was very basic and the dirt bikes we were talking about before were very basic products: frame, engine, gas tank, and that's it. That was all you needed to do whatever you sought to do at that time. Then if we move forward in time several decades, the Ducati Monster was, in a sense, about going back to those same basics. I'll tell you a story that I was going to tell before. The Monster, when we first presented it in 1992 at Cologne, wasn't understood. Most people were talking about its design as very futuristic, which to me was shocking. Futuristic? It was about going back to basics because that's what we actually needed.

That was 1990. So irrespective of whether we are talking about the past or the electric future, we need just a few things: to have controls, to have something you can sit comfortably so you can go out for a long ride, plus maybe two wheels. And then there's the need for an energy source that will let you go maybe 50 miles, 50 kilometers or whatever. That's all a very basic way of understanding the two-wheeled vehicle that we call a "motorcycle." If we go back in time, a motorcycle was just that: a bicycle with a motor as its energy source. So, yeah, I think my whole personal experience was trying to do more with less---let's describe it in a way that has been said many times--but yeah, the Monster was mainly that experience too. For all the motorcycles at the time--I'm sure you remember the emphasis on aerodynamics--everybody was doing all these plastics. At the time that I did the earliest sketches of the Monster, I was working for Honda (before Cagiva) on the CBR 600 F2, which represented the second generation of the aerodynamic fully enclosed bikes. We were doing so much plastic! I remember receiving in the office at that time--we were based in Milan--these Biker Station Japanese magazines that would include pictures of the side view of any motorcycle that they were testing minus the bodywork. It was at the end of the eighties and I saw the 851 Ducati, the first one with the 16 inches wheels, without its bodywork.

At that time, even though I was working for Honda, I was riding a Ducati because that was my dream bike: not an 851, alas, but a piece of crap 750 Sport or whatever, because that was what I could afford. But seeing that picture, I went straight to the copy machine, did a copy, and then did a sketch over the copy. I went over to my boss and said "this is the bike we should be doing." He said: "no no no, go back to your desk and keep on doing what you were before. That's what we need" That sketch and the emotion associated with it was something I took away with me forever. I still remember the first day that I was in Varese (at Aprilia) to have my interview with Mister Castiglioni [the noted motorcycle designer Claudio Castiglioni], I remember showing him the sketch. I said "we need to do something like this" (it was another sketch); "we need to do something like this because we need to show the engine, we need to show what motorcycles are made of because, at the end of the day, everything we put on the outside is covering over everything that is the most emotional part." Castiglioni himself replied: "yeah, maybe, maybe later." I went to Cagiva in 1988, so it took two years. 1990: that was the first time I started working on the prototype and then the rest is history because after a lot of insistence we were able to show the bike in Cologne in 1992. And then in many ways the bike saved Ducati after the 2000, because most of the production was based on the Monster.

Jeffrey Schnapp

Yeah, I think the Monster still represents one half of their sales. If I'm not mistaken.

Miguel Galluzzi

I don't know right now. I don't think so because they have so many variations, so many models that things are now kind of confused. At the time we are talking about, around 1995, 1997, 1999, they had only two lines of vehicles: the 916 and the Monster, and that was it. But with only those two bikes they were able to address a very specific moment in the history of the motorcycle industry: they were satisfying a very specific client, more numerous in the case of the Monster, with the 916 reaching a smaller market.

Jeffrey Schnapp

I remember that era reasonably well. I raced a mid-1980s Ducati F1 for a short period of time. We spent most of our time taking stuff off it rather than putting stuff on it.

Miguel Galluzzi

I can tell you myself that, in 1983, I was in school here in Pasadena at the ArtCenter School of Design. Most of the bikes had all-over plastic and we would go riding on the Los Angeles Crest Highway. I had a friend at that time in school who had a 1967 Triumph T100 and we would go up on the Crest which, as you know, is a very windy road. And we would always sweat and he would be driving behind us on his Triumph with a big smile on his face. We thought we were going as fast as Eddie Lawson and Kevin Schwanz... but no: he was enjoying the run far more than ourselves.

So in those moments, you have to ask: do we really need all this stuff? Somebody would go down and suddenly you need to buy a piece of plastic for $400. How much? No, now you leave that bike at home. So the idea of returning again to basics had its moment in the nineties. Again, the industry was going crazy and doing something that nobody really needed. Yeah, it was fine, it was cool... but then the prices were going up too, so that's when the market starts to change.

Jeffrey Schnapp

I'd love to hear about any present or future projects that you're excited about that line up with some of the themes that we've touched upon in the conversation.

Miguel Galluzzi

In the last two to three years that would be the Aprilia 660 that we presented in November 2009 at EICMA, the Milan show, and then last year presented in the Tuono version. Right now we're working on a whole range of affordable mobility options, fun vehicles that you can live with. As I said before, the virus is going to accelerate changes that we already were thinking about; it's going to make the need for affordable mobility or intelligent, romantic ways of moving around in many different flavors desirable. We are not going to do only the R660, the naked version of it [the Tuono], and the enduro; and then we are going to do something else because we are working from a base that is half of everything we've been doing for the last 10 years.

This already tells me that it's more intelligent because it's lighter. Being lighter it's going to be cheaper. You are going to be able to buy tires that are more affordable. The brakes ... We started six or seven years ago thinking about this in Pasadena. Now it is a reality. The thing is getting into the market. And I think it is going to be a good moment for Aprilia to show once again that smart thinking that Aprilia always had. If you remember, when Aprilia entered Grand Prix (motoGP) races with a 500 twin in a category then mostly made up of four-cylinder 500s, the Aprilias were faster than the bigger bikes on certain tracks.

That's something that Aprilia has always had in its DNA. And right now we are doing the same. We take the V4 engine from the RSV4 that is very powerful, a milestone in the superbike world, and we are doing half of it. As I said before, this seems very intelligent and smart for the moment we are living in. So to be able to start thinking about the product ranges and things we can do, even if it isn't quite keeping me awake at night, has me very excited about the time we are working in right now.

Jeffrey Schnapp

That's a terrific note on which to conclude. Thank you so much, Miguel Galluzzi for joining us on Mobility+, The PFF Podcast.

Miguel Galluzzi

Thank you, Jeffrey. And again, let's enjoy motorcycle riding because it's one of the most amazing things in life.

Ryanne Harms

Thank you for listening to the Piaggio Fast Forward Podcast, and come back soon for further lively conversations about walking, light mobility, robots, and the design of neighborhoods, cities and towns. The PFF Podcast is hosted by Jeffrey Schnapp. Sound engineering by Robert Allen. Narration by Ryan Harms. Produced by Elizabeth Murphy. Web designed by Jerry Ding. Intro music is Funkorama by Kevin MacLeod. End music is Your Call by Kevin MacLeod. Special thanks to Tory Leeming. To learn more about PFF and gita, please visit piaggiofastforward.com

Thank you for listening to the Piaggio Fast Forward podcast and come back soon for further lively conversations about walking, light mobility, robots and the design of neighborhoods, cities, and towns. The PFF podcast is hosted by Jeffrey Schnapp, sound engineering by Robert Allen, narration by Ryan Harms, produced by Elizabeth Murphy, web designed by Jerry Ding. Intro music is Funkorama by Kevin MacLeod. End music is Your Call by Kevin MacLeod. Special thanks to Tory Leeming. To learn more about PFF and gita, please visit piaggiofastforward.com.