A bike concept modelled in clay is taking Sam McCafferty to Italy. He talks to Michele Hollis.
The 20-year-old Wellington design student cuts a dash. He’s tall with a mop of golden-blonde hair, his black sneakers matching his black turned-up skinny jeans. “I’ve loved motorcycles since I was young, and always wanted to design a motorcycle,” he says. Once upon a time, you’d have said that figures. Yet Sam McCafferty got his big break precisely because fewer young people these days share his enthusiasm. Gen Z (the current crop of 16- to 22-year-olds) is embracing retro bicycles and motorscooters. Motorcycles, it seems, are no longer hip.
What, then, will make young people embrace the motorbike once more?
Honda decided to ask young people themselves. Its Research & Development Department challenged Massey’s design students to come up with a motorcycle that would appeal to people their age. Of the 24 designs submitted, three were developed further and McCafferty’s winning design was then taken from the page and made into a life-sized form.
In response, McCafferty developed an unusual shape for his motorbike, designed to make the rider feel secure. “A bulky body in front of the rider implies safety and solidity and adds a presence to the bike when it is on the road. The rider feels more confident and the bike can be seen more easily by other vehicles.”
“There is the possibility of extension further down the line,” he says, “but I’m just taking it one step at a time. I will be part of a larger team working on a new bike that may be produced by Honda. In interviews and in my portfolio when applying for the internship, my sketching and creative ability was the main focus, so I guess I will be doing plenty of that.”
School of Design senior lecturer Oliver Neuland is proud of his students’ work, and the results they have achieved. “Motorcycles are deeply emotional products and the subject of many irrational preconceptions,” he says. “These students were able to examine the issues of sustainable transport faced in their lifetimes, and find a way to create an alternative solution that would appeal to their generation. They also learned valuable skills creating this clay model.”
McCafferty, meanwhile, is a young man on the go. He is half-way through his third year in a Bachelor of Design majoring in industrial design at Massey. Recently he developed a new self-checkout desk for the Hutt City Library and participated in the Electrolux DesignLab competition, as well as working on the Gen Z Honda project.
“I couldn’t be in Auckland for the final parts of the build and painting due to commitments in Wellington, but I was working on details like headlights, tail lights and the speedometer and sending them up. I’m still always thinking about ways to improve the bike if I could design it again. I do a lot of drawing with both pencil and Wacom pad on the computer, so I have little sketch projects running all the time.”
As for the degree: “I intend to graduate in the next few years,” he says simply.
The full creative team behind the full-scale model were Ali Abbas, Emily Ang, Joonhwan Choi, Rohan Geo, Jason Khoo, Nick Marks, Sam McCafferty, Oliver Neuland (design lecturer) and Joseph Raffills. Paolo Cuccagna and Honda Europe were pivotal partners in the project. And McCafferty thanks his family for letting him sleep in their lounge during his trips to Auckland.