A Designer's Story - Sergio Robbiano

Tor Sagen
by Tor Sagen

Back in 2005 something extraordinary happened when Aprilia decided to start work on an all new world beating superbike. The RSV4 was born. Already in 2006 Aprilia launched the V4 race engine claiming 210 horsepower at the EICMA show. From December 2005 until March 2007 Sergio Robbiano worked flat out on the RSV4 design and mechanics. Then Aprilia’s Centro Stile took over and after many changes Aprilia showed us the current RSV4 at a special press conference and then at the EICMA show in 2008.

In 2009 we saw the launch of both the RSV4 Factory and RSV4 R and Max Biaggi won one race at Brno. Then the first double win arrived at Portimao in 2010. Clearly the RSV4 has already started achieving the success Aprilia hoped for back in 2005. Robbiano started his career working on another legendary superbike though, the Ducati 916 under Massimo Tamburini. This is Robbiano’s story.

a designer s story sergio robbiano, Robbiano worked on the Ducati 916 with Massimo Tamburini
Robbiano worked on the Ducati 916 with Massimo Tamburini.
a designer s story sergio robbiano, The DB5 was Robbiano s crowning achievement at Bimota
The DB5 was Robbiano’s crowning achievement at Bimota.

At the age of 44, I’m lucky because it is a long story in a very short time! First of all I started under Massimo Tamburini on the Ducati 916 project during 1991; I did not touch the clay model of this bike but I made many drawings that Massimo used. The first bike that I worked hard on was the Mito Ev in 1992, the 916 daughter! When I left CRC to follow my own way I had the great opportunity to make, on my own during 1995, the styling project of the Bimota 500 Vdue. The bike had a great design success and for the first time I felt really like a motorcycle designer. In 1997 I made the design of the Bimota SB8R. In 2003, when Bimota reopened, I had the greatest challenge of my career: the Bimota DB5 mille. Winning the MDA award with that bike was fantastic; for the first time I was officially on the top. In 2005 the Bimota DB6 Delirio gave me great satisfaction, we arrived second in the MDA and the market made the Delirio the best selling Bimota bike for years after! In 2006 and for all the time until March 2007 I’ve been working on the Aprilia RSV4.

On Massimo Tamburini:

I met Massimo for the first time in 1990; I really did not know how important this man I had in front of me was... But I learned it very fast! Massimo Tamburini is, in my opinion, the best bike man in the world. Nobody knows and I want to tell you a secret: in September, 2004 he came back in Bimota for the first time, after 22 years, to see my DB5 before IFMA. We were crying... This moment has no price! I have a fantastic picture of that moment: Massimo, Alberto Strada, Enrico Borghesan, Bruno Morandi and I behind the DB5 of the IFMA Show... This image has never been shown to the world.

What is your favorite moment with Bimota?

I had so many great moments with Bimota that I cannot choose one; but the MDA awards were really unexpected!

And will there be more Robbiano Bimota’s in the future?

I hope so, but no one knows the future....

On the Aprilia RSV4:

The main brief was to make something that made the difference between Aprilia RSV4 and the other SBK (in 2005). We started in December, 2005 so everything I say now is related to 2005. This is the reason I was very concentrated on the mechanics of the bike. Styling changes but when you make something really different and efficient in mechanics it remains. I made many propositions about the frame, swing arm materials and other mechanical parts. This is a problem for the designer because you have to fight with the mechanical department; they want to follow their own idea; this is with every company, not especially Aprilia. My idea was to make a 10/15 kg lighter bike than the competition...

a designer s story sergio robbiano, Robbiano with a pre production Aprilia RSV4
Robbiano with a pre-production Aprilia RSV4.

In the end Aprilia chose a different design than yours, please explain a little bit about the process when Aprilia wanted to make its final design?

I think that Aprilia took some good ideas that I had, and this is good, correct and logical. I like their bike a lot and I agree with their choice.

Please explain a little bit about how you go about when designing a leather suit, boots and helmets?

I’m very proud of the job I do with AGV, Spidi and XPD boots; first of all they are incredibly serious companies and I have a special human relationship with the workers and the owners. When I started it was a great challenge for me because it is completely different than motorcycle design; but the passion is the same because I’m first a rider and secondly a designer. My dream was to be a rider; this helps me because when I use the things I design I understand what works and what not.

Is it all about the graphics for these?

I care only for graphic on the AGV helmets; with Spidi and XPD I work on the model like on a bike.

I have also noticed a design of an Arctic Cat snowmobile, tell me more about it?

It was a great honor that a “snow company” wanted to have my idea about a snowmobile.... We will see what happens.

What makes Italian designers different from others?

The fact that they live in Italy ... The craziest country I’ve been to in my life!

a designer s story sergio robbiano, The finished product
The finished product.

You had an accident on your Bimota DB5, please tell me what happened?

I really don’t know, nobody knows, they found me in a bloody pool on the highway. With that accident I got 88 pins on my body and three operations. But I still ride like before.

What lies ahead in the future for Robbiano Design?

As I told you nobody knows the future... I really should like to try to work with Japan...

What are your current projects?

All that you can see on my new website http://www.robbianodesign.com/.

Related Reading
2010 Aprilia RSV4 R Review
2010 Aprilia RSV4 Factory Review
WSBK: 2010 Portimao Results
WSBK: 2009 Brno Results

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