Function Through Form, the video

Dailies -


Back in January, we threw a little exhibition called Function Through Form with JT Nesbitt and Roland Sands. RockMoto produced this video during the event.

  • Marshall

    I shit motorcycle art.

  • Glenn

    It seriously upsets me that some people want engineering to come second to design in motorcycle development. I don’t want an art student to design my chassis, my engine, or my suspension components.

    It doesn’t work for Harley (I would say, most here would agree).

    • Grant Ray

      Glenn, I don’t think anyone said engineering should come second to design. Nesbitt argued for the exploration of a holistic approach to developing a motorcycle.

    • Wes Siler

      You’re confusing “Design” with “Styling.” As Grant says, “Design” is a holistic approach that seeks to achieve greater results by using engineering to create a higher level of both function and form. “Styling” is trying to make stuff look good after the fact.

      Both JT and Roland are extraordinarily talented engineers, which is what makes them good designers.

      • hoyt

        “Engineers” ?
        There’s a difference between ‘engineer’ and hands-on building/designing. Not saying one discipline is better than the other.

        • Grant Ray


          I really didn’t think I’d have to detail all this for HFL readers, sorry for the brief replies so far.

          These guys don’t just build custom choppers or non-functional, bad taste artworks like the AMD bike linked above. Both Roland and JT are able to combine a seriously impressive level of engineering know-how (JT designs production processes, tools for assembly lines, heck the lines themselves; Roland reverse engineers new bikes for the competition) with a totally unique understanding of an appreciation for aesthetics into one holistic design that doesn’t just look really cool, but functions in totally new ways. They create peerless function through appealing form if you will.

          One of the reasons I’m so hard on choppers and cruisers and their ilk is that I’m spoiled; I’ve ridden JT and Roland’s bikes, so I know what the basic form factor is capable of, anything that doesn’t live up to that dissapoints me.

          The fact of the matter is, these are the two most talented, most original, most creative minds designing motorcycles right now and, if the assinine industry lets them, they’re the two guys that are going to comprehensively change the way we think about motorcycles.

  • steaminSteven

    amazing things are born of function, thats why the RC166 will always be a wonder to look @ and the B-King got cann’d so early.

  • Markkit

    There is Decorative Art and Functional Design. In my opinion the two should not be mixed or confused. Just because a product creates an emotion it does`nt mean its art, because it was`nt designed to create an emotion, it was designed to work as effectively as possible.

    Today we mix art and design because our priority is to sell more product and get rich quick as opposed to designing product that is better and investing too much money and time.

    As designers our problem solving abilities have shifted, we try and be creative engineers, but most of us are not trained for this, so we turn to art which comes easier and is the foundation of our design education.

    Styling is the illusion of design. Change is the illusion of progress.

  • urban rider

    I really enjoyed the video. Wish I could have been there, when’s the next one?

    I like how the most talented man there, Mr Sands, was the most succinct interviewee (discounting Grant of course!) describing how he simply soaks up the world and shits motorcycles!! Those who do the most in life often talk the least.

    • Kerry

      Did someone write here that Roland Sands was the most talented man there? Are you effing serious? The most talented “motorcycle” person there was Frank Giannini (at 3:08 in the video)
      Yeah that Benelli GP race bike you see in the video – he built that from scratch. The ducati race bike is also his. It is a shame that youth culture “market-eers” like Sands get press when the real craftsmen of the world slip by without so much as a tage line in any video they are lucky enough to be caught on.

  • aeolus

    What a load of bullshit. The drawings that Nesbit is putting up are crap! Master Motorcycle Chef? So he opens beer bottles for a living. Figures.

    • Wes Siler

      Don’t be a dick.

      That’s a fun project created by a bunch of people attending the party, not a serious artwork. Instead of just standing around, drinking and bullshitting, people painted, drank and bullshitted.

      JT’s actually a great painter, sculptor and probably the most talented motorcycle designer on the planet. He’s also a good friend of mine and, yes a pretty decent bartender.

      • aeolus

        I stand corrected. Link to me one of his great motorcycle designs. That’s a really ambitious statement!

  • Wes Siler
  • aeolus×276-5536.jpg

    Can’t we at least preview our posts? That would help.

    • http://Http:// Wes Siler

      The amd site doesn’t work very well, just drop a link to the bike’s page, not the picture.

      I have to disagree with the “craft” dismissal, jt’s bikes are the most original and holistic solutions in the industry. Sure, there’s a little Vincent in them, but nothing wrong with referencing the past.

      • aeolus

        I like the The Bianchi Pista because it doesn’t try to be a functional bike at all. It’s sculptural that captures what is the essence of what a motorcycle is
        in an abstract form. Nesbitt’s bikes try too hard to be functional and that compromises them as they really aren’t as was the Vincent.

  • hoyt

    I realize the difference between Rolands’ work and the majority of the AMD entries. I also appreciate the need for holistic combination of engineering & design, but the comment “extraordinarily talented engineers” is getting a bit loose when considering the effort & time devoted to the study & application of Engineering. It is more than just passing exams, writing papers, & the paper diploma. Again, there is no more importance of one discipline over the other (engineer vs. builder). i.e. There are plenty of ‘book’ engineers that don’t contribute much due to lack of hands-on experience.

    on a separate note…
    No offense, but if you read another publication that touted (obvious) talents of individuals while at the same time the article claimed a level of friendship to those individuals within the same article, where would you objectively rank the piece of journalism?

  • aeolus

    JT’s actually a great painter, sculptor and probably the most talented motorcycle designer on the planet. He’s also a good friend of mine and, yes a pretty decent bartender.

    I might suggest the guys in the Aprilia design shop who just turned out a pretty good bike called the RSV4 might quarrel with that statement. Also JT might want to check out the Sachs Beast for inspiration.

    • Grant Ray

      Aeolus, I’m pretty sure it’s no secret we think Aprilia is the best design studio currently producing. As for the Sachs Beast, JT was the one who first showed me the concept in 2003, so your sarcastic link is redundant.

      You seem to have a problem with Nesbitt, which is fine. You’re not the first. I’ve had a few myself over the years. That said, I also think you’re dismissing context. The Black Wraith was the last machine he was involved with, during the summer of 2005. The engineering of the carbon backbone was verified on par with, and as complex as, equipment used by US military aircraft.

      As for objectivism, and a reminder of how fresh the work was, when the fuselage-based Wraith first broke in 2004, we got an email from Frank Stephenson offering his services because he thought Confederate was the only house doing interesting work.

  • aeolus

    Grant, I have nothing against Mr. Nesbitt, but I found your extravagant praise for his design/engineering capabilities inexplicable from what I saw in the video and if you were to look at it objectively, you would see my point. Studied art in school; opens beer bottles for a living; and the holistic mumbo-jumbo about the designer responsible for all aspects of a design plus the free sketches on the wall, shriek dilettantes. I agree that a single person should guide the work of the variety of specialists needed to produce a competent motorcycle but if you consider the failed efforts of Kenny Roberts to build a completive V-5 MotoGP bike, even with the services of the esteemed John Barnard, you will appreciate something more than enthusiasm is required. Likewise Mario Illien’s GP effort went nowhere though to be fair lack of funding was an issue. The problem I have with the Wraith is that at $92k a pop, they are light years from the concept of motorcycles as efficient transportation and along with all the AMD crowd, whatever their worth as craft, never have to meet reasonable performance criteria. They remain just baubles for the wealthy.

    • Grant Ray

      Well, we didn’t control the editing. That said, bikes are not, nor have the ever been, by definition, premised strictly as an efficient means of transportation.

  • Larry Friedman

    Why does Grant remind me of Norm Macdonald?

  • hoyt

    It can be argued the use of the Wraith to illustrate the video’s “holistic” message is wrong due to a pushrod, HD-based engine that HFL frequently criticizes.

    “..Ask the questions that nobody else is asking.” – JT Nesbitt

    Hyped bullshit. Czysz among many others throughout small shops & giant engineering depts. are asking plenty of questions

    • over-hyped doesn’t mean it is still not a cool bike.
  • aeolus

    The last, if not the only, holistic design by one individual. Lets see you top that, JT.

  • Ty

    Lots of interesting discussion, most of which misses the key point about Function Through Form: that it happened at all.

    Understand that this event was a great success for anyone who loves motorcycling. You had cool bikes, influential people and a number of major, national mainstream media members jammed to the walls in a fine Manhattan art gallery. That’s big. And that’s what really matters to anyone who cares about bikes. Here we had another terrific celebration of two-wheeling, nearly a decade after the famed “Art of the Motorcycle,” uptown at the Guggenheim. These events, with these kinds of people drawn to them, simply would not have happened in the 1970s and 1980s when the media and the general public really didn’t care for motorcyclists.

    So, everyone should do a little happy dance for FTF. And, then, please do another FTF. Please do a show around riding gear. Do and create whatever we should all support in any way we can, and brings this kind of crowd and further elevates motorcycling.

    And, Grant, recognize that the “assinine industry” came to your rescue, after a late-hour request from HFL, and put up the money to make FTF possible in the first place. It’s not cool to take the cash out of the outstretched hand and then spit in it. Shame on ya, too, for the misspelling of asinine. If you’re going to give anyone or an entire industry a label, first fire up that spell-checker or crack open a Webster’s, eh?