A couple of months ago I decided that rather than posting up my opinions based on absolutely no bike industry experience whatsoever, I'd try and get some people who actually know what they're talking about to say some words that I could put on this thing and enlighten you.
Around the same time I was thinking about interviews, I made a post about Simple Bike Co and specifically mentioned that I liked the fact that they don’t do loads of colour variations. A few hours after I published it the Defgrip stamp of approval was given to the Eject BMX blog, I followed the link and, predictably, discovered that Simple were set to release a range of new colours. But, I also discovered that Jimmy Röstlund, who basically is Eject BMX, also does design work for Simple and is currently living in my home town of Melbourne.
Still, it took me a while to put two and two together. I was a fan of the Eject hub and of Simple's design style, and Jimmy is obviously right into the design side of bmx and knows how to string some words together - so I should hit him up for an interview. So I did, he was keen, I wrote some stuff, he wrote some more, and now you can read it. Oh yeah, and it's really long so you'll get the second half later in the week.
Jimmy Röstlund Interview: Part 1
Despite spending my $20,000 for a design degree, I’ve always thought that Universities were a bit over-rated. True, they’re a good excuse to drink and talk to girls, but they’re probably not the most effective way of learning to do something. Often the best way is just to do it. Like when a skatepark kid asks how to learn some trick – the best answer is usually just to have a go at it – not to go home and watch 20 how-to-videos.
What I’m getting at here is that Jimmy doesn’t have any formal design training – he’s just doing it. He does his thing under the name of Eject BMX and responsible for the Eject front hub, which is now made by Simple. He also helps out with design for Simple and since coming to Australia, has done bits and pieces for a couple of companies over here, namely Nightfall Bike Co and Tempered Bikes. So… to the questions:
BMXtec: How did you get started with designing things and how much work have you put in over the years to make it all happen?
Jimmy: It's not very easy to answer the question about how I started, at least not to pinpoint it exactly. I've always been the kind of person who would modify things to work better or work in the way I liked them to work. This goes back to when I was a kid, building cars and crazy things out of Lego. I used to love that stuff and I did not hesitate to make my own Lego pieces to make a construction work better.
As for BMX parts I guess the first thing I designed was a rear hub, a pretty massive thing, that was going to work as a left side drive hub via an adapter piece that could make use of a right hand drive freewheel. This was before the age of LHD freewheels and quite a few years before cassette hubs made their debut in the freestyle world. That hub never even made it to the prototype stages, mainly because I did not have the money or the contacts to get it made. I think I was 16 or 17 at that time. After that I made some small bits for my own bike such as a bolt on front hub guard "fork spork" thing and home made knarps that could be used inside an existing gyro/oryg splitter housing. So you could get any brake cable and make it into a gyro cable.
By now I've done many hundreds, if not thousands, of hours of work in my spare time outside of my regular job and I've almost got a whole bike of "my own" parts in my CAD folder on the laptop.
What’s your basic design philosophy? To design fancy shit and get famous? That was pretty much the attitude of most when I was at Uni. Obviously that’s not what you’re about, but what are you about?
My basic design philosophy would be to keep it simple, no pun intended, however corny that would sound. I've never been a fan of stuff that looks like they're out of some space ship or have come straight off some Mountain bike full of parts from a CNC masturbator's wildest wet dreams. I've never had it as a goal to become a famous designer in any way, to be honest I've never even really considered it even being a possibility. That a considerable number of people know me from the work I've done so far is really something that I never imagined that it would happen and I'm stunned. I really just want to try to make my own little whims and ideas work in theory, first in the CAD program on the computer and then possibly become reality in the form of at least prototypes. Production is always a bonus. By that I'm not saying that my brain is overflowing with ideas all the time, but when I do get an idea I do have a hard time letting it go until I've worked it out.
The CAD model and the final version of the Eject top load stem - A few small changes
And what about your design process? Do you have some kind of standard procedure you follow when you sit down to work on something?
Since I suck at sketching by hand, which I know is the preferred "visualize-and-get-shit-on-paper" procedure for "real" designers, I usually just try to work it all out in my head first and then go straight to CAD. Sometimes I make some rudimentary sketches, but it's really not something that anyone else would be able to read or figure out. Which could be good for secrecy reasons I guess. Sometimes I make notes to highlight any special details that need to go into the design.
After all the first drafts and their revisions I generally push to get a prototype sorted as soon as possible. It really depends on the part how many revisions are needed to do before getting prototypes. It has happened that the first drawing, without amendments, goes straight to prototyping. But it has also happened that we've done 10-15 big or small revisions and it still hasn't reached the prototype stage. It can be a long and tiresome process for sure!
I'm sure you've seen this before. But have you ever pulled one apart? Quality they are
The Eject hub is a really simple idea nicely executed. But I’m sure it wasn’t as simple to execute as it was to think of – if you know what I mean? I’d say just about everyone who rides has thought of some little improvement they could make to a part on their bike, but for most people the design ends there. Just so all those people don’t feel like they’ve missed out, could you talk us through the blood sweat and tears of what is involved in making an idea into a reality?
The first thing I try to do before even starting to design a part is if it's necessary to make and get on the market. If it adds any functionality or improvement other than just looking different. This goes for the parts that I've done as Eject projects, which in reality only is the Eject hub and the stem available through Simple. When I work together with other people or companies, then of course I can't apply my own personal philosophy to everything we do. Because in all honesty if we did, then a lot of parts would probably never have left the drawing board. So instead, when working with Simple for example, I try to make the product look unique but still not go overboard so it becomes a gimmick. And if there's a way for me to push it in the direction I'd prefer to see, that's what I do.
I've never been a fan of "clone" parts, but I do also see why it's easy to work that way as a parts company - to just pick something out of a catalogue and put a logo on it. I take pride in having at least done significant changes to the design and look of the Simple parts that are based on already existing products. For example the newly released Simple cassette hub is based on the same internals and axle as the Proper & Colony hubs, but the shape of it has been completely redesigned and I've tried to add my touch to it so it works better visually together with the front hub.
So to go back to the original question...
Let's just use my front hub as an easy example.
It all started because I saw a need for front hub guards as opposed to thick flanges that would "hold up to grinding", which is quite dumb really - especially if you've paid $130 for the hub. I just wanted to make something that was more integrated into the design instead of having to strap things onto your wheel or bolt something to the dropout, or demolish the flanges of an expensive hub.
The actual designing started on the computer and it probably went through something like 5 significant "morphs" before I came up with the design that became the first prototype. A friend at my workplace at that time had access to a machine shop and he made me 6 prototypes that I, due to lack of funding, was able to sell at cost price to some friends of mine to try out. After they had been ridden for a while I decided on the changes that needed to be made. Mainly aesthetic ones, but also one or two changes that affected the function and usability.
Here's just a few of the incarnations of the hub on it's way to the final version. What you can't see is all the little changes to the internals
Later I managed to source another, bigger, machine shop that could do the first production run. For the second production run I teamed up with Simple and production moved to Taiwan and for this run I only did some minor tweaks. Now we're at version 3 and for every new version we get at least a couple of prototypes to test.
Is there some part of the process that you find really frustrating, tiresome – not fun? And what’s the best bit? That’s got to be getting the final prototypes delivered?
Ok, let's start with the boring parts... there are some things that can be very repetitive. For example when you've drafted a new sprocket design and the manufacturing drawings needs to be made for every single size. On to the frustrating bits. I guess here's where the downside of not having the formal training to do this stuff comes to play - sometimes I have an image in my mind but I can't get it to work in the program, basically just because I don't know how to accomplish it. But some of my trademarked stubbornness usually takes care of that. Then comes the hassle with manufacturers, they can be extremely closed minded about what parts they can (read: want) to make and the communication can be a huge problem. Sometimes you have to send a drawing back and forth up to 4, 5, 6... 10 times to make sure we're all on the same page.
It's all worth it in the end though, after you've worked on something for a really long time and only seen it on the computer screen for hours on end, twisting and turning it, making changes and tweaks. Finally getting that prototype delivered and, if all goes well, see it in the shops. It's such a great sense of accomplishment! The extra bonus on top of that is when you see some rider running the parts or if someone actually approaches you to say they're happy with the product.
Right. You got sore eyes yet? That's it for now. Stay tuned for Part 2 some time around the end of the week.