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Earle Motors And The Alaskan Adventure

Earle Motors And The Alaskan Adventure
Professional transportation designer Alex Earle is no stranger to creating vehicles with focused intent. When not designing cars for major European automobile manufacturers, he is penning and executing beautiful yet purposeful bespoke motorcycles. 
The Run Down

We caught up with him after a recent overland through Alaska, testing our Trench GTX Jacket, Globe GTX Pants, Kodiak GTX Gloves, and Discovery H2O Boots on his latest adventure creation.

REV’IT!: Tell us a bit about your design background; where did you learn your craft…what were some of your early creative influences?

Alex Earle: It was a long road for me. I was once a landscape architect, but my formal study of industrial design started at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. It was there that I was introduced to some ultra-talented Porsche creatives like Tony Lapine, Grant Larson, and Stefan Stark. Like many of my colleagues, I grew up building Tamiya models and obsessing over every frame of the vehicle designs of the Star Wars movie franchise. It wasn't until Art Center that I realized I could make a decent living out of my nerdy compulsions.

REV’IT!: Any specific artists or designers you draw inspiration from? Any other source materials and influences, whether in transportation or non-endemic?

AE: My design hero is Burt Rutan. He is the aerospace engineer responsible for dozens of revolutionary airframes and notably, SpaceShipOne. His understanding of composites resulted in a revolutionary design language, and what I strongly feel is a pure, no BS aesthetic - original, never derivative. I'm also a fan of Jack Northrop, Ola Stenegard, and Daniel Simon.    

REV’IT!: Your Ducati Trackers clearly have a competition influence. Do you race yourself? Did the sporting aspect originate with the design creation, or did the competition angle come after the bike’s concept and design?

Initially, the Tracker was conceived purely as a street bike with a taller seat height for my personal use. I was always drawn to the purity of purpose, proportion and authenticity of dirt track race bikes like the HD XR-750. I had a Ducati Monster 900 as my daily driver. To me, it seemed obvious to make a 19-inch wheel flat track bike out of the Ducati L-twin. The implementation of the monocoque design was actually a result of my automotive design training. I am accustomed to designing surface and volume, rather than the typical component-based approach normally applied to motorcycles.

I think that is what resonated with people so much. A lot of people ask me if I was influenced by the Vetter Triumph. I actually had no knowledge of that bike before I produced the Tracker! I was influenced by the New VW Beetle which had just come out as I was preparing my design. It was the product design influence you can see in the continuous chamfer and clean, full surface development. It wasn't until several years later that the Hooligan flat track class was created and started growing in popularity, that I could see some competition applications for the package.

Tell us about the Alaskan…where did the concept start?

Back in 2014, I was responsible for the original Ducati Desert Sled concept. It was very much inspired by the early California desert racing scene and I was very proud of the bike. When it finally reached the public, I purchased one and set about making my personal vision of the platform. I grew up backpacking and cycling in the Intermountain West and wanted a motorcycle that would support me in those environments. The improvements Ducati had made to the suspension and frame allowed me to focus on the range, protection, comfort, and most crucially, the wheel package. Alaska would be the proving grounds.

What was your creative process for the Alaskan? Any specific challenges stick out in your mind?

Normally I would do several rounds of sketching before producing a scale model for scanning. From those, I would create molds. For the Alaskan, I went medieval and hand-formed the tank/seat/tail section, etc. all by hand. There was a lot of foam and Bondo formed directly on the bike with a Surform, sandpaper, my bare hands, my blood and sweat! When the concept is so fully formed, all design decisions are very clear.

At that point, it was more of an ergonomics exercise, which was great because I could add or subtract volume while directly sitting on the bike to see how it felt. It was all very satisfying. The biggest challenge is having the where-with-all and knowing when to stop shaving and cutting! With more time and resources, I probably could have kept going and going.

How did it feel to unveil the bike to the public? What was the response and feedback like?

It's always a relief to unveil these projects. I usually don't get too nervous because I know I couldn't have done it any better. It’s a big rush of personal accomplishment. Funny because the big unveiling was also the first time I got to see the bike complete myself! I'm always bolting the last pieces together for the first time as the truck is waiting outside to pick them up. Of course most of the people who approach me personally are complimentary …and that's how I like it - ignorance is bliss! I've had a very positive response, with many inquiries regarding purchasing components or complete builds. A lot of people have commented that it looks like an OEM machine, which in my opinion is high praise. I’m quite proud.

How was riding the bike through Alaska?

Riding the bike in Alaska was truly fantastic. After all the energy, expense, late nights, maniacal shuttling of parts up and down the coast and obsessive scrutiny of all of details major or minor, the bike handily exceeded my performance expectations. With only a few mechanical issues to deal with, our only concerns were the weather, how deep are the water crossings were…and not running out of beer. This is where our REV'IT! gear really proved its worth. The GORE-TEX® waterproofing and venting was so effective that I don't recall a single episode of discomfort. We encountered heavy downpours, immediately followed by 75-degree dusty stretches, followed by mud-riddled double track, all ending in expansive frigid snow fields. I especially appreciated the simultaneous simplicity and technology of my Trench GTX Jacket and Globe GTX Pants. I loved the straight forward function and clean, timeless aesthetic. The fully realized designs and technical features truly worked to keep me safe, dry, and comfortable. The whole load out was so comfortable I pretty much lived in it - including the Discovery Boots and Kodiak GTX Gloves.

With only a few mechanical issues to deal with, our only concerns were the weather, how deep are the water crossings were…and not running out of beer. This is where our REV’IT! gear really proved its worth.
What’s next for you and Earle Motors?

With the Alaskan safely returned home from glacial lakes and freezing rains, I tore it down to look for any required repairs. It is currently being refreshed for a new hot and arid climate design and livery which I hope to show soon. I will continue to develop it as an Adventure machine here in Death Valley and the Sierras. I am also concepting a stripped down version that could be raced in the NORRA Mexican 1000 in Baja. The adventure in Alaska is in the books, the bike has proved its mettle. Now the work really begins!

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