When your office is the workshop…
Testing duties within the KTM development centre are divided into street and off-road. We talked with Andreas Hölzl from the section devoted to ‘smooth’ tyres…
So, what exactly is going on in the Street test department?
Andreas Hölzl: Our task is to organise and conduct – and also document – all the necessary testing work during development of new bikes. This applies to engines and suspension as well as electronic components i.e. ABS, Traction Control, EDS *. Tyres also. Testing covers all aspects and areas like stability, acceleration, handling, braking, in short everything that belongs to the overall vehicle development.
Is there a normal day or routine?
Andreas Hölzl: A fixed, recurring sequence for testing does not exist. We mostly get together for tests with the development guys of the specific departments. Road tests are made on public roads here in Austria but for the majority of the work we use closed areas. Controlled conditions allow us to check and evaluate technology and function in safety. For this, test facilities usually offer all options: a high-speed track, a handling course, orbit paths, sectors that can be watered on demand, various asphalt surfaces or loose ground.
How would you describe the development work?
Andreas Hölzl: Vehicle development takes place in stages: P1, P2, P3. P1 is a pure prototype-stage to investigate the general concept of a new bike. Maybe an existing frame is just cut and re-welded to make a different engine fit. P2 is still at a hand-crafted stage, even if the frame already corresponds to the later state of the bike; the right wheels and the motor is in. At this point developers can work on suspension settings, fuel injection and all kind of details. P3 is closer to the final product – apart from the colours – all parts have been properly designed and come from tools and moulds. A number of bikes (a quantity in two digits) is built and given to all departments in order to keep on working and fine-tuning, checking and observing. Thus development then approaches the final state and can ultimately enter series-production.
How long does development of new bikes take?
Andreas Hölzl: It varies and depends on the technology but with completely new developments such as the 1190 Adventure or the 1290 Super Duke they can take 2.5 to 3 years to come together.
How many people work in the Street section?
Andreas Hölzl: We are a handful of people. We always work together with the respective project group for the bike and all departments, which in turn bring along their technicians and mechanics to test rides. So in one test, in general we are 8 to 10 people, sometimes more. In development at KTM about 250 people are employed in total. All are motorcyclists themselves, so motivation is always high, which makes the work so enjoyable. My office is virtually the workshop; I work directly on the bike and always hand-in-hand with the developers.
How about long term testing?
Andreas Hölzl: For this the ‘Langlauf’ (Endurance) department is in charge and 20 to 30 bikes on average are ridden permanently. They have a pool of test riders who reel off thousands of miles every day, at all temperatures, in any weather, all year round.
* EDS (Electronic Damping System)