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Fast Talk: Rebel With a Hog

Rich Christoph designed Harley-Davidson's latest ride—and kept it just legal enough.

Fast Talk: Rebel With a Hog

Rich Christoph

Designer, Harley-Davidson
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Christoph, 27, was Harley-Davidson's lead designer for the Nightster motorcycle. It's a role he has been preparing for since his youth in farm country in northeastern Iowa, "trying to make stuff go faster—even tractors." His new creation hits the road this spring.

"Ultimately, I don't want people who buy the Nightster to have this jewelry piece that they're scared to ride. Some Harley customers buy their bikes for show and just polish the thing. My goal was to inspire people to ride this bike and tinker with it.

A lot of the cues are from the '50s and iconic to that era. I'm trying to salute that rebellious generation, because they invented cool. After World War II, servicemen would take their military Harleys and cut off the parts they didn't want. It gave them their own identity and kind of started the custom-bike craze on a mass volume. Now it's an integral part of the Harley-Davidson experience. The holes in the fenders, belt guard, and axles, as well as the pared-down rear fender, make it so visually clean that it's a great blank canvas to start with.

I also created a gap between the seat and the gas tank, so it highlights the fact that it's made up of beautiful individual parts that are labored over. People see the side-mounted license plate and the small rear fender and ask, 'Is it legal?' It is, but if people are asking the question, it means we're pushing the edge."

A version of this article appeared in the May 2007 issue of Fast Company magazine.