News Feature

Paperbikes: modelling moto enthusiasm



December 15, 2017 | Interview: Rahoul Ghose

paperbikes at design central in williamsburg | rahoul ghose

Paperbikes entrepreneur Vassili Shishkin has literally gone back to the drawing board to render his love of all things motorcycle into 3D models. For the past three years, the Brooklyn-based artist and moto vlogger has created DIY paper model kits of bicycles and motos for users to buy, build and customize. A financial manager for an arts education firm during regular work hours, Vassili has even created company-specific products for the likes of Godspeed Co., New York City Motorcycles, and more recently, Dirty Billy Garage BK.

Paperbikes – motorcycles and bicycles – are available for purchase through the company's SquareSpace online store at: paperbikes.com. Costs range from $2 to $5 with buyers getting a digital file to print out, cut out and glue together. Physical kits that are already printed out are also available. And additional branded items -- including t-shirts and coffee mugs -- can be purchased through Etsy.

Check out our recent interview with Vassili below.


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1) Where did the idea for paperbikes come from? Did you study technical drawing or drafting?

My whole life I’ve loved two-wheeled machines and building little models out of paper. I actually still have some of the 'original' paperbikes from when I was about seven years old. So a few years ago when I was looking to purchase a papercraft bicycle model online and didn’t find one I decided to create one myself – a friend saw it and mentioned that I should sell them – and that’s when paperbikes was born.

2) What bikes have inspired your creations to date?

It’s not really the brand, but the style that inspires me. I’m a huge café racer / scrambler / street tracker nerd, so the lines of those bikes inspired me the most. I love a short, compact wheelbase, short seat, steep steering angle, nice plump gas tank, and a big round headlight – those are the details that speak to me.

dirty billy yamaha dt400 model (3.5" by 2.5" built) | rahoul ghose
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  My whole life I’ve loved two-wheeled machines and building little models out of paper. I actually still have some of the 'original' paperbikes from when I was about seven years old. So a few years ago when I was looking to purchase a papercraft bicycle model online and didn’t find one I decided to create one myself.   

-- Vassili Shishkin, paperbikes
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3) Describe your process going from original concept to a finished product/paper bike.

First, I doodle the bike a bunch to get the proportions to feel right – then I take the sketch to Adobe Illustrator and unfold the model in my head – after which I create a SketchUp model to make sure everything fits. It’s always the battle between including lots of details versus making the bike model easy to make, as well as making the model fit on a postcard or other formats. The idea is that the bikes are self explanatory to build - since all of the parts are broken down like a real bike would be. And while all the parts make sense to me, they may not to other builders, so its important to find that balance. The final step is to build a prototype. It's a great feeling of accomplishment when a paperbike goes from a sketch to its physical form.

4) How long does it take to develop a new bike?

It totally depends on the bike in question, but I would say between 10 to 20 hours, which includes making a few prototypes and changing my mind a few times about the design/execution.

m2 scrambler with original sketches for the m3 café racer | rahoul ghose
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  The most important skills are patience and imagination – a love for bikes would help too.   

-- Vassili Shishkin, paperbikes
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5) Once a buyer has purchased a paperbike, what tools and skills do they need to complete their project? Are they more of an adult skill-level model?

The most important skills are patience and imagination – a love for bikes would help too. Since you are working with tiny and fragile pieces of paper it’s entirely too easy to destroy all of your hard work in seconds. No special tools needed – simple scissors and paper glue would work. But to create a crispy model I suggest using an X-ACTO blade with a cutting mat, as well as clear papercraft construction glue.

6) What new bikes do you have in the works?

The best and most beautiful, glorious bike ever created – the eternal 2006 Ducati Monster 620. My benchmark of style and performance. It’s the bike I ride daily, but I’ve yet to build a model of it. I’m also working on some variations of the Mini 2 bike that is already available in the postcard form as well as an updated version of V2 – the fixed gear bicycle model. And I have a few requests I'm working on, a Ducati Scrambler, a Harley chopper, a BMW GS1200.

bmw airhead r90 - comes with original exhausts as well as a short mean chopped one. (8.5"x4.5" fully built) | rahoul ghose
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  The biggest advice is to stay focused and commit to the move you’re about to make. There is nothing more frustrating to me than an indecisive driver/rider.   

-- Vassili Shishkin, paperbikes ... on riding in NYC
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7) Have you considered working in other materials other than paper … plastics for instance?

I have, but I’m yet to create any papercraft kits from other materials. I have some projects that I began working on out of foam board, however, these are more for my private collection. I’ve also started woodcarving recently and it has been really fun to whittle little paperbikes out of basswood. In the future I plan to create larger scale model kits out of stronger cardboard.

8) You ride a Ducati Monster and have documented the riding experience in NYC and surrounding areas as a moto vlogger. What’s it like to ride here and what advice, if any, would you have for riders new to the city?

The biggest advice is to stay focused and commit to the move you’re about to make. There is nothing more frustrating to me than an indecisive driver/rider. Being aggressive is crucial in this town. In my opinion, it’s the only way to be in control of your journey. Have to stay on your toes. It’s also important to be compassionate and understanding of other drivers – a quality I often struggle with.

9) What’s your favorite local ride?

As far as within NYC goes – the only favorite local rides take place after 2 am or early weekend mornings, around 6 am. At that hour you can go anywhere, ride anything ... you can go 100 blocks in the row up 1st Avenue in Manhattan without hitting a single light. Epic.

As far as outside the city, my favorite is everyone's favorite – Hawk’s Nest (Route 97) and Bear Mountain / 7 Lakes, and all the twisties around there. There is also all of the Catskill Mountains which I visit often. It’s truly incredible to be all alone on these beautiful roads, old route 17 and 30 with a touch of 206. NY State has some fantastic routes if you know where to look.


10) As you seem to encourage people to mod their paperbikes, have you done a lot of modding to your own Monster?

I’ve done quite a few mods, but they are all simple and non-extensive, and something anyone can do themselves. A pre-requisite tail chop (hacksawing 8” off the frame, why not?), Mivv Exhausts, CRG mirrors, removed emission canister, replaced the fork with an adjustable one off the S2R 1000, Motodemic Adaptive headlight, Oberon turn signals, comfy seat, comfy grips, frame/fork sliders, and probably a few other small things I forgot about. And then there is all the limitless maintenance of an italian beast. The work never stops. I love this bike.

cutting out the laverda sfc 750-inspired paper model, designed exclusively for new york city motorcycles | rahoul ghose
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  I would love to keep nerding out with motos and creating models of the bikes I admire - and I would also LOVE to see a paperbike in every home across the world.   

-- Vassili Shishkin, paperbikes
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11) Getting back to paperbikes, where would you like to see the company go in 2018?

I would love to keep nerding out with motos and creating models of the bikes I admire - and I would also LOVE to see a paperbike in every home across the world :)

Thanks for taking the time to talk with us.

safety first ... full face shoei with m3 café racer and airhead r90 | rahoul ghose
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