“At the age of 12, I completely disassembled my father’s moped engine to understand where was happening the miracle. I still haven’t found it.” With that, began the career of Donato Cannatello, now the owner of Given Motodesign, a design company in Milan.
A year later, he enjoyed his first motorcycle ride on a Honda CR125 motocrosser. “I was 13 and without any experience,” Cannatello says. “After that, all other motorcycles were never so scary and exciting to me. Engine noise and wind in the face was the main part of the motorcycle feeling and experience.
“Today we have silent motorcycles and helmet or windshield protecting. Even if I trust in both systems, maybe this is why fewer guys fall in love with motorcycles today?”
“My first really owned motorcycle was a small Laverda OR 50 Atlas. This kind of motorcycle was very common with Italian guys in ’80s and ’90s, with Aprilia as the biggest player in this field,” Cannatello relates.
My father did not trust that new brand, so he preferred to buy a more ancient brand like Laverda, without knowing that after a couple of years, Aprilia will buy and kill the Laverda brand.”
Eventually, that lead to Cannatello’s first serious custom motorcycle—a striking green-and-yellow Honda John Deere. “I built it almost 20 years ago, in my bedroom in a sharing apartment with other students,” he says. “Other guys were not very happy, so when I finished and had to bring the bike out of the apartment, they were very happy to help me to bring it down the stairs for a couple of floors.”
We first became aware of Cannatello when we covered the CR&S DUU Concept nearly nine years ago.
“I met [CR&S founder and manager] Roberto Crepaldi at 2006 EICMA Milano. They were launching the VUN project,” Cannatello remembers. “After that, we started working together on the new project. In the beginning, our coworking was not the best. But good things take some time, so after a lot of years and problems, Roberto and I are still big friends, and I have to say to him many thanks for his trust and his enormous experience and capability.”
After his stint as Lead Designer at CR&S, Cannatello moved to the Matchless, where he had the unusual job of designing motorcycles as advertising vehicles for the company’s apparel line. The result was the Matchless Model X Reload, which debuted at EICMA 2014.
That inspired Cannatello to move on. “After 10 years of experience inside motorcycle companies,” he says, “I thought I had enough experience, and I was ready to make my dream come true. So started this adventure.”
Given Motodesign was born.
Given revived the CR&S DUU platform, taking the frame and the S&S Cycles X-Wedge motor and expanding on it. The Redshift shown here is the second fruit of that labor, with a constant goal of always doing something different.
“We focused on the fork bringing forward a past idea of a sliding fork,” Cannatello explains. “I like very much the classic MacPherson or girder-style fork. In the pursuit of research, I want to move it forward to a new level of engineering. So, I have used the winning geometry of the traditional sliding fork with the stiffness and complexity of MacPherson ones, improving it with rolling bearings for the lowest attack strength.”
“I’m crazy about different front suspension systems,” Cannatello allows.
“The design process and engineering was made in-house with months of 3D work, simulation, and prototypes,” he says. “After this, the body was made using CNC-machining on Ergal AL7075 blocks. [We needed a] special shock absorber with particular length and construction, so we asked the Andreani Group to design a special shock for this application. They developed the shock absorber in a short time with the highest quality. The result was an Öhlins tailor-made unit. This came out almost easily, since the direct geometry did not require a complex progressive response.”
“The rest was just giving a new style to the motorcycle,” Cannatello continues.
“Consider that the DUU is already a son of mine, so I hardly can find something to change to make it better. The new style wants to give the bike a new steampunk look, but trying not to lose the technical content.
“For this, we used some copper parts, handmade by an Italian artisan with very traditional process of chisel, hammer, and pitch. For sure, the copper parts required a lot of work—a lot of time and a lot of cost. We cannot give to an artisan a 3D drawing, so we had to build parts in prototype, and he replicated them by hand—twice the work.”
“Another hard part was the rear passenger seat,” Cannatello says. “It has a special flipping system, so you can turn it upside down when not required, and the motorcycle becomes a solo seater. For this part, it was very hard to find the correct geometry fitting both positions. We had to build a couple of prototypes before finding right one.”
The Given team is made up of four in-house designers, two mechanics, and Cannatello. Redshift is a bespoke motorcycle, with each example explicitly built for a customer and unlike any other build. A buyer can even pass on the unique front suspension, if desired.
Cannatello has a wide variety of influences in the motorcycle world: “For sure my idols are John Britten, for his heroic and iconic motorcycles; Marabese, for giving us the beauty of motorcycles to something affordable; Oberdan Bezzi, for his capability of never falling any step; Miguel Galluzzi, for his art of simplicity; Pierre Terblanche for his art of complexity; and H. Matthew Chambers, for his being the other side of the moon.”
“My inspiration is always related to function, riding, and pleasure,” he says. “The only influence I look at is performance and beauty. This is, of course, the result of external influences mixed & filtered in my mind from outside. Outside of designing, I love to listen to music. I listen to Dead Can Dance, Brian Eno, Aphex Twin, Massive Attack, Almamegretta, Radiohead, but also Sergei Rachmaninov, Erik Satie, etc. Outside of this, I don’t look for inspiration in visual arts—of course, I love and live them—but I always try to start with my own idea.”
An essential feature of the Given Redshift is that it is designed to be street legal and rideable in Europe and the United States, as it is powered by the EPA-friendly X-Wedge powerplant.
However, the Given Redshift “is not the best in-town,” Cannatello allows. “It’s like a Lamborghini. You can ride it, but it is not going to be fun, and too many people are stopping you for a question or selfie. The Redshift fork gives a heavy but precise feeling. It is like a traditional suspension, but with incredible precision and stability, so the riding is very physical. You can ride in-city, but if you want to have fun, you need to go to Passo dello Stelvio.”
We can’t think of a better idea.
Photography by Donato Cannatello, Arianna Pavani, and Guido Polli