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Motorcycles How A Pro Motocrosser Designed The Coolest Truck Bed Of All Time

13:31  18 september  2020
13:31  18 september  2020 Source:   dirtrider.com

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Every now and then, you hear an interesting story about how a professional dirt bike racer went on to achieve great things outside of the motorcycle industry. It seems that the same motivation that drives riders to be their best on the track translates to success in other areas of life, especially the business world. Such is the case with Carl Zipfel, who went on from being a professional motocross racer to graduating from college and then landing a job at General Motors.

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a group of people riding on the back of a truck: Carl Zipfel is the design manager of the full-size truck division at GMC. He played an instrumental role in the designing of the Sierra 1500’s CarbonPro bed. © Courtesy of GMC Carl Zipfel is the design manager of the full-size truck division at GMC. He played an instrumental role in the designing of the Sierra 1500’s CarbonPro bed. a sign on the side of a building: GMC is the first automobile manufacturer to offer a production truck with a carbon fiber composite bed. © Provided by Dirt Rider GMC is the first automobile manufacturer to offer a production truck with a carbon fiber composite bed.

Zipfel has worked at GMC for nearly three decades and played an instrumental role in the design of the Sierra 1500′s new CarbonPro truck bed, which has multiple features that make loading, transporting, and unloading dirt bikes easier. We received the opportunity to test a 2020 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali equipped with the CarbonPro bed and MultiPro tailgate, and were very impressed with the truck overall. Wanting to learn more about the vehicle’s dirt bike-specific features, we reached out to Zipfel, who provided us with some interesting insight about a variety of topics including his background, designing the carbon fiber composite bed, and the tailgate within a tailgate.

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a sign on the side of a building: GMC is the first automobile manufacturer to offer a production truck with a carbon fiber composite bed. © Jeff Allen GMC is the first automobile manufacturer to offer a production truck with a carbon fiber composite bed.

First off, thank you for taking the time to do this interview, Carl. If you could start by giving us a bit of background about yourself, including: where you’re from, how you got into dirt bikes/motocross racing, details about your racing career (amateur years, when you turned pro, how long you raced pro, and your best/favorite/most memorable race), and your involvement with riding dirt bikes today (your current bike, what type[s] of riding you do, and if you have family members who ride).

a close up of a sign: The carbon fiber composite bed is appropriately named CarbonPro. GMC trucks that feature the special bed are called CarbonPro Editions. © Jeff Allen The carbon fiber composite bed is appropriately named CarbonPro. GMC trucks that feature the special bed are called CarbonPro Editions.

I am originally from the Cleveland area. My parents got me a Kawasaki Trail 75 for Christmas 1974, I believe. In 1978, I started racing on a Yamaha YZ80 in northern Ohio AMA District 12. Almost immediately, I began racing local motocross every weekend and couldn’t get enough of it. By 1984, I had progressed through the amateur classes Mini Jr. and Sr., 125 Schoolboy, and eventually the 250 A local money class. I obtained my AMA Pro license in 1985 and competed in the first year of the 125 East Region Supercross series, as well as racing a Honda CR500 in a few outdoor nationals.

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a car parked on the side of a road: The CarbonPro bed is currently available on the Sierra 1500 in the high-end Denali and AT4 trim levels. © Jeff Allen The CarbonPro bed is currently available on the Sierra 1500 in the high-end Denali and AT4 trim levels.

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The most memorable races were definitely part of the first 125 East Supercross in Atlanta. I was 17, rolling into the stadium at night for my qualifier with the stadium full of fans and all the lights and action. I felt like a rockstar (a very nervous one). I also raced in the Gainesville Gatorback Outdoor National on a CR500 in 1985. Another more memorable moment was having the chance, during tech inspection, to admire the still-legal Honda works bikes, and then later having David Bailey and Broc Glover pass me at warp speed during practice. That same year, I raced the Daytona Supercross, and just being at that track with its history and unique layout will always be special to me.

a close up of a sign: The carbon fiber composite bed is appropriately named CarbonPro. GMC trucks that feature the special bed are called CarbonPro Editions. © Provided by Dirt Rider The carbon fiber composite bed is appropriately named CarbonPro. GMC trucks that feature the special bed are called CarbonPro Editions.

Today, I ride and race regularly in Michigan. I have a couple of bikes, but spend most of my time on a new Honda CRF450R. I am fortunate enough to have a track in my backyard, but also enjoy the comradery in the 50+ (age) class at our local tracks. I have a son who started racing when he was 4 years old. Now, 20 years later, we still enjoy riding and racing together.

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a person standing next to a bicycle: As a former professional motocross racer and someone who still rides and races today, Zipfel used his experience of loading and unloading bikes over the course of his riding career to make the task as easy as possible on the CarbonPro bed. © Courtesy of GMC As a former professional motocross racer and someone who still rides and races today, Zipfel used his experience of loading and unloading bikes over the course of his riding career to make the task as easy as possible on the CarbonPro bed.

Tell us about your career after racing. Did you attend postsecondary school during and/or after your professional racing career? If so, what institution did you attend and what was your selected major/degree? And did you go straight to working for GMC after graduation or did you work with another organization in the interim?

After a few years of chasing the pro racer dream, I realized I wasn’t going to make a living at racing and needed to find something for which I had just as much passion. That led me to the Cleveland Institute of Art, where I saw students drawing futuristic cars and motorcycles, and I knew it was for me. I majored in Industrial/Transportation Design and Graphic Design. I met some great people and alumni, and, ultimately, accepted an internship with General Motors Design. That internship resulted in a full-time position after graduation in 1993.

a car parked on the side of a road: The CarbonPro bed is currently available on the Sierra 1500 in the high-end Denali and AT4 trim levels. © Provided by Dirt Rider The CarbonPro bed is currently available on the Sierra 1500 in the high-end Denali and AT4 trim levels.

Talk about your career at GMC. How long have you worked there, what position did you get hired for, what is your current role with the organization, and what do your job duties entail?

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Within a few years of joining GM Design, I was assigned to the truck studios. I worked on many truck projects. In our role as designer, we are responsible for designing essentially every part of a vehicle that the customer sees. Grille, headlamps, bumpers, sheet metal, interior, pickup box, etc. After a few more years, I was promoted to manager, and became responsible for managing a GMC design team, including designers, sculptors, and engineers. I have been involved in truck design for GMC for most of my 30-year career. Today, I feel very fortunate to be part of a fun, diverse, creative, high-performing team that has been responsible for many concept and production vehicles in the GMC portfolio.

a group of people riding on the back of a truck: Carl Zipfel is the design manager of the full-size truck division at GMC. He played an instrumental role in the designing of the Sierra 1500’s CarbonPro bed. © Provided by Dirt Rider Carl Zipfel is the design manager of the full-size truck division at GMC. He played an instrumental role in the designing of the Sierra 1500’s CarbonPro bed.

Let’s talk about the CarbonPro truck bed. How did the concept for it come about? And were your colleagues on board with having dirt bike-specific features on the bed right away or did it take some convincing?

The GMC Sierra CarbonPro is a composite pickup box available on our AT4 or Denali trim levels. GMC prides itself on offering thoughtful design combined with proven technologies and customer-driven features. Our leadership had an initiative to begin using CFRP (Carbon Fiber Reinforced Polymer) for the right applications on our GMC Sierra. The pickup box was the perfect application, as the CFRP allowed us to design a box that is lighter, stronger, and with more cubic volume than a traditional steel box. The CFRP material gave us some formability advantages over steel as well, which is what led to the specific wheel chock features in the front of the box. Combined with our MultiPro tailgate step feature, the CarbonPro bed makes loading a motorcycle, quad, or mountain bike easier and safer, and generally more convenient.

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a person standing next to a bicycle: As a former professional motocross racer and someone who still rides and races today, Zipfel used his experience of loading and unloading bikes over the course of his riding career to make the task as easy as possible on the CarbonPro bed. © Provided by Dirt Rider As a former professional motocross racer and someone who still rides and races today, Zipfel used his experience of loading and unloading bikes over the course of his riding career to make the task as easy as possible on the CarbonPro bed.

Many of my colleagues, and some members of our top leadership team, happen to ride dirt bikes, mountain bikes, or quads, so we can understand the importance of integrating design features that fit these lifestyles. All of our designs get assessed by customers throughout the development process. We continuously received positive feedback that more tie-down hooks, lighting, wider steps, and, essentially anything that helped ease loading, unloading, and securing items into the box, were valuable features.

a wooden bench sitting on top of a car: With indentations at the front of the bed serving as built-in wheel chocks and two tie-down hooks in the middle, the CarbonPro is designed with dirt bikes in mind. © Courtesy of GMC With indentations at the front of the bed serving as built-in wheel chocks and two tie-down hooks in the middle, the CarbonPro is designed with dirt bikes in mind.

Tell us about the dirt bike-specific features of the CarbonPro bed. What ideas did you know you wanted to implement from the get-go? And were there any that came later in the development process?

It became apparent at the beginning of the process that the CFRP material was going to let us do some things we couldn’t do with steel. The integration of the wheel chock indents in the bulkhead was something that came as a result of the improved formability, and I knew they would be good for motorcycles and bicycles. We combined those with the extra tie-down hooks and created better conditions for securing bikes into the bed. We relocated the LED box lights further forward and tucked them up and out of harm’s way. We also have a 120V power outlet at the rear of the box. All these features, when combined with the MultiPro tailgate system, really make it so much easier for all truck customers to get items in and out of the box.

2020 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali CarbonPro Edition Review

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a wooden bench sitting on top of a car: With indentations at the front of the bed serving as built-in wheel chocks and two tie-down hooks in the middle, the CarbonPro is designed with dirt bikes in mind. © Provided by Dirt Rider With indentations at the front of the bed serving as built-in wheel chocks and two tie-down hooks in the middle, the CarbonPro is designed with dirt bikes in mind.

The CarbonPro bed is made of carbon fiber composite, which according to the GMC website is the same raw material found in seven-figure super cars and aerospace applications. Readers may recognize the term as the name of the material used on the subframes of Husqvarna’s full-size motocross, cross-country, enduro, and dual sport models. The term “composite” of course implies there are other materials used. Can you talk about the blend of carbon fiber and other materials in the CarbonPro bed and what went into choosing carbon fiber composite for its construction from a weight and durability standpoint?

The specific blend of CFRP is a proprietary mixture that was developed with our supplier. It was chosen for the exact reasons you cited—weight and durability. We shaved off approximately 60 pounds in comparison to our steel box and the durability is amazing. The CFRP is preformed into sheets that are then heated and stamped into the final shapes and pieces to make up the construction of the box.

a close up of a motorcycle: The wheel chocks keep the front wheels in place, and the tie-down points in the middle mean there’s no routing tie-downs through spokes or over wheels to secure bikes. © Provided by Dirt Rider The wheel chocks keep the front wheels in place, and the tie-down points in the middle mean there’s no routing tie-downs through spokes or over wheels to secure bikes.

The MultiPro tailgate is another useful feature we got to experience on the 2020 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali. It really seems to pair well with the CarbonPro bed as its step makes it much easier to load bikes into the truck, especially if the rear of the vehicle is on an incline. Did you play a part in developing the MultiPro tailgate as well?

During the development of the new GMC Sierra, the MultiPro tailgate innovation was spearheaded by the engineering leadership team. We had internal workshops/brainstorming sessions with the goal of making a better tailgate system that fit the diverse needs of all truck owners. It will allow you to have a bed extender, tailgate party bench, worksite workbench, and, of course, the low wide step that really helps us motorcycle owners. I don’t miss taking a running leap at my bike stand while trying to hit the ramp with my bike. The GM product development process enables all team members to contribute ideas, and to participate in the development of their idea if it earns its way into the program.

a car parked in the dirt with a mountain in the background: Complementing the CarbonPro bed is the MultiPro tailgate, which offers many functions—one of which is serving as a step when loading and unloading bikes. We got a chance to test a 2020 GMC Sierra Denali equipped with both features, so stay tuned for our review of the truck to hit the site in the near future. © Provided by Dirt Rider Complementing the CarbonPro bed is the MultiPro tailgate, which offers many functions—one of which is serving as a step when loading and unloading bikes. We got a chance to test a 2020 GMC Sierra Denali equipped with both features, so stay tuned for our review of the truck to hit the site in the near future.

As you mentioned earlier, the CarbonPro bed is available on the Sierra 1500 Denali and Sierra 1500 AT4 models. Are there plans to make the CarbonPro bed available on the Sierra 1500 SLT or any of the Canyon model trims in the future?

a close up of a motorcycle: The wheel chocks keep the front wheels in place, and the tie-down points in the middle mean there’s no routing tie-downs through spokes or over wheels to secure bikes. © Courtesy of GMC The wheel chocks keep the front wheels in place, and the tie-down points in the middle mean there’s no routing tie-downs through spokes or over wheels to secure bikes.

We are continually gauging interest and feedback on all features, and although there are currently no plans to offer it on other trim levels, that could always change.

a car parked in the dirt with a mountain in the background: Complementing the CarbonPro bed is the MultiPro tailgate, which offers many functions—one of which is serving as a step when loading and unloading bikes. We got a chance to test a 2020 GMC Sierra Denali equipped with both features, so stay tuned for our review of the truck to hit the site in the near future. © Jeff Allen Complementing the CarbonPro bed is the MultiPro tailgate, which offers many functions—one of which is serving as a step when loading and unloading bikes. We got a chance to test a 2020 GMC Sierra Denali equipped with both features, so stay tuned for our review of the truck to hit the site in the near future.

2020 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali CarbonPro Edition Review .
CarbonPro bed and MultiPro tailgate enhance GMC’s bike-hauling capabilities.One of the other lesser-seen parts of the job is picking up bikes from manufacturers, transporting them to our office to dyno, weigh, and measure, and then heading out to riding areas to test that particular motorcycle, whether it be a motocross bike, cross-country racer, enduro model, or a dual sport (though we do spend time riding on the street with the latter). With that, we log plenty of miles behind the wheel of our trucks and vans taking delivery of and returning press motorcycles loaned to us.

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