You will have seen Modmo’s Modular Accessories Lead Design Engineer, Bachir, in a number of our Modmo videos, but he has never been officially introduced. So I sat down with him last week for a chat to give him a chance to tell you a bit about his life and about how he came to MODMO.
Bachir, known to the team as “Bash”, has been on the team since May 2020. He has been involved in many aspects of the company, but most specifically in the development of the Saigon bikes and the MODMO Mods. He also built the AquaMod, our April Fools invention.
I start with the basics:
Where are you from Bash?
I’m half Ukrainian half Algerian, born in Ukraine, came to Canada when I was around three, and stayed in Canada for pretty much the rest of my life. I was really lucky to be able to go back to Ukraine here and there, maybe once every two or three years, because it's only me and my mum in Canada so going back to the family was very important.
Growing up in Canada, I learned to speak English and French, in fact primary school, high school, and then pre college were all in French. Then I did university in English - I studied Mechanical Engineering. I also joined the army - I was in the Canadian reserve for about a year and a half.
Wow, what was that like?
It was amazing for my work ethic, discipline, teamwork and physical strength. The brotherhood that you develop there is so strong. It can be really difficult at times, but the fact that you’re going through those rough experiences with others makes you push past your limits.
At the same time as serving in the reserve you were also at university. Why mechanical engineering?
Well engineering has a strong presence in my family, for example my grandfather is an engineer / multi-patented inventor. So I think I've got a lot of my intuition and love for engineering from him, but also just from watching “How it’s Made” and Mythbusters when I was a kid, and assembling and disassembling things at home like VHS players and TVs. All these things kind of anchored the idea that I like how things are made and how things are designed.
What did you do after university?
I started an internship at a bus company called Micro Bird. It’s a bus manufacturer in a small town a few hundred kilometers north of Montreal, which is where I lived. It was great, such a cool experience.
One of the projects we worked on was a rail system that you put on the floor of the bus so that you could adjust the position of the seats on the bus, or even remove them completely if needed. Just like how in a car you can press a lever and get the seat to move forwards and back. We were testing it with big hydraulic presses to see how it failed and how we had to improve it. It was definitely a good experience because it made me really diligent with testing and helped me to develop a clear design process.
What happened then - how did you get from there to working in HCMC with MODMO?
I had always wanted to take a trip to Southeast Asia, so after graduating I decided to just go. I saved up enough money to stay abroad for almost a year and then I went to Asia and travelled for six months and then stayed in Saigon for the rest of the time. I chose to stay in the city partly because I just wanted to not have to change beds every two or three days! I also wanted to experience living in someplace in Asia for a while.
At the time, I was also travelling for one of my passions, which is dance. My itinerary was sort of organized through salsa festivals around Asia actually - I would sightsee but also go to these festivals and meet people there. It would really help to get a bigger experience than to just backpack - through dance, you can connect with different kinds of people that you wouldn’t connect with otherwise.
So I was doing that until it was time to come back to Canada, but then COVID hit and it became a lot more difficult to get back. The plane ticket was two times more expensive and at the same time, Canada was hit much harder by the pandemic than Vietnam, so it just made sense to stay where I was. The only thing was figuring out how to support myself so I started looking for jobs, preferably in my field rather than English teaching or tutoring, and I found MODMO.
And now here we are!
Now that you’re part of the team, what do you do at MODMO?
You can find out more about this in our latest update video but I have been involved in a lot of things. I started by working in production - the manufacturing of the frame. I spent every day at the factory for two and a half months last year from August to October, just making sure that the frames were being finished well and overseeing the puttying process.
I’ve also worked on the packaging box for the bikes. I’ve been our Lead Mechanical Engineer’s right-hand man - whenever he needs help on designing something quick, I help him out - and I worked with our Production Manager on the assembly line for batch 1, trying to make it as organized as possible.
MODMO update video: joining Bachir at MODMO's frame factory.
What are you working on right now?
Right now I'm back to designing the Mods. I’m working on the rear rack - we want to make it compatible with all frame sizes and we want it to act as the base platform for any other Mod you want to put on top. So you will be able to carry not only your own luggage or whatever you want to strap on, but also MODMO accessories like the child seat, the cargo box and the rear basket.
How do you ensure that? Take us through how you get from an idea to a finished product.
I guess it depends on what you want to do but the meat of it is to have an idea of your final goal and then figure out how to get there. Essentially an engineer is a problem solver.
You want to know the kind of environment the product will be in as this will determine what you’d need to do to make sure it is totally stable. You take that into account for the design as well as aesthetics and user experience, and you also have to design it in a way that is easily manufacturable. There's definitely a structured process - before going to step two, you have GOT to finish step one.
NOTE: Bash actually shared more about his work in our latest update video. You can watch it below.
Modular Accessories | MODMO Update | 25.03.21
What’s it like working as part of the MODMO team?
It's a great dynamic because it’s a real melting pot of different cultures. Differences in culture don’t always have to separate us, they also bring us together. We want to see how the other person works. Our team is partly Vietnamese and partly foreigners and we all adapt together and meet each other in the middle.
Now to my final question: from the perspective of someone who has been intrinsic to the design of our bikes, what is the purpose of MODMO? What is the company’s vision?
I think the goal is very simple: to replace cars. That’s the ultimate thing, to make riding our bikes as convenient as driving a car from one place to another. In fact riding our bikes is even more convenient because you don't have to find a parking spot, you don’t have to stop for petrol, you can just seamlessly breeze through to your destination but still have the convenience of bringing your stuff with you using our mods.