In the last year or so I have intentionally rolled back the pace at which custom projects leave the shop. I always hope to recognize the opportunity to place creative perspective back in the fore of my approach toward my custom builds. The proficiency of specializing in a particular brand of vintage machines is not only helpful, as a mostly one man shop, but also imperative if one is to keep ahead of the work load. The time for research and development is usually shelved in order to fulfill custom orders versus the alternative of maintaining a pace of less then controlled chaos. Having taken a proactive stance on minimizing output naturally created the opportunity and time to tackle my first BMW custom build.
The project started out as a stock 1977 BMW R100/7. With an unreasonably boring stance, color and seating arrangement, there was great certainty in needing to make a multitude of irreversible changes. The real inspiration came even before the bike was shipped to the shop. In the process of answering emails the request came through for a custom BMW build. I reminded the potential client that this was not only a machine which I had never built before but also had little to no knowledge of how to even approach or price this project. One short phone call later the customer simply stated that based on the gallery of bikes on the Kott Motorcycles website and some of the videos he had watched about the shop, that he implicitly trusted our capabilities and that we should move forward with the undertaking of the build. After an agreement was reached I was reminded that not unlike friends, motorcycles too were once strangers until you shake proverbial hands with them. Apart from the inspirational confidence that the client placed in the shops capability, inspiration came from the thought that our trademark stylistic approach would work just as well on the BMW as it had on any other brand or manufacturer we had customized before. Confidence, ultimately, turns out to be a cornerstone of inspiration.
We were not only commissioned for the build but also had the task of locating a donor machine for the client. The ever increasing scarcity of vintage bikes in general, due to higher demand and shortage of supply is occasionally staggering, especially when values are easily determined based upon potential and not actual condition. The first BMW donor that I found I felt a little lucky until literally, with cash in hand, the owner simply stated that it was no longer for sale. Thankfully the client was searching for a machine as well. The search was finally over once the 1977 model was located and shipped to the shop in fairly decent condition.
As with every machine that comes into the shop we approach the motor and fuel delivery systems first. The BMW motor was disassembled and quickly outfitted with new exhaust valves, rings, charging circuit and rotor. The original starter motor, which is about the same size as the one on my 1966 Ford pickup, was replaced by a new lightweight version that could still be cranked over by a battery that is literally a quarter of the size of the stock unit. We wired the bike from scratch and with the new high output stator and Reg/Rec unit, we were able to resolve the underperforming charging system in order to make this a much more user friendly machine. The next task was to improve ride quality and position. The stock front end was removed and replaced with a GSXR cartridge style inverted fork. The custom triple clamps, steering stem and front hub, all from the experts at Cognito Moto, were the absolute foundation for the ease of this retrofit. Custom hand cut rearset plates were fabricated to fit seamlessly around the swingarm mount to make them look as period factory as possible if there were such a thing. The tank choice, which came from a mid 90's Yamaha XJR, seemed extremely unlikely until its fitment solved all types of aesthetic and component placement issues. The sheer size of the tank matches the exaggerated proportions of the motor very well and also complemented the hand fabricated seat in a way that is appreciated from nearly every viewed angle of the bike. A fortunate find for the project was a rear spoked hub/differential. Some people may enjoy the look of the stock mag style wheels that the bike had upon entering the shop, but I am not one of those people. The spoked wheels gave the machine just the right amount of vintage styling to offset some of the more modern components used on the project.
Each custom build offers varying levels of resistance to effort. The most complicated aspects of the build allowed me to reach out to some very talented shops in order to achieve the best solutions. The custom rear subframe was an absolute necessity in establishing the narrow and nimble seat design. With tons of variables to consider like shock mounting location, correct suspension alignment and overall strength, I needed another set of eyes and hands for the creation of the custom subframe. Metal Lab Fab knocked out the professional jig and finished product in no time, allowing for improved style and sleekness of overall design. The next, and what felt like an insurmountable challenge, was placed in the more than capable hands of Cognitio Moto. The more research that I did in regards to the front end swap and upgrade, I realized that not only had these guys pretty much beat everyone to the punch, they had perfected their proprietary front hub design and triple clamp assembly which the bike now proudly showcases.
My favorite aspect of this build, other then the fact that it turned out as good or better then how I had originally envisioned it, is the fact that there is now an established community of builders and shop owners that collectively, can build a machine that in its finished state, is truly unique. There seem to be pockets of increasing interest that allow any builder, regardless of present skill level or amount of tools or equipment, to be able to allow a design to reach a certain level of fruition that otherwise may never have been realized. I think we can all see shifts in the stylistic appropriation and donor machine choice that not long ago may have been overlooked based on the fact that others hadn't made it through the wall yet or had any access to the support system of an ever increasing number of skilled craftsmen to help when needed.
I usually leave the name of my projects up to the client once delivery of the machine is finalized.
This particular project definitely falls under the category of what most would consider to be a traditional café racer.