The BMW R-series has a rich heritage spanning 90 years—all the way back to the launch of BMW’s first motorcycle, the R32, in 1923. Since then the air-cooled, horizontally opposed flat-twin (or ‘boxer’) engine has continually evolved, and its reliability and availability make it a great platform for customizing. Models from the 70s and 80s are the most popular among builders, but occasionally a 50s or 60s model will go under the knife.
BMW celebrated the R series’ 90th anniversary this year with the launch of its R nineT—a naked boxer made to be customised. Two of the builders featured below—Urban Motor and Blitz—were invited to the launch, along with Roland Sands and El Solitario, creators of the amazing Baula. Each was supplied with a pre-production model for customising. Urban Motor’s R nineT has already been released, and we can’t wait to see the next three.
Choosing our favorite BMW R-series customs was incredibly difficult because there are too many fantastic builds to choose from. Let us know in the comments if you think we’ve made the right choice.
ER Motorcycles BMW R80 ‘Mobster’ Since setting up shop in 2009, Blaž Šuštaršič and his team at ER Motorcycles have been keeping a fairly low profile—until now. This is rapidly changing, with top quality builds like this R80 catapulting the Slovenian shop into the spotlight.
Appropriately dubbed ‘Mobster’, this brooding bobber consists of an ’84 R80 engine in a R69S frame, with R50/5 forks and a rare Schorsch Meier fuel tank. The colour scheme is a blend of metallic bronze and black, with hints of raw and polished metal. There’s also some impressive leather work on the grips and seat. The bike’s overall stance is flawless: menacing, yet begging to be ridden. [ER Motorcycles]
Photo credit: Jernej Konjajev
Blitz Motorcycles BMW R100/7 ‘Green Hornet’ Of the many BMWs that have passed through Blitz Motorcycles’ Parisian workshop, this is my favourite. It’s Blitz founder Fred Jourden’s personal ride, and has made appearances in various short films—such as ‘Long Live the Kings’ and the BMW R nineT launch video. Having ridden it for 7 years in an all-black guise, Jourden decided it was time for both an engine rebuild and a redesign.
The R100/7’s subframe was shortened and the entire frame powder coated green to match the 70s Honda CB fuel tank—which was found at a swap meet and mounted in its original condition. The headlight also hails from the 70s: it was originally a rally car spotlight. Named after the popular 1960s TV series, ‘Green Hornet’ epitomises Blitz’s eclectic, and often controversial, style. [More about this bike | Blitz Motorcycles]
Photo credit: Gary Jézégabel
Fuel Motorcycles BMW R80 ‘STrial’ Scram Africa is an annual pilgrimage to the North African desert for classic and neo-classic motorcycles. It’s organised by Spanish custom shop Fuel Bespoke Motorcycles, so it’s not surprising that their builds usually have a distinctive scrambler feel to them. Such as this immaculate, ISDT-inspired ’84 R80ST.
It features a redesigned subframe, with BMW K75 forks at the front and a Wilbers shock at the rear. The tank is from a Kawasaki KZ750, finished in a vintage green and complimented by the brown seat and Oury grips. On the side of the tank is a vintage Ural suicide shift —cleverly converted to a choke mechanism, and adorned with a Fuel badge. [More about this bike | Fuel Motorcycles]
Photo credit: Claudio Rizzolo
Café Racer Dreams BMW R75/5 ‘The Challenge’ I might get slated for featuring two scrambler-style builds in a row, but I can’t help myself. It’s a popular genre, and one that suits the R-series well. This particular example, based on a 1971 R75/5, was built by Café Racer Dreams, with help from BMW specialists MaxBOXER.
Its high front fender, stock fuel tank and kicked up subframe give it a muscular stance, backed up by upgraded suspension and Continental TKC80 rubber. Escapes GR built the unique exhaust system, which suits the bike perfectly, to CRD’s specifications. Other details include the custom made sump guard and vintage enduro-style tail light. Tying everything together is the two-tone colour scheme. In a word: stunning. [More about this bike | Cafe Racer Dreams]
Photo credit: Rafa Gallar
Urban Motor BMW R100RS ‘Werkstattrenner’ German specialists Urban Motor have a knack for building incredibly clean and stylish BMW customs. For this ’77 R100RS they opted for a ‘resto-mod’ approach—ditching the stock RS fairing before making subtle changes and tweaks. An older model tank, complete with knee pads, was retro-fitted, along with a solo seat. The original rear mudguard was retained and painted to match the rest of the bike, but the bulky tail light and turn signals were tossed in favour of something more refined. Other upgrades include K&N filters and a custom exhaust system. The result is possibly the best example of a resto-mod I’ve ever seen. [More about this bike | Urban Motor]
Last week’s Top 5 covered the Kawasaki W650 and W800.