Smooth Operator: Vagabund’s sleek BMW R100R

Smooth Operator: Vagabund's sleek BMW R100R cafe racer
For some people, building a minimalist motorcycle simply means stripping off as much stuff as possible. And practicality be damned. But there’s a higher path: one that uses complex solutions to achieve maximum simplicity, without sacrificing an iota of functionality.

That’s the philosophy behind Vagabund Moto’s latest project: a super-sano BMW R100R with a smörgåsbord of hidden niceties. Hailing from Graz, Austria, designer Paul Brauchart and mechanical engineer Philipp Rabl have only been operating as Vagabund for two years—but they’ve already grabbed the attention of the custom world.

Smooth Operator: Vagabund's sleek BMW R100R cafe racer
The commission for the Beemer came from a client who’d seen their R80 ‘V05‘, and wanted the same thing. “I was sure that we’d be able to build something outstanding,” says Paul, “so I proposed sketching something really different.”

“After the first sketch he was in love, and we started planning. He was totally trusting in us and gave us no guidelines.”

Smooth Operator: Vagabund's sleek BMW R100R cafe racer
Paul and Philip sourced a suitable donor—a 1993 BMW R100R—and began stripping it down. As Vagabund’s seventh build, the official project designation was ‘Vagabund V07,’ but the guys have taken to calling it ‘The Whale.’ It doesn’t look that big to us, so we’re guessing the name refers to the flowing aluminum bodywork.

Smooth Operator: Vagabund's sleek BMW R100R cafe racer
The boxer’s original tank and seat are gone, replaced by a hand-shaped monocoque unit. It’s also sporting a new front mudguard and headlight nacelle, all formed from aluminum and protected by a clear coat. Vagabund turned to Bernard Naumann of Blechmann for his metal-shaping skills, while they took the lead on design.

Smooth Operator: Vagabund's sleek BMW R100R cafe racer
The BMW’s new profile is breathtaking, but it’s only the tip of the iceberg. Take a look up top: there’s an acrylic panel incorporated into the tank, just ahead of a pop-up gas cap. Shining through from a cavity underneath is a Motogadget speedo and the bike’s dummy lights.

Smooth Operator: Vagabund's sleek BMW R100R cafe racer
But wait, there’s more. Tugging on a hidden cable pull releases the tail end of the body via an OEM-style seat latch. Lift it up, and it glides skywards thanks to a cleverly designed hinge, powered by a small gas shock.

Smooth Operator: Vagabund's sleek BMW R100R cafe racer
The hinge took quite a bit of work to get right; it needed to operate smoothly, while making sure the body didn’t bash against anything on its way up or down.

So Vagabund first prototyped it, then had the final part cast from aluminum. They also had to pay close attention to where they placed the fuel cap and tap, so as not to hamper the system.

Smooth Operator: Vagabund's sleek BMW R100R cafe racer
Underneath the tail is a custom-built subframe, with a handsome, hand-sewn leather valet tray by Werkdorf that holds a stormproof lighter, Leatherman and matching card wallet. The entire lift system was created in order to access this, as well as the bike’s electronics. It meant that everything under the hood had to be clean as a whistle.

Smooth Operator: Vagabund's sleek BMW R100R cafe racer
Vagabund replaced the BMW’s chunky battery with a compact Lithium-ion unit, then modified the airbox to house it, along with the ignition coil. They also wired in a new regulator and diode board, so that they could ditch the bulky originals and enable the system to run better.

To match the boxer’s stance to its new lines, Paul and Philipp shaved about 70mm off the front forks. They also added new internals and the fork caps from a Honda Transalp, which meant having to thread the existing holes to accept them. There’s a new YSS shock out back to balance things out.

Smooth Operator: Vagabund's sleek BMW R100R cafe racer
The wheels are stock, but Vagabund relaced them with stainless steel spokes, and powder-coated the rims black. Accompanying the front fender is a CNC-milled fork stabilizer, and the brakes have been upgraded with new twin 320mm discs.

There’s a Grimeca brake master up top, along with a Domino clutch lever. LSL supplied the rearsets and trimmed handlebars. (The guys briefly considered clip-ons, but opted for more comfortable ergonomics.) For switches, they built the basics into a housing that they 3D printed.

Smooth Operator: Vagabund's sleek BMW R100R cafe racer
Remarkably, this bike is street legal in Austria—a country with very strict roadworthy regulations. There’s a taillight built into the back of the seat, behind an acrylic cover, and Motogadget turn signals. The lads tell us there’s a license plate bracket that also houses the rear turn signals (which, by law, is where they need to sit), but it wasn’t fitted in these photos.

Smooth Operator: Vagabund's sleek BMW R100R cafe racer
The exhaust is another standout feature. Vagabund modified the R100R headers, then built a low-slung, side-exiting silencer, complete with a built in dB-killer. The whole system’s been ceramic-coated black, and capped off with an aluminum cover, again made by Blechmann.

Smooth Operator: Vagabund's sleek BMW R100R cafe racer
If we had to peg Vagabund’s trademark, it would be their unwavering commitment to the little things. Every last finish on this BMW is flawless, from the blacked out engine with its contrasting fins down to the embossed leather seat pad.

Smooth Operator: Vagabund's sleek BMW R100R cafe racer
Vagabund are unveiling their V07 to the public as we speak, at the inaugural Moto Circus Festival in Vienna.

Will it steal the show? We reckon so. This is one of the best custom BMWs we’ve seen in the near-10 year history of EXIF.

Vagabund Moto | Facebook | Instagram | Images by Stefan Leitner | Helmet by Veldt

Smooth Operator: Vagabund's sleek BMW R100R cafe racer