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The Mutant: An Angry BMW R80 by Ironwood Motorcycles

BMW R80 cafe racer by Ironwood Motorcycles
There’s no sign of the popularity of the BMW R-series waning. It’s been massaged and twisted in every direction, and just as we think we’ve seen it all, along comes something that blows our socks off. Case in point: this killer R80 from Arjan van den Boom.

Arjan’s shop, Ironwood Custom Motorcycles in Amsterdam, gets regular orders for BMW builds. ‘The Mutant’ is Arjan’s twelfth boxer, and it’s a stark reminder that there are still new and exciting ways to customize an airhead.

BMW R80 cafe racer by Ironwood Motorcycles
Since this R80 was a personal build, Arjan had no brief. So he decided to cut loose, and create something that would stand out. “It was all about making a rad one-off machine,” he tells us. “Most of our projects are on commission—so this had to be something else. Freehand, but still rideable.”

Born and raised in the Netherlands, Arjan’s been wrenching since the age of 15—first on mopeds, then on cars. Mechanical engineering studies led to a career in automotive tech…and then Arjan got his bike license.

BMW R80 cafe racer by Ironwood Motorcycles
“I rode several Japanese super sports over the past few years,” he says. “Knee downs became the new standard—on both the road and track. After some nearly fatal accidents and broken bones around the Nürburgring, in 2012 I decided to sail in a different direction.

“Custom motorcycle culture was on the rise in Europe that year, and I liked it from the start—the bikes, the art, the fashion and lifestyle.”

BMW R80 cafe racer by Ironwood Motorcycles
Soon after, Arjan tackled his first build—a Honda CB550 constructed in his living room. Custom bikes gradually grew from being a hobby into part-time job, and then earlier this year, Arjan decided to commit to Ironwood full time. That meant new premises, and a bigger team: Eric and Sam are now on board, with friends Paul and Rik often lending a hand too.

“Step by step, year by year I’m still learning from each build and developing my own style,” says Arjan. “Now 25 customers are enjoying genuine Ironwood motorcycles. Some have just minor mods, others are full-rebuild corner-benders.”

BMW R80 cafe racer by Ironwood Motorcycles
“Not every build is (or can be) precision engineering. Or different, bold, innovative or expensive. It basically depends on the customer’s budget, inspiration and time availability. I like to help customers with lower budgets—make their iron horses look rad—but I also enjoy full rebuilds, and even new bikes. When time allows, I build my own projects like The Mutant.”

‘The Mutant’ is based on a 1985 BMW R80, and retains its unique mono-shock and single-sided swingarm. Arjan had a clear direction in mind from the word go: “Vintage on the colors, raw on the metals, and aggressive—like the street fighters from ten years ago.”

BMW R80 cafe racer by Ironwood Motorcycles
Extreme angles and compact proportions were the order of the day. To nail the stance and give the bike a lean-forward vibe, Ironwood have shortened the front forks by 60mm, and installed a longer, custom-made Hyperpro shock. The lines, usually so difficult to get right on an airhead, are just perfect.

Arjan then picked out a vintage Zündapp tank, pitching that forward too for an even sharper effect. It’s been treated to a Monza gas cap, new roundels, a new petcock, and a leather tank strap with a custom-made pouch for a Leatherman multi-tool.

BMW R80 cafe racer by Ironwood Motorcycles
The razor-sharp seat is equally svelte, and sits up top an aggressively short subframe. Marcel Miller handled the upholstery—a mix of Alcantara and leather—as well as the aforementioned tank bits, and a set of matching leather grips.

Then there’s the custom exhaust—a snaking, two-into-one affair that exits via an under-seat Akrapovič muffler from a Honda CBR600RR. The rest of the area under the seat is pretty bare, thanks to a set of DNA filters and a re-wire. The battery’s been swapped out for a Lithium-ion unit, and relocated to a box just in front of the swingarm.

BMW R80 cafe racer by Ironwood Motorcycles
The engine was given a thorough inspection, before being powder-coated black and treated to a set of ‘peanut’ valve covers. Arjan’s also upgraded the front brake with bigger discs and a new master cylinder, both from Brembo, and fitted Shinko 270 Super Classic tires. “They are rounder than Firestones, so they handle just a little bit better,” he says ironically.

Up front is a Bates-style headlight bucket hiding LED internals, plus a pair of Motogadget turn signals. There’s an LED tail light out back too, and the rear blinkers are sunk into the frame rails.

BMW R80 cafe racer by Ironwood Motorcycles
Barely an inch of this BMW has gone untouched. There’s a CNC-machined fork brace and top triple clamp, which has a tiny Motogadget speedo sunk into it, and the ignition has been relocated. Look even closer, and you’ll spot lots of interesting little details—like a one-off rear brake pull. Keen eyes will note Tarozzi rear-sets and Fehling clip-ons, plus a new throttle and switches.

Arjan opted for a simple color scheme: the frame and wheels are black, and the tank wears a vintage Porsche 356 hue, inspired by Singer Vehicle Design. The lack of graphics emphasizes just how angry this BMW R80 looks, so we applaud Arjan for his restraint.

BMW R80 cafe racer by Ironwood Motorcycles
The Mutant’s barely hit the airwaves, and already it’s in hot demand. “A teaser iPhone shot went viral on Instagram, and some guys have already placed very good bids,” Arjan tells us. “I don’t think I’ll have very long to enjoy it myself!”

To be honest, we’re not surprised: it’s an electrifying new take on the familiar genre of airhead cafe racers. Ironwood’s star, quite rightly, is on the rise.

Ironwood Custom Motorcycles | Facebook | Instagram | Photos by Paul van ML

BMW R80 cafe racer by Ironwood Motorcycles