In the USA, you often see custom bikes sponsored by spirits brands. They go together like rum and coke. But this Anglo-German custom is a much more intriguing combination: It was built to celebrate the launch of a new brewery in Newcastle.
It’s the work of Stephen Bentley, who runs Dust Custom Motorcycles. Stephen is a builder from the old school, with dirt rather than a trackpad under his fingernails.
He has no workshop to speak of—just an old shack with basic tools—and he works by himself.
“I’ve got my own baggage that informs me as a builder,” he admits. “Much of it comes from living in the north west of England. I grew up at a time when people rode their bikes daily, then to the Isle of Man, fettled them, slept rough, and then raced.
“Then it was back home and to work on Monday morning.”
The Dust approach might be old school, but the quality is high. And Stephen is not short of customers who appreciate his eye for detail.
One such customer is Scotsman Rob Cameron, who commissioned this BMW. “A real cool fella, a proper Scot,” says Stephen. “He’s taking it to Glemseck, and in true Braveheart style I can imagine him ‘picking a fight’—in a very civil way, that is.”
Rob has a passion for beer: He co-founded the British pub operator Greenan Blueaye. But he’s even more passionate about motorcycles, with a small stable including a BMW HP2 and a custom Web Surfer from Richard ‘Mule’ Pollock. (“He’s a regular Jay Leno,” Stephen laughs.)
This BMW R100R, however, is Rob’s daily rider, so the brief was more about drama-free commuting than terrorizing the country lanes of northern England.
“Rob came over last summer to discuss the idea of a new bike, to celebrate the building of his new Wylam Brewery,” Stephen recalls.
“He had in mind an airhead—with a street tracker vibe, a comfortable riding position, and a slightly aggressive look and feel. So I suggested a BMW R100R.”
Stephen tracked down a low mileage 1994 model and started work. “Conversations with Rob turned to a few of the more sporting events on the custom calendar. He really liked the idea of the 1/8th mile sprints, so I pushed the idea of getting the bike to go and stop a little quicker.”
The refreshed engine is now fitted with a pair of 38mm Dell’Orto PHM carbs to help with the throttle response—breathing through K&N filters. The exhaust headers are modified 1983 R100 items, terminated with GP mufflers.
There’s a lightened flywheel too, for a bit of extra snap. And after a thorough dyno tune by Isle of Man TT racer Colin Stephenson, it’s all running sweet. (“It puts a nice bit of torque down from 4,000 onwards.”)
To handle the stopping side, Stephen’s hooked up a pair of 320mm floating discs to a Brembo RCS 19 radial master cylinder, via braided hoses.
The suspension is stock though, since Stephen was impressed with the feedback from the paralever: “It was pushed pretty hard and did pretty well.” Dunlop K505 sport touring rubber keeps the BMW planted in the twisties.
The stance is high rather than slammed, so the shaft drive runs at the correct angle from the gearbox. It’s one of those machines that ‘sit’ right with a rider on board.
The finish is paint rather than powder, applied by David Wright (a well-known British rally driver who won the shootout at last year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed in his WRC Ford Focus).
It’s a beautiful build in its own right, but in the context of the Wylam brewery, it really comes to life.
“Most commissions are pretty straightforward,” says Stephen. “But this one was a little different. Rob was overseeing the brewery build and the bike at the same time, making decisions based on both.”
“He wanted a Beemer tank—but not the R one—and a pair of Carroll Resweber flat tracker bars. And lush, grainy leather for the seat.”
“There was a time when I was tapping my fingers waiting, then I’d get a email saying ‘A white face for the speedo’ or ‘This Grey’ or ‘Keep the wheels silver.’ And that would be it.
“But now the bike is in context, it does make sense. It’s a cool way of doing things, allowing two passions to fuse and influence each other. A little unique, I reckon.”
Rob isn’t going to treat his BMW as an ornament, though—as Stephen mentioned, he’s planning to take it to the Glemseck 101 festival in Germany. (He was set to race it there, but unfortunately missed the entry cut-off).
He’s also taking a crate of the new Wylam Pilsner, which has been brewed according to the famed Reinheitsgebot, the German ‘Beer Purity Law.’
“It’s damn nice stuff,” says Stephen. “If you go to Glemseck, grab a bottle—trust me!”