Under The Radar: Tim Harney’s minimalist BMW cafe racer

Tim Harney's elegant BMW R60/5 cafe racer.
Tim Harney is one of the most low-key builders we know. He doesn’t work under a catchy brand name, and his HQ isn’t a swank moto-café where you can buy his latest apparel.

Instead, he shares a 2,800 square foot former art gallery with a friend, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. There, the industrial designer-turned-fabricator builds up to ten bikes (and a couple of cars) a year.

Tim Harney's elegant BMW R60/5 cafe racer.
This 1971 BMW R60/5 is his latest piece—and we love its old-school charm and simplicity.

“Honestly, anything with an engine and an agenda is exciting for me,” Tim tells us.

Tim Harney's elegant BMW R60/5 cafe racer.
“I work every minute I’m not asleep; I have a wife that thankfully shares my passion for everything mechanical. I say ‘work,’ but frankly I haven’t ‘worked’ a day in the last seven years, since I started doing this professionally.

“Sure there are some grueling hours—but what better sacrifice in the name of bettering your craft?”

Tim Harney's elegant BMW R60/5 cafe racer.
Tim describes his client on the R60/5 project as “A really nice guy from LA.” The brief hung on two key points: the donor bike should be an airhead, and the finished product should be a bit on the ‘tamer’ side.

“I try and diversify my stable of builds,” says Tim, “but always gravitate back to BMWs because they’re such excellent powerplants.

Tim Harney's elegant BMW R60/5 cafe racer.
“An airhead (if properly treated) can run forever, and making a bike that can run forever sounds like you’re gonna have a happy client…and happy clients are good business.”

Rather than starting with a complete donor bike, Tim began piecing together his client’s dream bike from various sources.

Tim Harney's elegant BMW R60/5 cafe racer.
The motor came from a reputable builder friend, and had been meticulously rebuilt. Tim treated it to a pair of 26mm Mikuni carbs and Uni foam filters, and a stainless steel exhaust system.

But the transmission proved to be more of a headache—the best kick-start, five-speed tranny Tim could find was in a sorry state. He flicked through his Rolodex of talented friends, and hauled it off for a refresh.

Tim Harney's elegant BMW R60/5 cafe racer.
“I always get help with my engine and transmission work,” he explains. “It’s important to give a client the best end-product possible—so it’s nice to have accountability and be able to fall back on certainties.

“I know that engine is good for 30,000 miles. That’s an expensive thing to say, but it’s also something that helps me sleep at night.”

Tim Harney's elegant BMW R60/5 cafe racer.
Before slotting everything into the chassis, Tim shortened the R60’s frame by about an inch—tweaking the overall geometry for quicker steering.

He’s upgraded the suspension to match, with new shocks at the back and Kawasaki ZX600E (Ninja) forks up front, along with a Brembo caliper.

Tim Harney's elegant BMW R60/5 cafe racer.
Tim also beefed up the rear end of the frame (“so you can actually feel the rear end steer”), and built up a brand new subframe from scratch. The wheels were re-laced with new rims: 19” at the front and 18” at the rear.

The amazing bodywork is handmade: from the creased alloy gas tank and tailpiece to the Buffalo leather-covered seat.

Tim Harney's elegant BMW R60/5 cafe racer.
Tim explains his process: “Using my client’s dimensions (6’3″), I spaced everything out so he’d be in a more comfortable ‘around town’ sort of position. We wanted ‘dirt bike meets—dare I say it—café bike.’”

“But the biggest agenda was: stripped down and as simple as possible.”

Tim Harney's elegant BMW R60/5 cafe racer.
A massive rewire helped declutter the R60/5 even further. The battery now sits underneath the bike, and there’s a Dyna electronic ignition and EnDuraLast charging system.

Tim’s fabricated a little ‘glove compartment’ where the airbox and battery used to be, following on from the design of the engine. It also hosts the crank case breather, and an oil catch can and filter system. (A little bit of neat engineering that few will ever see.)

Tim Harney's elegant BMW R60/5 cafe racer.
The control area is equally minimal, with curved clip-ons, drilled levers and an R65 headlight on a custom-made bracket. Embedded in the tail hump is a rear light of Tim’s own design.

“I created a seal to prevent water from getting in with an acrylic ring and a set of circlips,” he explains. “It makes for a very nice and clean aesthetic—and it’s easy for any mechanic to change.”

Tim Harney's elegant BMW R60/5 cafe racer.
With no clocks, turn signals or mirrors, this BMW R60/5 is as bare as they come (and illegal to ride in some countries). But it’s also an incredibly honest and classy build.

And that gets our vote every time.

Tim Harney Motorcycles | Instagram | Photography by Adam Lerner

Tim Harney's elegant BMW R60/2 cafe racer.