There’s something about Beemers with classic fairings and paint—just look at all the fuss being generated by the new R nineT Racer. But there’s more than one way to get that lovely rennsport look, and Union Motorcycle Classics have absolutely nailed it with this heavily modified R100.
Builders Mike Watanabe and Luke Ransom are best known for their immaculate restorations of older British and European bikes, but they occasionally dip a toe into the custom waters.
Back in the 90s, Mike used to ride with a friend who had an R100 police special, complete with Heinrich tank. “The look of that bike played a role when I created the design and guidelines for this build,” says Mike. “I also love the way that contemporary BMWs embrace an asymmetrical world. That influenced subtle features of our design.”
After spotting a 1993 BMW R100 R in a friend’s workshop, Mike and Luke transferred the bike to their century-old Idaho barn and got to work.
“As a Norton guy, I have always wondered how much the German engineers looked at the main hoops of a featherbed frame,” says Mike. “I have had this shape of tank in my mind for a Norton frame for a long time, and the tank form is dictated by the swooping frame hoops.”
The almost half-moon tank profile is perfect for this BMW, flowing on from the curves of the rear frame tubes. So Mike built a hammer buck, and starting shaping aluminum panels.
“Many thanks to Mark Collins at Falcon Fabrication for use of his amazingly well-constructed English wheel,” says Mike. “I didn’t want to ruin all the shaping work so I let Luke handle the stress of welding all the pieces up!”
For the design of the fairing, Mike turned to Laverda for inspiration. “Bret at Glass from the Past made the mold. The fairing is now also available on his website in racing form.”
To get the visual flow of the BMW just right, Mike and Luke tackled the seat, exhaust, and rear sub-frame all at the same time. “We figured out the muffler placement and engineered the frame rails. Once the seat was formed, we made a mold, and pulled a fiberglass seat out of it.” Then Luke put the rear together and started fabricating all the mounting points, brackets, and the wiring harness—all the little details that take countless hours.
The engine also gets a boost from new Dell’Orto PHM 38 ‘pumper’ carbs, which Mike describes as a “huge improvement” over the stock Bings.
There are Showa forks up front, but not the original 41mm Showas. These are more modern inverted forks from a Honda CB600RR, complete with Tokico brakes, and they’ve been tweaked to take the stock R100 front wheel: “We thought it very important to keep the Akront—for quality, and for matching the spoke pattern to the rear wheel.”
The rear shock is an Öhlins, set up for aggressive street/track riding, and the tires are Avon Roadriders. With a classic tread pattern molded into a reasonably modern rubber compound, they’re an excellent choice for older performance machines.
After mounting the controls onto clip-ons and fabricating rearsets from scraps lying around the shop, it was time to decide on paint.
“We investigated a lot of options, but ultimately chose the tried-and-true contemporary BMW racing colors,” says Mike. “Luke sprayed the base, I striped it, and then Luke wrapped it all up.”
Despite the racing vibe, Union’s BMW is built to excel on the street. It’s got turn signals, good brakes, and a decent riding position. There’s even a custom dash with a speedo and tach, and a full set of idiot lights.
“I love this bike. It rides great and it’s super practical,” says Mike. “I wish I could keep it, but unfortunately that would not be practical—so the BMW is for sale.”
If you’re tempted, contact Union Motorcycle Classics via their website. Schnell!