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Boxing Clever: A revamped BMW R1150GS from 46Works

A customized BMW R1150GS from 46Works of Japan
The BMW R1150GS is almost twenty years old, and a future candidate for classic status. And although BMW owners are famously fastidious with their bikes, many R1150s are now going to be looking a little the worse for wear.

If you’ve picked up a tired GS for $3,000 on Craigslist, 46Works has some inspiration for you right here—despite the BMW being a tricky platform to customize.

A customized BMW R1150GS from 46Works of Japan

The huge boxer motor, shaft drive and quirky Telelever front suspension make the R1150GS unique—and they all seem to fit together in just one way. Even though we’ve seen numerous customs based on the original big ADV, most of them just look gawky and unbalanced.

It takes a sharp eye and massive talent to get it right—and master builder Shiro Nakajima has both. He originally founded the legendary Japanese shop Ritmo Sereno, which became famous for its classic Boxer builds.

A customized BMW R1150GS from 46works of Japan
These days, Nakajima-san lives an enviable life. He lives in a stunning old building in the foothills of the Yatsugatake Mountains, some two hours from Tokyo, where he restores and customizes cars and motorcycles, and even builds furniture.

This R1150GS isn’t the most extreme example of his work that we’ve seen. But it’s supremely tasteful—playing to the big adventure-tourer’s strengths rather than trying to reinvent it.

A customized BMW R1150GS from 46works of Japan
Shiro tells us he built the GS to be equally comfortable in the city and the dirt. He also wanted to shrink its proportions, shed some weight, and straighten out its distinct lines. He’s called it ‘Urban Regolarità’—that last part being a nod to Italian enduros of the 70s.

Starting with a 2001 model R1150GS, Shiro opted to rework rather than replace the bulky fuel tank. It’s more than a simple cut-n-shut job though, with substantial edits to both the top and sides.

A customized BMW R1150GS from 46works of Japan
The factory R1150 rear end is pretty cluttered and overbuilt, so Shiro has ditched the entire seat and tail arrangement, and trimmed off the end of the frame. The new setup is elegantly constructed, tapering off in a sharp aluminum fender that’s held by a custom-built subframe.

There’s a solo seat up top, shaped on an aluminum base, and wrapped in a classic tuck-and-roll pattern by RazzleDazzle. A small tail light’s tucked neatly into the rear of the fender, and Shiro’s kept the BMW’s stock mud-catcher lower down.

A customized BMW R1150GS from 46works of Japan
Most of the cockpit has ended up in the bin too. Gone is the bulky fairing and twin headlight combo, replaced by a single round light, and a classic enduro-style cowl and fender.

The substantial instrumentation of the GS is also missing; in its place is a tiny Motogadget speedo, mounted off the handlebar risers on a custom bracket.

A customized BMW R1150GS from 46works of Japan
The bars are chromed MX-style units, but they still wear original BMW switches and grips. Shiro’s blended in lots of vintage touches—like the single rear view mirror, which is actually mounted on a one-off stainless steel stalk. And the vintage barrel-shaped turn signals, mounted discreetly at both ends.

Early 2000s boxers are known for their reliability, so Shiro wisely left the engine untouched. He even left the airbox alone—but he swapped the exhaust can out for a custom-made titanium silencer, mounted to a slick hand-made hanger.

A customized BMW R1150GS from 46works of Japan
The rest of the changes are harder to spot. The ABS has been removed—a surprising but fairly common mod on the R1150GS, usually to pre-empt problems caused by age-related failures. Reassuringly, the suspension has been upgraded with new Wilbers shocks, for the front Telelever as well as the rear end.

A new set of Michelin Anakee Wild tires has been spooned onto the GS’s tubeless rims. Shiro also lengthened the side stand, and trimmed off the front of the 1150’s chunky lower front mudguard.

A customized BMW R1150GS from 46works of Japan
Bits like the front suspension wishbone and the new frame rails were coated black in-house, but Shiro handed the rest of the paintwork over to Stupid Crown. The final livery is minimal and sublime—the perfect match for the R1150’s retro enduro vibe.

We were starting to think the R1150GS was best left untouched, but Nakajima-san’s swung us. If you’ve got a big GS in the garage and an urge to change it, we hope you’ve been taking notes.

46Works | Facebook | Instagram | Photos by Ken Takayanagi, with special thanks to Daytona Magazine

A customized BMW R1150GS from 46works of Japan