Overlander: A BMW G/S built for serious adventure travel

BMW R80ST G/S conversion
Nothing grows knowledge like experience. So the best way to figure out how to design a continent-crossing motorcycle, is to actually cross a continent—then see what works, and what doesn’t.

Back in 2016, Matias Corea rode his 1985 BMW R80G/S Paris Dakar from Brooklyn all the way to Ushuaia, in Argentina. Now he’s got another trip planned: a 22,000-mile journey from his native Barcelona to Cape Town in South Africa. So he’s taken the lessons from his first trip, and built his vision of the ultimate adventure airhead.

“After 20,000 miles in 168 days, you get a clear idea of what the bike is capable of and its limitations,” he says. “This build is based on everything I learned on that trip. By the end, I had mapped out everything I wanted to change to be able to tour the world with an airhead.”

With too much reverence to modify his original G/S, Matias started with its close cousin: the 1983 BMW R80ST. The Brooklyn-based designer’s main focus was on making sensible upgrades, and building a reliable and easy-to-work-on bike.

BMW R80ST G/S conversion
“Every element on the bike was vetted in regards to how easy it would be to repair or replace anywhere in Africa,” he says. “That mindset changed my perspective on what is a cool choice and what is a good choice.”

Matias went deep in his pursuit for perfection, starting with an engine capacity bump to 1,001 cc. The heads went off to Moorespeed in Northampton, UK, to be ported, gas-flowed, and modified to run oversized inlet and exhaust valves. Matias then rebuilt the motor with high compression Moorespeed pistons and an asymmetrical racing camshaft.

BMW R80ST G/S conversion
The crankshaft, rods, pistons, and flywheel assembly were all dynamically balanced, to maximize performance and improve throttle response. Matias also installed 40 mm Bing carbs, then ditched the airbox and modified the intake to hold an open rally filter. The exhaust is from the classic BMW specialists Siebenrock.

“This engine now pulls 72 hp at the rear wheel and feels incredible between 5500 and 7000rpm,” says Matias. (A stock R80ST makes about 50 hp at the crank.)

BMW R80ST G/S conversion
Improving the BMW’s handling called for not only suspension upgrades, but some chassis work too. Matias turned to master welder Esteban Pasquale, who welded 14 reinforcement plates into the frame. The subframe was pivoted forward, and also reinforced with two diagonal supports and a built-in rear rack.

The front end was upgraded with a set of WP Suspension open chamber forks, with a whopping 250 mm of travel. A 21” Excel rim was laced to a Talon hub with heavy-duty stainless steel spokes, and matched to a single four-piston Brembo brake caliper. “I went with a single because a dual front disc makes the wheel considerably heavier and it means twice as many components to worry about,” explains Matias.

BMW R80ST G/S conversion
Out back, the boxer’s shaft drive swingarm was stretched by 100 mm, and hooked up to a custom-built Wilbers shock. The final drive was overhauled with new bearings, and the rear drum brake was flipped vertically to protect the moving part from rocks. The OEM rear wheel hub was then drilled, so that it could be laced to an 18” Excel rim.

Matias fitted Mitas E-07 dual sport tires at both ends, utilizing the new rear wheel’s offset to squeeze in a 130-wide rear. The center stand had to be modified to accommodate the taller suspension, and now has a foot lever to aid in lifting the bike.

BMW R80ST G/S conversion
For the fuel tank, Matias went straight to the crew that built the BMW Dakar bikes in the 80s—HPN. He started with a 11.3 gallon nylon unit, and made sure that a clear strip was left behind when it was painted, to function as an analog fuel gauge.

“When you ride through more isolated areas,” he explains, “low-quality fuel is a given. That can create ‘pinging’ which is dangerous for the motor. To circumvent the issue, the bike has a dual curve ignition system that can be switched from the dash to retard the timing.”

BMW R80ST G/S conversion
Up in the cockpit, Matias fit the original R80ST dials to an Acerbis fairing, and added a dual-port marine-grade USB hub, a hazard light switch, and the ignition curve switch. He also installed Magura handlebars on taller risers, with Acerbis handguards and BMW mirrors.

Out back is a modified HPN rear fender, equipped with the BMW’s original taillight and turn signals. It’s flanked by a pair of sturdy Hepco Becker hard cases. Other upgrades include a Shorai Lithium-ion battery, lowered foot pegs and a pair of ultra-bright Baja Design S1 LED fog lights, mounted to the front crash bars.

BMW R80ST G/S conversion
The stunning minimalist livery was executed by the same guy that paints Walt Siegl’s bikes: Robbie Nigl at Peach Pit Motorcycle Painting. The ‘M’ motif on the tank refers to ‘Myth Motor’—Matias’ new motorcycle brand.

“This is Myth 001,” he says, “and even though it’s a fully finished bike it stands as a prototype in my mind.”

BMW R80ST G/S conversion
“After the Africa experience I will continue to make changes and improve the concept; there’s always something new to try. I want to offer only my best work for other adventure riders around the world.”

This ‘G/S’ is a flawless blend of classic style, usability and performance. And the fact that it’s poised to cross a literal continent later this year, makes it all the more irresistible.

Myth Motor | Instagram | Images by Ryan Handt | Film by Jean Pierre Kathoefer with johnnypuetz Productions

BMW R80ST G/S conversion

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