Ultraleicht: A custom BMW R65 trimmed with wood and aluminum

Custom BMW R65 by Atomic Contraptions
If you’re going to name your custom-bike-building side hustle ‘Atomic Contraptions,’ the machines that you create better be imaginative enough to warrant a second look. Judging by this custom BMW R65, Andrew Knott has no trouble in that department. Laced with wooden details, and with a subtle steampunk influence that avoids clichés, this café racer is as curious as it is clean.

Based in Hobart, Tasmania, Andrew’s main gig is as a designer and photographer. But he’s also a motorcyclist and a compulsive tinkerer, so custom motorcycles were always written in his stars.

Custom BMW R65 by Atomic Contraptions
“My first project was a little old 73 CB350 that I bought just to tear down and put back together again, as an exercise in mechanical education,” Andrew tells us. “And it wasn’t until I started the reassembly process that I thought, ‘I might as well put my designing hat on and do something interesting with it.’ Things snowballed a bit from there.”

“I’m at that place in life where I really want to take this thing to the next level, so this is the first bike that I’ve made with the express intention of selling it (with more hopefully to come). Being able to combine my background in design with my mechanical side is what I’m finding rewarding these days. It’s great to be able to see the whole process through myself, from concept and design to fabrication, final touches, and, of course, photography.”

Custom BMW R65 by Atomic Contraptions
Andrew’s a sucker for handcrafted things that use raw and robust materials. He also loves using timber that’s local to where he lives—like the Tasmanian Oak that adorns this custom BMW R65.

“I thought it would suit the vibe of this build,” he adds. “Essentially it was inspired by BMW’s history in the aircraft industry. I thought there was a nice analog of the smaller R65 needing to be light and nimble like an aircraft, which also led to the use of aluminum wherever I could, to save weight.”

Custom BMW R65 by Atomic Contraptions
Dubbing the project ‘Ultraleicht,’ Andrew stripped the R65 down to its frame and began crafting the various pieces he needed to create the desired aesthetic. Although the fuel tank looks original, it’s actually a handmade aluminum unit from Omega Racer that mimics the OEM part. The small headlight nacelle is another custom aluminum piece.

The timberwork was inspired by the wooden propellers of early aircraft, though we’re getting a strong nautical vibe too. Andrew’s carpentry skills are impressive, as is the way that he’s incorporated tidy aluminum details between the wooden bits.

Custom BMW R65 by Atomic Contraptions
The tail section is mostly wood, with aluminum inlays and an integrated aluminum subframe. The inlays run across the top of the tail section, with LED strips running alongside them to act as taillights. The work is remarkably intricate—from the split seat pad to the hole in the tail bump that shaves extra weight off.

More details reveal themselves the closer you get. A wooden blank-off plate closes the gap between the back of the tank and the front of the seat, while a handmade wooden box sits where the airbox used to, now housing the battery. Each part wears the same aluminum inlays, as do the handmade grips, brake pedal nub, and gear shifter nub.

Custom BMW R65 by Atomic Contraptions
Andrew also modified and fitted a set of Cognito Moto rear-set foot pegs, and installed an aftermarket front fender and clip-ons. The wheels were liberated of their casting marks, and then treated to myriad finishes, including matte, brushed, and polished sections. Subtle wooden inlays add to the aeronautical vibe without going over the top.

The build is sprinkled with small brass details too—again, used with maximum restraint. The fuel tank wears a stainless steel tank strap, custom-made badges, and a knurled aluminum gas cap.

Custom BMW R65 by Atomic Contraptions
The speedo housing and face are custom too. The unit includes a color-changing LED backlight that acts as the bike’s warning lights; red for oil, green for neutral, yellow for oil and neutral, and white for everything else. Flip up the speedo’s cover, and you’ll be able to see the odometer and trip meter.

Under the hood, the whole bike’s been rewired around a Bluetooth-capable Motogadget controller. The switches, bar-end turn signals, and mirrors are also Motogadget parts. All the wires are neatly tucked into braided stainless steel hoses.

Custom BMW R65 by Atomic Contraptions
Keen eyes will notice that the BMW’s Bing carbs are the wrong way around. “I swapped the carbs left to right,” Andrew explains, “just because I like to see the workings of the throttle mechanisms—and I think they also just look pretty. The velocity stacks are old brass bells turned down on the lathe.”

Other modifications include lowered front forks, a new Ikon rear shock, and the Brembo front brake from a BMW K1100. Andrew swapped the valve covers for classic peanut covers, and built a stainless steel exhaust system with stubby mufflers.

Custom BMW R65 by Atomic Contraptions
“I also smoothed and shaved lots of other small bumps and bits off the carbs, triples, frame, engine, and final drive,” he tells us. “Just trying to make everything feel smooth and aerodynamic.”

“And then the polishing! I think I may have spent more time polishing bits than I did making them—that was the biggest challenge.”

Custom BMW R65 by Atomic Contraptions
We’ve seen lots of wood-trimmed motorcycles, but few pull it off with the panache that Andrew’s custom BMW R65 does. Here’s hoping he sells it quickly so that he can move on to the next one.

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Custom BMW R65 by Atomic Contraptions

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