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Ricky 800: Imagining a Rickman BMW R80 desert racer

A Rickman Metisse-inspired custom BMW R80 scrambler
The world’s first big-bore dual sport, the BMW R80G/S, broke cover forty years ago. Born from off-road competition, it soon dominated at the Paris-Dakar rally, before going on to become an icon of adventure motorcycling. But there’s one arena it never really featured in: the Californian desert.

The G/S missed the heyday of the Californian desert racing scene by a decade or two. So it wasn’t even a concept when the Rickman Brothers‘ Triumph- and BSA-powered Metisse scramblers hit the scene. Had the timelines been synced, we may have been treated to a BMW Metisse … and it would probably have looked something like this.

A Rickman Metisse-inspired custom BMW R80 scrambler
This vintage boxer scrambler belongs to Jens Kallweit, who lives in the German town of Frechen, on the outskirts of Cologne. Jens is an engineer by trade, but for the past 25 years he’s been doing occasional custom work on the side, for himself and friends.

Enamored with the original Rickman Metisse Mk3, Jens had the idea to build the first boxer-powered Metisse. He didn’t use a G/S though; instead, he used an ex-police 1980 BMW R80/7. And he’s turned it into exactly what we imagine a period-correct BMW Metisse would look like.

A Rickman Metisse-inspired custom BMW R80 scrambler
Jens’ project was also initially far more ambitious than it turned out. He had imported a Rickman Metisse frame and tank of unknown origin from the UK, and had planned to simply use the BMW motor and final drive.

But he wanted the bike to be street legal, and Germany’s uber-strict TÜV policies wouldn’t allow it—so in the end, he had to stick to the stock BMW frame.

A Rickman Metisse-inspired custom BMW R80 scrambler
It’s not quite stock anymore though. Jens called in specialists SWT Sports to de-tab and reinforce the main frame, and to extend the swing arm and driveshaft by 100 mm. They also built him a hefty sump guard to keep the bottom of the engine safe.

A set of BMW R100GS forks and yokes were grafted on up front, with a pair of Öhlins shocks doing duty at the rear. Jens also swapped out the ugly OEM reflectors on the forks, employing a set of handsome aluminum inserts from Tolle Engineering.

A Rickman Metisse-inspired custom BMW R80 scrambler
Next, a pair of 21F/18R Akront rims were polished, anodized gold and laced up. Tires are Continental’s tried and true TKC80s. The front brake got an upgrade too, by way of a 320 mm disc and a Spiegler caliper.

Going deeper, Jens sent the motor off to his BMW workshop of choice for a full rebuild. They also added a Silent Hektik digital ignition with Nology cables. The airhead motor still uses its original airbox and Bing carbs, but now exhales via a custom exhaust from BMW specialists Hattech.

A Rickman Metisse-inspired custom BMW R80 scrambler
Jens also treated the R80 to a full rewire around Motogadget’s popular m.unit control module, and installed a Lithium-ion battery from BF-Akku. Most of the electrical components are hiding under the fuel tank (its tunnel was modified to make space), including the key ignition.

The only Rickman Metisse-looking piece Jens had at the start of the project was the fuel tank. So he reached out to HoltWorks in the UK, who fashioned him a replica alloy tail section and number boards.

A Rickman Metisse-inspired custom BMW R80 scrambler
Even though the BMW’s headlight nacelle looks like an off-the-shelf enduro part, it’s actually a one-off. Jens is chummy with the crew at Valtoron in Spain, who sand-cast it for him in aluminum, because that’s what they specialize in.

The only bit of plastic on the bike is the classic enduro mudguard that rounds out the front end.

A Rickman Metisse-inspired custom BMW R80 scrambler
Higher up, you’ll find a set of LSL handlebars, a throttle and grips from Magura, and two Beringer clutch levers—one flipped over and matched to a brake master cylinder that’s hiding under the fuel tank.

For switches, Jens picked CNC-machined items from Renard Speed Shop that match the Beringer levers’ clamps.

A Rickman Metisse-inspired custom BMW R80 scrambler
The turn signals are Motogadget bar-end units (front), and tiny LEDs from Kellermann (rear). There’s a small LED taillight sunken into the tail piece, and a 1960s Bosch fog light mounted onto the left hand crash bar. Other upgrades include a mirror from Highsider, custom brake and shifter levers, and grippy off-road foot pegs from Scar.

Those race numbers are from when Jens tagged along with the Valtoron boys on ‘Los Malditos 300’—a one-day, 300 km ride at an off-road park in Aragon, Spain. He jokes that “We Germans only made it through 180 km,” but we get the impression he’s talking about his abilities rather than the bike’s.

A Rickman Metisse-inspired custom BMW R80 scrambler
This R80’s combo of classic looks and modern components hits the mark for us, and the fact that it’s street legal is an added bonus.

What a fantastic glimpse at what could have been, had the worlds of Rickman and BMW collided.

Images by (and with thanks to) Marc Holstein and Christine Gabler

A Rickman Metisse-inspired custom BMW R80 scrambler