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BMW x Heiwa: The R nineT Scrambler Custom Project

Custom BMW R nineT Scrambler by Heiwa of Japan
BMW has an illustrious history of working with Japanese customizers. Witness the extraordinary R nineT Custom Project of three years ago, with Shiro Nakajima, Brat Style, Hidemo and Cherry’s Company. And then the wild K 1600 GTLs built by Ken’s Factory and Hot Dock.

In September 2016, BMW decided it was time to give Heiwa a crack of the whip. It’s the shop owned by Kengo Kimura, in Hiroshima on the island of Honshū, a five-hour ride west of Tokyo.

Custom BMW R nineT Scrambler by Heiwa of Japan
“I had never customized a BMW, or even owned one,” Kimura-san confesses. “So I rode the R nineT Scrambler to learn what kind of bike it is. I rode it to work, through town, and did some touring.”

“It’s much easier to handle than it appears. The engine has a flat torque curve, and it’s surprisingly light. It is simply easy to ride: I had no problem keeping up with friends who ride four cylinder Japanese bikes.”

Custom BMW R nineT Scrambler by Heiwa of Japan
Heiwa are used to working on singles and parallel twins, so the wide BMW boxer engine caused some head scratching. “At first something felt ‘off’ about the strong presence of the engine,” says Kimura. “But after riding the R nineT many times, I realized it was one of the best points.”

For BMW, the Heiwa creation will be a show bike. It’s just been revealed at Motorrad Days, and in March it’ll be displayed at the Tokyo Motorcycle Show. Kimura is no stranger to show bikes—he took home the Best In Show award at last year’s Yokohama Hot Rod Custom Show—but for this R nineT, he wanted a bike capable of normal, everyday riding.

Custom BMW R nineT Scrambler by Heiwa of Japan
“We customize one show bike each year, and put all of our techniques into it,” says Kimura. “Those bikes would be disappointing in daily use, though!”

“This time we wanted to create a bike that customers would want to ride. So although we remade the frame from scratch, and changed two-thirds of the frame, we didn’t go to the extremes that we do for show bikes.”

Custom BMW R nineT Scrambler by Heiwa of Japan
The rear frame ‘triangle’ is new, and although the front part of the frame is essentially the same, Heiwa had to rebuild it to get a semblance of a straight line under the seat and tank. On the stock bike the large tank cover conceals this part of the frame, but Kimura wanted to use a smaller tank with a more classic design.

He’s also built a new air cleaner box, and hidden it behind a compact side panel that also conceals part of the repositioned electrical system, which is now powered by a small lithium battery. It’s subtle and clever work, as you’d expect from a top-flight Japanese shop.

Custom BMW R nineT Scrambler by Heiwa of Japan
“It isn’t obvious from a glance at the side silhouette that the lines have been modified,” says Kimura. “The bikes that we make for custom shows appear to have factory parts, which is the ideal in our opinion. Rather than showing off specialized components, we like to focus on the overall bike.”

The visual bulk of the standard R nineT Scrambler has been scaled down, and the bike looks less top-heavy. That’s not only due to the new tank, but also to the custom exhaust system, which now pulls the eye down to the lower part of the engine.

Custom BMW R nineT Scrambler by Heiwa of Japan
Slimming down the gas tank meant relocating the fuel pump, which is now hidden below the seat in a sub-tank. “The original pump is comparatively large, and containing it in the new tank would drastically reduce capacity,” says Kimura.

“The new sub-tank connects to the main tank via a fuel hose, and houses the pump. It gave me more freedom to work with the shape of the main tank.” Still, Kimura-san had to remake the sub-tank several times to get sufficient volume for the pump to work properly.

Custom BMW R nineT Scrambler by Heiwa of Japan
The rest of the build was thankfully easier. Heiwa have installed BMW’s own optional cross-spoked wheels, 19” at the front and 17” at the rear, for a classic look. They’re shod with Metzeler Karoo 3 tires. Like the tank, the stubby fenders are hand-beaten from aluminum.

One-off parts include the ribbed leather seat—which captures the vintage vibe perfectly—and even the handlebars, which are 7/8 inch in diameter and devoid of modern switchgear clutter. There’s just a pair of micro switches, and a simple round mirror. The speedo has been relocated to the left side of the frame, above the cylinder head. The contrast with heavily regulated modern showroom bikes is striking.

Custom BMW R nineT Scrambler by Heiwa of Japan
Ahead of the bars is a vertical headlight, with a vintage Lucas lens set into a custom-made, die cast housing. The taillight looks 50 years old but is actually a proprietary Heiwa part. And yes, there are blinkers—but they’re tiny and you’ll have to look hard to spot them.

The factory R nineT is a very complex motorcycle that also looks ‘busy’—in a surprisingly good way. Kimura’s version still has that same mechanical complexity, but the visual heft is gone and the overall effect is ageless. The beautiful paint by Six Shooter helps: a warm, greyish cream, set off with traditional black pinstriping, and powder on the frame to match.

Custom BMW R nineT Scrambler by Heiwa of Japan
Interest in the build was intense, and a steady stream of customers and friends popped into the Heiwa shop to check progress. “Regular customers who saw the finished bike commented on how it has the signature Heiwa look,” says Kimura. “I personally don’t know which parts have our signature look—but I’ve done my best to create lines that I think look cool.

“Hearing that this BMW has ‘the Heiwa look’ makes me happy.”

BMW Motorrad | Heiwa MC | Facebook | Instagram | Images by Hiromitsu Yasui for BMW Motorrad Japan | With thanks to Tadashi “Tad” Kono

Custom BMW R nineT Scrambler by Heiwa of Japan