|06-26-2013, 02:30 PM||#1|
Joined: Dec 2011
Location: Long Island, NY
OTL Magazine Café Racer Project Build
Well, as requested by a few people, here is my post-build story. Using the magic of non-linear editing and digital production, I shall create an entire build thread at about 90x speed, covering a year and a half period of time in just a few days.
First, let me introduce myself. I am a novice rider who got his first bike 4 years ago by inheriting it from his father. Yes, you have seen the youtube slideshow, with the Pearl Jam song. Maybe you shed a tear. I'm that guy. (If you haven't seen it then just google "A BMW story" or click the link in my signature) That bike took me a year to restore, with all the knowledge and skills coming from my now good friend Peter Nettesheim, famous BMW collector. Peter guided me to create an excellent specimen out of my father's old 1958 R50, which used to be his daily ride until he had a bad crash back in 1969, the year I was born. I was raised in a home with a BMW in the garage that I never saw run, nor did I ever see my father ride a motorcycle my entire life. But the bike was always there, waiting. It turned out that it was waiting for me, as a plan my father had hatched long before he died, and this made for such a captivating story that when I shared it to the world, it spread literally across the globe via the magic of a non-planned viral youtube video. I was always decent with a wrench, but I was always better with a pen or a keyboard. I enjoy telling stories, and this one was my best ever story to tell.
The story opened doors for me. I was able to get my R50 onto the cover of Motorcycle Classics magazine, and also on the cover of the Vintage Org's BMW magazine. But most of all I was noticed by the BMW Rider's Association's magazine, On The Level. (OTL) When the editor found out I have been a photo retoucher for the last 20 years, specializing in printed magazines, he offered me a job. For $0 an hour. I accepted. This magazine is non-profit and we all work for free. I immediately redesigned the logo and I design every cover, and I brought a professional color specialist's eye to the magazine. Around this time BMW Corporate noticed my Youtube slideshow and offered to fly me to Germany to meet all the big suits that run the company and they gave me the VIP treatment having their Curator of the BMW museum give me a personal all day tour of their wonderful museum and also their Archive, which is a building closed to the public where all the really important historical documents and machines are kept. They also loaned me 4 new bikes to tour the Alps in 5 countries with. (I brought 3 friends with me to Germany) OK this has nothing to do with the story but I am telling you about it just to point out how cool a company BMW can be.
Anyway now you have my background. I work for OTL mag as a BMW fan during my spare time. I found I enjoyed writing about my adventures surrounding my R50 story, but after that was over with, what was next? When restoring the R50 I often dreamed about swapping out the small 26HP motor for a 42HP R69S. Or I would fantasize about doing a custom paint job, like maybe flat black instead of the standard gloss. But Peter Nettesheim would always steer me back on track by explaining, rightfully so, that one does not do these things to a classic Slash 2. I knew that one day I wanted to build a custom BMW motorcycle, that was an expression of my unique self. I also wanted a faster bike that I could ride with friends who have modern bikes and not have them bored out of their minds waiting for me to reach 40mph all the time. I also wanted a bike that I won't care if it gets scratched or dirty, that I can beat around in and not have to polish after.
It dawned on me that being a volunteer staff member of OTL suddenly offered a great opportunity! I could build my custom bike, and write about it along the way via a monthly column, which I like to do as a storyteller, and I could also approach vendors to ask for discounted parts and in return I would be giving them free advertising with nice big photos too. It is super easy to meet the owners of companies or the experts who design products when you tell them you work for a magazine. Suddenly I am not some novice, but a knowledgeable staff writer for a BMW magazine. Why? Because I decided to be one! This was cool.
So, if any of you read this far, now you have the complete set-up. I am a novice, been riding for only 3 years, I only owned one bike which is from 1958, and i wanted to build a faster, customized one. What a good time to start building an Airhead Café, right? For the first time in history, there is a huge growing after market specializing just in airhead café parts. I realized I had a unique opportunity here: While I don't have any real bike building skills, I do have a good sense of design, and I also am very good at research via the internet. I have a job that allows me to surf the internet for hours a day. I am very jealous of the many people on this forum that have extremely talented skills like welding and machining. I don't have any of those skills. But, I have passion, and a novice's optimistically foolish sense that I can do anything. I figured that was enough. Maybe not enough to build a really custom bike with a cool welded airbox or an intricate tubular single swingarm, but I figured I would be able to build a world-class looking café bike fit for a cover of a magazine, not using my own skills, but the the skills of the new BMW custom parts vendors that have recently surfaced all over the world. You be the judge if I have succeeded in my goal. And if you are a newbie like me, know that you too can build something like what I have done, but in your own personal style.
First, I needed a donor bike. Right now today, there are at least 3 other build threads that all started with RT airheads. Why is this? I can tell you why. RT's are not as desirable as any other model airhead. I have a theory as to why: They are the ugliest airheads, at least to people 45 and younger. They are not as fun to ride as any other airhead. And naked bikes are in. You can find an RT on craigslist for at least a thousand less than a comparable naked model or S model. A year and a half ago, I found an '81 R100RT for $2800. The owner had done a decent restore to it himself.
Here are some photos of how it looked when he bought it. It must have had well over 100,000 miles on it.
as you can see, I did not pick a valuable piece of history to chop up into a project bike...
That being said, the PO did fix it up nice and purdy. He put new rings on, rebuilt one head, and bought a ton of new parts, and painted the bike himself:
I decided to start off my monthly magazine article by putting the stock RT on the cover and making it look real pretty, with this caption included to stir up some controversy:
However, not many people cared at all. About 5 years ago I would have received a mailbox of hate mail, but I am happy to report that the BMW community has mostly lost that reputation of being intolerant and close-minded when it comes to modifying airheads. I think that the internet has made everyone more open to new ideas.
Taking off the huge fairing is no easy task. Especially if you don't read any manuals about where the hidden screws are located!
RT parts removed, I begin to see there is a naked bike under all that plastic...
SInce the PO did such a nice job, I wanted someone else to be able to enjoy the entire painted set of RT parts. The only part I really needed was the tank. Instead of using the nice shiny red/orange tank, I decided to buy another tank off ebay. That way, I could sell the entire painted set to someone else who wanted a new look for their faded RT.
I found a buyer who was thrilled. But the shipping cost me $375. I could have made back a lot more money parting out each part, but that takes more time and also I really wanted these nice parts to go to one lucky BMW owner.
Works Shocks were chosen for the rear.
Race Tech donated a complete set of fork internals with gold valve emulators for the front!
I also took them up on their offer to install all these gizmos into my forks, as this is rocket science to me. They shipped my forks back to me all rebuilt and ready to bolt up!
Well, how is that for a start of a thread? Did anyone get this far? I will wait until tonight or tomorrow before I continue.
On The Level BMW Club magazine photo editor / Art Director
1981 BMW R100 Café build thread
1958 BMW R50 aka: A BMW Motorcycle Story (link)
bill42 screwed with this post 06-26-2013 at 02:39 PM
|06-26-2013, 03:30 PM||#3|
Joined: Jun 2002
Location: South Africa
Very cool. Waiting ... in an...tici...pation.
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, thoroughly used, totally worn out and loudly proclaiming... 'Fuck, what a trip!'
People are more violently opposed to fur than leather because it's safer to harass rich women than motorcyclists.
|06-26-2013, 07:31 PM||#5|
Joined: Dec 2011
Location: Long Island, NY
So next I introduced myself to Stephen, aka Toaster Tan, who pretty much has one product that he currently makes which are beautiful triple trees. I requested one of his special café racer braces with no holes for risers since I was going to use clip-ons.
At this point I tried regular tarozzi clip-ons and tarozzi's with 1 inch risers built in. I liked the height of the higher clip-ons but they were limited by the triple tree clamp. I figured out that what I wanted were clip-ons on top of the tree. I could do this if I was willing to raise the forks up through the triple tree about an inch, which means the bike would drop an inch lower. This was something I wanted to do anyway as also had my rear shocks built 3/4 of an inch lower than a stock R100RT. This is a no-no if you want to race as you now limit your lean angle even more, but a static tilt test while standing over the bike seems to let the bike dip pretty low regardless. Perhaps one day I will be skilled enough to regret this decision but that will probably be a few years or more from now. More important for me was building a bike with the stance I was looking for and it had to be comfortable enough to ride for hours at a time.
Around this time I bought a Phat Tail seat which is kind of a norton café style seat. It looked cooler than the stock seat but I felt it wasnt' short enough to have the exact look I was looking for. It is for sale if anyone wants it!
I tried out a 2 into 1 MAC exhaust which looked pretty cool but it was just a bit too loud for my taste. (For sale too) It WAS nice and light but then Shareef from EPCO gave me a great deal on a stainless exhaust system with their spot mufflers.
One of the themes of the build is that no parts can be chromed or polished. No shiny bits. SO EPOC sent the exhaust to me with a scotch-brite finish, and whenever they get dirty I just have to scotch-brite them again.
Meanwhile I came across the style of seat I wanted on ebay. This seat was made just for our airtheads by a crazy German guy living in Florida named Thor. Throughout my dealings with Thor, which took many many months, he had 3 accidents. Once he got hit on his bike, then he got hit in his 280ZX, and after than he got hit by a car while walking. If you EVER see Thor in person, STAY AWAY. Your life is in danger.
Thor works in the ways of the old ones. He made his little mold by hand and as someone else already pointed out, the mold is a bit lopsided.
The seats come out looking like this from the mold:
Thor glues thin wood strips to the inside so that you can use a staple gun to attach your seat cover. He didn't use enough resin on mine and a few of the strips got loose. I expoxied over them. Note there is a penny embedded into the bottom of each seat. I think he charged me an extra cent for that.
Thor had never designed a front mount for this seat and he sold quite a few. There was just some thin rod that stuck into the center frame tube of the bike and kind of wiggled around without a fastener. I explained that this was unacceptable. I came up with an idea and explained it to Thor of how we could build a front mount. Here is how it came out:
Through those tabs would run a threaded rod with a series of spacers to keep it centered. The rod bolts through two empty holes on the seat frame right under the holes that are used to bolt up the subframe to the main frame.
The seats are about 4 inches shorter than a stock seat so you need to cut out 4 inches from your subframe and re-weld it back together. I found a local welder in my hood to do that for me. Here is a pic showing how much shorter the seat is:
The BMW subframe also bends a bit downhill right past the shock mounts. Thor never knew that all subframes come this way. It took me a while to convince him of this fact. The new front mount raises the front a bit to account for this bend.
More to come tomorrow!
|06-27-2013, 08:56 AM||#6|
Joined: Dec 2011
Location: Long Island, NY
OK now, where was I... Right. Well this build is going quickly isn't it.
Next up I installed rearsets. Currently the only really great rearsets in town are made by Chris from Boxer Metal, unless you have the ability to fabricate your own. Ritmo Sereno makes a nice set for single swing arm airheads, but they are also pretty pricey. Flatracer also adapts tarozzi rearsets using some nice hardware they make, but currently those are only for the single swing airheads too. Rask are clunky and too universal. There are 2 other guys I met coming out with their own rearsets made just for airheads, but they are still both in prototype pre-production stages. Anyway the Boxer Metal rearsets do everything well. I did run into an interesting minor alignment problem: On 1981 and after airheads with rear disk brakes (maybe 1980 on?), the brake light switch for the rear brake lever is offset differently than all previous models. All this required was for me to bend the arm that is built into the boxer metal brake lever about 30 degrees and then it lined up with the switch. No worries and I think Chris will be addressing this issue as well as offer rearsets for newer airheads soon. I don't need to post pics of the rearsets as many other builds have covered these already.
Next a big decision was made: the switch to spoked wheels. Snowflakes are not bad, and they can look cool an even unique if you powdercoat them black for instance, but they will always date a bike to the decade of the 80's. I wanted a more retro classic look for this project, so spoked wheels were a must.
Man are they expensive. Chris from Boxer Metal was commissioned to manage this adaption as it is not a quick wheel swap to move from Snowflakes to spoke wheels if you have brembo brakes, as the calipers would smash into most spokes. He uses R65 hubs and then builds a series of spacers to alight both the front wheel and also to move the brembos outward. At this time I also dropped the rear disk brake and switched to the more retro, smoother looking R90 drum brake final drive.
original final drive and new shortened seat frame with seat mounted:
Chis was an enormous help. He has done this swap many times so he already has the spacers all made by his machinist. The R90 final drive I bought off ebay for like $280 unfortunately needed a complete rebuild and new pinion gear. That had to be done by a BMW dealer for a nice chunk of change. If I add up the price of the final drive, used hubs, and new wheels built by Woody's Wheel Works, we are talking over 2 grand and close to 3. Or, the same price of the entire R100RT donor bike!
I had met the guys from Woody's at the last BMW RA rally in Copper Mountain. I learned then that they have a really trick treatment they offer for spoked wheels where they seal the spokes with tape and epoxy so that you can run tubeless tires. That is a huge plus for someone building a low maintenance real rider.
I chose Sun Rims win a matte finish for the rims:
Zach from Woody's holding one of my completed wheels:
This dude is applying the special Woody's patented treatment to make the rim air-tight:
I went with Avon roadriders because I know nothing of motorcycle tires, so I simply chose the ones with the highest number of good reviews.
Below you can see the new-old R90 final drive installed along with the new spoked wheels. What a difference! The bike is really showing its new look at this point. But look at that huge heavy ugly battery! what an eyesore.
This is a great time for batteries, as there are now dozens of small light lithium-based batteries to choose from. First a shelf was needed to hold the battery under the solo seat. My father was a collector of old fallen signs, and this collection is where I get all my sheet metal stock. Don't try this at home folks! It is highly illegal...
I went with a small company called Alien Motion for my battery. I spoke with a bunch of these small companies and I just liked these guys best. I chose a 12 cell for $129 that is more powerful than the huge lead acid stock battery and about 10 pounds lighter! These guys also sell a nice little computized charger for this battery that has a special plug. You need a smart charger for lithium batteries as they are more sensitive than lead acid ones. Recently I came across an even lighter battery at the BMW RA rally that has this computer built in. The technology of these are increasing at a really rapid rate!
|06-27-2013, 12:19 PM||#7|
Joined: Dec 2011
Location: Long Island, NY
The stock BMW top fork clamp acts as a washer in that it gets clamped in between the fork tubes and the top bolts of the fork tubes. With that piece removed I now needed a spacer to take up the slack as the fork tube top bolts would not seat all the way down. I needed to either fill that space with some big washers or make my own spacers. This was a chance to visit Peter Nettesheim's machine shop and play machinist for an evening. Peter has a beautiful lathe.
and he just happened to have a bar of aluminum exactly at the diameter I needed. He began to make the thick washer/spacers I needed. First the center was drilled out:
then the outer diameter was trimmed to size:
artistic filler shot:
finally a cutting tool on the lathe was used to slice the spacers to the thickness I needed to fill the gap in between my fork top nuts and my fork tubes. This shot came out really neat as the spacer seems to be floating in mid air as the lathe spins quickly:
the final spacers:
Next, another task i had for Peter was to drill a nice hole in the middle of the Toaster Tan triple tree in order to mount my Acewell speedometer. The hole needed to be countersunk so a nice allen head bolt could lie flush inside the triple tree.
Rather than drill with a drill press, Peter likes to use his $$$ Bridgeport milling machine!
We measured the width of the tree and calculated the exact middle. Note this beautiful brass weight:
It has no purpose at all. I put it there for the photo-op because I like to amuse myself.
A special flat-topped milling bit makes a nice flat countersink:
Here is the tree with the new hole for the acewell and the 2 spacers:
The acewell was bolted up next. Note the spacers now in place on top of the fork tubes which are hidden by the tarozzi clip-ons. But trust me the tubes are there. Also note the cool BMW cap Boxer Metal makes to replace the steering damper knob which I removed because I was told I probably didn't need it.
The acewell was wired up which, if you are not used to wiring, can be a little intimidating when you first start off. I got to use the soldering skills I learned many years ago in a technical trade school, and I chose to use my father's old gun from 1965.
I had no idea how all those wires would fit under the tank, but others had fit them before so I went on faith.
The acewell looks cool at night. I put the charge light in the headlight bucket:
Time to take off the battery mounting tabs on the frame. They just looked odd by themselves.
I figured out that turning off the lights while grinding makes for a very impressive photograph...
frame looking good after some spray paint.
Wanting the keep the back of the seat smooth and round, I came up with a solution for tail lights and a plate that don't obstruct the back of the seat. This are the smallest super-bright 3 way tail lights on earth, made by X-arc. They light red for tail light, bright red for brake light, and also amber for directionals. ANd they are brighter than the huge stock airhead lights!
Next I designed my own bobber-style sideways plate hanger for airheads. AMusingly, this is the first and maybe only custom part that I designed and built all by myself, so, I am quite proud of it. You KNOW it looks cool. If you want to copy it, first check that a sideways plate is legal in your state or country. Most places are illegal. In NY it is actually legal even though most cops don't even know it. Therefore I carry a print-out of the NY State website that states sideways plates are legal as long as they are visible fro 50 feet and lit at night..
the plate is screwed onto the final drive vent cap and then pressed back in. That holds the plate up top but I couldn't find an easy solution to mount the bottom. For now I have an angle bracket with a piece of 3M outdoor trim double stick tape. It actually holds surprisingly well and I have tested the plate at 110 mph in the wind.
Here you can see the tail lights and look! The plate is lit! Ah, very sneaky. There is a white LED aiming down from the seat shelf.
Here are a couple of cool shots showing the bike at this stage. The blue tank is borrowed from a friend while my tank is at the auto body shop being painted satin black.
Oh, check out my rear fender. It is cut down from the stock RT plastic fender. I wanted something minimal that barely shows yet will protect the engine from mud.
Meanwhile the body parts came back from the painter and were then shipped off to a local pin striper who hired a gilder to lay down my offset european racing stripes in real 23k white gold. White gold never tarnishes. If you want silver you would use aluminum leaf, not stearling silver which tarnishes quickly. But white gold has a yellow tint to it which looks more vintage. It matches the faded BMW roundels I have.
afterwards the stripes only were coated in 3 coats of clear. You can't clear coat gloss over the matte paint.
I instructed the striper to make the pin stripes in a yellowish beige so that everything looks old and faded with a warm tint. The color choices are very important to me as I am a color specialist by trade. To add to the vintage look, I had an auto interior shop stitch up a real leather seat cushion in brown. Think of the pre-war BMW seats and tool bags. The real leather seat really makes the final touch to the look of this build, in my opinion:
Well, that's it! At this point she was basically done. This was just in time as there were only 2 days left before I was going to ride it 1600 miles round trip from NY to the BMW RA rally in Asheville North Carolina.
A friend of mine decided to help me out and drive his Mustang behind me as a chase car for the trip down, as the bike was positively untested at this point and things would surely go wrong. I would return home by myself though so all my gear was packed in a tank bag and a backpack for the return trip.
I had a few crazy adventures on the way, and I'll write about that if people are interested.
For now I leave you with a cool parting shot. The first stop on my journey to the rally- a breakfast at some unknown diner in New Jersey, about an hour away from NYC:
Hope you enjoyed the quick recap-build story.
|06-27-2013, 01:19 PM||#10|
Out of the office.
Joined: Dec 2003
Location: Where the Ghetto meets the sea.
NIce, very very nice.
The level of deep thinking about the details, especially the color choices show.
On vacation for a spell
|06-27-2013, 01:38 PM||#11|
Joined: Dec 2011
Location: Long Island, NY
That being said, when I look at the finished bike I still can't believe how nice it came out, simply because I am so anal, and I spent a thousand hours on google!
My Editor of the magazine and one of my motorcycle mentors shook his head when he saw the bike in person last weekend, and he said "Wow Bill, I really didn't think it would come out THIS nice!"
His friend Dean Lear, a 70 year old BMW enthusiast who started and owned San José BMW, shook his head in awe of the bike. He said to me that it was the youth of a novice with enthusiasm that enabled this bike to turn out this well. (He thinks I am a kid at age 43 ;-) He seemed to think that if I was older with more knowledge and skills, I probably wouldn't have bothered to spend as much time as I did researching and working out all the tiny details.
My OCD condition came through!
|06-27-2013, 02:44 PM||#12|
Joined: Jul 2012
Location: North coast, Spain
Yes, thoroughly enjoyed it. Thank you very much.
And you have giving me some good Ideas should I want to build my own cafe racer one day.
|06-27-2013, 04:48 PM||#14|
Joined: Mar 2011
Location: Pocono Mountains, PA
Looks great Bill. Interesting combinations. Spokes with modern rubber. Peanut covers, but a later plastic airbox. It's all yours, as it should be.
Did you ever sell the snowflakes? We had discussed yours a while ago.
|06-27-2013, 04:48 PM||#15|
Joined: Jan 2012
Location: Donnybrook Western Australia
That poor RT ... Only joking ... thinking about doing the same soon
BMW R100LT 93 BMW R100RS 91 BMW K1100LT SE 94 76 R90S
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