You don’t have to be a seasoned veteran of the custom motorcycle scene to know that the BMW R airheads have been the donor bike of choice for quite a few years now. It makes sense, a reliable air-cooled engine and a simple tube frame, but all of that means that unmolested examples are now both hard to find and frankly ridiculously priced. So, thinking logically, Nikolai Yazikov decided why not build a newer BMW R, with the larger more powerful engine? Well, he’s done exactly that and brilliantly, learning the hard way that the more modern bikes can simply be a nightmare to customise. But after all the blood, sweat and tears, the Moto Iz Evro man has turned out a stripped-down Bavarian, easily one of the most beautiful BMW R1100RT we’ve seen.

Having built dozens of custom motorcycles of all makes and models, Nikolai is an old hand in the game and he’s always had a thing for the German product. But it just seemed like not only had he built one too many of the older R series bikes, but that everyone else had too. And given the legendary reliability of the R1100RT, which even surpasses its older family members, he decided to find one and give it a go. With the right bike found, complete with its full fairing, he started to strip it down and soon discovered the endless hurdles to customising these things. The weird frame that has no raised backbone, the telelever front suspension, the complex engine and its weird and wacky coverings and a whole host of hidden challenges he’d have to tackle.

“It was necessary either to abandon that project or solve those problems! But the most important thing is to leave the original frame with the motorcycle number! I was recovering from the shock for a long time,” he laughs. Having pulled himself together and worked out a way to rebuild the frame and retain that all-important VIN number for registration, he was quickly down to business. The fuel tank hides some of the most important work, but underneath the new steel tube work is brilliant and helps to form the redesign of the frame into one that is far more conventional than stock. Some of the original sections are retained and then reworked into the main section, while areas like the rear subframe are completely built from scratch.

But even this task was hampered, above the stock engine the huge factory generator/alternator is literally the size of one you’d find on a car. And this had to be removed and replaced with a smaller item, in a new location, for the backbone to be able to even run under the tank. Bolting the engine into its new home exposed a new issue, the modern motor is a pretty ugly thing when it’s out in the open and all exposed. “I scanned the engine along with the gearbox. And together with a modeller, we began to build models of covers for the engine. Those that will remind you of the old days. When the motor was on an equal footing with the overall design of the motorcycle, when it was a work of art!”

To achieve his goal, it took Nikolai the best part of three months, taking spare aluminium from an abandoned K100 of all places, he used the models to start fabricating the covers. The top is simply stunning, reminiscent of the older R series bikes, with that flowing finish from front to back. The front section of the engine too is as clean as can be, you’d never know if it wasn’t for the distinctive heads, that this was indeed that later model BMW. Smaller covers were made for the rear battery area, and valve covers and the whole thing is given a neat coat of black paint. Then to finish off his powerplant, the airbox is long gone with quality pod filters replacing them and a stunning two-in-one exhaust finishes things out.

But holding the gas for this modern motor is not the enormous stock tank or an off-the-shelf replacement, only something truly one-off would ever work. “The fuel tank is inside and the outside is plastic for design. And we went back to modelling. I took the original tank from an R100 as the basis for the tank, but we have a new vision. We changed the shape and made a model. We also increased the volume by 5% because the bike itself is bigger. We printed the layout and measured it. After all the work, we made a matrix for fibreglass and made the product. I made the inner tank out of aluminium. I inserted a fuel pump and a filter into the tank. I went through all the wiring and made it small. She’s all under the tank.”

It’s simply a brilliant piece of engineering to solve a major problem and completing the rest of the bodywork was relatively simple in comparsion. Again some more modelling got the shape of the front fender spot on and then a mould was created so the final product could be built from fibreglass. It has an aggressive appearance, which is only surpassed by the headlight which sits above it, taken from a KTM Duke. Moving rearward and things get a lot more conventional, with a beautiful leather seat stitched together to provide plenty of comfort and a set of matching mini saddlebags serving as the side covers. Then to keep things really neat and tidy, the frame plugs at the rear serve as your brake lights and indicators.

But having ditched the complex telelever suspension early on in the project, the bike didn’t have a front end. To the rescue would be another BMW, a big K series, which donated its forks and finished out with a set of gaiters delivers a much more tasteful appearance. The forks have been lowered 40mm and the rear mono-shock design from the stock bike stays, but completely reworked to lower the rear end and operate with the new frame. To finish out the build, the bodywork has been hit with a high gloss blue/green and the frame and wheels wear a far more sedate cream finish. The bike’s name? Cachalot (Sperm Whale) named after the shape of the engine. But having built an R1100RT packing 100bhp, weighing less than 215kg and looking a million dollars, we’ll let our friend call his bike whatever he wants.

[ Motoizevro ]