A few years ago, a group of highly experienced former racers, engineers and journalists sat down to decide just which motorcycle with a flat twin engine was the best of them all. Amongst the pack was the legendary racer, author and recipient of the Order of Australia Medal, Jim Scaysbrook. Their conclusion, the BMW R69s “now regarded as one of the finest and certainly most collectable bikes of all time” they stated. And this scribe can’t disagree, sporty, ultra-reliable and absolutely beautiful, the ’50s BMW was the Rolls Royce of the bike world and understandably they fetch that sort of money these days. So, what do you do when you want an R69s but with modern accoutrements – you call Side Rock Cycles to turn a 1978 R80 into the best of both worlds.

Based in Bournemouth on the South Coast of the United Kingdom, Side Rock Cycles is the home of bike builder Pete Hodson and he’s the man when it comes to airhead Bimmers! Although having said that, there isn’t really any bike he can’t get running perfectly or looking its best. Having been in the bike game longer than most of us have been alive and with a stunning portfolio of custom motorcycles to show off to potential clients, it was no surprise that a lovely chap from London picked the South Coast based business to build his dream BMW.

Jonathon is that very man and one of the things that he loved about the R69s is the colour combo, “Our client’s inspiration for this build was from the late ’60s BMW R69s, a single-seater, which had a colour-coded frame to match the rest of the bodywork. Finished in ‘Dover’ white, which is creamy, off-white, it was exactly what he wanted SRC to mimic but in a more modern high-tech package,” Pete explains. The strip down of the donor bike began and there was soon a large pile of parts that were now surplus to requirements. With these boxed away, the frame was detabbed and smoothed out and a new set of mounts was added to the swingarm for the tyre hugging rear fender.

The frame is an often overlooked part of any build, but it’s worth pointing out what a brilliant job Pete has done to bring it up to such an exceptional standard, and with the chosen colour, there would be no chassis black to hide any imperfection. The bodywork too is simply flawless and that large rear fender really helps to capture the vibe of the more vintage R, with the strut style mounts doing a neat job of keeping it in place. In the same vein, the front fender shows off its elegant lines, and flawlessly captures the theme.

Sitting on custom mounts, the headlight bucket fits the classic look perfectly, but it’s modern tech in the front with an LED light unit to shine the way. The tank is of course the distinctive item from the later model R, but finished with arrow straight lines, that Monza style filler cap and custom SRC/BMW badging, it retains plenty of the elegance of the earlier example. Now the body could go out to the paint shop, and “as this ‘bobber’ didn’t require a traditional subframe, new top shock mounts were fabbed,” Pete tells us.

It is also from this area of the frame that the seat base swings and boy is that saddle a beauty. A stunning single-seat setup that is expertly covered in gorgeous ‘New Delhi’ brown leather by upholsterer Glenn Moger, who is a master at his craft. Keeping this area of the bike clean is “the tiny new 3 in 1 (stop, tail and indicators) Motogadget Tens 3 combi lights.” It is in this mix of old and new that the theme is set, old fashioned craftsmen, integrating the best new bits in a seamless fashion. This is exactly what the new wiring loom consists of, a full suite of Motogadget’s finest with a small Antigravity lithium battery housed in one of SRC’s under-transmission stainless battery boxes.

To get things rolling it was time to turn to the wheels and there was a bonus that came with the donor R80, “having come with the desirable spoked wheels, they were refurbished with satin black rims, stainless spokes and Avon’s really good Roadrider hoops.” The front end might not feature the Earles fork as fitted to its inspiration, but rebuilt conventional items, covered up with gaiters more than get the job done.

To support the rear end the freshly fabricated shock mounts now swing a set of custom ordered YSS units, that are not only longer in length and fully adjustable, but built especially for this BMW project. The braking system uses the original and rebuilt R80 calipers, but now benefits from a set of EBC floating discs and black stainless hoses.

Turning his attention to the powerplant, Pete shows he can make a bike run as good as it looks, and the blacked-out engine with a new top cover and file-finished fins looks a treat. The airbox is gone with a set of individual foam filters in their place and the carbs have been rejetted to suit the new package. This includes the full stainless steel exhaust system that not only looks amazing but adds some power too.

Modern Renthal bars finish the job, with the brilliant BMW given a final touch of tech, thanks to the start button being mounted in the stainless top yoke nut. “It sounds as good as it looks, rides great and as Jonathon, the owner, lives in London it’s also exempt from ULEZ charges, road tax and MOT, as it’s over forty years old; Happy days!”

[ Side Rock Cycles ]