When law enforcement agencies need to choose a model for policing and patrolling duties, the primary factors they consider are cost, reliability, longevity, and, above all else, performance — not all that different from the traits custom builders look for when selecting a donor. Currently utilized by LEOs in more than 150 countries across the globe, BMW Motorrad’s factory-built police-spec bikes possess these characteristics in spades.
And though a great many of these machines — roughly 80,000 of which are in circulation on the roads at any given point in time — are ridden into the ground, some do get a chance at a second life as a civilian commuter bike, budget-friendly tourer, or, in the case of UNIKAT Motorworks’ latest project, a stunning stripped back street scrambler.
Performed almost entirely in-house at UNIKAT’s HQ in Wrocław, Poland, this dramatic transformation originally left the factory as a 2000 R850 RT-P, a first-year, second-generation specimen that distinguished itself from the standard version via an upgraded Brembo braking system, tubeless spoked wheels, front crash bars, a distinctive red and green “POLIZEI” livery, and prewiring for sirens, emergency lights, and radio equipment.
“I was able to buy this donor bike in great condition in April 2020 — despite the pandemic restrictions and travel bans as, after all, I was ‘working’. During the first test drives, it quickly became clear why this particular model was chosen by so many police agencies. In military words, the motorcycle rides like a ‘ballerina’ — meaning it has great suspension, a low center of gravity, and affords a remarkable sense of security,’ Grzegorz Korczak tells us.
After spending an entire day stripping the police-spec R850 of its bulbous shells, windshield, and bevy of law enforcement bits, the Polish shop began penning a new design around the donor’s skeleton that utilized a late ‘70s era BMW fuel cell as the centerpiece and jumping-off point.
“In addition to letting the proportions of the wheels and iconic rounded cylinder covers partially dictate the design, a major source of inspiration on this project came from an older R65 tank that had been collecting dust on a shelf at our shop, as well as a few other older BMW models and a little bit of off-road scrambler influence” relays Korczak.
After being refurbished and given a custom fuel pump and pressure regulator, the tank has received a number of noteworthy additions and modifications. A Motogadget Motoscope Classic speedo has been sunken into the fuel cell and internally wired and a flip-up tank compartment now accommodates a bespoke carrying system for a Victorinox pocket knife, a mini flashlight, and a compass. The Roundels the tank once sported have also been jettisoned in favor of custom UNIKAT shop badges set above a pair of circular LED turn signals that have been integrated into the sides of the cell.
The tubular steel rear frame that was once paired with the R850’s main cast aluminum chassis has been replaced with a trellis-style subframe that protrudes slightly upward from the tank before culminating in an angular kicked-up and squared-off tail loop. Capping off the new framework is a one-off, sofa-construction black leather seat with ribbed, orange accent stitching. The new tail not only gives the BMW the unmistakable appearance of a custom build but also affords the project a markedly more modern and aggressive stance and silhouette.
Because the donor model’s front half was originally cloaked in bodywork, UNIKAT had to pretty much completely redesign the fore-end of the machine. The RT’s unique stock two-piece handlebar setup and accompanying switchgear remain in play, though the bars have been powder-coated in black before being treated to a set of hand-guards with integrated LED indicator strips and then being wrapped in hand-woven leather grips with orange accent stitching. The new front-end also features a Koso Thunderbolt LED headlight housed in a custom bracket just above a hand-built one-off high-mount steel fender.
Just like the indicators on the front half of the bike, the aft-end’s turn signals are neatly worked into the build and are comprised of multiple items. There’s an LED taillight strip peeking out from the back of the subframe, and tiny micro-LED rear indicators — the smallest homologated road-legal items in the world, in fact — poking out on either side of the subframe by a few centimeters. Though incredibly small, the power of these extremely potent light-emitting diodes is more than sufficient to catch the attention of drivers and mitigate SMIDSY-type situations.
Wanting to ensure everything was in perfect working order when it came time to hit the road, UNIKAT pulled the engine and completely dismantled the R850. Despite it already being a true feat of German engineering, the air and oil-cooled 848cc boxer twin at the heart of the donor has been gifted a plethora of upgrades and refreshes.
“We’ve installed new clutch discs, Cardan shaft seal, and V-belt, and performed a valve clearance adjustment before coating the entire engine and drivetrain in special high-temp soda ash and black paint,” says Grzegorz. “The original airbox was also removed and swapped out for a K&N sport filter that’s now paired with a custom exhaust system with a shorty-style muffler.”
On top of the minor bump in power, the motorcycle’s most noticeable difference in performance comes from the significant amount of weight that’s been shed from the more than 600lb donor throughout the course of the build. With that said, the UNIKAT team did bestow the bike with a few up-specced pieces of running gear. This included machined blacked-out adjustable rear-sets, wheels that have been laced up with new spokes and wrapped in fresh Metzeler TOURANCE knobbies, new brake discs and pads, and orange steel-braided lines.
“The Telelever front-end (also) features an upgraded, fully-adjustable shock absorber that Bitubo delivered in a custom-painted shade,” Korczak adds.
The two-decade-old donor was also given a complete new wiring harness and a lightweight battery housed in a custom compartment that’s been mounted down low just ahead of the muffler to keep the center of gravity as close to the tarmac as possible. Rounding out the overhaul were new oils and filters all around, new wheel bearings and frame heads, new seals and gaskets, and a handful of other odds and ends.
The now-customized R850’s livery is simple and clean, though has more going on than first meets the eye. It’s also loaded with small, detail-minded elements such as a blacked-out exhaust slung in a black exhaust bracket with blacked-out hardware.
“The rebuilt sub-frame, rims and hubs, chassis, suspension components, and a variety of other details have been powder coated and given an Anodic (anodized) satin varnish that shimmers with a metallic sheen. The tank’s been painted in black and finished with metallic varnish with golden grain mixed in, and the brake calipers, heel-guards, hoses, “1/1” logos, and upholstery threads are in an almost pastel orange accent shade and all match perfectly,” explains Grzegorz.
Now a far cry from its former self, the final result is a thoroughly modernized street scrambler that retains — and in some areas builds upon — the stock donor’s best qualities, all while tipping the scales at considerably less and brimming with the kind of details and fit and finish that are only possible through immense patience and long hours in the shop.
“The works lasted over 8 months, with the entire project taking just under 300 hours of hard work to complete and requiring invaluable support from some of our irreplaceable contractors and business partners. Every single nut and bolt on the bike was replaced with a new one and quite literally no detail was spared,” conveys as a clearly satisfied Korczak.
And, rather than having the design brief dictated by the desires or tastes of a client, UNIKAT built this machine exactly as the Korczak and the gang saw fit. Not only has this resulted in a stellar one-off build, but it also means that the final thing this R850 RT-P street scrambler now needs is a new rider and a garage to call home. UNIKAT is asking 16 300€ ($19,450) – or 20 050€ including Polish VAT tax — which is a steal for this one-of-one build, with interested parties being instructed to contact the Wrocław outfit via its website or social media channels.