It seems that there are a few different types of people who alter bikes from the manufacturers specification. The pure shed modifier who wields hammers and goes through grinding discs at an alarming rate. The accomplished builder who has produced a few bikes, can TiG weld aluminium without it looking like worm turd and has probably sketched out their vision ahead of reaching for the hacksaw. Then there are the clever folk who can convert a CAD drawing into reality using CNC machinery and use foam blocks to test a shape before committing precious time and materials. Smokin’ Motorcycles from Rotterdam are the latter type, hoping to stamp their well calculated mark on the custom scene.
And what better way to start than with a piece of Germanic precision engineering, BMW’s R NineT.
Designed for the BMW Soul Fuel Challenge, an event organised Dutch magazine Big Twin and BMW Motorrad Netherlands, Elegant Bastard aimed to be exactly that; elegant with rough edges.
The subframe doesn’t immediately jump out at you, as it looks like the BMW technicians simply bolted on a stock part in the factory. And here’s the difference between the unplanned, grinder wielding backyard builder and Smokin’ Motorcycles, these guys 3D scanned the OEM fuel tank, air intake and subframe to give them mounting and datum points to which they could adhere there engineering expertise.
The subframe itself is machined from a high grade aluminium billet, with the taillight and licence plate hanger neatly incorporated. A similar process was used for the side pod and air intake, this time machined moulds provided the exact shape in which carbon fibre could be hand laminated.
The standard top fork yoke has been replaced by an in-house version with low mounts for the Rizoma handlebars, 40mm lower to be precise. It takes a good engineer to know another, so the guys fitted Rizoma parts where possible. To add a slight dash of colour, the lever and shock adjusters have been anodised in blue, BMW blue to be precise, again.
To break up the hi-def, hi-tech feel; nature was called upon for its softening touch. Or bastardised to use the builder’s words. The seat and grips are covered with African antelope hide and stitched with coarse thread in a baseball glove style by shoe and bag maker Fred de la Bretoniere.
A K&N filter is employed to clean the incoming rush of cold air and help decongest the 1170cc boxer engine from its E.U. regulatory illness.
The exhaust too has been reworked, with new, free-flowing headers and a more rearward balance pipe to improve low end torque. The mufflers are a bit special, turned from aluminium on the lathe before being black anodised. The end caps received the same treatment but in copper to match the forks.
No, that isn’t the Öhlins style gold, the forks were disassembled and re-anodised in copper whilst the lower mounts changed from silver to black. The black coating continues through to some standard parts such as the pegs, allowing the trick parts to standout.
One of the trickiest parts is probably the fuel tank, made the old fashioned way by a man with sausage fingers too large to operate a CNC keyboard but perfectly tuned to feel every lump, bump and curve in a piece of raw metal, yet strong enough to force shape into flat material. Once the original foam buck had been carved the skilled panel beating could begin. The result is a fabulous, lightweight, handmade centrepiece to blend the well engineered, over engineered and naturally evolved.
This is the third bike to roll out of the Smokin’ Motorcycles workshops but the first to be shown in such detail. Looks like the guys have achieved their goal of combining elegance with bastardaciousness, and we look forward to seeing their future work in the Bike Shed.
And yes, that is a word, I just CNC machined it from billet adjective; with my angle grinder.
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Photography by © Mark Kamphuis | www.mkfotografie.nl 2014