A NEW APPROACH IN AN AGE OLD BUSINESS+44 (0) 1926 691 141
In the early sixties, it became possible to buy a new four-seat, well-designed, reasonably fast saloon car for less than £500 and models like the Mini and Hillman Imp sold in their tens of thousands. A lot of these customers had previously been motorcyclists, and motorcycle manufacturers were forced to recognise this sea-change and move their products away from transportation and towards recreation.However motorcyclist are often noted for their individuality and ingenuity and no matter how impressive these new sports bikes from the major manufacturers were, none of them really excelled at every level. Enthusiasts began to mix and match parts in the pursuit of a handling and power balance and it wasn't long before a clear leader emerged in the form of the "Triton". At the time, Norton motorcycles were based on the 'Featherbed' frame which was light and stiff and resulted in their bikes being the best handling in period and, although their engines were efficient and well-designed, they were a touch 'agricultural'. On the other hand Triumph engines, particularly the 650cc parallel-twin with twin carburettors and twin camshafts, were leaders in their field, smooth, quick and relatively vibration free. So it made a lot of sense to mix the two and produce a motorcycle combining the best elements of each marque and whilst you were at it, pop on a 'racing' alloy tank, a single seat, a chrome headlight, matched speedo and tacho, rear-set rests and a pair of 'clip-ons'. A number of small enterprises started building kits of parts to make the conversion easy and Tritons, in a variety of guises became a common sight. Frequently seen outside coffee bars and used to get to the next one as quickly as possible, this style of bike became known (a few years later), somewhat romantically, as a Café Racer. A look that is as popular today as it was in 1965 although, these days, the bike is more frequently based on a Japanese 'multi' or an Italian V-twin.
However, two words that are never applied to Café Racers are practicality and comfort, and it was this aspect that was the topic of conversation one evening around the campfire in deepest Africa. Our vendor, the creator of the remarkable BMW on offer here, has long been involved in the world of custom motorcycles and was a member of the team that took part in an incredible adventure across Africa with Charley Boorman and Compass Expeditions in 2017. In his own words; "Having successfully designed and customised Café Racers in the past, I wanted to set myself the ultimate challenge; build four, spectacular, limited edition bikes to commemorate the expedition of a lifetime from Cape Town to Victoria Falls, covering South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe. This bike is extremely rare, bike collectors dream of owning a bike like this, but no one has ever had the guts to design and build a bike like this, until now......"
It's hard to believe that this passionately hand-crafted, limited edition 1/004 custom-built bike started life as one of the last air-cooled BMW R1200GS in the country. The holy grail was to produce a Street Racer with all the capabilities of a GS. This resulted in major modifications including; chopping the rear end, replacing the fuel tank, discarding the air box, exhaust and massive oil cooler. This is an 1170CC Café Racer with a twist.
The only thing this bike shares with BMW's 'R Nine T' model is the fuel tank. Yet it remains very capable off road as the original BMW engine mapping on the GS model has been kept including the electronic adaptive suspension. This transformation has resulted in a substantial loss of weight close to 45kg, creating a lighter weight, high performance bike maximising its engine power output to full capacity with K&N air and oil filters. The original large oil-cooler has been replaced with a smaller but more efficient BMW unit and relocated from being mounted on the forks to sitting snugly in front of the engine. The biggest challenge was housing the extensive cabling, sensors and electronics in a confined space having discarded the original large plastic fuel tank and replaced it with the smart, new aluminium tank; and no longer having the vast amounts of space under the original GS seat. The new custom-made leather seat has the plug-in diagnostic recessed neatly with easy access to all wiring and electronics.
The Continental TKC 80 tyres complete the look but still offer a smooth ride on tarmac and those who have ridden the bike have been surprised by the comfortable yet sporty feel the clip-on bars have added to the ride and the handling of the bike. LED headlights by the Original Cafe Racer Co and Kellerman of Germany compliment the bike's distinctive ergonomics as well as adding greater visibility.
The one-off, custom leather seat provides the perfect riding position and feels comfortable on long rides as well as being practical by storing all the cables and diagnostic plug. The SC MotoGP silencer adds a deep but rich tone to the exhaust without being over loud or needing a baffle to pass an M.O.T. The original bike was a BMW R1200GS TU Triple Black SE that had been enjoyed by three previous owners and covered just 25,950 miles, which is very little for a GS engine. It's supplied with a full BMW service history, original service book and manual in a BMW document wallet holder, some older receipts, two sets of keys, and a fresh 12-month MOT expiring May 2020. Receipts for the extensive customisation amount to over £6,000 and being the first of only 4, it's likely to be the most valuable.
The result is a good looking sports bike that has incredibly managed to combine that distinctive Café Racer look with the comfortably low seat position, low centre-of-gravity slow-speed handling, modern electronics, and genuine off-road ability of the original GS Adventure bike.
To quote its creator; "This bike is the ultimate ride, a bike which turns heads, attracts admiration, a truly stand out Street Racer for the discerning."