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Interview: Karles Vives – Fuel Bespoke Motorcycles

Posted on July 15, 2011 by Scott in Other, Scrambler. 31 comments

You’ve probably never heard of Karles Vives. He is not famous in the motorcycling world and up until 6 months ago he had never attempted to build a bike. That all changed when he picked up a 1982 BMW R100 and Jeremy Churchill’s ‘BMW 2-Valve Twins’ book and decided to turn a tired old beemer that was drowning in panniers and a chunky fairing into the classic styled scrambler of his dreams. When we spotted this bike, it got our attention like a red rag to a bull and wanted to find out more about this Spaniard and his classy German scrambler he affectionately calls ‘Scram’.

Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background? 

Hi, my name is Karles Vives and I live and work in Barcelona, Spain. I’ve been working as graphic designer and creative director for more than 15 years, but my passion for motorbikes started 20 years ago when I purchased my first motorbike. It was an all red Vespa Primavera 125 that I used to call “the red Baron” :-). Many more followed that first one, from custom to trails, sportbikes, or nakeds, until I got the current BMW GS 1150 Adventure one. I love everything related to “vintage culture”, from photography to music, design or fashion.

Is it true you had no mechanical knowledge before building this bike?

Yes, absolutely true! I had never changed a brake pad before, or dismantled a wheel unless it was from my bicycle..hahaha. So, yes, that’s the message: if I was able to do it, you can do it too!

So it’s a 1982 BMW R100 RT? Tell us what you’ve done to it.

Yes, it’s a 1982 BMW R100, a motorbike used by the German police and designed to do long trips. The first thing I did was to dismantle the whole fairing and the motorcycle hard luggage. Once it was dismantled, I had to change the ignition switch position into the headlight. I changed the rear shocks and the front fork springs. I painted the wheels in matt black and substituted the road tyres by offroad tyres. I had to stick to the original sizes to avoid problems with the Vehicle Technical Examination. I also changed the indicators and the rear light, and substituted the rear fender by another fender from an old enduro bike. The brake disc and the front brake bracket support were made by a specialist in steel. I changed the seat to the original BMW solo seat. The handlebar was also substituted by another one from a Yamaha XT500. The brake pads and the air and fuel filters were also replaced by new ones. Finally, I used the photoshop to test the final design and painting of the fuel tank and fenders, which were painted by a specialist from Barcelona (he also paints Jorge Lorenzo’s helmets.

Did anyone help you with the build? Or did you do it all yourself?

I did it all by myself, except for the painting. For the electrical side, I counted on the help of a friend with better knowledge on that. But my best “tool” was definitely Jeremy Churchill’s book “BMW 2-Valve Twins ’70 to ’96”

Did you encounter any problems when building it? How long did it take?

Yes, I did find some difficulties. Sometimes it was due to the lack of proper tools, to my lack of experience or because it was hard to find the pieces I wanted. You spend a lot of time searching for the pieces you need, either by internet or in old bikes markets but, even when you find them, you don’t know for sure whether they will fit, mechanically nor aesthetically, and they don’t always fit… but that’s part of the magic of the creative process! I started working on this project in mid-July and finished it at the beginning of September.

What inspired you to build this BMW scrambler?

I think that the modern BMW GS or Yamaha XT trails are the current version of the former Scrambler, road bikes that could be used both on the road and on the paths with just a few changes. I enjoy driving a bike feeling that I can go wherever I want, no matter if the road ends or not. That’s the maximum feeling of freedom and adventure I can have on a motorbike. And that’s what brought me to combine scrambler’s aesthetics with BMW hardness and reliability.   

How do people react to ‘Scram’?

People love it! No matter if they like bikes or not, people look at it and smile. My favorite reaction was that of someone who told me: “It doesn’t look like a customized bike, it rather seems to be a new BMW model”

So you also just started Fuel Bespoke Motorcycles? Is that your full time job now?

It was an incredible experience building this scram. I felt happy, I had no timetable and I woke up everyday willing to keep on working on the bike. It was kind of an addiction, and when I finished it, I wanted more. So, I decided to try and start this adventure under the name of Fuel Bespoke Motorcycle. A professional mechanic has now joined the project and I continue working as an advertisement creative. But who knows? Maybe it will turn into my full time job! That’s why I’m going to fight and work hard.

What’s your favourite thing about the scrambler?

When I see a bike, I need to like it. I don’t care about its power or technological aspects. If I don’t like its aesthetics, I don’t get it. So, my favorite thing of this motorbike is its look, a mixture of elegance, old fashionable and “loutish”.  It is also a surprisingly fast, funny and comfortable bike to ride… what else can I ask for?

Whats next for Fuel Bespoke Motorcycles?

I would like this Scram to turn into the seed of something that grows step by step, with the same care, passion and devotion that a father has for his child. That’s the way I understand branding… but that’s another story. I have plenty of ideas for FUEL to grow and bring big things to the motorbike world. I’m currently finishing the next Fuel, also based on a R100 BMW and inspired on the Flat Track bikes. I hope to have it finished soon and sell it. I’m also very interested in the vintage fashion world. I’m now working on a small collection of t-shirts, and also on a prototype of vintage style leather jacket… Old’s cool!

And next step? Finding investment to keep on growing… So, if there’s any investor reading this interview who would like to jump into this adventure, he can call me and we’ll chat!

You can contact Karles or check out his latest work on the Fuel Bespoke Motorcycle blog.

Spec list:

Engine: 979cc Power: 70 HP
Top speed: 180 km/h
Gearbox: 5-speed
Fuel capacity: 24 litres
Weight: 260 kg

Photography by Pere Ferrer

  • Chuck

    After going through every single one of your great posts – this one is kind of a letdown. I did more to my first bike – in 1975 – than this 'builder' did. The mods are what we did to take a bike off-road, except for the front brake – that's just silly. Don't know of a single dirt rider who'd touch his front brakes – much less need two huge pie plates to haul his machine down from speed. Great braking system on a cafe bike – it screams poseur on a ersatz scrambler.


  • Twostroked

    Makes me want to do something similar but with a Guzzi

  • Kenoath

    Hey Chuck maybe that is why it's called scrambler because that's it does to your brains if you touch the front brake while riding off road 😛

    If you ignore the dirty dodgy bike with reflectors it's a good interview

  • bodhi

    Unlike the other in here, I like the bike, and the passion that went into it.

    I would ride the hell out of it.

    It's funny to me how we all love to ride, yet all you read on here is people dissing each others bikes and talking smack.

    This dude is just as stoked riding his bmw, as any of us are riding what we have…Why can't people just respect the stoke?

    IMO it's not about what bike you ride, it's about the stoke.

  • Number8wire

    Hi Chuck..

    I think the point is he is actually doing it.. having a good go at something many of us just talk about. He admits openly that this is the first time he has picked up a spanner, perhaps a little more support and a little less 'constructive' criticism huhhh?

    If this is your first attempt Karles then sky is the limit mate.. go for it!

  • Teddy

    I think its perfect. Not every bike needs to be covered in custom parts. This bike shows that just a few things can make a bike brilliantly unique.

  • CHETtheJET

    …great results Karl,i to would ride the hell outta this one.

  • sholo

    The gators don't even cover the fork legs and airheads do not need additional fuel filters. First build? Great job! And way to jump in with both feet. Good asthetics, but I hope you now decide to become a motorcyclist and true builder.

  • JR

    I can hardly read the posts on here anymore. People are so negative. To me, if you can't appreciate a bike, even if its not the style you like, you aren't a motorcyle lover. You can give your take on a bike not being properly built or equiped without it being so negative. Number8wire is right, most of us just talk about having a go at our own build, but few really do it. This bike, without the "correct' mods, would turn more heads than most bikes bought straight from a shop. Good job.

  • Why are people hating on this guy? I think there just made that he is being recognized and they are not.

  • Rennie P

    Great-looking bike. I don't think it's supposed to be a 'proper' Scrambler, that's the style that influenced the guy.And for his first attempt I think it looks wicked. It's all about putting your own stamp on a bikeThis site is about encouraging this sort of thing, or am I missing something? I don't like all the bikes on here but that's down to personal taste. Not sure the bad vibes are that helpful. Especially to someone who might have spent hundreds of hours on their bike.Helpful criticism on the other hand is always welcome. 🙂

  • JaimeK

    I agree with most of you, this is a wicked cool bike, especially given the fact that Karles didn't know what he was doing when he set out. It's a beautiful bike that appears to be equally suited for both on and off road. In the end, all that matters is that the builder enjoys his machine. The most important part of the interview is when he says, "if I was able to do it, you can do it too!" That's the empowering spirit that all motorcycle enthusiasts should live by. I have been a bicycle mechanic for years and have been a little intimidated by the thought of restoring my CB500. It's people like Karles who make me want to do it. Great bike man!

  • revdub

    I agree with a lot that has already been said above. The positive comments, that is. This guy seems pretty humble and cool – and so does the bike. Some people just get off being internet jerks. I wonder if you people are like this in real life? And if so, how do you possibly keep anyone around you?

  • C

    JaimeK says it all. Stop the hatin and get your hands dirty – not your mouth.

  • Kenoath

    Why is everyone making negative comments about someones negative comments?. What's the point on having a comments section if nobody is allowed to have a different opinion?

    Its all good to get in and have a go yourself but if this bike is a sign of things to come from this company all I can say is watch out dues ex machina.

  • SR85

    Im a very positive person and want to wish a happy day to all who read this post.

  • finnladen

    Looks epic, great aesthetic and practical design. Nice work Karles

  • finnladen

    SR85 you are so positive you should start a group of other like-minded positive people and do stuff collectively. It would be a very rewarding endeavour for you haha

  • 10 Bones

    Nice bike. I have to laugh at these guys that say "dirt bikers would never touch the front brakes". Yea .. right. I raced MX for nearly 25 years and desert as well. The front brakes do 90% of your stopping. You simply cannot race without heavy HEAVY use of the front brakes.

    You have to love the myths and fables created by the "folks" in folklore. No dirt biker would touch the front brakes … that's just silly and actually pretty ignorant. If so, then why oh why does every single pro dirt bike racer have excellent front disks? (yes yes, I know flat trackers don't … so one single discipline out of .. let's see .. how many again?).

    Granted the Beemer's brakes are made for street use .. but still … dirt bikers use the hell out of the front. If you aren't, you simply just ain't going fast … at all! I mean, it's 100% impossible to cut a fast lap in the dirt without heavy use of the front brake.

    It's so funny hearing that. Dirt bikers say the same "myth" about street bikes … "for the love of god NEVER touch that front brake on the street or you'll do an instant endo!!". Then the street bike guys say "Never touch the front brake in the dirt, you'll eat it for sure!".

    When BOTH CAMPS use the hell out of it for their own chosen disciplines!!! HAA!!!

    "Real" dirt bikers use the fronts heavily in the dirt (as oposed to casual dirt bike owners), but many salty dirt bikers erroneously believe that it's NEVER to be used by hardcore street bikers. On the same note, street bikers use the fronts like 80% of the time, yet they erroneously believe that dirt bikers NEVER touch the fronts.

    Yet … both camps use the fronts heavily, and believe that the other camp never touches it! Humans are friggin hilarious!

    How funny!

  • beardo

    He took the fairing and saddlebags off, new bars, did a couple other things….

    This is a day-long project, not a custom bike. I have an R100 and love it, glad he is stoked on the bike but it seems like this one is setting the bar a little low for a custom bike compared to the other ones we see on a daily basis.

  • Karles

    Hi, i want to thank's to all for all your coments and criticisms (the positives and the negatives, well, especially the positives haha..). That's the way to improve and to carry on learning. Maybe i dont deserve to be interviewed by Pipeburn, but this is not in my hands..I'm very conscious that i'm not a builder. I never tried to appear as a custom builder and i know that what i did to the bike was just a restyling or a make up..but i think there is nothing wrong to work as a make up artist and not as plastic surgeon, is cheaper, effective and has not postoperative problems haha.. Seriously, this kind of "custom" can be a way to get a personalized bike without to spend a lot of money…Anyway, it's true that the bike had some mistakes but now are fixed ( the fork gators, a new stainless steel brake lines etc..) but you have to think that the bike was done for riding not to for custom show or to be posted on internet blogs but the things gone this way and i'm very happy for that, because among other things it allow me to know a lot of interesting people with the same passion..

  • I really enjoyed this bike feature. Great job at taking something older, but not antique and giving it a second life. Simple and functional, it wears sneakers and boots simultaneously. Fantastic.

  • Zeff

    Yep, it's time to do something with my Scrambler. A bobber perhaps!!!

  • roy rodriguez

    great job… do not listen to the fools…you have a lot to be proud of….

  • Teddy

    Karles, i think the reason your bike is on Pipeburn is exactly what you just summed up, The bike is for built to ride not for show. A lot of the guys building custom oldschool bikes arent doing that these day. The goal seems to be to build something aesthetically pleasing and then lock it away from the world. This is also why to me, guys who actually race their classic bikes are the most admirable people in motorcycle culture.

  • Clintonius Monk.

    Hey, i really like the clean lines on the tank. I have always thought that the wide diameter tires look good on BMW's. I love seeing custom work manifest. Keep up the good work, stay creative.

  • dannyb278

    i wouldnt come down on the guy to hard, It seems that he put as much work into his bike as "custom" shops like Dues put into theirs. cool bike. i dig it.

  • I totally dig the bike.

  • Antonio

    Increíble, muy bonita la moto y sin saber nada de mecánica. Seguro que lo as pasado muy bien haciéndola. Felicidades por ello y a disfrutarla.

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