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1985 BMW R80 Café Racer

Posted on July 20, 2011 by Andrew in Café Racer. 26 comments

“BMW” – bitumen’s mostly wet…

As a hobby you’ve got admit that motorbikes are, all things considered, relatively cheap. It’s heartening that in this day and age you can still rock on up to your local Ducati store and buy an Italian two-wheeled Ferrari for a lot less than US$20,000. In fact the advertised price for Ducati’s top-of-the-line 1198 SP racer in North America is only a smidge under US$22,000. In the scheme of things, that’s a silly small price. A 2011 Ferrari 458 Italia would cost you ten times that amount, and I doubt that any of us would be willing to choose a single car over 10 new bikes – let alone 40+ second hand or vintage bikes.

Which brings us rather neatly to this little gem, aka Mark Byfield’s cafe’d 1985 BMW R80. With nothing but a bunch of hard work and a cash outlay of less than five Aussie grand, he’s managed to create a bike that looks like a million bucks and which rocks our boat a lot more vigorously than any four-wheeled Italian poseur-mobile ever could.

Over to Mark. “I just had my 40th birthday. I work in the offshore oil industry, drilling exploration wells for various clients in various locations all over the world from our semi submersible drilling rig. It’s usually pretty good fun and engaging. I’ve been riding bikes, both motorbikes and pushbikes, since I was about 4. I raced motocross and downhill mountain bikes up until about 3 years ago. Still ride a bit of enduro on my Husaberg 501; it’s a great bike.”

Mark decided to customise the bike very soon after the exhausts fell off

“I got interested in building a bike a few months ago and always loved airhead beemers, and a cafe racer seemed like the perfect way to go. The bike started out as an ebay bargain 1985 R80. After I picked it up, I did the usual strip, clean and rattle can routine, giving the frame, wheels and swingarm the flat black treatment.”

“As I wanted to fit the Ducati-style single seat, I had to cut down the subframe to fit the shorter seat unit. Not an easy task with my dodgy welding skills! I also sourced the cool ass /5 tank from ebay US and gave it a sand back, a new paint job and badges. The Ducati style fairing and rear sets came from Flatracer in the UK. The fairing got a final clean-up and got the same paintjob as the seat and tank.”

What is it that makes BMWs look so good in fairings?

“The only other real mods where the exhaust, which is a custom job welded up by me made up of assorted spare parts that were lying around, and removing everything that is not absolutely necessary. The final effort was a service and tune and I was off, It goes really well and is an absolute blast. Sounds like a tractor and goes like a train!”

  • Niels.D

    Looks really good. Nothing is overdone, everything is classy. Why not tuck the battery in the seat though? But really, that's just nitpicking…

  • Nice one! great proportions and color balance. the Ducati fairing looks really good. I like the blacket out rear spring.

    a small front fender would be nice and I'm missing the licence plate and rear light but I guess he took those of for the pictures

  • CHETtheJET

    …i'am imppressed,and how are you useing your bike,everyday i hope!

  • 10 Bones

    Shweet Meat!!! Dayumed nice job, Ace! I don't see many beemers out here (I live in southern Arizona .. it's 116f outside right now) but THIS one is cooly. Mondo Cooly!

    When I was growing up and getting to know my stepdad when I was 11 (he was Grand National #57 back then) I remember asking him which motorcycle was the "best one ever made". He told me BMWs were called the "Cadillac of Motorcycles". I remember I was shocked to learn it had a shaft drive no less!!

    We climbed aboard his Triumph 500cc TT bike and rode off into the dusty afternoon. I kept imagining I was riding on the back of one of those Cadillacs … "it's just GOT to vibrate less than this heap!" I thought to myself. Haahaa! I should think so!

    Sweet build, you have great tastes.


  • Rex Havoc

    I wonder if Mark used Ritmo Sereno as inspiration. It's certainly a looker and great bang for your buck.

  • revdub

    That is one beautiful bike.

  • Joel

    Shit, that's got to be one of the best BMW cafe racers I've ever seen!

  • nice bike, in this period the old bmw r series is very often used for specials…

  • Gorman

    I really like the use of the Ducati tailpiece and faring, make it look like real racer. Like it a lot! What size rims are those? 18"? I know the slightly older models with the twin shocks rears had 18" rear and 19" rims, are these the same?

    Would love to see a pic of the finished product from the left, could you perhaps post one? The open rear wheel with the single sided swingarm I suspect will look very trick!

  • Andrew

    @Gorman – Your wish is our command.

  • Outstanding, sir.

  • jack

    great bike man.

    ive gotta say, pipeburn is really making a stand for the best website devoted to all custom and classic motorcycles. Andrew, your writing and the occasional interview has really improved over the years and im now on this site more than ever becuase i get so much more than a couple of photos and a weak intro into a bike a want to know more about.

    im not one for sucking up or ass kissing but i give credit where credit is due, Andrew thank you for such a rewarding blog.

    p.s. you know how you hear stories of guys building these kick ass bikes like this one for like 5 G's, please teach me how you are doing this with a BMW, becuase my '72 CL 350 is eating a hole in my fuckin wallet!

  • Daoud

    Yet another one! Oh hum!

  • Looks like you have a good start there. A few odds and ends to finish up and you should have something pretty damn fun. Just a thought, if you do decide to do one of those short fenders, while they keep direct splashback off of you, they do rocket all water forward and the wind picks it right back up and over your headlight. (You can check what I made on the "author url" – its just a little too small)

    I would also heavily recommend a block off plate to replace the airbox – especially since you have no rear fender.

  • RNR22

    Hello PIPEBURN!!!

    I was just browsing and i realized i Love….
    let me repeat … I love!!… these bikes and sometimes i wish i could display them on my desktop.
    I know you dont take the pictures but please let me at least enlarge the images so that i can apply the maximum picture ratio to my desktop.

    Thank you,
    A loyal browser and cafe fanatic

  • Really like this bike – simple, purposeful, organic. It proves one does not have to spend a silly amount of money to get to something enjoyable. A garage band bike ridden well – what more can one ask?

  • Mark

    Thanks for the comments lads. I was going to sell the bike but can't bring myself to part with it 🙂
    I'm currently also putting together a 1981 Honda CL 250 scrambler type thing for putting around on and also to teach my lovely girlfriend to ride on.
    I see if Andrew will post some pics when it's finished as well.


  • what a great transformation! i typically don't like the large fairings but i even dig that! very cool. well done.

  • First great looking bike.

    I just got a 1985 r80rt and in the process of building it. Your bike is one of the few that I am going to reference when i am building.

    What kind of tires do you have on there?

  • Marcello Capra

    a great Job clean and 
    smooth  lines,  wonderful contrast between black and grey
    .. beautiful mufflers a great jobmaybe the battery would be better black.Greetings from Italy I’m starting a similar job and I am very excitedthanks for sharing your passion and the wonderful worknote: sorry for the bad English .. 

  • Simon Lovelace

     sweet, sweet build.

  • Peter Ingram

    What carb settings have you got after your tune?

  • Peter Ingram

    Needle and main jet??

  • John McG

    beautiful mate…… just gorgeous.

  • Marcello Capra
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