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1986 BMW R80RT – ‘Bopper’

Posted on December 5, 2012 by Scott in Bobber. 46 comments

Australia has a tendency to claim things and people that are actually originally from our closest neighbours, New Zealand. For example, Russell Crowe and Keith Urban, who most people think are Australian are in fact both born in New Zealand. So when Michael Dobson sent us this radical R80RT build, part of the conditions were that we made sure our readers knew the bike was built in Australia New Zealand. Of course we reluctantly agreed.

Michael has one impressive resume, which includes being a motorcycle mechanic for 34 years, specialising in servicing and primarily building BMW police bikes for over 20 of those years. That in itself is impressive, but the list also includes a stint as a successful race mechanic in BEARS and production racing, a workshop foreman at Motorad and a “semi famous Ural pilot”. So if there was one guy who we would choose to build us a custom Beemer, Michael is the perfect candidate.

Michael started the project with a 1986 NZ Police R80T which he helped assemble many years back. “It was one of 120 that a younger me helped assemble and deliver” he says. “After a disposal auction, passing through the hands of several friends and many miles, it became “my next project”. It is now an example of what happens “when good cops go bad”.

“Originally I intended to loosely follow the bobber style but having read far too many chopper magazines in the early 70’s, I found it evolving into a mix of bobber and chopper which I have called “Bopper Style”.” Michaels personal requirements for the bike were that it needed to have good brakes, lights, tires and mudguards with a comfortable riding position. “This I have achieved” he says.

“Throughout the two year part time build I have kept in mind the guiding words I read in Garage Magazine – “Respect the line, observe classic proportions and dammit, possess some taste”. Later I also discovered a quote from Collin Chapman – “Simplify then add lightness”. While my bike isn’t especially light in weight, it is simple and I have added the illusion of lightness.”

Mike has used many different BMW parts on this bike. The front wheel is a 21” BMW R80GS, and the rear wheel is actually a standard R80 mag with polished sheet aluminum discs glued on. The forks are from a R100CS with 2” over stanchions. Head light is from a R1200C and the handlebars (in garage shots) are from a K100RS which have been reversed and dropped forward. The frame is a standard R80 with sub frame and pillion peg hangers removed.

The bike also pays homage to the older BMW’s, with HT leads coming out of the top of the engine, single  (Ural) seat, old logo and classic black and white paint.

The engine has been fully rebuilt and fitted with Siebenrock 1000cc kit. Also adding Dellorto PHF 36mm Carbs. Speedo is a Motogadget chrono classic. The petrol tank is surprisingly from a Keeway Cruiser much modified by Kiwi Race Cars who also ribbed the british rear mudguard. The exhaust is a one piece stainless by Cycleworks who also made the battery box and rear guard support. Airbox has been replaced by a custom cast alloy cover made by Ken Howe conceals electrics. The tail light is a slash cut exhaust pipe with Hella trailer light attached. Lastly the metallic black paint job was by Todd Moffat and the beautiful hand pin striping and air brushed pre-war BMW logos were done by Kurt from Juniors Kustom Rides.

Michael has done a sterling job turning this 1986 BMW into a timeless bobber cross chopper. It may have taken him two years to build this amazing bike part time, but usually it takes time to do it right. He tells us he has worked at a much faster pace building Beemers in the past. “In 1985 we once uncrated and assembled 90 BMW R80RT bikes in a week for the local NZ police” – now that is one productive week.

Photography by Ireen Demut

  • nice bike, clean and elegant. the only thing i dont like is the long forks that force the frame into that angle, so the lower rails are not horizontal.

  • Todd

    Hahaha! That last picture is hilarious. Wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong.

    • Andy

      Thing is fugly. Thing is beamers are the wrong kind of bike to chopper, seeing as you have two cylinders right in the way of where you’d want forward controls. Also the front ends are flexy enough without having longer fork tubes.

    • lol. Maybe if he dropped the front down about a foot.

    • blueline

      How do you know Michael isn’t just height challenged. There isn’t much of a point of reference in those pics 😛

  • KP

    It sure does look comfortable to ride and I’m sure it absorbs every bump as BMW intended. Hopefully that angle doesn’t muck with the oiling system. Interesting way to make DIY solid disc rims, very creative.

  • aaron

    very unique, get rid of the long front end maybe even lower it more than the rear. Less chopper more low and lean bobber..

  • blackbird

    Interesting how the rear rim was balanced with his hair cut. I’d call it progressive design….

  • blackbird

    In a less smart ass, more constructive comment. I’m not exactly sure why but my eyes struggle with the concept of “lightness” The fullness of the rear wheel and the elevation of the front of the bike seems to give an impression less of an overall lightness but that the weight has been shifted to the rear of the bike. Instead of the concept of “lightness” being an almost subconscious sensation, the full wheel and overall tilt of the bike seems to make the weight more underscored, than subtle. Don’t get me wrong though, it’s an interesting juxtaposition for the eyes. the large R80gs wheel upfront doesn’t reflect the smaller visually heavy rear wheel. I appreciate that you have challenged that norm. Asymmetry is challenging in the motor world, it seems to have a polarizing effect, love it or hate it. I find both in this bike

  • Now&Zen

    Everything about this Beemer looks out of proportion and off balanced . If I had to sum up my opinion it looks like a motor that accidentally had a few frame bits and a couple of mis-matched wheels fall on it and then somehow grafting themselves to the motor in no particular order . Then add in that is manages to look even worse with a rider on board .

  • Sad_Dad

    Is it just me or is this bike always going up hill … got a bit of an odd tilt to it.

  • Peter Ayers

    Don’t forget about pavlova, spreadable butter and Sonny Bill Williams. Anyway, bugger the nay-sayers. Build what you want how you want, if they don’t like it they can build their own. I like beemers and bobbers/choppers so this looks jut fine to me, and you can ride it. Keep up the good work.

    • Sonny Boy Williamson

  • Cwright856

    Waste of a good beamer. This thing is a deuce. All the delicate details around that beefy boxer engine make no sense.

  • revdub

    Definitely a clean build. I think if the front were lower along with a lower seat position, it would really improve the overall stance. Looks like fun though.

    • You are spot on!

    • Now&Zen

      Drop the front as you’ve suggested . Lower the saddle ( a lot ) into the frame ala chopper . And get rid of that goram back disc wheel ! That might do it for sure cause as you’ve said the build ‘ quality ‘ is quite nice .

  • Drop the front 3″, the rear 2″ and get a helmet. Then I’ll buy one! Tonight! Looks better w/the superbike bars too.

  • Her Majesty’s Thunder
    • revdub

      Exactly. Now tuck a small black head light up into those forks. Mmmm.

    • Exactly. Would have taken awhile to Photoshop a laced back wheel. And a smaller front wheel. I hate over-sized fronts. Well, on bikes.

    • madmusk

      Sooooo much better. This not only makes the stance more elegant, it also has the added benefit of leveling out the motor and pipes.

  • $30724656

    There is something just not right about this bike. And why in the hell do Keith Urban and Russell Crowe keep telling people they’re from Australia.

  • ugly, just ugly. Or is it humoristic ?

  • Tom

    What an amazing build, absolutely love the stance and the look of the bike, so nice to see long forks and low rear once in a while, congratulations!

  • Jrod

    Haters gonna hate, the only thing I think it needs is more rake. Love the tank/seat and the taillight.

    • Haters?!?! I think the consensus is that the heavy rear lean is not working. That’s not hating, them’s just the facts.

      • Jrod

        More rake would fix the lean, make use of the custom lengthened forks, and give it an agressive stance a la zero engineering. overall though I still love this build

  • Стефан ‘Dobermann’ Петров

    Funny – on the first picture it looks like if some 250kg invisible man is sitting on the bike, making it leaning heavy backwards. 🙂
    The BMW frame has a clear horizontal line, in my eyes it does’n look proper like shown above.

  • itsmefool

    “Respect the line, observe classic proportions and dammit, possess some taste.” Err, really? If this is keeping ’em in mind, then you may have lost yours.

  • Colby Dunsmuir

    There are interesting details throughout, and thoughtful cleaning-up of the electrics, such as the ignition switch location / coil location in the engine case. But the overall composition and proportion just don’t sing for me. But whatevs… It’s Michael’s bike, all that matters is that he loves it.

  • Love the details and the build quality. I’d love to see the same bike slammed per Mule with 16 inch wheels front and rear a la Sportster 48. I think that would add a little balance to the front and level things out. I kinda like the rear wheel discs – from the left side it looks like a rim and tire with no visible means of support – cool. But, man, I love old air-heads.

  • i have a question sir. is the rear suspension strong enough to hold such weight, i’m just pessimist with that small vessel on the frame

  • Mgmue mgmu

    Engine angle is off & it would look better when that is corrected. Whenever you add length to the fork tubes, rake the frame to match or it looks bad. The wiring & other misc items were nicely cleaned up – looks very clean.

  • Yves Trabac

    Very nice ! Long life to beemers !

  • Jon

    Really liked your bike, Michael. Looks like it has a bit of dirt bike in its bloodlines somewhere. Liked the enhanced height, not one of those ground hugging, cafe types for troglodytes with short stumpy legs.

  • DavidHFCoder

    I think it is quite beautiful, but the front fork stance is a little high for my liking, and I'd rather it have either two spoke rims or two solid rims. Those little things aside, I think it is a beaut. Hell, I think it is a beaut anyhow.

  • You know that expression, “Can’t see the Forrest from the trees”? Lots of attention to details but when they all come together and you step back it doesn’t look right.

  • Bryan Kerswill

    The “uphill” cant ruins the bike for me and the solid look rear wheel does nothing for lightness. The photoshopped version looks soooo much better…..with the rear wheel mod even better. Then in my opinion we have a seriously nice Bopper.

  • Steambeemer


  • Steambeemer

    The world’s full of critics who couldn’t make an engine as pretty as that.

  • Kiwibird

    Good one Dad xxx

  • Joseph Betz

    “In 1985 we once uncrated and assembled 90 BMW R80RT bikes in a week
    for the local NZ police” – now that is one productive week.

    uncrated a 90 in 1985…?????
    Let’s do the time warp again….

  • Guzzto

    I had the pleasure of seeing this in the flesh, the pictures don’t do it justice and it is a beautiful clean build,

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    an interesting use of a diverse number of parts from different bikes.It just goes to show that the arts of recycling and customisation are Alive and Well in the land of The Long White Cloud!!!!