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1974 BMW R90/6

Posted on December 4, 2013 by Scott in Café Racer, Classic. 33 comments

Alaska is referred to as America’s last frontier and in summer, thousands of motorcyclists flock there to experience the spectacular scenery and the endless miles of winding roads. Although, most of the bikes heading up there are touring, cruising and enduro bikes. It now looks like the café racer scene is starting to take off – one bike at a time. Alaskan local Erik Christensen and his friends have started the Northern Café Racers. “Our café posse is four deep” says Erik. “We are just a few guys with everyday lives, building café bikes in our garages in anticipation of the incredible Alaskan riding season.” This stunning BMW R90/6 isn’t just the first bike we have featured from Alaska, but it might just be the first café racer built in Alaska.

Erik has always had an affinity for BMW motorcycles and opposed cylinders – probably rooted in his previous aviation career. Finding a candidate for restoration in Alaska (AK) was going to be his first challange. “Bikes in Alaska have a tendency of being used more than the average lower 48 bike” he says. “I started calling every motorcycle person I knew enquiring about BMW airheads and who might have one for sale. Ironically, it was a Craigslist alert on my phone that led to the purchase of the R90.”

Erik showed up to test the bike and was met by gentleman with a peculiarly German first and last name. “We chatted and I tried to haggle with him, but it was a halfhearted effort.” he says. “I know I’ll pay asking price for the damn bike because I’ve already envisioned removing the boat anchor fairing, luggage bags and tractor seat. After we shake, the sellers demeanor changes and he invites me to look in the garages. Turns out his 82 year old father was the owner of the local BMW motorcycle dealership years prior. Naturally, I burnt my kitchen pass at home because I disappeared for the next two hours. Connex containers full of BMW bikes and parts littered the property while the real history was in the garage. Walls of BMW tools, posters, a sidecar rig and several complete bikes. I knew I was in the right place when I pulled open a drawer and it was full of old san serif BMW roundels. I almost came home with an R27 also but I knew the motorcycle clause in my prenup would never hold up.”

The old German family and Erik became friends during the purchase of the bike. “I felt I had purchased something special and this, in turn, led to the personal obligation to make the bike something special. The old German patriarch never approved of what I did to “perfectly good German engineering. I joked with him that, “I’d trade a little of that engineering for a few style points.” He didn’t even crack a smile. Despite our different perspectives on the same motorcycle, he is always eager to offer advice about bikes and life. I received a surrogate grandfather with my motorcycle.”

Erik purchased the R90 in April and intended to ride the bike all summer before starting my cafe project. “Every time I rode the bike I grew more unsatisfied because it was not the bike in my mind. 17 garage beers with friends later and the bike was in ziplock bags.”

“The theme of this build was New Vintage. I wanted a super clean, unique bike that would turn heads and sound refined.  The pastel green and cream white originate from my love of everything old from the 60’s. Being 33 myself, sometimes I feel I was born in the wrong era. The brown striping was hand painted by master sign painter Perry Cowles at Perry’s Rod & Custom. He was the inspiration behind the axle-mounted license plate and the integrated LED tail light.”

“All frame and wheel parts are either powder coated or bead blasted while every bearing and gasket was replaced along the way. While I had the bike fillet open I upgraded the alternator, diode board and went with electronic ignition. The dual disk conversion was already complete so I simply rebuilt the MC and replaced the rear shoes while using stainless hardware throughout. The striped cylinder heads were the result of another beer-fueled garage meeting. Just as women wear horizontal stripes to make them look taller, I wanted the cylinder heads to appear even wider by employing this same visual trickery.”

“The cockpit has the highest concentration of modifications. I used Japanese micro-switches because I am horrified of too much chunky plastic. I spent time in Japan so thankfully securing these switches was a little less difficult. The top plate started as one of Boxer Metals high quality plates. I wanted the data and appearance of an Acewell but I didn’t want gauges protruding like a teenagers pimple. After a few beers with friends at the machine shop, we had the top plate modified to host the Acewell flush. It’s amazing what booze and pizza gets you in a small town.”

With Alaskan winter now back in full swing, Erik has this stunnng R90 in his garage receiving a few winter upgrades. He has also started on another BMW project, which he tells us will be another great blend of ‘New Vintage’ – sounds like the number of café racers in Alaska may double by the time summer comes around.

Like Northern Cafe Racers on Facebook for more R90 build photos and progress pics of Erik’s next bike.

  • Septic the Sceptic

    That is very nice.

  • Cortlandt_Cash

    Absolutely Gorgeous. I’d be interested to see a different taillight configuration, but that’s certainly splitting hairs…

  • Patrick Larson

    Why the black X across the headlight?

    • Scott T.

      Once upon a time it was to keep the glass from shattering after being struck by a rock. These days, I’d say it’s like the yellow glass. Just for looks, a trend.

      Sweet bike though.

      • Patrick Larson

        But it’s ugly!

      • The tape doesn’t KEEP the glass from shattering. It attempts to stop glass that has shattered from falling out. It’s a track racing thing, like wiring your sump plug shut. If I’m not mistaken, it used to be mandated by track marshals i.e. they wouldn’t let you on track without it.

        • Scott T.

          Thanks for saying what I meant better than I could have!

  • Jan Wagner

    Could you possibly tell me what color (RAL?) you used for the paint job? It’s brilliant!

  • lennard schuurmans

    Nice taillight!

  • None

    Makes me regret trading my R80 for a Guzzi 3 years ago…

  • Stephen

    Great job fellas, just beautiful
    I really like the photography work to, great lighting in the shop pictures where you can actually see the bike.
    So did you do your fab. work on that Niagara brake?lol

  • george

    Great bike, had one for many years, probably best bike I ever own, notice you change to R90S double disc front brake, smart move, do yourself a favor and also replace the carbs for the delorto of the same S model bike, difference is night and day

  • itsmefool

    What a bike and what a shop! The latter looks like just the place spend a long, cold winter…

  • Dusten R Trounce

    Good to see some Alaskan boys building Cafes….. thought I was the only one, and definitely not the first cafe to be built in AK.

  • acuity

    Is that a skull I see in the second photo, top of the housing?

  • Erik in Alaska

    Jan – somewhere near RAL6019
    George – I have a pair of Dell’Ortos in my garage now…can’t wait.

    • Zach in Alaska

      Did Perry’s also shoot the green, or just do the pinstriping?

      Glad to see that two of us are looking at organizing a gentlemen’s ride – we’ll have to make sure to coordinate our efforts.

      • Erik in Alaska

        PM me on FB to coordinate the DGR

  • MF

    I was pretty damn over the BMWs on all the sites, I can’t seem to find fondness for them, until this one. Maybe the colour softens the whopping engines? Well done, beautiful bike. Fantastic photography too, especially like shots of the bikes being ridden.

  • Steve Pantalone

    Does anyone know what kind of speedo that is?

  • BoxerFanatic

    I am older than 33, but not a child of the 60s, actually, or spiritually, so the mint green would not be my first choice of color, but that is just personal taste. The paint quality and two tone design are nicely done.

    The build quality of everything looks great. I like the seat an the bag in the frame in matching brown leather. The flush fitted Acewell is great.

    A special bike indeed. Very nicely done.

  • Apple pie & coffee, and a fine article with great photos is the best way to start your day!
    It seems that after…quite a few beers in the end…the new vintage theme was accomplished in the best sober way ;D

  • JagLite48 .

    Nice bike for sure!
    Most certainly not the first, or only cafe’ here in Alaska though.
    I hope to see it in the annual bike show in April so I can look more closely at the details.
    I agree, the taillight looks far too modern to go with the rest of the bike.

  • Jim Meyer

    Very beautifully done BMW. However, I need to make a correction about the article. This BMW isn’t the 1st cafe racer built in Alaska. One of the 1st, based on an SR500, was built almost 6 years ago with more to follow. I need to figure out how to send pics so that you can see that Alaska is not behind everyone else when it comes to modified bikes, such as cafe racers and streettrackers.

  • It’s snowing outside lending a hint of Bavaria to the Ozarks, so this Beemer is a perfect read while sipping coffee. Beautiful paint – the combination works and the craftsmanship is flawless. ’60’s cafe styling with modern touches. I like the switchgear – it keeps everthing tidy.

  • Cash Burnett

    I love the leather bag under the seat, but I noticed it is missing in some of the pics. I am assuming that is a custom bag?

    • Bo Ryan

      We did three and a half shoots with the R90. The first two were done while the bag was being made. The bag was ready, and installed on the 3rd shoot.

      • Cash Burnett

        I only noticed it was missing because it was one of my favorite details and I was trying to see it from other angles. Beautifully shot btw.

  • clegg

    nice effort- strong results – was it a relative of Trails end BMW in Anchorage- I met George Rahn 13 years ago

  • TiredofLiars

    Nice bike… Looks fun to ride!

  • bartys78

    “New Vintage”, I like that description a lot. The bike is beautiful, Mocos need to get some ‘new vintage’ designers like you.