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BMW R80 – Sander Ilves


Posted on August 25, 2015 by Andrew in Tracker. 19 comments

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The kids are alright; 26-year-old Sander Ilves from Estonia took a crashed ’84 BMW R80 and created a mean and clean street tracker for his own amusement. The budget? Pretty much zero. The team? Just him. And the shop? Nothing but his cold, Estonian garage.

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The European winter of 2013 was a cold one in Estonia and if you have to spend time inside it may as well be in your garage rather in front of the TV watching weather forecasts predicting more of the same. So when Sander saw a reasonably priced 1984 BMW R80RT he knew he had to grab it and give him something to toy with in his garage. The bike was bought but the BMW which the Bavarians had literally drowned in box like fairings had been in a decent shunt and the front end was destroyed. So with a plan laid out, a small budget and after hours being the only chance he’d get to work on it Sander set himself the task of building a neat little Tracker, his first ever build. But it had to be stripped down and boxes of old parts torn off and headed for the big motorcycle junk yard in the sky before the real fun could begin.

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The BMW immediately regretted having four beers with lunch

With the frame on his bench Sander set about bringing it into the 21st century; adding stiff modern suspension to a spaghetti like old frame is an exercise in futility, so the frame has been strengthened and braced for a level of reinforcement that gives the rigidity required for good handling. On the looks side of things out came the grinder and all the unnecessary tabs have been removed and the entire frame carefully smoothed out. Anticipating a major change from the standard two up seating the subframe was completely removed before a new one could be made to size and welded in place. It now supports a slimline single seat in true tracker style with just enough padding to be comfortable.

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One of the great things about first time builders doing it all themselves at home after work is there are no creative limitations, no years of habits that are hard to toss aside. This is clearly evident in the way Sander went about building the suspension for his BMW, were many follow convention he simply picked the best parts for the job and made it work. Up front the standard BMW forks are really not up to true tracker spec so they’ve been swapped for a lowered set of KTM Supermoto USD items with their beefy clamps giving a much tougher look and increased durability. The standard shaft drive levered rear end has also been given a complete overhaul; where most opt to simply change out the damper Sander has gone for a full mono shock conversion, fabricated the components and used a Yamaha R6 shock and spring to take care of soaking up the bumps and putting the power to the ground

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The engine was in relatively good condition although 30 years of wear and tear had the Boxer looking less than satisfactory. But rather than blast it or paint it like so many do Sander put in the elbow grease to give it a thorough clean, the raw imperfect metal combined with the unique engine configuration become an instant visual attraction. The air heads were removed, rebuilt and then torqued back down onto new gaskets, always a good idea on an old engine. While most builds of BMW Boxers use the stock headers into twin mufflers Sander continued the theme of doing things a little different by fabricating a set of 2-1 stainless pipes that finish in a raw metal muffler mounted close to the frame. The original Bing carbs were cleaned, rebuilt and now breathe through a set of inward facing K&N filters that along with the exhaust give the build a narrow, compact feel not seen on many BMW’s.

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With a Boxer ready to rip up the streets and destroy the Estonian backroads the aesthetics are all about staying true to the pure unadulterated simplicity of the build. The tank has been lovingly beaten to restore the clean factory lines before being painted in a copper tone not dissimilar to the hue available on the R80 from the factory. The same colour is applied to the tiny rear fender that is the only other piece of metal work left on the machine. To continue the clean theme the original wiring loom was thrown in the bin and a new one made from scratch. It sends the signals to the well-hidden LED indicators front and rear, the classic headlight with new mount and Sander’s own instrument cluster using a mix of BMW originals and modern LED idiot lights.

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Working after hours and on the weekends he had free Sander was in no hurry to rush the build, it took just on two years from crashed wreck to feature worthy finish. A total of 300 hours was invested into the BMW with nearly 50 of those spent on google, researching and finding parts. Total outlay was just under €3,500 and when you consider that gets you an asthmatic 250cc learner machine from the show room floor I know what I’d rather have; An Estonian built Boxing Bavarian with just the right fruit to shoot rooster tails towards the sky.

[Photos by Silver Gutmann]








  • Gideon Olney

    Beautiful! A lot of skill in that rear suspension, a bold choice.

  • revdub

    So aggressive. I really like this bike. The mono shock looks perfect. Awesome work.

  • guvnor67

    The man has talent! Great machine, sits real nice, good choice of colour, kool exhaust, really like this one!!!

  • Alexis Constant Moreau

    Did you build it in “12 months” ?

    • dead_elvis

      Did you bother reading the whole article?

      • Alexis Constant Moreau

        Did you bother looking up 12 months in Estonian?

        • dead_elvis

          I imagine that’s something you say to all the boys.

          • Alexis Constant Moreau

            Just to you 😉

  • Hardley T Whipsnade III

    Well it certainly is clean , the engineering/craftsmanship looks to be absolutely superb and he definitely has a future if he can negotiate the business side of things but in the meantime I’d be a little cautious wearing kutte/colors even in Estonia if I were Sander ! Just a friendly word of caution mind you from one who knows

  • foiled again

    Estonia seems increasingly known for two things: Laibach and nifty bikes.
    Thank goodness for the nifty bikes.

    • Hardley T Whipsnade III

      You’re forgetting Estonia’s national treasure / international composer Arvo Part , former WRC driver Markko Martin etc etc

      • foiled again

        Well noted. Excepting Arvo Part.

        [I don’t know enough about HTML to put the umlauts in there.]

    • emil nitrate

      err I think you’ll find Laibach are Slovenian… Assuming you’re talking about the ‘avant garde’? band, and not some even more obscure food made from pork and dandelions

      • foiled again

        You are right, my mistake. I thank you.

        • Emil Nitrate

          No thanks necessary, knowing anything about Laibach is reward enough. Pity, I will accept…
          But regardless it is a stunning bike!

  • This takes a bulky tourer and turns it into fantaastic light looking screamer. Nothing superfluous. Great build.

  • Fred

    Great build mate, nice lines, clean simple . Pity it’s a bmw it’s just following the pack mate but still a nice clean tidy bike. Can you fix up that side stand ,it makes me nervous. Fred.

  • nice to see a genuine shed build, very proffesional

  • The first shot is just a great one to stare at, isn’t it? Bone clean lightness that is not compromised by the stronger suspension because the temptation to add oversized tires wasn’t given into… Metal cases cleaned up only to where their age can begin to join in with the growing hue of the heat-tempered exhaust; all in such way that it seems like it was the metal who is responsible for choosing the paint’s color.