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‘86 BMW R80 – Ironwood Custom Motorcycles

Posted on March 25, 2016 by Scott in Brat, Café Racer. 21 comments


Words by Martin Hodgson.

In the automotive world the basic aesthetics of a motorcycle and car could hardly be more different but they have always followed many of the same trends throughout the decades. What else could explain the sheer number of squared off boxes in the ’80s or the silhouettes of sex appeal that were ’60s cars and bikes. But the inspiration of a beautiful woman has been a constant throughout, we’ll have to blame 1980’s fairings on shoulder pads, so when Arjan van den Boom describes wanting the look of his 1986 BMW R80 to be a “Robust gas tank, big shock, small ass and fat rear tire” it’s fair to say the female form was on his mind.


As the engineer and owner of Ironwood Custom Motorcycles in Amsterdam, Arjan has been around motorcycles and cars his whole life. He first started with mopeds and scooters at 15, shifted to modifying cars for a while before graduating to the increasingly insane speed of modern Superbikes. But after a few near fatal accidents and plenty of broken bones it was time for a change of direction. Having previously worked for the large Dutch bicycle company VANMOOF and now as project leader for a big OEM turbocharger manufacturer he knows his way around the automotive world better than most. But days at the desk in front of a computer screen was leaving him with no outlet for creativity. So he took a risk, cut back the hours at his day job, founded IWC Motorcycles and with a small garage in which to work started churning out brilliant custom cafe racers, largely a mix of Honda’s and BMW’s.


With nearly 20 full builds under his belt since 2012 and his love for cafe racers with a little brat style and a lot of sex appeal seeing no sign of wavering he decided to combine his two favoured marques into the bike you see before you, “The Renegade”. But being an engineer by trade all his builds start with the bike being completely stripped down and rebuilt from the ground up. The R80 frame has been smoothed out and a new subframe fabricated for that small seat look he was after before the whole lot was coated in black. With the bare frame in his hands Arjan then crafted a small, solid mounted rear fender that operates much more like a modern hugger without wrapping too far around the rear tyre. To give the old frame some increased laterally rigidity the rear frame rails are supported by an aluminum plate with Ironwood cut out by a water jet and the front being fitted with a fork brace.


With the fundamentals taken care of the styling work could begin to take place and the use of the often dismissed square styled Honda CB750 fuel tank is an inspired choice that completely alters the Bavarian’s look. With a minimal amount of body work on the bike the headlight has been metal worked to perfection and with the yellow lens and black surround becomes as much a part of form as function. Both the tank and light surround were painted an Audi Nardo Grey for an instant pedigree improvement and the old style BMW badge only reapplied to the left side of the tank. Adding even more prestige to the styling is the stunning leather work by Marcel Miller Kustom Upholstery who created the hand grips and battery strap for the build. Before going on to create a piece that is both Cafe and Racer, the fully functional tank strap and finishing out his work by shaping a seat to match the new subframe and covering it in the same leather as the rest of the build.


With so much time and effort having gone into perfecting the feminine appeal of the visuals the best way to truly show off the beauty of BMW’s Boxer twin is to keep things simple; It is after all the very the philosophy of a two valve, air cooled engine in the first place. Arjan lets the engine blend in further by powder coating much of the engine black with the carby caps receiving the same treatment. Those rebuilt Bing carbs now get their air from a pair of foam pod filters and the engine itself also received an overhaul for reliable riding. The exhaust is powder coated with a ceramic heat coat so there is no wrap required here and finishes out in a pair of GP mufflers with the dB killers left in place for a touch of civility. A lightweight Shido Lithium battery ensures the BMW will start every time and a custom fuel tap enables the Honda tank to work with the Bavarian’s fuel system.


With the initial design calling for some Pamela Anderson meets Monica Bellucci lines Arjan knew the best way to show off those curves was to get them laying down close to the sheets. So the modified front end is now a full 60mm lower thanks to new springs and dropping the forks through the customised upper triple clamp. Those forks might wear the mounts for a dual disc front brake setup but to keep the build clean Arjan boosted the left side with a BMW K100 front brake disc that allows him to leave the right side free. The rear end while lowered still keeps her booty in the air but the mono-shock setup is drastically improved with a fully adjustable Hagon shock that allows Arjan to set the bike up for his own riding preferences. That rear end is now considerably more appealing than the factory look with the slim waisted seat allowing the fat Avon Safety Mileage 4.00 rear tire to do its thing on the powder coated factory wheel. With the simplified front end getting more black powder on the forks and wheel with a Mitas 3.25 front tire.


Such a build doesn’t need to wear too many accessories, beauty and bark turn the heads, with just enough in the way of the legals to keep the boys in blue at bay. The rear of the new subframe supports an LED tail light and indicators while the front end utilities Motogadget flashers. The ignition has been relocated and tucked away to the back with the ever popular Acewell digital speedo the only gauge needed. With that there was a sigh of relief and satisfaction around the garage as Arjan had finished another beautiful build to his clients delight. But as The Renegade turns heads on the streets of Amsterdam the main man at IWC Motorcycles is already thinking about his next build and hoping the quality of his work has the owner of a new R nineT or Ducati Scrambler walking through the door and asking for the full service!


[Photos by Jackson Kunis]

  • Bultaco Metralla

    Usually can’t stand this style but this one has me singing it’s praises. Great work.

    • guvnor67

      Yes, another cool Beemer. It looks light and fast but the grey paint gives it a bit of class. I think it’d look even better with spoked wheels. 🙂

      • SL

        BMWs, BMWs, BMWs, there is no end to them, It is like BMW is paying pipeburn its BMW dollars that BMW made selling new BMW bikes and pipeburn loves BMW for the BMW vintage and modern bikes with BMW engines.

        • guvnor67

          No, I believe that isnt true. These are not corporation bikes, but built by skilled individuals whos time and effort and personal expense probably far outweigh what they’d get back if they decided to sell. Yes, there are a lot if Beemers lately, but also a lot of Hinkley Triumphs. It’s a bit like when a really good band finally goes mainstream, and all of a sudden It’s “wow, they’re so good”, well, Beemers are a bit like that, always been reliable, but maybe a bit misunderstood, then a few good ones appear and, kaboom, they hit the charts running just like that band.

          • SL

            i agree about skilled individuals and time and effort.


            when a good band goes mainstream they start churning out complete shit.

            BMWs were reliable but not beautiful bikes. No matter how hard these individuals try to make them so, it does not work.

  • Hardley T Whipsnade III

    One of the cleanest and most unified and coherent if not exactly original custom Boxers to be featured of late . The epitome of craftsmanship and design . As far as any possible changes ? I say leave it alone . Its fine . More than fine actually .

    • guvnor67

      Yes, it definately is. I think I’m goin through a bit of a spoked wheel fetish at the moment, picturing spoked wheels on everything!!

  • For some reason, getting the lines right on these beemers is quite tricky. This one clearly nailed it. Nice.

    • guvnor67

      This and the Avro Beemer from just recently just go to show what can be achieved!! I’d really like both of them in my garage!

    • You are correct on the “lines” thing. This one has it right for sure. Just a touch of a tail section would take it to the next level. If we could just kick the crappy tires fad, I would buy this bike. It ruins the overall package so often, especially on the flood of Beemer builds we are seeing.

  • It’s functional, however that CB fuel tank seems to be a failed shortcut . I mean if you are into aesthetically pleasing lines.

    • guvnor67

      Aah, but have another look. The downward slant of the rear/side bottom of the tank matches the slant of the silencers. The upward slant of the front of the tank very closely mirrors the kick-up in the tail. 🙂

      • Don Arnold

        And the gear lever, carbs and pods, its a formation flight of elements at the same AOA. This thing sings! The rear 3/4 view has less tension between the tank and hoop, hard to say what ideal is.
        But fix the brake line, that usupported solid steel line is leftover from fairing removal.

        • Harley T Whipnsade III

          In my opinion the most appealing aspect of this build is the fact that each and every line either matches or complements one another . Again as stated , a brilliantly coherent and cohesive design from stem to stern

      • Aesthetics are highly subjective. I just see a jagged ugly tank sitting there in place of something that could possibly be unique, if not attractive. But to your point, the upward angle of the rear valve stem matches the slant of the carburetor and the roundness of the tires match the circleness of the headlamp. 😀

        • Hardley T Whipsnade III

          Look a little closer . Everything on this bikes matches up perfectly in a very Ikebana verging on Zen perfection kind of way whether you like the tank specifically or not . Which is to say much like Shinya Kimura the builder has managed to massage a few potentially incoherent aspects into an overall cohesive design . For the record this is not my sort of build due to the lack of originality but regardless the design and craftsmanship must be recognized and acknowledged

          • The closer I look at it, the more unfinished details, afterthoughts and compromises I see. But like I said, aesthetics are subjective and beauty is in the eye of the beholder …and all that shyte.

      • Good spot. I didn’t see that…

  • the watcher

    I just really like these guys’ work; most things they touch seem to come out just right, somehow. Some folks just have the knack, don’t they?

  • Manx Ryan

    I really wanted to get behind this build but I just can’t. I love BMW’s, and I love Nardo grey paint schemes but the build just looks messy to me.

  • Motown

    I wonder if anyone with BMW experience could tell me something. Does the boxer ever interfere with cornering? I’ve been a ski racer my whole life, so I really like to carve deep in the twisties. My ’77 Goldwing can’t really do it, my valve covers have all kinds of scarring from trying it. It seems like BMW’s cylinders are a little higher than mine, but I’m not sure it would be enough, and I definitely wouldn’t want to drag an air-cooled head on asphalt.