In the quiet German city of Oldenburg a highly skilled carpenter whittles away his days designing and crafting the finest furniture from timbers gathered from the local oak forests. But by night a darker side comes out to play, the chisel and mallet swapped for the tools of a blacksmith, here the carpenter turns motorcycle builder creating minimalist machines with the single purpose of carving up those same forests in a totally different way. Meet Marcel Papenberg who’s turned his passion and skill for motorcycle building into a second business, Box-Werk Custombikes, run in his spare time producing purposeful BMW’s from a collection of tired old machines just waiting to be restored.
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.
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is one of the most successful automotive titles ever written, having sold more than five million copies and although its author Robert M. Pirsig admits “It’s not very factual on motorcycles” the global success of the work is one of many proofs that our passion for Motorbikes is more than just a hobby. It’s rooted in family and community, fraternity and adventure, it can bring us our greatest highs and for many it’s our therapy at our times of greatest need. For Craig Jones of Warwickshire and his meticulously crafted 1980 BMW R80 this build has been both a way to cope with great loss and the beginning of a bright new journey.
The custom bike scene is booming with a host of mainly older bikes being turned into Café Racers, Trackers, Bobbers, Scramblers and just about everything in between. But when Pierluigi Portolano, founder and designer of MotoRecyclos in Italy talks about his building philosophy he sums up in the best way I’ve heard just how to approach creating new from old. “When one thinks of a new bike the real challenge is not distorting it, but rather being able to grasp the essence and merge it with a new personality.” And that is exactly what he has done with his company’s latest creation, a BMW R80 known as the ‘Boxer Country’. It takes that trusty old German air-cooled twin and with a great deal of Italian passion and ingenuity fuses the two to create a stunning machine that looks as good as it goes.
El Solitario Motor Co. is a little custom shop nestled outside a tiny village in the Spanish countryside. Staffed by four regulars, David, Valeria, Frank and Tony, the operation is assisted by a group of friends who drift in and out of the shop in their spare time to lend a hand. Known for their raw, eclectic builds, El Solitario collaborated with famed German workshop Urban Motor to produce this 1978 BMW R80/7 bobber dubbed ‘Gabriel’. Urban Motor lead the project doing all the mechanical work while El Solitario added their creative offbeat style to the aesthetics. As it turned out, building ‘Gabriel’ was a match made in heaven.
As the custom bike scene becomes increasingly crowded, builders constantly try bend, break and make something that’s going to turn people’s heads. There’s genre-defying builds, customs built on increasingly unusual base models and all manner of gaudy paint schemes and odd angles of fabrication designed to get exposure on websites like Pipeburn. Because of this, sometimes you need a build that’s just straightforward enough to remind you how good a simple, tight café racer can be. Devon-based Kevil’s Speed Shop help remind us of how effortless a bespoke ride can look with their 1981 BMW R80 café racer dubbed ‘Jellyfish’.
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.
Tattoo Projects is back with a Hot Rod Racer that took a serious tumble while living life in the fast lane that nearly cost it its life. But a motivated team ready to roll up their sleeves, with creativity running through their veins and Jack and Coke fuelling their engines have this 1986 BMW R80 turning heads once again.
Words by Martin Hodgson.
When you’re a Frenchman who desires a German BMW to carve through the streets of London England then who better to turn to than Portugal’s Ton-Up Garage. This cross-continental custom BMW R80 is both a testament to its builders and the great state in which the custom motorcycle scene finds itself. Borders disappear, there are no limits other than your imagination and the skill of your builder; the language of cool customs is universal. Ton-Up’s Daniel and Pedro have proven themselves master builders and their BMW’s are some of the best in the world.
Written by Marlon Slack.
While possibly the least effective language to serenade someone, the German dialect has an unusually large repertoire of words to describe some very particular feelings. For example – deppenfahrerbeäugung is the glare you throw a bad driver after overtaking them and backpfeifengesicht means a ‘a face that asks to be slapped’. UK-based Kevil’s Speed Shop have seized this wonderfully descriptive language to name their 1983 BMW R80 the Uber – a German prefix meaning anything great or superlative. And also an affordable crowd-sourced taxi company. But mostly the superlative bit.