Something strange happened over the course of the last few years. I began to hate cafe builds.
I know, you would think they would be right up my alley. Maybe I just got tagged in one too many Instagram pics of some dude's "build" that consisted of a Triumph Bonneville with British Customs bolt-on parts, but somewhere along the way I just stopped caring. However, once or twice a year, someone builds one that's so beautiful and looks like so much fun to ride, I forget I hate them and they remind me how cool custom bikes can be.
With that said, I present the Mighty Motor Bavarian Scrambler.
About the builders
The Mighty Motor is a blog started by LA-based designer Shaik Ridzwan and Overland Journal Creative Director Sinuhe Xavier. Their site covers a wide variety of cool bike builds, events, and adventures the guys get to participate in given their other endeavors. Along with The Bullitt Blog, it's the only site of this sort I actually follow, because they create a lot of original content and don't just re-hash stuff, like your average Tumblr account.
The story goes like this: Shaik was hanging out with his friend (and master builder) Max Hazan, bitching about the current state of motorcycles, as most guys into bikes of this sort normally do, and they started kicking around the idea of a build. Max's builds would normally be considered "show builds," and the idea of doing something so useful interested him, especially given Shaik's taste and talents as a designer. Shaik found the donor bike completely stock and started drawing.
With the Dakar R80/GS as aesthetic inspiration, the guys wanted to keep the performance fairly similar to a stock bike, to keep it useful. The idea was to engage people visually, but still actually enjoy riding the thing on a regular basis.
About the bike
The bike started as a 1991 BMW R100R, which Shaik found completely stock. God bless the Internet.
The tank, fork, instrument panel, and brakes are all original. Most of the changes were done to cut weight or to improve engine performance. A set of 36 mm Dell'Orto carbs replaced the stock, 32 mm Bings, and the airbox was tossed in favor of race foam filters. Shaik drew the designs for the completely custom-fabbed exhaust that Max created, which uses the existing headers, but runs the pipes to the opposite side of the single-sided swingarm to keep some visual balance. They are then finished with Supertrapp end caps.
The subframe was made completely from scratch, as well, because they wanted a higher and slightly more forward seating position to make the bike more comfortable, and to make the transition from sitting to standing easier. The boys shaved countless tabs and brackets from the frame and moved the battery to where the stock air-box used to live, for a total weight savings in the neighborhood of 45 pounds.
One of the first things I noticed was the beautiful leather seat, which was actually made from the perforated leather from an old Mercedes Benz seat. I know, the hipster is strong with this one, but the result is gorgeous.
To keep with the Scrambler motif, the bike got Pirelli MT90AT dual-sport tires, a rear rack, and a custom-built and easily removable metal pannier for carrying spare gas canisters and some tools.
The pannier is a work of true beauty. The guys wanted to pay a little homage to the GS, as a utilitarian bike. Plus, it's a nice place for some tools and a beer for a Sunday ride to the beach. They didn't want an ugly mounting bracket for the times the pannier was off the bike, so they modified two bicycle quick release attachments and attached them to the subframe, where they wouldn't be noticed.
Riding the Bavarian Scrambler
"Scrambler" is a very interesting term, and is one we see thrown on pretty much any retro-styled bike with semi-knobby tires on it. Obviously, the Bavarian Scrambler isn't going to have the plush suspension of our Honda XR650L long-termer, or any of the current dual-sports found on dealer floors, but for a bike more than two decades old, this thing is pretty capable of tearing up a fire road or two. Short of fire roads and time, I took the bike down into the Los Angeles River, where the lack of traction is provided by seaweed, debris, and whatever mutants are growing down there.
The stock R100R made about 60 horsepower and weighed 480 pounds. The Bavarian Scrambler comes in at about 430 pounds and 70 horsepower, and, when paired with a more dirt-bike-like riding position, makes for quite a fun motorcycle to ride. They managed to keep enough of that "old BMW" feel, the way the engine sort of chugs along at idle and shimmies as you get on the gas, and combine it with performance capable of keeping up with 2014 traffic.
Outside of the stiff suspension, I was incredibly impressed with riding the Mighty Motor Scrambler. The guys did a great job at chopping off unnecessary bits, and the bike felt both lighter and more narrow than other classic BMWs I've ridden. The exhaust and new carbs provided responsive performance that made spinning the rear tire around the riverbed fun to no end.
In my opinion, the only really good reason to build a custom bike is to make something that rides how you want, while also looking how you want... or to sell it to someone to make money. Roland Sands is my favorite builder at the moment because almost all his builds have me half terrified and half curious about what they would be like to ride.
As soon as I saw the Bavarian Scrambler, I knew that getting some beauty shots of the bike and learning about its roots were never going to be enough. Part of my criteria for what makes a build interesting is that it has to make me want to ride it. This one did, and that's why it's one cafe build I don't hate at all.