Unless you’re buying a Harley-Davidson most dealerships don’t offer much in the way of customisation at the time of sale. Take for instance BMW Motorrad. Although they pitch the R NineT as a motorcycle designed with customisation in mind, they only offer a handful of bolt-on accessories. You can order a slip-on muffler, drop a cowl over the end of the saddle or strap some leather luggage onboard, but if you want to create something really unique you’ll need to look elsewhere.
Having the opportunity to modify a brand new motorcycle is about as good as it gets for a custom workshop. It’s an opportunity to focus on design rather than spending time (and the customers budget) rejuvenating worn running gear. This custom BMW R NineT named ‘Black Sword’ is the perfect example. While there has been a small selection of performance upgrades, the bulk of the build time went into aesthetic changes – and that time has clearly been well spent.
“It doesn’t happen often, that a motorbike would come to us directly from the store,” says Matěj Sysel of the Czech workshop Gas & Oil Bespoke Motorcycles. “Our goal was simple, we wanted to create a truly unique bike. The inspiration was the BMW motorcycles which were racing in 1976 in the American AMA Superbikes.”
The R NineT project was commission by a repeat customer who entrusted the Gas & Oil team with modifying his brand new bike. This was of course an exciting opportunity for Matěj and his workmates, but also a daunting one. “This was our most challenging project to date,” Matěj admits. “We are specialists with old motorcycles, so working on the R nineT was educational for us. During the build, 15 people worked on the bike and it sat on the workbench for over a year.”
BMW Motorrad designed the R NineT to be “easily” modified. To achieve this they split the wiring into 3 separate looms. This allows builders to modify the bike’s lighting without causing any of the ECU issues you’ll run into with other modern motorcycles. The frame was also created in sections. The 4 parts are bolted together rather than welded which means any of the typical chassis modifications made can be undone with OEM replacements.
Gas and Oil of course worked this in their favour during the build of the Black Sword.
Starting with the frame they created their own version of the rear end. The revised design tightens the bike’s proportions and sharpens things up above the rear wheel. Sitting between the rails of the subframe is a custom electrical tray and battery box that keeps everything out of sight.
As for the electrics, the turn signals are a mix of Motogadget components. In the front, there’s a set of m.Blaze bar end units coupled with a set of Motogadget glassless bar-end mirrors. In the back are tiny m.Blaze Pin indicators screwed directly into the underside of the frame rails. The headlight is a retro aftermarket unit and there’s a custom made LED brake light under the tail that sits in a machined housing.
Thanks to BMW’s engineering genius, these were the easier aspects of this build. The real challenge here was how to tackle the R NineT’s bodywork.
Matěj and his team decided the best approach was to dispense with all of the bikes factory bodywork. In its place are a mix of bespoke retrofit parts and modified components from nominated donors.
Starting at the pointy end of the project you’ll find a one-off half racing cowl. This was designed by Gas and Oil in modelling software prior to being 3D printed. Holding it in place is triangulated bracketry that’s fixed directly to the frame. Interestingly the cowl does not wear a plexiglass screen which Matěj says was a purely aesthetic decision.
As for the fuel tank, in its past life, it called a Yamaha XJR home. The Gas and Oil team looked at several options before agreeing its smooth profile and indented sides suited their 1970s racer theme. Fitting it to the R nineT was no walk in the park though. “It worked perfectly with the line of the bike, however, we had to adjust the whole of its base. And to top it all off it was a laborious task attaching the stock fuel pump.”
Finally, sitting atop the custom subframe is a frame hugging aluminium tail unit fitted with a custom made leather saddle.
Not content with their first BMW R NineT project leaving the workshop with a stock power figure Gas and Oil made a series of modest performance upgrades. The Boxer twins intakes now breathe directly via K&N filters and the engine exhales through a custom exhaust system. Working with Czech exhaust specialists ‘Sharon’ they created a cat-back system that leaves the rear wheel exposed to show off the single-sided swingarm assembly. They then fit the bike with a Power Commander running a custom fuel map. This has all resulted in a respectable 12% increase in power.
“We are proud of our work,” says Matěj. “The motorcycle has preserved its manoeuvrability and to ride it is a true pleasure.” For a first time modern classic customisation we’d say that’s definitely a job well done.