Reinventing Adventure with BCR’s Redesign of BMW R1200 GS
After BCR’s February 2016 launch of “Velocita D’epoca,” the BCR Team was approached by one of our friends to build a bike. Initially, they wanted to use the new Ducati Scrambler as a donor bike, but we told them to choose something more size appropriate for his build. The Scrambler is a small bike and the guy is 5’11”. If we used the Scrambler as a base for our build, his relative size alone would visually overshadow the bike. Despite the Scrambler’s popularity in custom bike builds, we wanted to use something different – as always, we wanted to do something that most bike shops wouldn’t. Our goal was to make the rider look good, visually proportional, and in aesthetic harmony with the bike. After a bit of thought, we suggested a BMW R1200 GS.
The GS is perfect for his height and his preferred riding position. Our friend has a busy schedule and it was imperative that we build a reliable bike that he could easily start and ride. The R1200 GS is a well-known adventure bike, but a lot of custom bike shops stay away from using it as a platform build due to its size (it’s pretty big).
Initially, I, too was hesitant to use an R1200 GS as the base for this build. This bike is an adventure-seeking, off-road motorcycle, which I knew was not the kind of bike our friend would prefer. When we build bikes, we want the bikes to reflect the personalities of their owners. To me, our friend was more of an urban rider who would mostly use this bike in the city or on long country road trips. Knowing that the GS was never built for this kind of terrain became the deciding factor in our decision to build a more suitable R1200 GS, and we hoped that having a GS might even entice him to go through rough gravel roads he may not have ridden on before. It has always been part of our nature to build bikes that deviate from what’s expected, so we decided to make the GS look like a stripped-down, exposed, and robotic build from the post-apocalypse – a build that I felt was perfect for the GS’ unique Telelever and Paralever suspension.
We finally sold our friend on the idea of using the GS and (through the divine powers of networking) were able to find a decent 2005 model. The bike had 30,000 miles on it and signs that it had been dropped a few too many times, but that wasn’t a problem for us. As I’ve stated before, the GS was built with the spirit of adventure in mind and the wear and tear was expected. The plastics were cracked and the front wheel had a flat spot, but the motor, transmission, rear differential, and suspension seemed useable. Once we had the bike in our shop, we stripped it down to a rolling frame – we scrapped the tank, fairing, seat, exhaust, and the fenders.
Once we took the body panels off, we noticed how the frame was awkwardly upswept and was generally too long for what we had in mind. Because of this, we cut the tail part off of the frame and fabricated a sub-frame. We also added frame rails running from the steering neck that curved down to the mid-section of the frame, similar to how the ’70s BMW R model frame rails were.
Modifying the frame led us to change the position of the handlebars. The bike we had in mind existed without a fairing, leaving the handlebars openly exposed, and the stock swept-back position didn’t strike as aggressively as we thought it could. We opted to use low rise pro taper bars and fabricated a metal plate that moved the handlebars further back on the upper trees. Once we had the handle bars all set up, we started fabricating our rendition of an MX number plate out of aluminum. Because of the GS’ Telelever front suspension, the lower tree is all the way down to the front tire. To work around this, we hand-milled a 1/2″ aluminum plate and secured it to the upper tree. To keep with the exposed theme of this build, we shaped the bracket like a fang. We then added detail to the bracket and made holes to maintain a lower weight. With urban driving in mind, we mounted the headlight off center toward the left to make the bike more noticeable to oncoming traffic. We wanted the finished build to contain as few original parts as possible, so we removed the plastic front fender and fabricated a new one out of aluminum. We mounted the front fender a little higher to provide a more aggressive look than the stock front fender, which was mounted closer to the front tire. To do this, we split the fender in half and mounted the fender to the front and back of the lower fork brace as opposed to under the lower fork brace. The fender brackets were made out of aluminum plates with added holes to match the number plate fairing.
After we finished the front end, we moved on to the gas tank, which to us, is the focal point of any bike. The shape of the gas tank is always what dictates the overall look and attitude of our bikes. Originally, the GS comes with a massive 8-gallon tank to fuel its adventurous nature. On this build, however, we realized that a large tank was unnecessary and an inefficient use of space. In homage to the old school, we decided to shape the tank similarly to the toaster tanks of the ’70s BMW airheads. We added knee indents, machined rubber knee pads, and put tank badges on the sides. The stock EFI fuel pump on the GS was perfect for the post-apocalyptic look that we were after. We had the EFI fuel pump assembly mounted on top, and exposed the hoses and wires that power up the internal pump. Just like any of our full bike builds, we left the tank bare- aluminum with a polished-finish and added simple black scallop graphics with gold pinstripes.
After the tank was set up we swung our focus to the back of the bike; the seat and the rear fender. We hated the idea of a flat, box-shaped seat & shaped the new one with a curvier look that blended the front of the seat with the tail of the tank to provide a sleep tank-to-seat transition. We then wrapped the seat in black Alcantara upholstery with a simple bead stitching across the seat. We shaped the tail light to seem as though it were part of the seat and added slots that matched the bead stitching for the light. We then shaped the aluminum rear funder similarly to the shape of the tank.
With “aggressive” in our minds, we designed the exhaust as a 2-into-2 high mount exhaust with exposed welds. We ran the pipes on top of the left-side cylinder and tucked it in to provide more leg area to the rider. The exhaust then exits to the back of the rider’s leg. We added springs mostly to hold everything up, but also to give the exhaust a mean-looking detail. The mufflers were glass-packed and shaped similarly to the dirt tracker exhaust of the ’70s. We finished that section by adding a couple of head shields to protect the rider from the added heat.
When we purchased the GS, it only had 30,000 miles. It was still impressively strong, so all we did was rebuild, reseal, and swap out the top end gaskets to make sure nothing leaked. We replaced the clutch and gave it a tune-up then realized that we didn’t want to use the stock air box. Instead, we wanted something that would open up the frame. We didn’t want to just slap on an aftermarket filter at the end of the throttle body either, so we fabricated a tube that moved the air filter inside the frame. The front of the motor on the GS had a plastic cover, but we didn’t want to attract attention to the motor. Using the old plastic cover as a mold, we made a new front cover out of carbon fiber and added a BMW badge. When we removed the fairing, we removed the mount for the oil cooler so we then had to relocate the oil cooler to the right side of the bike and added an air deflector to push hot air coming from the oil cooler away from the rider’s leg.
We didn’t like how the stock foot pegs were mounted and wanted something that looked more detached so we ended up getting rid of the factory tube brackets and fabricated brackets out of stainless rods that were hung under the frame. We also fabricated our own foot pegs out of stainless plates with milled tops to add grip to the rider’s boots. We didn’t want the rear brake master sticking out at the back of the foot pegs so we mounted it up front underneath the motor and fabricated a linkage-less foot pedal to keep things simple and clean.
Just like any project at BCR Designs, we’re meticulous at every step of the project. We listen to our clients and only create products that we ourselves will use. We make everything by hand, in-house and we make sure that form follows function. We always try to create something that we believe is original and a combination of beauty and efficiency.