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Return of the Cafe Racers - BMW R80 Big Tank

BMW R80 Big Tank

Every so often a custom motorcycle pops up that is so radically different that it makes your head spin…and this is one of them. When this BMW popped up on the Instagram feed of _Jaymac_ I thought for a moment it was a photoshopped bike. After contacting the guys responsible for the build it became clear that this was, in fact, a very real bike. I already know that this BMW R80 is going to stir up mixed emotions and for me that’s simply another reason to love it even more. Here’s how this bloated BMW came to be…


This drastically customised BMW R80 is the brainchild of Oaky and JJ from Griffin Spares in Sydney. “Sometimes the best way to build a great motorcycle, is to build a great big tank. We’ve always had two things in common: a serious love of custom bikes, and a similar disposition towards beer. It was after a few too many of the latter, that conversation veered towards comparing tanks.”

“With so many of today’s builds being based on looks, rather than lean-angle, lap-time or long-distance touring; Chopper, Bobber and Café gas tanks are getting smaller and distances between refills are becoming ridiculous. We hatched a hazy plan to bring big tanks – back into bike builds.

We were already wrenching an ’84, BMW R80 in the Griffin Motorcycles man-cave, so we decided to track down an original, Karl Heinrich, long-distance tank. We managed to locate one in Germany… it was twelve grand. So Oaky called his mates from OldWheelz overseas and got them to start working on a hand-built, 45 litre gas tank, modelled on the original, German design. The bike wasn’t built just to make something that could go over 400km between refills, we also wanted to create something that looked great standing still, and handled likewise at high speeds.”

“We set about swapping the original BMW forks for a 2008 R1 USD front end, all anodised in-house. We added an Ohlins shock in the rear and replaced the crusty callipers with Brembo 4 pots. Most of the billet bits and brackets are all custom through Griffin Motorcycles, as are the custom-laced wheels.

One of the most time-consuming aspects of the build was the handmade exhaust. Which runs up under the frame and past the gearbox, before splitting into left and right trumpets. It gives the bike a gorgeous growl at idle, and a banshee bark at high revs. The end result is a truly unique bike that not only stops traffic; but one that can shoot past traffic, hoon around the hills all day, and get back home without even thinking about a re-fuel.”

Griffin Spares

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