Building a custom motorcycle means owning a one-of-a-kind machine. A unique, personal expression that merges your individual style with performance tailored to your taste. Most of the time custom projects start with a motorcycle the builder has developed a fondness for, but in the case of this BMW R100RS project, things evolved a little differently.
“I was not a lover of the BMW brand but being a person who likes challenges, I wanted to create my own custom using a 1980 R100RS base,” says Verner Ortis, owner-operator of the Italian workshop Verner Motorcycles. “According to my taste, 80s aesthetics were inappropriate for this project so I decided to adopt stylistic and mechanical devices that would age it a bit.”
Ortis acquired his BMW by chance through a friend. After owning it for a mere week he got stuck into the project, stripping the motorcycle down and eliminating anything he deemed non-essential. He then began a design study which allowed him to identify areas of the R100RS he wanted to emphasise and those that should blend in. “I thought of giving this motorcycle a balance of forms by taking some of the focus away from the engine, thus rebalancing the general aesthetics,” he says, so to do this he set about creating some eye-catching new bodywork.
The elaborate tail unit is a stand-out feature of this custom BMW’s bodywork. Handbuilt from aluminium it has a look reminiscent of 1950s American automotive design and features details that are repeated throughout the build.
At the rear of the unit are slotted grooves that replicate some of the bike’s original design details like the ribs found on the engine’s head covers and breastplate. Along with adding a unique look to the rear end, the grill disguises the turn signals which glow from within when engaged. Similar to the brake light of a Chevy Bel Air, the single domed lens in the centre of the tail forms the brake light. Protruding from 2 of the grills in the tail you’ll also find small fins made from brass, a material which Ortis has used throughout the build to draw the eye to points of interest. To complete the rear there’s a black suede leather saddle bearing 0/RS embroidery built by Basso Upholstery.
The front end of Vener’s BMW cafe racer is as unique as the rear. The one-off aluminium front fairing flares out wide to beef up the front end and is broken into sections using brass borders. The centre has been painted the same bone white as the fuel tank while the outer edges are polished alloy similar to the tail. Nested within the top of the fairing is a single BMW gauge sitting in a brass housing. There’s also an inconspicuous handmade stainless steel and brass mirror which is only visible from the rear of the bike.
Following suit the clip-on bars and their accessories are all custom made too. The levers are stainless steel with brass inserts and the suede leather grips are held in place by brass bar ends. Ortis also addressed the holes left in the top clamp after the removal of the stock bars by adding bone white caps with brass surrounds and a brass centre nut which he turned on his lathe.
Although an iconic feature of many eighties BMW motorcycles, the R100RS cast ‘snowflake rims didn’t suit Ortis’ vision for this bike. Opting instead for classic spoked rims he built a set of bespoke hubs to lace them too. Shaped on a milling machine and by hand on a lathe, the hubs feature the same grill design echoed throughout this build and were shaped from blocks of solid aluminium. By using the same dimensions as the snowflake wheels he’s been able to repurpose the original disc brakes.
Ortis paid special attention to the bike’s engine and running gear during the rebuild to keep it reliable for years to come. After a thorough service, he added a unique oil cooler in the form of a brass tube that hangs at the front of the engine. The electrics, brake and clutch lines and spark plug leads are all new and run out of sight within the rails of the frame for a clean finish. For a touch of additional oomph there’s also a custom stainless exhaust system which has been shaped to mimic the line of the fairing, tank and tail.
Although the only chrome you’ll find on this bike is on the fork legs and mufflers, there’s no shortage of bling. This is because Ortis has hand-polished every stainless steel, brass and aluminium component on the BMW including the engine. “I decided to eliminate most of the casting marks from both the engine and the gearbox. To further embellish them with painstaking patience, I decided to polish them to a mirror finish,” he says, and painstaking it undoubtedly was, but the result is as impressive as it sounds and it’s likely one of the only hand-polished boxers you’ll ever see.
The finishing touch on this extensive 1000+ hour build is the addition of the VMW emblem on the tank which has been braised on and finished by hand. “What can I say? Creating this special on a BMW Boxer base was a decidedly interesting and constructive adventure,” Ortis says, and for someone who wasn’t interested in BMWs, he has certainly done this R100RS justice.