Race to Rebuild the BMW R90/6

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It's been a long road, but our BMW cafe project rebuild bike is done!
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Minimalist; purposeful; beautiful. Whatever adjectives you use; we think our BMW R90/6 came out looking great.
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Race to Rebuild: Our 1974 BMW R90/6 is done!
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New school Motogadget instrument.
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We always manage to delude ourselves that we’ll be able to zip through the bits that can require the most attention.
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The seating position has a decided café crouch, but once you settle in you discover there’s actually plenty of room to stretch out.

It’s been a long haul “building” the Motorcycle Classics/Dairyland
Cycle Insurance Race to Rebuild BMW, and now that it’s finally finished, we’re
kind of sad it’s done.

Why the quote marks
around “building?” The truth is, we didn’t actually “build” anything. What we
did, however, was take a tired old BMW and give it a healthy injection of fresh
parts for a new lease on life. In the process, we also gave it a new attitude,
applying the requisite pieces to turn a staid tourer into a café-themed road

Those pieces include
the big things that jump out at you like the custom wheels, the replica Ducati
900SS fairing, the R90S low bars, the R100RT gas tank, the bum-stop solo seat,
rearsets and the Dunstall-style mufflers. But there are a lot of details that
go into a build like this.

It’s the little things …

Those details
include items like the minimalist brushed aluminum turn signals and cats eye
taillight we sourced from Dime City Cycles, and the very nice San Jose-style
fork brace from Brad Phillips at Phast by Phillips.

Other touches
include the fiberglass starter cover from Boxer Works, which we had TC Concepts
paint to match the bodywork. The fiberglass cover deletes the factory two-piece
aluminum cover that also houses the stock air filter — not a problem as we
swapped the stock Bing carburetors for a pair of 32mm Mikunis from Rocky Point
Cycle, shod with K&N pod filters. That left the issue of the engine
breather hose under the cover that normally dumps into the right intake pipe,
now gone. We worked around that by fabricating a simple dump can with a rubber
elbow sourced from an old Kymco (!) scooter that the stock breather hose
plugged into perfectly. A filtered outlet from the dump can allows normal
breathing without an oily mess.

We also had Stuart
at Custom Coatings powder coat the front engine cover gloss black to match the
valve covers and frame. For a final touch we sanded the raised ribs on the
cover to bare aluminum to match the valve covers. Nice.

We got our Raask
rearsets from Omar’s Rearsets, and while we’ve heard grumbling about Raasks,
they’re the only brand we know of made specifically for older airheads. We did
have to shim the main mounts to line up properly on the frame plates, and some
of the supplied bolts weren’t to correct length, but critical linkage all lined
up nicely and it was easy to get things set where we wanted. The short levers
give improved response over stock, and we think the Raasks look great on our

A detail you can’t
see is the new Shorai lithium battery housed under the tail of our bum-stop
solo seat. We used Boxer Café’s new battery relocator kit to mount the battery,
and we love how clean it looks with the battery moved from its nesting place behind
the transmission. We know it’s hip to leave side covers off when you move the
battery, but we think deleting them leaves a visual hole, and we like how the
side covers tie the bodywork together.

Keeping to plan

We originally wanted
a 2-into-1 custom exhaust system, but scheduling conflicts kept that from
materializing. Instead, we sourced chrome header pipes from Mac Products and a
pair of Dunstall-style mufflers from Dime City Cycles, and it turns out that
might have been the way to go all along. The system looks great, and the
mufflers tuck up perfectly, bolting to the stock mounts using simple aluminum
brackets we made in the shop. And they sound glorious, more Moto Guzzi than

That same sort of
serendipity presented itself with the front end, which we’d originally planned
on kitting out with a factory dual-disc setup. We ended up keeping the /6’s
stock single disc, which we sent to Spiegler Performance for their brake rotor
conversion. That netted us a very nice drilled, semi-floating disc, and just
like the exhaust, we think it looks  better
than what we’d originally planned.

The fork brace was
another bit of unplanned good fortune. The stock fender is mounted to a
pressed-steel brace tying the forks together at the lower legs for support
against twisting. You don’t want to run an R-bike without a brace, but the
Boxer Café shorty café fender won’t fit the factory brace. The Phillips brace
solved the issue, and it’s beautifully made. Combined with the café fender,
black fork legs and Buchanan’s wheels, we think it really sets off the front of
our Beemer.

A bit of work that
did keep to plan was the incredible paint job by Travis at TC Concepts,
conceived as homage to the smoked paint applied to the original café BMW of the
Seventies, the R90S. Almost chocolate-colored depending on the light, Travis’
approach plays the black over the silver while still invoking a clear memory of
the original. And if you think it looks good in photos, you should see it in
the flesh. It’s stunning.

Race to rebuild: Coming together

Somehow, we always
manage to delude ourselves that we’ll be able to zip through the bits that can
require the most attention, and one bit we didn’t expect to take so long was
the wiring, especially since we kept things fairly stock.

Simple things like
re-wiring the taillight and turn signals — and our new Motogadget Motoscope Pro
— ended up taking longer than we budgeted, reminding us once again that it’s
the little things that really bite you when you’re trying to wrap up a big
project like this.

But wrap it up we
did, and it runs beautifully and sounds spectacular. Throttle response from the
Mikunis is excellent, much crisper and quicker than the somewhat dull reply
from the stock Bing units.

We didn’t touch the
gearbox, but we were surprised how much better things felt in the shifting
department, much of that no doubt down to the shorter throw from our new
rearsets. The seating position has a decided café crouch, but once you settle
in you discover there’s actually plenty of room to stretch out.

We put our Beemer on
the dyno when we got it last year, and that first run netted 44.54hp at
6,500rpm and 41.51ft/lb of torque at 4,200rpm at the rear wheel, not
particularly impressive measured against factory claimed specs of 60hp and
53ft/lb of torque at the crank. We made a second run with the finished bike,
and the results weren’t notably different, with maximum power climbing to
47.55hp at 6,500rpm and torque at 42.42ft/lb. Dyno man Kent Clawson put
sniffers in the tail pipes when he ran the bike both times, and on the second
run he noted the bike was running decidedly rich. He thinks a bump or two down
on main jet size would push horsepower close to 50.

That’s something new
owner Bill Elliot, the winner of our BMW in the Race to Rebuild Sweepstakes
drawing, will have to do. A rider and Motorcycle Classics subscriber,
Bill was raised in a motorcycling family. His grandfather raced back in the
day, and in the early 1960s founded Parmelee Honda in Fairfield, Conn.,
one of the very first Honda motorcycle dealerships in the state. In addition to
a small collection of bikes, Bill’s active in the burgeoning café scene, with
one of his current rides a café’d 1972 Honda CB750 he built himself. It’s a
perfect happy ending.

So now it’s done,
and we’re left feeling just a little lonely, the space occupied for so long by
our custom BMW now bare. But that feeling won’t last long, because we’re
already laying plans for the next Motorcycle Classics/Dairyland Cycle
bike build. Stay tuned. MC

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