BMW’s SoulFuel series of custom R18 continues, with “The Wal.” This is a custom cafe-style machine from Japanese customizer Shinya Kimura, not a misspelled tribute to Pink Floyd (although, a reality TV-built bike called “The Wall” very much does sound like something you’d have seen on Discovery 20 years ago, with Roger Waters’ lyrics scrawled on the tank by OCC staffers …).
Errrr, getting back on topic here. “The Wal” actually means “whale” in German, and that’s the look Kimura says he was going for here: “Thanks to its mighty engine, the bike is wild and has almost inexhaustible power on the one hand, yet it is completely good-natured on the other. Just like a whale, hence the German animal name for this R 18, which for me is something like a ‘Sports Endurancer.’ “ So, while it has a bit of a cafe feel to it, Kimura actually thinks it’s built for long-distance riding, not short tootles around the neighbourhood at high speed, while a rock-and-roll record spins on the cafe’s jukebox.
Kimura used no drawings or mock-ups when building this machine; after riding a production machine in California, he thought about what he would like to change if it was built for him, and that’s where he started.
“I built the R 18 entirely for myself. When I rode the production R 18, I thought it might suit my build and riding preferences better if I designed it to be a little more front-facing with a fairing,” he said. “I decided to adopt the frame, wheels and tyres as well as suspension elements and brakes because I didn’t feel the need to change them after I had ridden the bike. I also wanted to be able to ride for long distances with my R 18 while feeling and enjoying the legendary boxer engine. It was very important to me to preserve the two characters of the R 18 as I experienced them when riding.”
He kept most of the mechanical bits the same, but changed the seat, footrests, bodywork and other bits. See the list of what he changed below:
Hard facts about the R 18 customising project “The Wal”:
- Handlebars: 8 inches narrower, 6 inches lower.
- Fuel tank: Made longer to move the seating position rearward and gain additional fuel capacity of about 1 gallon for longer trips.
- Seat pad designed by Kimura himself, handmade by BACKDROP Leathers in Japan in bucket style for more bottom support.
- Seat designed so that it creates a natural flow from the seat cushion and leads to the round rear light.
- Semi-shell fairing for comfortable handling at high speed.
- The side covers have been designed in such a way that they do not destroy the look of the original frame.
- Special paint finish in the form of a bronze powder coating, after the components have previously been hammered to give the surface texture.
- After Kimura had completed all the bodywork, he decided to keep the classic symbolic shape of the standard exhaust system, but paint it black.
Want one for yourself? Get busy saving, and don’t expect Kimura would ever build you an identical bike. However, it does give you an idea of this platform’s potential once again.