As a general course of principle, Team Revival prefers to avoid motorcycle projects that other shops have failed to complete to their client’s satisfaction. Failed projects normally come with a string of problems and/or a client that could be impossible to resolve.
Either way, a few still squeak through the cracks and this one we took on as we were motivated simply by the model of bike and the client’s desire to build something we have yet to see in the current redhot BMW oilhead/airhead custom scene.
We built our first BMW airhead /5 custom way back in the mid 2000’s and from what we had seen at that point, there simply were not that many being built and they were sort of underappreciated by custom builders in general. They seemed to be all owned by older guys who appreciated smooth riding reliable machines….and they definitely are. Flash forward 10 years or so and oh how times have changed. There are SO MANY custom airheads on the scene. We have noticed that most all of the current BMW customs being built seem to be standard fork setup from the /5,6 &7’s and the modern R nineT variants.
As some might remember, back in the mid-2000’s, the R-variant bikes BMW was building were pretty much all very similar to the more retro-styled R nineT variants of today technically speaking. The major difference between then and now is that BMW has now discontinued what they called the “Telelever” front wishbone suspension system. Even the powerplant used in the R1200s was nearly identical to today’s R nineT’s in performance and form.
There are several theories and rationalizations for why BMW ditched the wishbone suspension setup, but one fact that can be pretty much agreed upon is that the Telelever was and is superior to standard forks in many ways. The Telelever’s main benefit is that it separates the steering function from the braking and suspension functions. This basic advantage improves handling stability during cornering and braking and just generally gives the bike a much more planted and firm feeling. Brake dive is all but eliminated and the trail and rake increases instead of decreasing under compression. This makes a giant difference in the handling of the machine.
It seems likely that the Telelever was less desired aesthetically to the average buyer and that the setup was more costly to produce than standard forks and thus the superior setup was ditched. Anyone can see that by looking over the new Honda just recently released with their “Duolever” suspension setup. Honda seems to know what they are doing and for all intents and purposes the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks for most riders and their uses.
Revival took on this build for LOVE of the Wishbone. Contrary to what seems like popular opinion, I believe the wishbone setup is in fact better looking than a standard fork. It is with that single preference in mind that we set out to design and build a bike that put the wishbone on full display and paid proper homage to the technical superiority that it contains.
To truly appreciate what this bike is today you MUST look back at the factory R1200s. Its overbearing and bulky ‘sport’ fairing seemed to attempt to simply totally cover up the entire wishbone setup. I’m guessing this was also BMW acknowledging that the average rider didn’t care for the look and wanted something a bit more standard and less visually distracting. My personal opinion is that the factory fairing and tank were simply ugly, but that is definitely up to the beholder.
Following the plan to expose the wishbone as our major design thread, I then started to realize that the vertical height of the custom alloy tank we were building could harken back to the famed Ernst “Hoske” endurance tanks built for the earlier airhead BMWs in the 60’s and 70’s. The profile of our “Wishbone” was inspired by those extremely beautiful handmade aftermarket pieces coveted by collectors and airhead fans.
From there we modified the subframe, built out a full hand-shaped alloy tail section to compliment the shapely tank and then shaped a custom seat pan and seat that was covered in leather in-house by our “Revival Limited” artisans. We also built a small headlight surround and machined a ring from solid alloy to house the headlight and keep it nestled tightly between the forks and a small alloy front fender and mounts to help call further attention to the non-standard front suspension. The details of this build are what add up to a refined package well beyond what the factory accomplished years ago.
We upgraded the wheels to Kineo spoked units, the suspension to Ohlins, the brake lines to stainless and the then built a full custom stainless exhaust from header to tailpipe. The ride and feel of all of the upgrades made this into what we consider the best handling and riding R-variant BMW we’ve ever ridden. Further upgrades are a full complement of Motogadget electronics with bar-end turn signals and a Motoscope pro digital readout gauge to keep track of everything. We continued from there with hidden LED tail lights, our “Revival hub-mounted license plate carrier, a hidden ignition switch and a massive undertaking of rewiring much of the bike. The photos on our website show just how much of an electrical challenge this entire machine is. This one would have been a SERIOUS problem for an impatient builder. Many days were spent simply trying to get everything to talk to the factory electronic systems. No plug-ins here!
Many hours were spent sanding, cleaning and polishing up so much of the factory blemishes and casting marks that it would be easy to miss, but the final finishes are what would easily set this bike apart from a new R nineT. From there the alloy body was all finished in many coats of a subtle solid black and a very deep dark metallic blue with a subtle graphic design that almost can’t be seen in our studio shots. It becomes much more clear in the daylight. In the daylight one will also notice the upgraded carbon fibre head covers and timing chain covers that help set the aesthetic apart.
At the end of the day we hope there becomes a resurgence of interest in these mid-2000’s wishbone bikes after seeing just how similar, yet superior this machine is to the ones coming fresh off the showroom floor. One can still pick up one of these bikes pretty damn cheaply and they are still excellent modern riding machines!