Yellow Custom Airhead Cruiser by Francis Villedon

Yellow Custom Airhead Cruiser by Francis Villedon

This amazing one-off custom BMW cruiser is a serious head-turner. Known as ‘Mimosa,’ it was created by French bike builder Francis Villedon back in the mid-1990s. Villedon is a customizer of Harley-Davidson motorcycles but is also a BMW fan through and through—so much so that his personal transport is an R1150R roadster, much to the dismay of his Harley-riding clients!

Having owned and restored many BMW bikes since the 1980s (including an R50, R60, R69S, R51/3, R25, R25/3 and even an R/60 sidecar with a Ural ‘Africa-Korps’ sidecar) the former advertising art director had moved from Marseilles to the Alpes de Haute Provence region to start a new career in designing and building custom bikes, using Harleys as a base. However, the challenge of transforming an old flat-twin BMW was too much to resist for Francis.

“With this bike I really wanted to do something unique and show that with an old European bike as a starting point, it is possible to reach and equal the best ‘Uncle Sam’ customs,” he said. “Furthermore, I’ve always been fascinated with the boxer engine—this flat-twin that just flies low to the ground is just incredible in my opinion—so I decided to give it a go. I wanted something pure and modern, but very simple and without chrome and frills. All the mechanical parts had to be black and then everything else such as the frame, tank, bars and even the saddle, had to be yellow.”

Why yellow? Simply because it is Francis’ favorite color. The bike, which was named ‘Mimosa’ by his 10-year-old daughter at the time, had started life as a BMW R60/7, but once the modifications begun, it soon became unrecognizable.

New carburetors were added, the valve cover was modified and the cooling air blade removed. The electric starter was removed, freeing up space in which to put the coil and other electrical components. A five-speed gearbox, complete with kick-starter was installed and a gel battery positioned under the gearbox. The shaft drive was lengthened by four inches (11cm) and the frame was transformed into a rigid, hard tail design. In fact, Francis only kept the part of the frame that was fixed to the engine and the side stand—everything else was handmade based on designs from his own sketches. All the electric and throttle cabling is also hidden in the tubular frame.

The front forks came from a police-specification BMW R80RT, but were lengthened and modified in order to fit a special spoked wheel. The front wheel is a 21-inch trail model with the brake disc adapted accordingly, while the rear wheel is a 16-incher.

The lighting cover houses and hides a variety of items, including the light, horn, ignition key starter, brake master cylinder and throttle dividers. The ‘peanut’ sportster tank has been adjusted to fit the frame and now includes a BMW fuel filler cap. Interestingly, there is an additional 0.7-gallon (2.5L) tank under the saddle, which brings the total fuel capacity up to 2.1 gallons (8L).

There is a hand lever on the left of the tank to help engage the neutral position in the gearbox, and the rear brake and gears are activated with a ‘heel-toe’ shifter. An exhaust pipe protrudes from each cylinder, but the 60mm pipes are jet black and have noise reducers incorporated.

For Francis, this project was a labor of love that he was glad to complete, although deep down, he wishes he had been able to hold onto Mimosa, “Everything on this bike brought me pleasure, from its looks, to the noise the engine made, the road-holding, braking system—everything was pure happiness apart from the uncomfortable seat, but even that was fun,” he said. “I sold this bike for financial reasons and she has since had two other meticulous owners who looked after her. Interestingly, I don’t know how and why, but for some reason she is now in the AUDI museum in Ingolstadt in Germany!”

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