As BMW Motorrad continues its 90th anniversary celebrations, not many people could have predicted just how popular its older models have become within the custom and café-racer community. Once the preserve of American V-twin or classic British bikes, a new interest in BMW boxer-powered ‘specials’ was very much in evidence at the recent Glemseck 101 sprint event, where an international collection of motorcyclists gathered to show off the looks and performance of their machines, listen to rock n’ roll and just talk bikes.
You don’t have to be dressed in black leather, adorned with tattoos and wear your hear slicked back to be part of the café-racer scene, although it helps! All you need is an artful appreciation of great looking, unique motorcycles and a love of the speed, smells and noise that accompanies riders whose machines often run on open pipes and tyre-smoking rubber.
In Germany, this scene would probably have been described as a sub-culture just a few years ago, but many riders are now actively part of this lifestyle, which includes owners of all kinds of motorcycles and celebrates the rich heritage, passion for design and engineering, and love of great-looking powered two-wheelers.
The Glemseck 101 event takes place on a closed road near Stuttgart every year. In fact, it’s actually on part of the legendary Solitude racetrack that used to see huge attendances for the motorcycle and car Grands Prix that took place there from the early 1900s up until the mid 1960s. This annual café-racer sprint event attracts bikers and independent custom builders from all over the world, all keen to see unique motorcycles compete in drag races, one-on-one, on the same stretch of asphalt that many of the Grand Prix greats used to race on, all those years ago.
This year – more than any other – an increasing number of BMW café-racers were visible, not only in the bike parks, but also in the sprint competition itself. This international event attracted a strong manufacturer presence but also all the important independent custom garages, whose bike builders are responsible for some of the most awe-inspiring creations on two wheels. Among these well-known customizers and tuners such as Walz, JVB, Kaffeemaschine and Kingston Customs, were a breed of bike artists that have built their businesses purely focussing on BMWs. These included Urban Motors, Krautmotors and Spanish builders ‘Fuel’, who displayed some of their unique boxer-powered creations.
It wasn’t that long ago that it would have been a rarity to see a classic two-valve custom boxer taking part in an event such as the Glemseck 101, even if the bike parks adjoining the racetrack were already crammed full of BMWs. However, because of their reliability and affordable prices, these boxer models are a really good – and popular – starting point to create good-looking and great performing custom bikes.
This year though, in addition to the many Beemers on display, there was also a selection of BMW boxers among the 32 machines actually taking part in the sprint competition. These included an R75 WH Bobber built by Rolf Reick of Krautmotors; a BMW Scrambler built by Georg ‘Schorsch’ Bayer; an ex-police R80 café-racer built by Kevin Hill; an R100 Tracker built by Fuel Bespoke Motorcycles; an R100 BoB 09 built by Stefan Schäfer of 180 Grad Classic Motorcycles; and two bikes built by Edelweiss Motorsport – and piloted by legendary R90S racer Steve McLaughlin, and the bikes’ builder Dirk Scheffer.
BMW Motorrad Germany also set up an impressive display stand with classic racers and bikes from the museum, as well as current models. Two marvellous machines from BMW Classic were on display – an R5 and an RS254 – as well as two powerful racers from Edelweiss Motorsport.
At an event of this stature, it was only fitting that the BMW Concept Ninety put in an appearance. This unique café-racer, built in conjunction with California-based custom bike builder Roland Sands, has received heaps of praise wherever it has been shown. The Concept Ninety is special in that it is not only a pure show bike but also a true running café-racer, so was a big attraction on the stand as well as on the drag strip.
BMW design guru Ola Stenegard was on hand to present the Concept Ninety, along with Steve McLaughlin, who is best known in the BMW community for winning the first AMA Superbike race at Daytona on a BMW R90S. Also present was Matthias Runde from BMW Motorrad’s Product Management department. He is a real café-racer enthusiast who was instrumental in bring the first ever Boxer Sprint to BMW Motorrad Days in Garmisch-Partenkirchen earlier this year.
With the BMW Motorrad marquee displaying some unique historic models, the sprint racing community got to see a selection of the best of the new and older sides to the brand as it celebrates nine decades of success on two wheels. Among the thousands of fans of this heritage custom and café-racing scene, BMW riders were welcomed with open arms, as the pictures prove!