EB800 - 1985 BMW R80
Author: Ellaspede Date Posted:5 May 2023
The BMW R80 was the uber popular mid sized touring bike of the eighties, with their well built reputation and comfort focused layout. Fast forward to today and their popularity as a ‘resto-mod’ build hasn’t changed but stems strongly from stripping away the stock parts to reveal the quirky but iconic boxer engine and a relatively simple 1980’s design.
The owner of this bike, Kevin, gives us the background for the build… “I've owned this bike since 2017. But before that I've always admired the model and wanted to own a Boxer engine for a long time. When I was in my teens, my uncle had a R1200, and I've always admired it.”
Kevin continues… “I was particularly fond of the Boxer engine. The way the cylinder protrudes out just makes it seem extra-ordinary. The shape, the way it looks is odd but also pretty. The way the bike rocks left to right when the piston fires sideways, gives the ride a strange sensation that I just love. I would have got a bigger engine (R100), but the R80 was available at the right time, so I'm happy with it.”
“I'm a big fan of vintage items, I just love the way things were designed back in the 70s and 80s. The shape, the styling and the looks. I may be a bit of an old fashion guy, but I enjoy it when something has heritage. The BMW air-cooled boxer bikes go way back and still exist today. I love that.”
So with the beginning of a dream realised and this 1985 BMW R80 in Kevin’s possession, he got to test riding before the build began… “I did get to ride it in its original form for about half a year, which i loved. But I was leaving Australia for work overseas, and thought it was a good time to turn it into a bike of my dreams.”
“Getting into vintage bikes was a big hurdle for me. I was always told the hole is deep. If you weren't prepared to spend some money and be ready to break down on the side of the road, then don't do it. At the end I couldn't resist. Because none of the modern bikes at the time satisfied my tastes.”
“I decided if I was going to go down this hole, I need to know some mechanics/specialist. What really made me get into it was finding Ellaspede. The team, the professionalism, it was a no-brainer.”
So with Kevin heading overseas and the bike now down at Ellaspede it was time to make a start on the build. This particular 1985 BMW R80 was a decent runner and was ‘all there’ so it was a simple starting task of stripping, bagging and tagging with one pile for reuse/refurbish and the other for hiding in a box in Kevins garage.
The first step on modifying these R-series is getting rid of the skinny stock subframe, which is probably the only under engineered thing on the bike! We fabricated a completely new subframe from scratch (based on the look of our bolt on item), added some pillion peg mount loops and then welded the whole lot to the main frame.
Next was confirming the mounting locations and fitment of two different fuel tanks. Kevin liked the look of the twin shock and mono shock fuel tanks, so decided he wanted the option to interchange both! He explains… “One of the key elements was the concept of modular design. Being able to change up the styles, but easily reconnect and switching tanks and seats. Creating the freedom to almost switch between two different bikes.”
Now that both tanks were mounted, two custom seat pans were shaped up to fit the new subframe, but more importantly to fit the slightly different profile of the rear of each tank. Plus they’ll both have different seat styles, more on that later.
We continued the bar work out back with a custom made licence plate mount which now hangs off the swing arm. Provisions for hidden wiring inside the tubes keeps the rear end looking super clean too.
Kevin likes the classic look and functionality of the original BMW hard panniers, so some matching bar work was made up that easily bolts on and off when the need for a weekend escape arises.
Tying the front to the rear is some aftermarket crash bars to protect the cylinder heads, which also serve a second purpose as a mount for the auxiliary spot light on the left hand side.
While all of the fabrication work was going on, the engine was removed and sent off for a full clean, mechanical once over and repaint/refinish to ensure its looking and running right when it slots back in.
BMW’s of this era are known for having remarkably narrow handlebars, so they’ve been swapped out for some aftermarket items with a more substantial width. The Ellaspede BMW R-series Bar Backs bring the controls a little closer to the rider and make room for the Ellaspede BMW R-series fork lowering triple clamp which drops the front forks to a more suitable position. Clamping to the end of the bars are a pair of Oberon bar end mirrors.
The existing BMW front guard has a classic shape to it, so it was cut down, reshaped and retained on the standard mounts. Custom mounts were fabricated up front for the BMW R nineT headlight and aftermarket Tumbleton & Twist (T&T) all in one gauge.
Speaking of electrical items, the Motogadget catalogue was raided for an M-unit Blue, taking instructions from OEM switches and signalling direction changes via the bar end M-blaze disc indicators at the front and M-blaze pin indicators on the number plate mount at the rear.
Twin tail lights signal at the rear, with a flexible LED frenched into the subframe behind the seat, while a Koso Hawkeye LED tail light illuminates the licence plate and provides a secondary source of stopping intent.
The offset spot light on the crash bar helps the R nineT headlight see on the darkest of nights, tied into the whole system with a completely custom loom that runs the bike front to back. A 12 cell Antigravity battery and DRC quick charge battery leads ensure the whole lot comes to life. The new battery now hides under an aftermarket engine cover where the old air box use to be.
Before piecing the puzzle back together, every part was either powder coated, painted, ceramic coated or polished and fitted with new bolts, bearings and seals prior to going back on.
Wheels were finished in smooth satin black powder coat with new bearings and wrapped in Heidenau K60 Scout tyres measuring 110/80/18 front and 130/80/18 rear.
The suspension front and rear was removed for rebuild and refurbishment, before being coated in satin black finishes. Bucking the black trend are the carburettors which were disassembled and painted in a silver metallic before they were overhauled with new kits and fitted with K&N filters. Custom ‘carb holders’ now brace and support the carbs to avoid the common carb boot tears seen on R-series with no factory air box.
Kevin liked the rounded front shape of the factory header pipes, so they were cleaned, ceramic coated and wrapped. The exhaust port flanges were also ceramic coated black to match. Hanging off the back on new mounts are a pair of stainless reverse cone mufflers with extra internal baffles.
The centre stand is a handy addition, so it was modified to fit nice and snug against the frame, with more mods required to clear the new mufflers. The tricky BMW auto-return side stand was also modified to stop it automatically flicking up and allow it to easily be operated from a seated position on the bike.
The final drive and differential was removed and refurbished with fresh seals and gaskets, also getting a smooth coating of satin black before being fitted back up to the bike.
Brakes are care of the factory Brembo’s at the front, now squeezing the new discs through a rebuilt master and stainless braided lines.
Throughout the bike all of the remaining visible fasteners and bolts were replaced with new or refurbished items.
Rounding back to the two tanks and seats concept, Kevin explains the thinking… “I've looked up many builds online for inspiration. The navy blue tank and tan leather was a simple choice. It was simple, elegant and safe.”
“The other colour way (yellow and royal blue) was more difficult, I wanted to experiment, be bold and a bit more out of my comfort zone. To be honest, I haven't really gotten used to it yet. But I think it will grow on me. As to where I got the idea from for these colours? I'm not really sure... perhaps the Brisbane Bus? haha it was what I see everyday growing up in Brisbane.”
We were right on board with Kevins modular concept! It’s not something he’ll change every day, but it’s the freedom and freshness to switch looks that just adds another layer to him enjoying his custom bike.
As you can see the Navy tank is a deep colour with a subtle twin pinstripe in black highlighting the overall shape. It’s a classic combination with the tan leather seat, which we’ve changed up with stitched ‘stadium cylinder’ shapes on the seat and matching leather fork wraps featuring the same shapes in a ‘brickwork’ pattern.
For the ‘Brisbane bus’ colour way, a single black pinstripe was enough to highlight the shape of the bright yellow tank. The blue leather across the seat and fork wraps, this time featuring the basketweave centre sections with horizontal stitch lines across the seat as well.
Both seats are detailed with a mini BMW roundel at the back and Kevin credits the inspiration for the material, colour, look and design of the upholstery to the Singer Vehicle design he’d seen done on various Porsche’s.
Everything was coming back together and with Kevin still living and working overseas we chipped away at the test and tune process until it was ready to ride.
Now that the build is complete and Kevin has seen all his inspiration and plans come together he said… “I think this build has a bit of a tracker/scrambler kind of look. Which I thought was perfect for this bike, since I already have a cafe racer EB550 Honda CB550. It really tore me up deciding whether to restore the bike or keep it original, but modify it.”
“I ended up with a custom build because of the idea of the modern classic craze. A lot of the big brands (automotive, watches, shoes etc...) are trending their designs back to the roots. Creating vintage inspired products with modern technologies and performance. I am a big fan of that. Especially those by Singer who restore old Porsches, retain their vintage looks, but add a lot of subtle modern touches. This build was a project inspired by that idea.”
“I enjoyed the design-process of the build a lot. Researching, finding inspiration online from other builds, finding different available parts, discussing these options with Ellaspede and learning about what I can do with the build. Pushing the boundaries a little bit.”
So what does Kevin like about it the best? “The way it looks. The riding position. The sensation of the boxer engine. It's age and heritage.”
“To be honest, I am not a performance rider. In fact, I ride quite slow. I ride for the feel rather than the speed. I just enjoy the way the wind catches my face, the mechanical engagement with the machine when switching gears. And just generally cruising around. I will be making a lot of trips to different cafes around town.”
We’re really thankful that Kevin trusted us with his vision for this bike and have really enjoyed creating the modular boxer engine resto-mod he’d envisioned in his mind. Now we’re just excited to see Kevin putting some KM’s on this thing, and interested to see which modular colour concept he chooses for each trip!
Albums we listened to during the build of this bike:
|1. The Weeknd - After Hours||2. Dua Lipa - Future Nostalgia||3. M83 - Hurry Up, We're Dreaming|
Photos by AJ Moller Photography
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