By Brandon Cheng Mungai - Bavarian Cafe
And Welcome to OTL’s latest Contributing Editor, Brandon!
The dial hand on the /5 speedometer was steadily holding at 85 mph. The white lines on the Southern California freeway streamed beneath the cylinder heads in silence. I was hunched over the big tank with my arms comfortably gripping onto the S-bars. I told myself that “this” was going to be a part of my life and at that very moment the motor started to sound like it was gasping for air. The needle-hand started feathering and I found myself on the side of the 405 FWY, broken-down on a hot September afternoon. I had no clue what went wrong with the bike. About ten minutes later, I tried the starter and the /5 spluttered up again, although crippled, she still managed to take me home. I just purchased this 1973 R75/5 LWB (my first BMW & motorcycle) a month prior from a gentleman down in San Diego and I did recall him saying that it needed a new clutch. So I bought a Clymers manual…
Dismantling my first motorcycle was easy, now putting it back together required experience and patience. I sought out a vintage BMW mechanic in Los Angeles and brought my basket-case to him. I noticed he had a lot of bikes and thought to myself, he must know what he is doing. Four weeks later, with no updates from the mechanic, I showed up at the shop only to receive an invoice for $140.00 for his service of cutting the spokes off my rims. I paid the amount, I bit my tongue, and I taught myself a fair lesson… having a lot of bikes doesn’t make someone an expert, it just means he’s really backed up and full of talk. This scenario made me ever more determined to restore my own /5.
In August of 2011, I completed my freshman build, a cafe themed 1973 R75/5 LWB that I named “Avgvsta”. I was very fortunate to have met my BMW mentor Mark Spitler at a local machine shop in Costa Mesa, operated by a gentleman named John Edwards of R & D Engineering. I felt very privileged to be able to study the art of BMW’s under the guidance of Mark. Almost once a week for the next eight months that it took me to restore my /5, Mark would walk me through almost every detail, sometimes speaking in a mechanical language I didn’t quite comprehend at the time, allowing me to make mistakes during the rebuild, and in the process conditioning my brain to think cognitively with the mechanics of these airheads. And from his teachings, I was able to appreciate these machines in their factory form and develop my own vision & belief of how BMW cafe racers should look like. This quote from Rich Taylor says it best;
“A cafe racer is, in the simplest definition, a street legal motorcycle that captures some of the aura of a genuine road racer” (Taylor, Rich. Café Racer, 1976).
For my sophomore project, Larry Stonestreet (of Stoner’s Beemer Stash) notified Mark about a potential 1983 R100CS down in San Diego; the previous owner had ran the engine without oil. Mark thought it was a great learning experience for me to familiarize and rebuild a later twin-shock / nikasil airhead. I didn’t object, but this time I wanted to document the R100 cafe racer build via social media. I’ve frequented a lot of the BMW blogs & tech pages on the internet and felt that I needed to blog fresh content a lot quicker in order to keep up with today’s enthusiasts and handheld technologies. In January of 2012 I launched my photo-blog at BMW Cafe Racer (www.bmwcaferacer.com), documenting my R100 build, BMW parts finding adventures, and with a dab of my family life revolving around of course…BMW’s. Throughout the year as I gained more readership from my photo-blog, I also gained the friendship of BMW enthusiasts from around the world. I began receiving a lot of emails from readers asking questions in regards to tech, parts, accessories, and referrals to specialty BWM shops around the globe. The most rewarding part is to receive emails from these enthusiasts sharing the stories of their BMW’s and family.
Bavarian Cafe (www.bavariancafe.com) is a moniker I gave the website after a few opportunities arose from manufacturers; Siebenrock, Tommaselli, Motocicli Veloci, and Ritmo Sereno (www.Ritmo-Sereno.com) to represent these brands here in the USA. The latest association with Ritmo Sereno, Japan, has probably been the most gratifying. I used to spend hours on Ritmo’s website detailing each of their builds, the craftsmanship of their aftermarket cafe airhead parts are brilliantly manufactured and the presentation is will thought-out. Earlier this year as I was nearing to the completion of the 1983 R100 “LSB” (Laguna Seca Blue) project, I was contacted by a representative of Ritmo Sereno and he was interested in viewing the R100 build. I was hesitant at first and thought the website might have given him the wrong impression of me having a real workshop and storefront. In his reply, he said that a motorcycle that is built from a persons garage at home, is built with a lot more passion than a business that just pumps them out. During his visit the representative asked me what my long term goal was with these BMW’s. In response, I said, I just wanted build at my own pace and take opportunities as they come to the door. The next Bavarian Cafe project will be a 1976 R90S adorned with Ritmo Sereno’s body work. (Editor’s note: Japanese Ritmo Sereno creates some of the absolute finest machines I’ve ever seen. Please Google Ritmo Sereno)
There are different breeds of builders and I probably fall within the late night-weekend warrior type. I’ve only scratched the surface of these Bavarian machines and am humble to all the enthusiasts that paved the road for me to ride on. I would like to thank my teacher and friend Mark Spitler again for passing this art down to a complete stranger. And I would not be having fun with BMW’s without the grace of my lovely wife Julia Vaughn and baby girl Ursula. Last April 2012, I had an accident with my /5 on the 405 FWY which nearly sent me to the banks of the river Styx. Ursula was only two months at the time… I recall the silhouette of my wife holding the baby under the bedroom doorway as I was going in and out of consciousness. She told me, “don’t give up what you love doing. It’ll take some time, but you’ll recover and it will all come back.” She was so right.
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