Alex Zemlin has been on The Kneeslider twice before with his Honda CB 1.5 and then again with his VTR 1000 Super Hawk GT. In both instances, his work displayed that finished factory look, where many miss the amount of work done until a closer look begins to reveal the truth. His attention to detail is apparent everywhere and his build quality is top notch.
He’s still hard at work building and modifying motorcycles and he thought you might like to see his latest project, a 1985 BMW K100 which he rescued from another builder, who had strayed into waters a bit too deep, letting all of the smoke out of the wiring harness and turning a runner into a roller. Alex decided to build what I would call a comfortable sport bike, if we could borrow a phrase from Motus, and I think the result is a real beauty. He sent me the story below.
Here’s Alex in his own words:
I bought this ’85 BMW K100 about a year and half ago as a rescue mission. The previous owner had tried to make it into a Cafe Racer, but realized he had bitten off a bit more than he could chew and put the bike up for sale. Let me tell you, it’s a lot easier to start with a stock bike…no seat, no lights, a smoked harness and an engine that wouldn’t even crank over, much less run. My goal was to end up with a rideable/usable bike. No lowered suspension, missing fenders or pipe wrap.
I wanted to give it a Gentleman’s Express vibe, as opposed to building a true Café Racer. Rear sets, yes, clip-ons, no. (I’m too old/wise for that level of discomfort) I fabricated my own rear sets, using Heim joints for the linkage and brass bushings for the pivots. Both levers are height adjustable.
The tail cowl was designed by me and is made from aluminum to match the stock fuel tank. I almost locked up over that tail cowl. There are so many custom K bikes out there that make do with a padded skateboard. I wanted something that tied in with the shape and angles of the fuel tank. I literally spent months just staring at it and playing with the stock tail section, which is the shape I wanted to emulate.
The aluminum was shaped by a gent that can turn flat pieces of metal into complete cars. I met him through a friend when I was looking for someone to take the eight inch crease out of the right side of the fuel tank. I asked whether he’d be willing to make a tailcowl, and if I could help/learn. He told me to make the buck and get back with him. Once I finally decided on the shape I made the buck. I called him up and reminded him of our previous conversation to which he said come on over.
The seat itself was stitched up by a local upholstery shop, with colors in keeping with the rest of the bike and using proper motorcycle seat foam.
To me the stock K100 pipes are a bit boring, so two K1200 head pipes were grafted together, along with a collector and mid-pipe from Cone Engineering. The muffler was also made by Cone Engineering…back in the ‘90s. Since my welding skills are non- existent, I enlisted the help of a good friend to weld the pieces of the pipe together, as well as weld the shortened subframe.
Rear suspension is a period correct Fox Twin Clicker. It was rebuilt by a friend, and I refinished the spring, shock body and reservoir to try and make it look new’ish.
The stock two piston calipers were replaced by K1100 four piston calipers, bolted to the stock forks. The matching master cylinder is plumbed with Stainless braided brake lines, as is the rear brake. The solid rear brake rotor was replaced with a slotted front rotor, simply because I liked the look.
That 8” headlight began life on a Yamaha XV920. The taillight is LED with integrated turn signals. I wanted to be able to see, and to be seen. Gauges are Vapor by Trail Tech , the warning lights are by Trail Tech as well and are mounted in a custom mounting bracket. Wiring the Vapor and the warning lights was a bit of a challenge, but everything works as it should.
Frame and wheels were powder coated satin black, while the aluminum bits received the ScotchBrite treatment. I jokingly refer to the bike as ‘Fifty Shades of K’.
Stainless steel hardware was used where ever possible.
Since I was a Jeweler in a former life I decided to make my own Roundels. Pretty happy with the way they turned out.
I have probably close to 150 hours in this build, but it was fun and quite rewarding.
Thanks, Alex. This build is one anyone would be proud of, extremely well finished, subtle and classy.
Alex also says he’s ready to start his next project, a 2008 CBR1000RR that’s going to become a standard, similar to his VTR project. I can’t wait to see it.
All photos above (except “starting point”) are credit: Kevin Wing. The location is Glendora Mountain Road in Southern California. Be sure to click on each one to see the bike in full detail!