Custom BMW K 100 From Romania

For many, it takes decades to perfect a craft. Mistakes are made, and lessons learned along the way. For others, preparation is the preferred method—waiting for that opportunity to make a strongly positive first impression.

Gabi Nicolae’s path was to develop his skills by creating high-performance off-road four-wheelers for his own Taifun Engineering firm before creating his debut custom motorcycle build—The Mechanik.

Nicolae’s interest in motorcycles began 35 years ago. At 14, he acquired a Mobra 50. Powered by a four-horsepower 50cc two-stroke motor, it was the only motorcycle built in his home country of Romania at the time. The Mobra 50 kicked off Nicolae’s custom-building career.

Custom BMW K 100: Gabi Nicolae’s The Mechanik engine“I modified it, as I wanted to look like the Mobra Hoinar—different exhaust, different handlebar, etc. It was silly,” Nicolae explains, “but it was what I did. Customizing bikes professionally I started just a few years ago, helping different friends with their projects, as my main business is a shop that builds racing cars, custom projects, custom cars, etc.”

Nicolae is the Team Manager for Team Dakar Romania—the first Romanian Dakar Rally and rally raid team—in addition to the CEO and owner of Taifun Engineering, which sits adjacent to Bucharest’s Băneasa Airport.

It is no surprise that his experience with four-wheelers informed the construction of The Mechanik. “From the racing cars, I learned—many times the hard way—that in a build, form follow function and not the other way around. On the other hand, whatever you do and is okay from the technical point of view, must also be nice looking and a pleasure to the eye. Also, I used quite a few racing cars tricks.”

One of those tricks is that everything built by Nicolae was designed in Autocad and laser-cut before being welded or mounted.

Custom BMW K 100: Gabi Nicolae’s The Mechanik top forkRather than being inspired by his locale or other builders—save Roland Sands—Nicolae says, “I just wanted to build a bike that reflects my passion, the mechanical stuff—anything, you name it, from cars to bikes to watches.”

For Nicolae’s first build, the BMW K 1000 platform caught his attention. “First of all was the fuel tank,” he says with a wink. “Its shape—I really like it. Second, it’s a big bike, and I’m a big guy. Third, its engine. It’s big, well balanced, powerful. I’m not a fan of small engines or small bikes…I consider that a biker wants a bike that has power. To feel something when you twist the accelerator!”

“I wanted a bike that does not follow any rule—not a café racer, not a tracker, nor a scrambler,” Nicolae says, “but a bike that runs nice, handles nice and looks nice—as per my taste, of course—and a bike where I can put my ideas in reality.”

The rear suspension—with a horizontally mounted KYB shock from a K1-era Suzuki GSX-R1000—is an immediate standout feature on The Mechanik. With the suspension geometry and tunability inspired by F1 designs, Nicolae acknowledges that the rear suspension presented challenges “to find the proper percentage—in terms of dimensions—between the three sides of the triangulated shape metal part that is pushed by the push-rod.”

“It was tricky,” Nicolae allows, “but we sorted it out, and the suspension works really, really well. As I said, we are building racing cars. And the suspension department is the most important one. Therefore, I have a lot of experience with different suspension systems. I’m periodically rebuilding the shocks of the top five racing cars in Romania. I really know what suspension should be.”

The fork from the GSX-R1000 was also implemented, which means it had to integrate with a variety of parts. “Using my skills to choose the proper shimming and the proper oil viscosity, the result can be really good,” Nicolae says.

“I didn’t modify the fork, but I put a different oil inside, custom adjusted the settings, and I had to design new triple clamps,” Nicolae explains. “That was another challenge because I wanted the BMW K100 handling and not the Suzuki one. So, the head angle and the trail is that of BMW K100, but the width is from Suzuki in order to use the Tokico calipers and the Yamaha R1 disc brake.”

Custom BMW K 100: Gabi Nicolae’s The Mechanik priceNicolae also admits that the triple clamps were the difficult part of the build, as it involved engineering, sourcing the proper raw material, and the CNCing. Another tough part of building The Mechanik came from integrating the Moto Gadget electronics into the motorcycle.

Not all details are immediately apparent, but that doesn’t make them any less impressive. For instance, the fuel cap is from a vintage Boeing 707 jetliner. “From the very beginning, when I saw the BMW K 100 fuel tank, I knew that the best fuel cap would be that one,” Nicolae said. “I used to work in the airline industry for some years, and I still have the contacts. The maintenance facility for airplanes is located right across the street of my shop, so I got one. I had to machine it, to engineer some parts, but the result is good.”

The headlight is an impressive item. The seemingly over-engineered unit can quickly be flipped over to reveal a number plate. “The theme of the bike is about mechanics,” Nicolae says. “I thought that making the headlight reversible would be a nice challenge, and it was! It’s bold, but it is what it is.”

Anodizing was chosen over powdercoating to protect aluminum parts for both practical and aesthetic reasons. “Powdercoating adds a lot of thickness to the parts—like .4, .5 mm, even,” according to Nicolae, “which is okay for big parts like the chassis. But for smaller parts, the appearance is bulky—you know what I mean. Anodizing adds zero thickness, the edges remain edges, and the machining can be seen. From the technical perspective, the anodizing process is protecting really well the aluminum parts.”

Obviously, The Mechanik was intended to be more than a showpiece. “Form follows function. A bike must be ridden, first of all. If it happens that is also looking interesting, it’s even better. It’s like a 2019 1000cc sport bike,” Nicolae says, “with less power, but very good handling and brakes.”

Custom BMW K 100: Gabi Nicolae’s The Mechanik bvnwAs with most builders, Nicolae is willing to part with his firstborn. “I really enjoyed building this bike,” he says, “but I’m riding, annually, at least 25,000 to 28,000 kilometers. I’m much more into long, mixed trips than going to the Shopping Centre. It’s a really nice bike, but I’m not using it. So, I’ll sell it.”

That, of course, means that Nicolae had to admit that he was finished with The Mechanik. “It’s like with the paintings. A painter will never say that a specific painting is finished—always can be better. I think the sound could be better. But, what to expect from a car 4 in line engine? The ‘science’ is to know when to stop doing (or redoing) things; the same principle applies to custom bikes.”

Next up for Gabi Nicolae is something very different. “A boxer engine BMW, or a big engine KTM,” he divulges, “that will be some kind of adventure bike, but at least at the same level of customization as the Mechanik.”

Photography by Claudius Vasilescu 

Custom BMW K 100: Gabi Nicolae’s The Mechanik