The BMW boxer motor has long been a favorite of customizers, with its cylinders aggressively jutting outward from the crankcase. Its naked display of power is an alluring canvas. The new Big Boxer from BMW is no exception and has quickly built a following of custom builders. One look at the Blechmann BMW R 18 explains the appeal of the Big Boxer in no uncertain terms.
Blechmann, the nom de plume of Austrian customizer Bernhard Naumann, strips the standard R 18 chassis to its essentials, while adoring it with a bespoke fairing and fuel tank. The result is nothing short of magnificent, and one that took Blechmann and his team 450 hours to build. We spoke with Blechmann—“Tin Man” in English—about the build and his history.
Ultimate Motorcycling: What are your first memories of motorcycles?
Blechmann: As a child, I remember this insane loudness of bypassing superbikes when I was in the back of my parents’ car. It scared me every time, but it also impressed me.
UM: What was the first motorcycle you rode? What was that like?
Blechmann: After getting my motorcycle license, I simply didn’t care about motorcycles. But, years later, around age 25, I borrowed a Yamaha FZX from a friend of mine by chance. It was a gentle ride, and I discovered that riding feeling for me ever since. That minimal and raw concept of an engine and just two wheels without compromise inspired me, I guess.
UM: What was the first motorcycle you owned?
Blechmann: First, I bought a Yamaha Virago 1100, which I transformed into a sweet bobber.
UM: What do you like best about fabricating parts? What challenges do you still have in fabrication?
Blechmann: I like the limitlessness that lies within the material I choose. Anything you’re able to imagine, you can make it happen. The limits are just your own skills. So, the goal is to improve yourself, or, as Gene Winfield always says, “Every day is a school day.”
UM: What are your favorite inspirations for builds?
Blechmann: Anything and everything on my way—stuff from ancient art to contemporary design. It’s all about proportions and contours, and how they interact with each other. I keep my eyes open.
UM: The Blechmann R 18 isn’t your first built for BMW. How did you become involved with the company?
Blechmann: The former leading BMW Motorrad designer Olla Stenegärd, who I know from various bike shows, calls me one day and asks, “Would you customize a bike for us?” That simple.
UM: What was the initial inspiration for The Blechmann R 18?
Blechmann: As the R 18 is a new chapter for BMW Motorrad, I set out very carefully—no drastic changes on the chassis or drivetrain—keep it pretty stock so anybody can buy it, and show the possibilities by just adding parts. Hopefully, people can comprehend the opportunities of the R 18.
UM: What differences were there in your approach to Giggerl in 2017 compared to the new R 18?
Blechmann: The Giggerl was my first collaboration with BMW. It was based on the R nineT. It has a more aggressive and modern approach. The R 18 has a far more classical inspirational origin. I like both of them, but the R 18 is clearly more comprehensive for a vast audience. The two show the range I cover for my customer.
UM: What challenges did the Blechmann R 18 provide during the build?
Blechmann: It’s a narrow path between a new product and a classical design to make it authentic. With this idea in mind, I worked as usual—no sketches, no drawings, just the joy of doing.
Blechmann: The fact that the chassis is still pure stock, I guess. I just changed the appearance by adding parts rather than major alternates to the bike itself, which is actually the star of the show.
UM: What’s it like to ride The Blechmann R 18? How functional is the fairing?
Blechmann: I have had no opportunity to go for a spin because of the tight schedule. Also, the bike is a prototype, lacking authorization for public roads. But, it’s planned to put the Blechmann parts on a regularly registered chassis, then I can tell more about riding it—it must be a blast.