There are many people who quite openly and publicly state there is nothing new in motorcycling.
While it is true that motorcycles have always required two-wheels, a chassis and an engine – and will continue to do so – there is definitely always something being built around these vital components to make the whole ensemble … new!
These attributes could take the form of a new silhouette or the latest electronic suspension, braking or fuelling systems. Whatever motorcycle manufacturers design and fit to a new model to make our riding experience better, it ends up being a new bike.
At the same time there is also the matter of making something “new” by way of a one-off creation produced from old and new components, in other words custom building a bike.
This is not a new process. Custom built bikes have been around since motorcycles were first made. But it’s rare that such a custom-built creation incorporates enough engineering and design flair to make anybody with an appreciative eye stop dead in their tracks and say: “Wow, that’s new!”
The Birth of Boxer Metal
Creativity is a natural thing, whereas ability can be either natural or learned with experience.
In the case of Chris and Rebecca Canterbury – one of the coolest couples in motorcycling – it’s pretty much a given they are both blessed and experienced when it comes to motorcycling and everything around it.
Chris and Rebecca together make up the dream team behind BMW motorcycle and sidecar specialists Boxer Metal, based in Chico, California. Their journey into rebuilding BMW Boxer-powered bikes and custom Boxer BMWs started back in the 80’s, and has continued ever since.
Chris started out in 1984 restoring BMW cars and assisting in hot-rod builds destined for the rich and famous. BMW bikes then came into his life, which, in 1987, led him to work for a BMW motorcycle dealership. From this point on, meeting and working with many people shaped Chris’ future. In 1991, Chris founded Eurotech Motorsports, a major supplier of new and used BMW parts, accessories and anything else related to BMW bikes. In between running Eurotech and his hobby for restoring classic BMW bikes and sidecars, Chris met wife-to-be Rebecca. Today the couple share the same passion for rebuilding classic BMWs, selling spares and accessories, and producing ‘wow’ custom bikes under the brand Boxer Metal.
A perfect example of the couple’s all-round ingenuity, is their brilliant custom build “Mom’s Rocket”. You only have to look at it from a distance to note this bike is something wondrous.
The starting point for “Mom’s Rocket” was a traded-in 1980 BMW R 100 T.
The original frame was in a poor state and had sidecar mounts welded to it. The engine was a real concern because the crank and conrods were all shot. Fortunately, over the years, Boxer Metal’s workshop, stores and even under the desk had been valuable storage points for all manner of BMW bike cast-offs and replacement parts. By using whatever happened to be lying around, the stripped and cleaned engine was totally rebuilt.
For the overall custom build Chris decided to exercise his love for dragsters, drag bikes and racing cars that he grew up with in the 1970s.
First off, the bike’s carburettors were ditched.
In their place went EFI throttle bodies from a R 1150 GS. While this sounds easy, it doesn’t tell you about the required machining and much beard-scratching to get everything in place and working correctly. By using a Mega Squirt system to control the injectors and associated sensors e.g. throttle position sensor, Chris can precisely programme this modern day add-on by laptop, which he will need to do to fine tune the fuelling to run with the two purpose-made turbo units that have also been plumbed in. We say ‘plumbed’ in in a matter of fact way but truth is NASA would be impressed with the install.
Fine tuning of the new fuel system will happen when Boxer Metal’s customer projects ease up. Maybe.
After the engine detail, reworking the standard frame was kind of easy. Easy in the sense the frame had to be altered to accommodate the exhaust routing/turbos, throw away the rear suspension and mounts, lengthen the frame by 5 inches (127mm) and lower it by 3 inches (762mm) and then add additional bracing to keep harmony between the frame and the power-laden engine.
Some detail isn’t so obvious. Take, for example, the LED headlight unit. The assembly was designed and 3-D printed by Minone Designs. There is, of course, the flowing nature of the build to make the bike an aesthetic masterpiece. The finished result is mighty impressive, no question. No wonder so many appreciative comments and admiring looks were given by visitors and likeminded custom builders that attended The One Motorcycle Show in early 2016.
Boxer Metal completed the build of “Mom’s Rocket” in seven weeks in order to exhibit at The One Motorcycle Show. It was also at TOMS where all Chris and Rebecca’s effort and strain was rewarded with receiving the annual BMW Award for the best BMW custom bike at the show to fall within the “Make Life a Ride” mentality. The award was presented by Roland Stocker, Project Leader, BMW Motorrad and Mark Buche, Marketing Communications Manager, BMW Motorrad North America.
“Mark and I had the hard job to pick the best BMW custom bike of the show,” said Roland Stocker. “We had a close look on every single BMW and discussed it in detail. We were looking on ideas, technical challenges, details, finish, uniqueness and fitment within The One Show. Perhaps not surprisingly we found out the Boxer Metal Bike had it all.”
“The bike is a wonderful combination of technical challenges (double blower, fuel injection, rigid frame, LED light…) and an awesome style (metal flake paint job, slick drag tyre, stance). In all, the reason why we picked it for the BMW award.”
“It was so special and different to all the other BMW bikes at the show. In fact it was playing in a different league also because of its radicalism and completely different approach. That’s why it was so perfect for the One Show.”
Needless to say Chris and Rebecca recovered from their surprise win and much applause and are now back hard at work in the Boxer Metal workshop. While their projects and products say so much about their work, the best way to sum up their passion for all things BMW Boxer, there is nothing better than their own company slogan: Thinking Outside Of The Box(er)!