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‘72 BMW R75/5 – Tattoo Custom Motorcycles


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We are happy to introduce a new writer at the ‘House of Burning Pipes’. Marlon Slack is our latest recruit and we’re happy to have him on board for the ride.

Tattoo Custom Motorcycles have taken this 1972 R75/5 – a traditional, commuter-style bike – and turned it into a neat scrambler with a few particularly nice, subtle touches. There’s quite a few boxer engine custom bikes kicking around these days, but it wasn’t always the case. Eight years ago I sat in the café attached to Deus Ex Machina and between bites of breakfast and the occasional superior scowl I tried to throw at the Deus clientele, the side doors opened and a mechanic wheeled in a BMW R65, propping it up in a window display that overlooks the cafe. Behind me an older guy looked up at the motorcycle with a scowl. ‘Please,’ he groaned, ‘we’re trying to eat.’

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For years the BMW R-series with its suitcase-like engine and inoffensive styling was never considered a particularly suitable bike to customize. They were always a well-regarded motorcycle in their time – they were functional, reliable and had a strong following from men who had moustaches (before moustaches were cool) tweed blazers (before tweed blazers were cool) and names like ‘Donald’ (er…). But for the most part BMW boxers were considered pretty boring and quite ugly.

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In the last ten years things have changed. Old boxer twins are now highly sought after in the custom scene for their reliability and simplicity – as well as the huge amount of collective knowledge that has accumulated over the years from people like Don (RIP).

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Some of the changes made by Tattoo Moto are pretty clear at first glance. The rear subframe been chopped and raised and a single seat fitted. Mikuni carburettors replace the questionable stock Bing units, a Danmoto GP Extreme exhaust has been fitted and cone filters replace the standard airbox. Importantly, the beautiful slab-sided ‘toaster’ tank still wears its original emerald green finish.

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One thing that warms my heart when looking at this particular scrambler custom is that the suspension has actually been modified appropriately. It has 15” long Ohlins shocks at the rear and Racetech springs and emulators installed in the front forks. While it isn’t going to win any motocross races, these modifications, coupled with the capable Continental Twinduros means this scrambler would actually handle moderately well off-road.

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But some of the neatest things about the bike are a little more subtle – the workshop name on the side of the engine case, Brooks bicycle grips on Renthal bars and the use of Motogadgets M-lock wireless start system. Small things like these help set it well apart from many other BMW customs that are appearing at the moment, most of which are put together using little more than an angle grinder, a value pack of Plasti-dip and considerable amount of misplaced ambition.

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