There aren’t many new ways left to customize classic R-series BMWs, and that means it’s harder to make them stand out. You either need to build something wild or, like Roughchild Motorcycles of Los Angeles, keep it simple… and extremely tasteful.
Founded by Robert Sabel, the Roughchild team works exclusively on BMWs—and has been doing so for over a decade. They can assemble an airhead with their eyes closed, and they know exactly what mods are ‘must dos.’
A while ago they took a classic BMW R75/5, bored it out, slimmed it down and modernized the running gear. They called it the RSWB, for Reisesport Short Wheel Base, and immediately locked in orders for nine more builds using the same approach.
This is the first one to roll off the bench, and it’s a stunner.
The donor for this project was a 1973 R75/5—but it wasn’t exactly running when it arrived. “The donor came in as a dilapidated basket case out of the Pacific Northwest,” Robert tells us, “but it came with a title. The story goes that the seller’s father had stashed two bikes in the basement as restoration projects, and didn’t get to them in time.”
“Everything needed to be rebuilt, and any original parts that weren’t salvageable were replaced with parts from inventory.”
Once the BMW was torn down, Roughchild started by repairing, bracing and de-tabbing the frame. Then they added a subframe of their own design, with a combination LED taillight and turn signals integrated in the rear, and a license plate lower down. The setup’s capped off with a low profile seat, just long enough to take two in a pinch.
Next, Roughchild upgraded the suspension with a set of Showa upside-down forks, held in place by custom yokes. Out back is a pair of Öhlins piggyback shocks.
The wheels are 18” Excel rims laced to a custom CNC-machined hub (front) and an OEM BMW hub (rear), with stainless steel spokes and Bridgestone Spitfire tires. The crew updated the front brakes with a pair of Brembo calipers, with the master cylinder tucked away under the fuel tank.
Naturally, the motor’s had a significant bump too. It’s been rebuilt to 1,000 cc, with refurbished heads, larger intake and exhaust valves, a Silent Hektik alternator and a high-output ignition. The revised electronics are powered by a Shorai Lithium-ion battery, housed in a custom battery tray under the tank.
Roughchild also installed Mikuni VM34 carbs, re-jetted them, and drilled the airbox to resemble the one on the 1977 R100RS. The exhaust system is a full stainless steel affair, with custom headers and ‘Quiet-Core’ mufflers from Cone Engineering. Roughchild say the old airhead’s now good for 60 hp and 70 Nm—a noticeable upgrade from the original.
Moving to the bodywork, the shop kept the original headlight and toaster tank, but swapped the front fender for a shorter unit. The headlight internals were upgraded to LEDs, and the original speedo was replaced by a BMW MotoMeter unit that includes a tach and indicator lights.
Just behind it are Renthal bars, fitted with Magura grips, bar-end turn signals and new switchgear. Upgrades that are harder to spot include custom-made washers on key mounting points, and zinc plating on all the original hardware.
“The result is a classic cafe racer with modern handling characteristics, excellent brakes and ample power,” says Robert. And it’s one heck of a looker too, resplendent in BMW’s Granada Red color, with hand-painted pin stripes.
Roughchild has eight more RSWB builds in the queue… but they’re off to a good start.