When BMW Motorrad France revealed details of its Custom Contest, whereby French BMW customers and fans could submit designs for a unique customised R nineT, the response was simply outstanding. For the many who took part, everyone knew there could only be one winner of a new R nineT and €10,000 to assist in building their proposed design. The winning entry came from Le Havre, north-west France, and the group of people behind the design are known as Old School Engineering, or OSE for short.
Motorcycling is renowned for producing many associations that come with people sharing their passion for freedom, open roads, motorised two-wheels and the lifestyle of ownership. Not forgetting, of course, the bond and friendships that come with building one-off machines under the guise of custom motorcycles. One such association is a group of friends that, over a short period of time, turned their individual creative thoughts and skills into a business-like venture.
Old School Engineering Kustom Motorworks (OSE) is effectively a non-profit making association of friends. Not so long ago, the four main members of OSE were working in their individual garages. When their talents started to take on even more work from friends and friends of friends, the association grew and grew until OSE was formed and with it single larger premises were found.
“We are not a company in the traditional sense,” says Benoit Krotki, the only English-speaking member of OSE (therefore the spokesperson). “We do what we do for fun, that is get together and build bikes. We started off building in our garages and then needed more space to store our bikes or bikes of our close friends that are now customers.”
OSE’s route to create customised motorcycles for other people without gain or profit may seem strange – stranger still when you read that all of OSE’s members (with the exception of Benoit) have full-time jobs elsewhere and bike building is merely a hobby that takes place in the evenings or at the weekends. But it does make for a great collection of skillsets. As such the ‘association’ and corresponding group talent have paid dividends, with specialised custom magazines frequently showing the custom world OSE’s builds. “Our bikes are built to be cool and functional so we can take them for long rides,” explains Benoit. “They also happen to draw quite a few admirers.”
Going from back yard builds to the success of winning the BMW Motorrad France Custom Competition is no mean feat. But the public’s admiration of OSE and the subsequent votes for the bike tagged ‘Inglorious Basterds’ was enough to net the winning votes. “There were four of us that formed the greater part of the association and we got really excited about this contest. We talked and talked and submitted our design and the next thing we know we have literally won the contest.”
At the initial entry stage, the first question that came to Benoit and the rest of the OSE clan was: what are we going to do? There have been so many different and beautiful customs already based around the R nineT, so what could OSE do that was different. Scrambler? Ok, but it’s been done. Brat Style? Same problem. Old skool-syled’ bike? This genre has also been covered and covered very well, too. But there was room in this category that could be filled. In the end there was the unusual thought of placing a sidecar in the design.
Sidecar? A sidecar! To a lot of people, road-going sidecars are simply tin and steel mechanical beasts of burden, first introduced at a time when the need for affordable family transport was a necessity. So as part of a custom-styled R nineT, the use of a sidecar you would, ordinarily, think ‘oh dear’! But the final design sketch undertaken by Holographic Hammer shows the true beauty of a modern day sidecar.
“We built an R 60 custom machine last year that we wanted to put a sidecar on,” explains Benoit. “But the customer said no. But it was something that was left in our minds to do one day and the Custom Contest was the ideal opportunity. The boys and I chatted about the idea and we all said that if we build a sidecar it must have knobbly tyres to take it off-road. We suddenly had inspiration and went for it. As it happens this idea has turned out pretty well so far.
“The R nineT carries old-school looks and fits well with the custom build aspect – as it was indeed designed to do. We can mess a little with the engine management and fuel system, and there aren’t major changes needed to happen with the chassis so the build doesn’t look to be difficult. The main problem we have is mounting a sidecar to the bike’s frame because it’s not a full frame; the engine acts as part of the frame; it is a stressed member. We are getting around this but it is time we really need.”
The sidecar outfit required to fulfil the OSE design is not going to be a hand-crafted individual item. Sidecar popularity is now on the increase again after they became unfashionable in the late 1960s. One sidecar manufacturing company that has survived recession and war on numerous occasions since it formed in 1912 has been Watsonian Squire. The basis for the OSE sidecar is the UK company’s lightweight sports chair model ‘GP Manx’. The chair will be subtly modified from standard with a different mudguard and wheel to suit the OSE design brief.
At this moment, the Watsonian Squire chair is fitted to the R nineT but only in what can be described as a ‘loose fit’. The chair arrived late from the UK, which meant the men at OSE had to work through the night in order to attach it to the R nineT frame and get it to Biarritz for the annual custom bike spectacular Wheels & Waves, where it was shown on the BMW Motorrad stand.
“It was good to show the bike, where it and OSE got an incredible reception at the BMW Motorrad exhibition,” says Benoit, before adding, “But now we have to make big efforts to complete in time with the schedule we have set ourselves. It will be finished in time for the BMW Motorrad Custom Party in Paris, in October. But we hope to complete earlier.”
This isn’t the end of the story of OSE and its build of the Custom Contest-winning bike. There is more to read and see about this fascinating bike and the process required in completing it at customcontest.motobmw.fr/index.html#/
There is also the story behind the jury and its decision to select the top three finalists of the Custom Competition, plus lots more. You can also find out more about the BMW R nineT at www.bmw-motorrad.com/rninet