There are many people who quite openly and publicly state there is nothing new in motorcycling. While it is true motorcycles have always required two-wheels, a chassis of sorts and an engine – and will continue to do so – there is definitely always something new 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 makes the bike new.
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 only occasionally one such custom built creation will contain enough engineering and design flair to make anybody with an appreciative eye stop dead in their tracks and say: “Wow, that’s new!
Creativity is a natural thing, whereas ability can be either natural or learned with experience. If you have both, you were either truly gifted as a child or are very, very experienced. 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 experience in rebuilding BMW Boxer-powered bikes and awesome custom Boxer BMWs started way back and on paper would read like a combo of novel and who’s who!
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 aka ability and creativity, 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 wreck of a 1980 BMW R 100 T. The actual toe-punt-up-the-bottom for Boxer Metal to build a custom bike was the need to exhibit the company’s talents at the 2016 The One Motorcycle Show (TOMS). With only seven weeks to the annual show, Chris and Rebecca had their work cut out. After all, such builds cost money and what little available budget there was had to be reserved for special parts Chris was already thinking about.
The original frame was in a poor state and had at some time in its abused life 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 engine 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. He also decided to make reality his desire to build yet another rigid-frame Bobber after a previous successful build in 2014. The one difference being this latest version would have some serious power for more of that delicious flat-twin shunt meaning this would have to involve serious ingenuity to fit not one but two turbo units and fuel injection to provide metered fuelling.
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.
To anyone who views “Mom’s Rocket” it is plainly obvious there’s a whole heap more involved work than an engine and frame upgrade. Little clues abound such as the gold candy flake and pinstriping sweetly applied to a Dnepr fuel tank. Or the Boxer Metal ‘big brake’ conversion. Or the old school Lester magnesium rear wheel, machined to accept the larger brake disc. Or... Or...
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.
Yes, Boxer Metal did complete 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.
“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.
“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, etc). In all, the reason why we picked it for the BMW award.”
The award itself perfectly represented the hard work Chris and Rebecca had put into the build. While every bike builder to exhibit at TOMS gets a memento piece from the show organizer, Thor Drake of See See Motorcycles, which is a very special thing of The One Show because the award pieces are all handcrafted by artists local to Portland and surrounding areas, the main award of a one-off Dehen 1920 produced workman jacket was very special.
“I was pretty well blown away,” said Chris, talking about the award ceremony. “I was standing behind my wife, holding onto her, when they announced it was time for the BMW Award. I started squeezing her tightly and that’s when they called us forward. We were rocked and stoked at the same time and, as we went forward, we kept looking at each other as if to say ‘did they really mean us?’ From that point on it all became a blur...”
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)!