published at 23.11.2016, 17:04

Sisters R doing it for themselves…

First female builders to customise a BMW R nineT

The impressive BMW R nineT custom builds just keep on coming and the latest one is the ‘Real Deal’, according to fans who saw it on the BMW exhibition stand at the Specialty Equipment Market Association Show (SEMA) in Las Vegas early in November.

Featuring detailed styling in homage to the landspeed racers that compete on the lakebeds of the USA, it has been crafted to perfection by two talented ladies that are well known in the custom world but have never worked on a BMW bike before. Judging by the reaction to their first Boxer-powered 9T custom special project, it surely won’t be their last.

Jessi Combs is well known in the USA as a racer, fabricator and TV personality. With a degree in custom automotive fabrication, she has inspired millions with her build skills on TV shows, such as All Girls Garage, Mythbusters and Overhaulin’, and her award-winning series, The List: 1001 Car Things To Do Before You Die. Recognized as the ‘Fastest woman on four wheels’ (477.59 mph/768 km/h), an Ultra 4 National off-road Champion and a Baja 1000 podium finisher, her desire to motivate more women (and men) to build their ideas, go fast and get dirty inspired the creation of the programme with Theresa Contreras.

Theresa – a machinist, graphic designer, custom painter, wife and mother – brings hands-on auto body shop experience and a love of motorsports to their creative partnership. Her custom paintwork has been seen on TV and graced the covers of numerous magazines, and she has contributed to major projects with the best in the industry.

For this BMW R nineT project, it was a baptism of fire for both girls, who are more used to working on cars, trucks and American V-twins than horizontally-opposed German boxer-twins, but that didn’t hold back their enthusiasm and creative flair one bit, as Jessi explains.

“Neither of us had ever built a BMW motorcycle before, let alone one with a boxer engine, but we like new challenges. Both of us own custom bikes: Theresa has a bobber and I have a chopper, and we lean more towards those genres, although we are not biased at all, especially when it comes to building new projects. After meeting up with a few other RealDeal ladies in Sturgis and discussing building a landspeed bike, we based the design off that very idea. The front fairing, the lamp grill, upgraded suspension, wide pegs and eventually NOS – we figured the speed and stability of it all gave an homage to the lakebeds.”

Busy work schedules and the day-to-day demands of everyday life put the usual time pressures on the build, not to mention Jessi getting diagnosed with Stage 3 Adrenal Fatigue syndrome right at the beginning of the build. But sometimes a fixed deadline focusses the mind and body and Jessi reckons that all told, there was probably about a month’s solid work that went into the project for both of them and fortunately there weren’t too many significant problems and challenges to overcome.

“As with every build, there are always hiccups, though nothing we couldn’t deal with,” she confirms. “There were none with the bike itself; just parts coming in on time, our finishes being perfect, and having to re-sew the seat in the last hour! The biggest challenge was me getting the adrenal fatigue. The doctors said I shouldn’t have enough energy to get out of bed. While this is a health issue to easily overcome with time and rest, I needed as much of it as I could, while still maintaining the busy schedules we already have. Thankfully, everything worked out in the end.”

Sources of inspiration certainly help in situations like this and thanks to the talents of bike builders across the globe, there are no shortages of BMW R nineT customs to look at, from Europe, to Japan, Australia and of course elsewhere in the USA, as Jessi is well aware.

“Of all the other 9T builds, I was particularly impressed with the work done by Roland Sands, Jeff Wright and Deus. Roland’s because they took it and made a custom line of parts off their builds – and we actually used some of them. Jeff Wright because he literally cut it up; and Deus, because they kept their clean vintage look, while massively changing the nineT’s original stance. Not all easy, quick builds, but it shows that there are many ways to go with this bike’s platform.”

This build was one of many ‘Real Deal’ projects that the two multi-talented ladies have completed in the hope of motivating other women (and men) in a way that breeds self-confidence, passion, creative development and greater community involvement. The duo enjoy the process of completely changing perspectives, whether it’s about how people perceive their abilities, or how a project looks after their involvement. Over the years, Jessi and Theresa have developed a professional relationship that simply works like clockwork – and this latest build was no exception.

“Theresa whipped me like a slave until parts were built so she could paint them – and she was great keeping me in check about the schedule,” laughs Jessi. “She created the design and rendering, we both dismantled the bike and made the new mounts and pieces and all the parts that hold it together. I fabricated the fairing and the tailcone, she did the paint and bodywork, I crafted the seat and we both chipped in on final assembly. We both have our unique skillsets, and we also know where we can co-create, so we work together fairly seamlessly.”

The finished R nineT custom project was ready in time for the SEMA Show in Las Vegas – the very place where the two well-known fabricators met four years ago. The show attracts some of the industry’s most innovative minds and inspires other motorcyclists to get creative themselves, so was undoubtedly the perfect venue to unveil their joint work. But what was the reaction of the SEMA show visitors to the bike?

“The first guy that saw it was begging to buy it,” confirms Jessi. “The rest of the show was beyond positive feedback – and we are still hearing the good vibes.”

Now the unique American-crafted BMW R nineT is on its way to California for the Long Beach International Motorcycle Show, where it will surely gain even more plaudits. There’s even serious talk of fitting nitrous oxide to it! The girls, meanwhile, have other fish to fry in Ventura, with the upcoming David Mann Chopperfest motorcycle art and culture show in December, where RealDeal will be among the featured exhibitors.

For more about Jessi Combs and Theresa Contreras, visit