Speed / August 2017

Custom Build: Roughchild Motorwerks BMW R75/5

Combining a rugged scrambler aesthetic with the purity of a café racer, Roughchild Motorwerks builds some of the most alluring custom BMW motorcycles in the world.

The finished article; a custom 1971 BMW R 75/5, built by Roughchild Motorwerks.

The search for my dream motorcycle began in earnest. Weeks went by and floods of emails were sent, only to find the digital roadside littered with rusting wrecks, and Frankenstein perversions of the bike I was yearning for: a vintage BMW R-series. Its iconic headlight butchered, its graceful fuel tank chopped, brakes and shocks baring the neon-chrome discards of the cringey post Fast and Furious era. In this nauseating sea, the clean, minimal, reverent builds of Robert J Sabel - founder of custom workshop, Roughchild Motorwerks - stood alone.

So I went to meet the man himself in his east Los Angeles garage, where Roughchild Motorwerks is headquartered. Robert’s approach to design became clear in the builds lining his workshop. While every motorcycle was unique, each shared a certain bare-naked restraint. The silhouettes were skeletal yet remained classic, and paintwork was more ‘patina’ than ‘pimp’. Having spent the last six years increasingly immersed in BMW motorcycle restorations, Robert had focussed his Motorrad pallette to a few certain years and models - to bikes that performed beautifully, yet boasted a reliability that had earned them the right to cruise on any modern speedway.

While Robert has built everything from track day ready R90s, to rare R27s as well as '70s Ducati-inspired café racers, he was quick to develop a house style that generally falls somewhere between the rugged utility of a scrambler and the sleek minimalism of a café racer, all while staying true to the original design of the bikes he chooses to work on. This notion of removing unnecessary design flourishes seems to be the trademark of a new generation of designers who are building on an audience well-versed in quality and design. While Robert’s work stands out in the motorcycle universe, he joins a growing lists of names in the greater design field.

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Robert Spangle