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Give Denver Cramer and Liely Faulkner two wheels and there’s a fair bet the Melbourne-based industrial designers will hit the road, Jack. Mountain bikes, road bikes, scooters and, of course, motorcycles…it doesn’t matter. If it hauls arse, they’ll haul arse on it.
Denver and Liely are best known for their uniquely designed whisky and gin glasses, which have found a keen following worldwide. Little wonder, then, that the pair wanted to marry their shared love of wheels and wild rides with their passion for whisky and wild spirits.
Inspired by their friends at KustomKommune, a Melbourne-based communal motorcycle workshop, the boys decided to see whether they could apply some of their winning design philosophies to a custom motorcycle build. “We love travel, we love bikes and we love having a few drinks with mates,” says Denver. “This is our way of combining all three.”.
Growing up in the 1980s, Denver and Liely really respected the industrial aesthetic and build of BMW's K100, nicknamed “the flying brick”. These bikes are also reasonably priced, compared to their fashionable but expensive flat-twin R brothers, which leaves more funds for customisation.
The first job was to hunt down a K100 in reasonable nick. The pair knew there were plenty of cheap high-milers out there but usually they’ve been ridden into the ground. Fortunately, Denver and Liely unearthed a 1988 model with 65,000kms on the clock, which is relatively low for K100s.
The bike also came with a service log book that provided some great insights into the history of the bike. Originally, the K100 was purchased in Germany by a buyer in the United Kingdom, who rode it around Europe, including the harsh and unforgiving terrains of Russia. In the late 1990s, the owner moved to Australia with the bike, selling it to his brother, who lived in the country’s second-largest city, Melbourne.
After a brief test ride, Liely bought the bike, riding it straight to his garage. Over the next few weeks, Denver and Liely got to work, first stripping the original bike of all its unnecessary parts.
"We probably dropped about 50 kilos of compressed fiberglass fairings, luggage boxes, and other parts unnecessary for the minimal look we were going for,” says Liely,
“The bike even had a tape deck and speakers that weighed a shit-ton. It was great to see this all stripped away. It gave us some idea of what the bike could be.”
Liely admits the initial tear-down is one of the most enjoyable parts of a bike build and, on this occasion, it was no different. “It’s just a heap of fun,” he says. “And incredibly satisfying.”
With the extraneous parts removed, the focus switched to bringing all the base mechanics up to scratch. All fluids and filters were changed and a new water/oil pump was fitted to keep the lifeblood of the engine flowing. The bike was treated a full brake system rebuild and various 30-year-old seals and bits of rubber were all replaced. Fortunately, most of the new parts needed were still available online.
In addition, the “low maintenance” driveshaft splines, a common wear point on these bikes, remained in great shape, so they were lubed up and put back together. With the new parts added, Liely believes the bike is now mechanically sound for at least another 100,000kms.
While Denver and Liely had some pretty cool design ideas for the bike, they decided to focus on building a classic-styled adventure travel bike. “We wanted something wecould ride to a remote location, set up camp and crack open a whisky with mates around a campfire, all while looking retro cool,” says Liely.
To maintain a classic look, the pair wanted to concentrate on minimising the use of plastic and paint while maintaining raw materials, where possible. The fuel tank and various aluminum parts were hydro-blasted back to raw metal and polished. “We didn't want this to be too shiny, we wanted to maintain an industrial aesthetic and be true to the amazing build quality and materials of BMW’s original,” says Liely.
At the same time, other improvements were made to bring the bike up to more modern standards. A new custom-tuned Wilbers rear shock was added to replace the worn out original, while the classic Brembo front forks were also rebuilt with more modern internals without compromising the bike’s original appearance.
“Probably the most challenging part of the build was modifying the stock wiring harness to suit the new minimal look gauge,” says Liely. Unlike other bikes of the era, K100s rely on a big and ugly stock dash unit for critical electrical decisions of the bike. So when aftermarket gauges are used, basically the bike won’t run. Luckily, a Swiss company has developed a product that plugs into the wiring harness and solves some of these issues. However, a fair bit of study of the bike’s wiring diagram was still needed to get it all wired up and working.
Other changes from the original were new LED lights from PurposeBuiltMoto in Brisbane. Powder coated rims and a fresh set of Shinko all-terrain tyres were fitted to complete more of an off-road look. The boys also designed a hand-stitched seat in weathered leather, which they had made by a Melbourne-based upholsterer.
Using a laser cutter and welder, Denver and Liely custom-designed and built all of the bike’s new metalwork, such as the seat pan, headlight mount, and various brackets. "A good friend of mine, who has a manufacturing facility, helped us with any welding we required,” explains LIiely. “But the experience definitely made me want to learn how to TIG weld, it’s such a cool process."
With the rebuild done, Liely is clear. He and Denver built the bike to ride. “There are a lot of sexy builds on the Internet but some are completely impractical,” he argues. “One of our challenges was to make this thing look cool but still be practical to ride and pass safety requirements." Importantly, this fits with the duo’s design principles. Whatever they produce has to be functional.
During the build, the two designers also were working on a new project – a double-walled stainless steel metal flask to carry premium spirits while adventuring in the outdoors. What better way to celebrate their new spirit flask called the Traveller than to build a bike to honour it, which allowed Denver and Liely to toast both new designs.
Sweetening the deal, they also constructed a special rack to carry a couple of the flasks on the back of the bike (only for use once you reach your destination, of course).
“By going through this process it gives us inspiration and contacts for collaborating on future design work,” says Denver. “We really enjoy going through this process and have a bunch more ideas for future builds.”
What those ideas might be? Liely shrugs. “It will involve adventure, and something to do with fine spirits is a fair bet,” he smiles.