Nigel's BMW Chopper Build
Having already built a very well-received custom BMW R NineT inspired by his RPS13 drift car, part-owner of Earnest, Nigel Petrie had the full faith of BMW Motorrad in Australia when it came time to tuck into his next project, a completely custom chopper based off the same beautiful vintage-styled BMW racer.
Nigel had been invited to be a featured builder at the world-famous Born Free show in California and needed to take things up a notch with the new build. Starting with a brand new R NineT, Nigel stripped the entire thing down in his workshop and began drawing up plans for custom — well — everything. A jig was created and the bike was initially visualised using strings, magnets, and vintage tyres to get a feel for the proportions. The concept behind this build was all about getting back to basics. Nigel explains: “This style of motorcycle came about in the 1960s when surplus war motorcycles were worth nothing and people built motorcycles to get away from it all. It ended up starting “bikie culture” and although things are different these days, that feeling of rolling along on something like this brings back that sense of freedom that some of us still search for.”
A vintage tyre was used for the jig because 21s seemed too small to Nigel, and 23s too big — it had to be a 22-inch diameter rim up front and an 18-inch out back. Unfortunately, 22s aren’t a thing in the modern motorcycle world. This was going to mean Nigel would have to fabricate his own wheels, too.
Inspired by the snowflake wheels seen on BMXs in the 1970s, Nigel began the painstaking process of fabricating custom wheels from scratch — these wheels alone took up hundreds of hours but the results are well and truly worth it when you see them bolted up to the frame.
Chromoly has been used for the frame and fork, which uses a custom carbon fibre spring system. Nigel has also converted the air-cooled flat-twin to carb using a pair of Smartcarbs and a magneto system, giving it the perfect pared-down look and sound.
The chopper is now nearing completion, with only a few bits and pieces left to finish off before it’s shipped over to California for Born Free. Unfortunately, thanks to Covid 19, Nigel won’t be able to go with it, which is a massive downer and perhaps takes a small amount of wind out of Nigel’s sails after so many late-night workshop hours have been spent on the project.
On the bright side, a deadline is always a great motivator, and even if Nigel can’t be there with his chopper in person, at least the thousands upon thousands of attendees at Born Free will be able to appreciate this one-of-a-kind rolling masterpiece.