Knight school is a motorcycle specific apprentice style education. In short, we teach the art of the motorcycle... through experience.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

BMW R90 cafe bike

This bike came to me as a rolling basket case. In other words, it was on wheels but many parts had already been removed. The perfect candidate for a cafe bike! BMW R90 1975. 900cc of smooth German engineering. Plenty of power to feel like you are really riding. I took the engine out of the frame and removed swing arm and forks. The picture below is of the engine as I got it. It runs, but needs a cleaning worse then my last dorm room. Those of you who know BMW airhead motors will note the electrics need attention. A custom harness is on the schedule. Usually the last thing I do on a bike of this nature. 

Check out the frame section being blasted. BMW frames are difficult to get all the nooks and crannies but it must be done right to hold paint well. 

Here  is the pile of parts I have to choose from. Wheels are nice, but spokes have rust. Headers are good but mufflers are too big for what I want. forks are nice, rear end is good. Over all this bike needs nothing big replaced. Tanks badges and some oil. 

Half way through paint. Yes it is hanging in the shop. No paint booth. If it were a tank and fenders I would be more careful, but remember we ride the piss out of what we build. Note the blue hue to the paint. This is a low budget black. It does not cover in one coat like some better paints do. I took the picture now because I had run out of paint! A base coat clear coat is being used to lend a little shine to the frame. Please note that this frame has had a number of tabs and mounts removed to make a cleaner final look to the project. 

Here is the swing arm before paint. Yes green oxide primer. In the lower right corner you can just see a bit of the tail section to the frame. In the back ground there are some wooden seat pans I was working on. I build them for all the antique bikes built between 1900 and the mid 1930s when the last wooden pan seats were built by factory seat makers. KNIGHT SCHOOL fabricates everything having to do with motorcycles!

Here is the tank after paint, but before polish...

Here it is after the polished inserts are installed. 

 Heres the tank with "double trouble" the chicken standing on it. Have I mentioned that the school has a mascot named Beep? He is a 12 pound rooster that lives in the shop. 

The frame came out nice and I could not resist putting the tank on it to see what it looked like. Engine gets cleaned and installed next. You can see it dirty and waiting on the floor. Reminds me of my last date...

Yes, Indian decals from a chief on my lift. Leftovers.
 I will clean the engine with some secret stuff that makes aluminum look fairly fresh. I say fairly because I want the bike to look its age, not like a full on restoration, because it is not. It is a custom bike that happens to be old. I want some thing I am not afraid to ride the piss out of. 

I put the engine in, or should I say put the frame on the engine. Install an "R" motor some time and you will know what I am talking about. But all is well, look mom, no scratches! Fitting a BMW engine to a frame without scratching the frame is almost impossible. 

Note the triple tree was on when I put the engine in. The frame likes to fall forward on the head tube when set down alone, so to make it more stable while I am F@#$%ng with it I put the trees on. 

Forks next, just slid them in because the trees were already on. 

On BMWs the trees are very precise so you need to open them with a screwdriver in the slot to widen the clamp so the fork leg will slide up to the top tree. Be cool, this can be an easy place to make a big mistake. Just open it, don't pry it open. I usually just take a flat screwdriver from the top and insert it in the split. Then tap it slightly until it holds itself in place, this should be enough to slip the leg up in place. 

Could not resist, I had to put the tank on to see how it looks. Helps keep me motivated. I mean, I had to put the tank on to make the strap.  Strap, yes it does actually hold the tank on! Nice "Y" shape on this one was a BMW specific thing. You will see in the next few photos that the frame has a gusset up front that lends itself to this set up. 
The red R100 has a straight strap with a gas cap hole in it, check it out. 

Here it is, check out the flat hooks I made for catching the gussets on the frame. Aluminum flat stock bent around to grab the frame and riveted to the leather. Rivets are cool...
Any good industrial builder likes rivets! 

Below is the back latch for the tank strap. As you can see it is spring loaded. This allows removal of the tank with a firm pull. Yes more rivets, Did I mention they are copper. This creates a cool look. Note the strap goes under the spring to cushion it against the paint. The rivets are recessed in the leather from the bottom to miss the paint. I don't know why, Paint scratches from real functional parts are cool. Yes I said it good honest wear is cool. 

Take note of the swing arm, I put it on. Not much to say, except KNOW HOW TO ADJUST A BMW SWING ARM CORRECTLY OR DON'T DO IT. This is one of those jobs I see so many garage guys screw up and the bike handles like crap and is frankly dangerous. Another thing to look at is the cylinders. They will change color here soon. Black cylinders, not heads, cylinders make bikes look older, so black it is!

Below we see the cylinder and head removed from the engine. BMWs are cool for this job because they stick right out in your face. Note all of the carbon build up on the piston. Remove it. Gas and a brass brush or if you are old school and bad ass, use a razor blade. I of course am bad ass. Razor blade for me. While this is open, inspect the inside of the engine the best you can. Note wear marks or metal dust. Look for anything out of order. If you don't know what the order is supposed to be then don't bother looking because you don't know what to look for. 

This is the cylinder after I pulled it off. I put the valve cover back on it to plug a giant hole from sand. Yes sand, I blasted this part as a component to save from having to find other ways to keep the sand out. Smart huh? Of course I had to plug the intake, exhaust and the cylinder hole which you can see here has duct tape and a cardboard plug over it. What you don't see and MUST be done is the head bolt holes. They are still open in this picture. Two of these run oil through them on a BMW. If you do not plug them say good bye to the engine an hour after you start it! 

Below we see the blasted and painted finished product. Every one uses high heat paint on cylinders. If regular paint burns off, your engine is running too hot. High heat paint is for header pipes and mufflers. It will likely burn off the first foot of your header no matter what it is. Don't write and argue with me, just test it for yourself. 

Here we are with the fresh cylinder and head installed on the engine. Is this a thing of beauty or what. Stop looking at the rusty starter, I have not replaced that yet. I will do that after the bike is running. 

Next we started putting controls back on the bike. Fresh paint and loss of some switches that only pansies use make these BMW factory controls actually look good. But the clubman bars and the GRIP TAPE for grips makes them "Rocker". If you don't know what that means, quit reading my blog until you do. Grip tape does some really cool things. It sticks to your hand like shit to a blanket and it does this in the rain too. No oily film feel to it like rubber grips. Did I mention it costs about $1.99 a roll depending where in the world you live. One roll does about four grips depending how thick you make the grips. 

Now look closely at this picture. you done? Note the split in the grip tape in the middle of the hand grip area. WTF? This is My patented half throttle. Only the half toward the controls twists. Why you ask? Because I like it that way. After years of riding fast shit you get tired of hitting a bump and having the throttle twist up and give the engine gas without actually intending to. I developed this for high horse power applications and have a hard time living without it. You throttle the bike up to where you want it and grip the outer half of the bar with your outside two fingers. This prevents the throttle from turning without you wanting it to. After you ride one you will never want to go back. If you make one for your bike, send me $5.00 and your name and I won't come after you for infringement! Unfortunately the grip tape is not a new idea! Try it on your next rat bike you will love it after some of the sticky goes away. 

Finally got to putting the seat together. A single sheet of aluminum cut in two and shaped into a pan. Easy to do if you remember one thing. Materials are cheap! I suggest the first time you try this method you use a paper pattern and some thin aluminum. 

Paper pattern picture here

First come up with the shape you like with a small bit of paper and then transfer the idea to a large, full size piece of paper. Cut, bend and fold this to create a life size portrait of your seat. Trust me the paper is a good idea. After it is done . Unfold it and use it for a pattern for the metal. 

Pattern on aluminium here

Transfer pattern to aluminium and cut out. Bend the 90 degree bends in the side first and then shape the round nacelle at the back. No, nacelle is not just a Star Trek term, it's an aviation term. Read a dictionary. I used a two piece construction method, but notice the patterns were one piece. On the one piece version, you can shape it all at once, with the two piece you will have to shape and then rivet together. Mmmm rivets. Gotta love a fastener that has to be pounded with a hammer. 

Pan half done here

After the pan has been shaped properly. Cut a piece of plywood to match the pan. Laminate some foam to the wood. Remember to leave some over hang for shaping. Thickness depends on your preference. After it dries and you have shaped the edges, cover with leather. Vinyl is for pussies. Can't find small quantities of foam? Steal it from the bottom side of the couch cushions. 

Wood pan with foam. 

Screw the whole thing together and there you have it a cafe seat. I use some heat form plastic on the bottom to rest on frame section for cushion so as not to take paint off. Attach pan to frame however you see fit. 

Picture of bike with seat on it. 

Next we will wire the bike. Just find my magic wand... 
and well poof a wire harness to match my bike. At least thats how most people view electrical work. Don't understand it, must be magic. Very easy if you know exactly what each component does. Just connect the dots. 

Friday, October 28, 2011

Suzuki Savage low budget chopper build

O.K. check this out. This is one of my favorite builds that a friend of mine over at BOB's CHOP SHOP started doing and I had to try one. I bought a broken down Suzuki Savage and built this beauty with the help of some of the students I used to teach at Wyofuck motorcycle tech school here in Fl. Simple build, but some things had to be done electrically as this thing is a huge single 650cc thumper. This means it has an electric decompression system on it. Be careful to not F#@$ it up! These pictures were actually taken before it was done. I see it is missing pipe wrap in these pictures, but you get the idea. Yes Ducatis and Triumphs in the back ground. This was done when I was assisting the great Chip Ream in the European class.  

Hard to tell, but the rear struts were nice aluminum bars. The seat was made from garment leather with a wooden pan under it. Two skills you will learn at KNIGHT SCHOOL.  Handle bars were a custom set built by SUICYCLE MFG. They had a half throttle tube on them so you can grip the throttle tube and the bar at the same time to keep the throttle from jumping when you hit bumps in the road. Cool option for a low budget build. Little tail light on the back of the seat. I sold this to a local guy as his first bike. I think he still rides it to work every day. You may know this bike as an S40 boulevard. Really nice chopper for under $3,000! 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

1968 Honda Benly

This is a freshly painted 1968 Honda Benly. Commonly called a mini dream. It of course is not a dream, but a Benly. 160cc twin engine powers this little bike to an amazing 65 mph. At least it did before I took it apart! Some very cool things about the design of this little bike attract me to them. Uni-body construction reminds me of some European bikes and scooters I do. The rear sprocket stays on the swing arm when the wheel is removed. Thats cool. I love the front fender with the "Darth Vader" splash guard. The leading link suspension in the front is cool too. O.K. so the bad things now. "You meet the nicest people on a Honda". Who cares how nice the guy is? He's riding a Honda. The uni-body is cool, but a bitch to restore. It is more like working on a car than a bike. Difficult to do correctly, many places hard to sand. I was lucky, this one had no rust holes. Imagine if it had the bottom six inches rusted off! 

Her are the rest of the parts, minus the chrome stuff. Not back yet. Chroming is the one thing we here at KNIGHT SCHOOL do not do in house. For those of you that do not know why, it has to do with toxic chemicals and federal regulations. Send it out. Notice the color differences in the paint and the original plastic covers on the right. We are still debating on painting them, polishing them or replacing them. The original badges are sitting on the red box. Very nice condition for as old as they are. 

Here is a standard photo of the parts needing chrome. Take this photo and send it with the parts for reference so the chrome guy can know he has all of your parts. Keep a copy for your records, so you know you have gotten all of it back! Can you identify all these parts? 

More as we progress. 

Monday, October 17, 2011


This is a full on build from the ground up. All aluminum frame from scratch. Front fork from scratch. Modified wheels and hubs. Engine mounts, seat, gas tank, controls and so on all built from scratch. NO bolt on magic like the TV guys! Even the engine is a 1937 that had to be rebuilt. Guess where... you got it right here at KNIGHT SCHOOL.  The small 98cc two stroke engine produces just this side of no power, but is cool and looks good and will haul this little bike around at about 45MPH. 

The fork is a hand built girder out of a .75 inch thick bar of aluminum. Fully machined in the KNIGHT SCHOOL machine room with NO plans. We used a method of machining both sides at once so they would fit each other, but it does not require a set plan. More of an artistic approach. OLD SCHOOL for sure. It is becoming a lost art. Here at the school we do most everything by hand. It teaches the art at a fundamental level. After that understanding has been reached the students can make the leap to modern methods and machines more easily then going the other direction. Check out the raised squares for strength and looks. The neck bearings are from a mountain bike company that specializes in really durable parts. Plenty of strength for this project.

Check out the rotor on this little hub. I had to machine the hub a bit to accept it, but there it is. The wheel is originally off of a Suzuki 80cc dirt bike. The tires are old Pirellis I had lying around from a simplex or something. The fork has a good two inches of travel in it. When a larger one is built for a full size bike, it will increase to about four inches. 

This is the beginnings of a gas tank. Its design is good, but may not make the final cut. We may go with a more rounded design as this one has a sixties square look to it. 

This is the lower section of the frame. We put the rear wheel stay tubes through the cross brace and will eventually weld them to the brace, but not until everything fits well. The arrow points to the foot peg "notch" that has not been cut yet. The two outside tubes will be bent in to meet the center tube and welded in place to make a nice "arrowhead" shape under the engine. This will also increase strength of the frame. The top of the engine can be seen in the lower left.

Here is the engine. I took this from a parts bike I had that was a 1937. Note the intake port on the side of the cylinder. Typical early two stroke design. 

Below is the right side wheel mount complete with recessed channel for the nut. This makes a clean look. These parts were made from a 1.0 inch plate aluminum. Note I have not put a rear brake on it yet. I am building small cable pull calipers to match the small rotors. I think both brakes are going to be fixed to one lever on the bars eliminating the foot pedal for the back break. A nice clean look and plenty of stopping power for a bike that will not weigh more than 100lbs. 

These are the internal, reverse levers we made for the NSU. The lever itself is a 90 degree angle that pulls a cable out toward the end of the handlebars from the inside when pulled in. These are a cool part for any bike and as is with the fork, we are testing them on the small bike to prove the concept and then we will make full size parts for a large bike.  

Check out the "clubman" style bars. Yes they are mounted that way to lower the grip height helping the rider to lower his front reducing wind resistance! You think your LS 650 needs less wind resistance, what about the venerable 98 NSU Quick motor? 

We are thinking of using an Indian racer seat from the teens on this project. Here is a rare photo of a lot of them built in the famous SADDLE SHOP in Edgewater Fl. If you look at the fourth one to the right you will notice it is slightly smaller than the others. The larger ones are Mesinger racers and the smaller is the Indian racer. Wooden seat pans, built at KNIGHT SCHOOL for the Saddle shop. Covered in leather  and shipped all over the world to collectors of fine motorcycles everywhere. Email me for contact information on the Saddle shop. 

More as we progress! 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

"Snap tight" chopper I mean Custom chopper

Check out this chopper we built. All purchased parts, but went together with some difficulty. 

 Fairly large ULTIMA motor in it. Note the horn on the carb. I must say it went like hell down the road.

Monday, October 10, 2011

K75 BMW rat bike cafe

This is an old K75 I built into a cool every day bike. Sorry about the pictures, not the best but I sold it not knowing I had not gotten the side shots I wanted. As you can see the tank was polished out. Love aluminum! The bars were changed to almost strait with no rise and the frame was shortened a foot to make a single seat ride out of it. The seat of course had to be shortened as well. All the plastic except the belly fairing was removed. Head light was replaced with one from a Ducati monster.  

Very difficult to see is the short muffler we built for it. It was shortened to show off the single side swing arm. The unfortunate byproduct was it was as loud as hell. Not my thing. 

Note the sheet aluminum fender. 

See the bungie ball hanging off the bar along the fork tube. Drink holder, no shit , you figure it out.

Bike was loads of fun to ride and got tons of attention from people trying to figure out what it was. When the BMW guys would ride up and realize it was a BMW they were visibly disturbed...  Loads of fun. The build cost me $200. Oh yeah...
I will do another some day. 

BMW R100 Airhead cafe racer

Here is a bike we built when I was an instructor at Wyotech in Daytona. Please note the student photos. I coached, they built. Until Wyotech destroyed the bike. 
                                                    But don't worry, happy ending. Love happy endings!

 Will this poor engine ever be the same...
                                 Never fear I checked every part before it was assembled.

                             A girl and a red shirt doing frame work?
What the hell is a red shirt? If you attend Wyotech and get good grades they give you a red shirt. They call it an "eagle tech".  Meant to give you something to shoot for but just pissed everyone off because it was academic not hand skill based.

This was written on the bathroom stall wall at school almost every day. 

Here is the crew that built the original bike. Original you ask? Yes. Original implying there is a copy...

Copy it is! All the way down to finding an actual R100. I of course owned many of the parts from the original bike so there are some things that came directly off of the first one. The seat, carbs, triple tree and so on.

Here is a view of the tank strap that holds the tank in place, very thirties racer. The seat is glove leather over closed cell pad with a wood base bolted to an aluminum pan that has been hand shaped out of one piece of sheet. I am happy to send you a copy of the design of the pan so you too can make one. Just hit my email with a request. Make sure you know what the hell you are asking for. No time for B.S.
 Note the single sided swing arm. 1980 saw the first single sides for BMW on their GS models. I tracked one down, but the wheel proved all but impossible to find. One left in Berlin for a mere $1000! Not gonna pay it so I am building a hub to fit the rear end.

A nice picture of the rear end. The first ones were three bolt hubs. I would not pay for one so the picture below shows the beginning of my solution.

I took a  drum from an earlier bike, actually an R90 I bought came with an extra wheel... Nice. The top picture is the inside of the drum. The bottom picture is of the welds on the outside. I chopped a hole in it and welded in a slug and now I will true it up and drill the three holes in it. Respoke it and there we have it a 1979 single side spoked wheel BMW R100 bad ass cafe bike. Did I mention the engine work? Did you see the deep oil pan?