Not all custom builds have to completely transform a motorcycle to catch our attention. Fresh on the heels of BMW Motorrad’s announcement of two new R18 models, the crew at Unikat Motorworks in Poland unveiled their own version of the behemoth Boxer.
Thanks to a fastidious customer they’ve revived the original R18 concept that had everyone talking. Nicknamed ‘Insomnia’ the Unikat BMW R18 is a pared-back version of the highly acclaimed Bavarian cruiser.
“The factory-produced BMW R18 is a motorcycle that is unique because it is the biggest boxer in the history of the Munich brand,” says Unikat frontman Grzegorz Korczak. “For me, its appeal begins when the ignition is started. I am used to the horizontal rock of Boxer cylinders but I did not expect such a powerful jerk. But once you stabilize the machine, a big smile appears on your face.”
Grzegorz’s hugely satisfying first ride on the R18 came courtesy of his customer and friend Dominik. No sooner than Grzegorz had turned off the ignition Dominik had a very appealing proposition for him.
“I felt the only disappointment with this model is the difference between the original BMW R18 concept and the production version,” Grzegorz admits. “Both Dominik and I agreed that the original look needed to be revived, improved upon and taken to public roads. It wasn’t easy, but it was well worth a few months of work.”
With Dominik’s R18 at his disposal, Grzegorz set out to not only transform the bike but to create a kit that other R18 owners could fit on their bikes too.
“We started by stripping the donor and then creating several digital visualizations of what we wanted to achieve,” says Grzegorz, however, as is always the case with concept renders, there were implementation challenges. Every modification had several goals and above all else, had to be legally compliant. Assessing these early was a key strategy of this Unikat project if it was to be a success.
In order to revert the factory-built R18 into the bike we saw unveiled at Villa d’Este back in 2019, Unikat identified a selection of key design elements that had to be recreated. Starting with the wheels they put together a custom set-up featuring a larger 18 inch rear and a 21 inch front. These were then wrapped in the same Metzeler ME888 rubber as the R18 concept and covered with slimmed-down tyre hugging guards.
Attention was then turned to the saddle.
Unikat’s R18 seat is closer to the bike’s original Bobber style saddle than the wedge-shaped factory unit. The seat is hinged at the front and floats over the frame at the rear. To help improve comfort the design features both height and forward/rear adjustment and has homologated lighting built into it. Unikat plans to offer the seat in a wide range of leather and stitch colour options and will supply them with matching leather grips.
To complement the revised seating arrangement Unikat’s R18 wears bespoke handlebars and risers and milled foot controls do away with the rubber covered factory versions. To keep things looking clean Unikat has also incorporated parts from the Motogadget catalogue. The underslung bar end mirrors are Motogadget mo.View Cafe glassless units and they’re held in place by m.Blaze disc bar-end indicators.
Perhaps the most significant of all the changes Unikat has made however is to the R18 exhaust.
The biggest complaint echoed across the internet after the unveiling of the production R18 was aimed at the sheer size of the goldfish-shaped mufflers. Unlike the concept bikes smaller, more angular exhausts – BMW’s Euro 4 compliant alternatives had some Motorrad fans turning up their noses. Unikat remedied this by fabricating their own set of silencers inspired directly by the concept bikes pipes. Each set will be built by hand and offered in either black or chrome finishes.
To complete the R18 transformation Unikat has installed a side-mounted LED-lit license plate holder. The bike’s air inlet covers and headlight ring have been finished in cosmic black paint and the engine wears machined aluminium Unikat emblems that can be personalised to suit customers requests.
“The entire project took no less than 100 working hours and several sleepless nights,” says Grzegorz. “I am particularly grateful to Dominik that he did not give up on the detail and quality he wanted. He motivated us by raising the bar and was ready to wait patiently.”
Unikat will be offering the R18 kit in their online store in the coming months. So if you’re an R18 owner wanting a bike more akin to the one that BMW won us all over with, be sure to follow them for updates.