Custom Builder Shinya Kimura Transforms BMW R 18 Into A Whale


Custom motorcycle builder Shinya Kimura is well-known in chopper circles. The father of the so-called “Zero Style”, Kimura founded Zero Engineering in 1992 before moving to Azusa, California to start Chabott Engineering in 2006. Throughout his prodigious career, Kimura has embraced Japan’s Wabi-sabi art form, capturing the beauty of imperfection by favoring a freeform process and handmade pieces.

Following Roland Sands and Dirk Oehlerking’s take on the BMW R18, the House of Munich reached out to Kimura to bring his distinctive style to the new big-bore cruiser. The Japanese builder maintained his process with the project by prioritizing feel and inspiration over blueprints or mockups.

“I rode the standard R 18 for a few hundred kilometers to get to know the character of the bike,” noted Kimura. “Following a whole series of conversations, this eventually led to my personal interpretation of the R 18, in which I applied the entire range of my activities as a customizer.”

To suit the big boxer to his riding style and tastes, Kimura extended the fuel tank rearward, adding an extra gallon of capacity for longer trips. A new subframe raises the seat height and rear set pegs give the rider a bit more legroom. A bucket-style seat upholstered by Japan’s Backdrop Leathers increases comfort while a hand-shaped tail section takes the R 18 in another direction stylistically.

Up front, Kimura installs a metal bubble fairing with two asymmetrical headlights. The fairing’s organic shape and teeth-like design elements align with the project’s “The Wal” (German for whale) build name. Kimura takes that thematic connection even further with the bodywork’s hammered surface texture and bronze powder coat finish.

The BMW R 18 may be a classically styled cruiser, but Shinya Kimura proves that it’s a versatile platform for those with a vision and some serious shop skills.



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