By James McCombe - 22 Oct 14
No suave introduction, no attempted punnage, no interesting facts to start this article with. Just look at that bike. That is a K-series BMW looking as it's never done before. Like finding your Uncle likes to dress up in suspenders at the weekend and have everyone call him Mrs Haberdasher, some things just have to be seen to be believed. The bike was built by Larry Romestant of Special-K Customs to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Irv Seaver Motorcycles in Orange, California honouring the owner Evan Bell; hence the moniker 'Bell Kaff'. Channeling some serious Paul Smart Ducati with an abundance of other classic European influences, Larry has taken this K-Series to a place many could never have thought possible. Inspired by the German, British, and Italian cafe's of the late 60's and early 70's polished aluminium is in abundance. The tank shows hints of a '74 MV Agusta, the seat emulates the Ducati 750/900 Super Sports, finished with a Ducati 900SS OEM CEV tailight. That this could so easily have gone wrong, it's a huge credit to Larry that the bike is so cohesive and not, as per his own words, "looking cobbled together". The goal was to build a bike that could have been produced by BMW and found on the dealer's showroom floor, even with the 1200cc Flying Brick motor that would not be available for another decade. To begin,the basics; being nothing but basic. The melding of a 1997 K1100LT trellis frame to a powerhouse 2004 K1200RS cherry picks some of the best components of the horizontal K-Series bikes and required some careful consideration. Normally residing in a twin spar aluminum frame, the trellis required additional spars rather than relying on the engine as a stressed member. Rather than just visual interest, the additional struts have been cleverly mounted by rose joints to allow lateral flex when the bike is pushed hard, whilst stiffening the backbone of the bike considerably. The frame bolts up to a differential and swingarm sourced form a late 70's R-Series, widened and stiffened, taking advantage of the modularity of the BMW shaft drive system. The rear hub is a one-off, turned from a solid billet of 7075 aluminum, cleverly aping the looks of the Suzuki GT750 sourced 4 leading shoe drum up front. Although considered by many to be the pinnacle of production drum brakes, Larry has implemented a patent pending cable-hydraulic-cable actuation system, hidden under the tank, to further assist in reigning back the power of the flying brick. As it happens, the bike is considerably lighter than the original K-Series, but it's still 45kg more than the Suzuki that donated the front brake. Resultantly Larry has developed 250 and 300 mm drums of his own design to adorn future builds. The four cylinder lump has received equal attention. K1200 throttle bodies are fed by oversize inlet runners and larger injectors providing that buttery smooth engine with enough air and petrol to be good for 145 bhp at the crank; about 122 bhp at the rear wheel. The standard Bosch ECU means a surefire reliable ignition and is hidden in the seat hump along with the other unsightly electrics. The engine exhales through a Magni style hand made 4 into 4 exhaust system, with unequal length headers and perforated baffles for a fruity burble. The front forks are donated from a K75s and are stiffened with a period Tarozzi fork brace. Classic British inspiration shows through in the rear shocks, held in Velcoette inspired adjustable pre-load mounts; the Smiths gauges up front, another nod. The Italian influence is clear in the Imola Green paint for the frame, a clear reference to 74 Ducatis and of course a certain Mr Paul Smart. The aesthetic scourge of the water-cooled engine, the radiator does a great job of being a wallflower, not detracting the eye from the sea of polished aluminium. Wrapping the custom built wheels, Bridgestone Spitfire II tyres keep the power in check. Although no featherwieght at 238kg, it must be remembered this started out as a 4-cooled four cylinder tourer and Larry has shaved more than 40kg from the unladen weight. Combined with 'more than adequate' power and fully uprated chassis components in every area, the finishing touches all over this bike show a deep consideration for function as well as form. The custom gauge bracket includes a full brace of jewel lights and even a gear indicator, this is a bike you'd be happy to ride every day, though I'd buy shares in Autosol first! Cafe styling, classic European aesthetics and a level of engineering a cut above the average, this bike holds its own against anything I've seen. That it's built upon such an unexpected source is just the icing on this shiny cake.. For more of Larry's imaginative K-Series builds, head over to his site Special-Ks.