Spirit Lake Cycle’s workshop, based in downtown Los Angeles, creates motorcycles that are not onl functional but have a unique style. According to Brian Sloma, builder and partner with Ken Chan,
“A vintage BMW is the quintessential blank canvas for a custom builder.”
Airheads from the ‘70s have become popular base bikes for cropping and bobbing, so when Brian saw the old R90/6, he saw the potential. “It has a strong frame and motor with a large touring style tanks and body work,” he said. Yet he also had a vision. “I wanted it to look wonderful with my favorite Carbon fiber helmet. Also, there seems to be a smaller more agile and attractive bike hiding beneath its frumpy exterior.”
The bike started as a completely stock 1976 BMW R90/6 and went through a preliminary customization stage before being stripped down to the frame. Ken says they liked the smaller lines of a mid-70s Honda CB tanks and found a CB360 tank to fit the bike first. Adding a hooped tail, reupholstered leather seat, new headlight and aluminum fenders, gave it a custom Blitz and Brat feel but it wasn’t a finished project. The bike was ridden for a little while until the decision was made to strip it down completely and do a frame-off build of the bike.
Brian now had the base bike he wanted. “Once you get all the parts off you can really see what it could be. The motor has such a cool Art Deco, almost aircraft style, and the frame is simple and clean.”
The process began with cropping the tail, welding and many hours of hammering the seat/tail with steel plates. A new seat was fabricated, designed to flow from the fuel tank in a continuous line and—surprisingly—it was decided to go without upholstery. The design called for the tank to flow into the seat almost uninterrupted with the classic BMW-style pin striping running all the way to meet the off-center tail light.
A new set of shocks was added, necessitating new lower shock mounts to be welded on. The frame was then powder coated black. They chose to nickel-plate the upswept exhaust, front forks, rear hub, kickstand and foot controls for a warmer tone than chrome. The unique shuttered headlight, originally a fog light from a 1960’s truck, and sourced from Garage Company in Inglewood, was then also powder coated and polished.
The resulting CBMW, as it’s called, being part CB and BMW, shows a respectful tribute to vintage BMW style. Brian says, “With the CBMW I tried to make the beautiful streamline bikes from the early 30s? In my mind it would be the CBMW, a smaller tank and seat with high sweeping exhaust and that classic BMW black and white paint scheme.”