Unveiled in 2013 as part of BMW’s 90th anniversary celebrations, the R nine T was the company’s reply to the plethora of ‘retro’ models hitting the market from the big 4 Japanese manufacturers.
This being BMW though, their nod to the past was backed-up by some up-to-the-minute innovations, with the biggest surprise perhaps coming from the all new tubular steel frame and the ditching of their Telelever front forks for a more traditional inverted set.
The end result was a very attractive and useable looking retro roadster that had the world’s motorcycle press giving BMW a well-deserved pat on the back. But somewhere in the Neihu District of Taipei City, someone from BMW Motorrad Taiwan held out his bowl like Oliver Twist and asked for more. With a close watch being kept on Taiwanese born rising star, graphic designer and custom bike builder Winston Yeh, when the good folks at BMW Taiwan looked for someone to customize their R nine T, Yeh’s Rough Crafts company was a no-brainer. ‘Funnily enough,’ says Yeh, ‘I had been talking to Ola Stenegard, (BMW’s Head of Vehicle Design) many times at various bike shows around Europe about what we could do together, so when BMW Motorrad Taiwan asked me to customize an R nine T, Ola heard about it and the project became an officially endorsed ‘Soul Fuel’ build.’
The Soul Fuel Challenge, which saw custom bike builders from the USA to Japan invited to create customized versions of the R nine T, was actually Stenegard’s brainchild, and with a background in industrial design and riding old school chops it was hardly a surprise that BMW’s Head of Vehicle Design should get on so well with Yeh.The end result of the collaboration was the Rough Crafts’ Bavarian Fistfighter, a nod towards the Western European love of stripped down race rep streetfighters with a heavy dose of attention to detail, beautiful design and superbly executed engineering that has become Winston Yeh’s signature trademark.
Restricted by Taiwan’s stringent vehicular laws regarding the altering of factory manufactured motorcycles, as unbelievable as it seems, Yeh made minimal alterations to the Fistfighter’s frame, its heavily modified looks instead coming from the clever repositioning of the battery fuel pump and electronics box inside the bikes hand crafted aluminum fuel tank.
Taking their design cue from almost every era of BMW’s evolution, the 1970’s inspired gas tank, with its engraved brass badges, was complimented by a 50’s style handmade leather saddle which sits on a slightly modified sub frame. ‘The Bavarian Fistfighter is a tribute to the past, mixed with modern technology,’ says Winston ‘and our main design aesthetic was to blend the beautiful lines from the past with modern finishes.’
No café racer would be complete without a cut down fairing, and the factory’s iconic R 90 S airhead gave Winston the idea for the Fistfighter. This was finished with an offset headlight and grill and a perforated section which provides airflow to the oil cooler behind.Whilst attending design college in the United States, Winston got the chance to work with legendary customs bike builders Jesse Rook and Roland Sands, both he says, played a huge part in influencing his own particular blend of beautifully engineered works of two wheeled brutality. The collaboration with Sands continues to this day, with RSD supplying the engine covers which were then given the Rough Crafts treatment. A wonderfully subtle paint job featuring silver leaf stripping and faded carbon fibre detailing was carried out by Winston’s favorite paint shop, Air Runner Paint, providing the finishing touch and tying-in all elements of the Fistfighter’s overall aesthetic. But as appealing as the bike’s crouched aggressive stance is to look at, Winston insists that the Bavarian Fistfighter is ‘not only a showpiece, but also a track attacking machine,’ a fact backed-up with thick rubber donuts left by the rear Pirelli Diablo 17’’racing slick at more than one custom show. At the Essenza Sprint in Cologne, a standing 1/8 of a mile drag strip run of 5.45 seconds with German Superbike racer Markus Reiterberger in the saddle, also proved beyond doubt that show and go can go hand in hand.Attention to detail, outside of the box design and skillfully executed engineering, have all helped to give Rough Trade the tough as nails look that permeates all their builds and the Bavarian Fistfighter is no exception. Watch out world, Winston Yeh is heading your way.