Final: Aguiar-BMW R 65


Final: Aguiar-BMW R 65

Final: Aguiar-BMW R 65

BMW custom bike from California

MOTORRAD correspondent David Folch took a look at Rodney Aguiar’s BMW creations. In addition to the boxer engines bought on eBay, he discovered the builder’s artistic talent.

The first Rodney creation I saw was at an exhibition in San Mateo, a city near San Francisco. It was a BMW R 80. Finely crafted in all simplicity, with black spoked wheels, matt black paintwork on the frame, fork and headlights and with nothing more than yellow dots on the tank and strut. A small leather saddle like from a bicycle, actually nonexistent silencerthis machine made me curious about the builder, who is based in California and deals with German scrap material.

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Final: Aguiar-BMW R 65

Final: Aguiar-BMW R 65
BMW custom bike from California

R 65 to drive. So one fine spring morning I find myself in Fullerton near San Francisco, where Rodney has moved into a small villa. "I will soon be building a workshop in the garden, then I can finally gather all my motorcycles in one place." Rodney works at Roland Sands, a well-known supplier of custom parts and motorcycles, where he builds precious custom pieces. For example the top secret prototype of a Ducati cruiser or a supermoto for Ben Spies.


Where the original has a complete rear frame screwed on, only a minimalist saddle and strut support stretches out.

"If you mess around with motorcycles all week, it kills all desire to do the same thing over the weekend." So he loathes the big American twins. You also have to know that Rodney is just as much an artist as a craftsman and prefers to stay away from the hustle and bustle of TV shows about fashion customizers like the jokes from Orange County or Jesse James, the unfaithful husband of Sandra Bullock. "Before he did his show and became a self-proclaimed star, he just tied his parts together", says Rodney.

Why does he then tell me about a mechanical device that he has built and which, with the help of chains and push rods, does the word on a mechanical typewriter without ceasing "nothing" is typing?

Back to our black and green R 65. The steering head angle of the self-made frame is somewhere between 62 and 63 degrees, so flatter than the original. The paintwork and details were carried out with the greatest care. Rodney recalls the making: "It took me three months to do that alone. I still had a lot of time back then. Oh yes, I sewed the saddle myself. So if I had to sell them I would ask around 16,000 euros." So I take a particularly careful place on the handlebars, careful not to damage the unique piece and the unruly mechanics, which do not deny their age. The boxer breaks out into an almost cavernous sound. In the saddle, without the option to bend your knees, the lack of a conventional tank is really noticeable. The staggered notches don’t leave my big feet a lot of space between the cylinders and the carburettors, but I was told that that’s the way it is with old BMWs. So I hit the gas and let this fast-revving, almost poisonous little engine drag me forward.


Frame, tank and not much else. Everything is unveiled. It doesn’t get any simpler or easier, probably also no more matt black.

On the small mountain roads that Rodney took me to for the driving shots, the front end feels pretty sluggish when turning. Not exactly pleasant at a slow pace, but calming when you hit a faster rhythm. But if you build your frames yourself, you can also develop their geometry further and set the steering head a little steeper the next time.

First and foremost, the chassis is the result of a wild stylistic patchwork, the handling played a minor role in its creation. The spring elements are designed to be pleasant and comfortable; it is true that Rodney introduced me to this bike as a cruiser. Given their origins (GSX-R 1000), it shouldn’t surprise anyone that the brakes bite quite hard.

It is not without regret that I follow the designer on his way home. Strolling around the coast a few miles more, a few days – that would have been just the thing to get completely familiar with this very special BMW that this no less special person built.

Portrait Rodney Aguiar


Rodney Aguiar – California custom bike maker.

The builder of the minimal BMW has created a rich mechanical oeuvre.

Rodney Aguiar is the grandson of a sailor in the Portuguese Navy who literally jumped overboard while on a voyage to Hawaii to settle in California. After a first life as a system manufacturer – he installed filling valves for gas stations – he sold his company and took a few years off to devote himself entirely to the construction of mechanical works of art. For ten years he and a partner had a workshop that restored cars for collectors. His friend, the customizer Roland Sands, asked him for advice a few times, and the two have been working together for three years. Rodney doesn’t want to turn his private passion for mechanical works of art into a business: "As soon as money comes into play, there are problems." So he prefers to experiment, build a Honda 450 CRF with all-wheel drive or turbocharger a venerable R 80. Get them working without knowing exactly what is important. He achieved his bravura piece with a monster of a motorcycle, in which he combined a 250 hp twin-disc rotary engine from Mazda with the swing arm and cardan drive of an R 1150 R..

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