Motorcycles have a special way of healing us and preserving our sanity in a world that can be incredibly chaotic and painful. So it was for Duc Tran, a young father in Austin, Texas, who’s been taking care of his cancer-stricken father for the past year.
In need of a project, Duc picked up a 1981 BMW R65 as a custom project. While juggling a full-time job, three kids, and a budget, he managed to put together one of the loveliest airhead builds we’ve seen of late. Most importantly, he wishes to dedicate this bike to his father, who passed away from lung cancer last month. What an incredible tribute from a son to his father.
BMW R65 Tracker: In the Builder’s Words
I have a custom ’93 BMW K75, but have always been intrigued by the Airheads. The unique engine was the big draw for me. As of late, finding an affordable donor bike was not easy. On top of that, my wife and kids were adamant that I can’t get a second bike. It was a bit of luck that I came across the R65. A co-worker has a neighbor who’s a motorcycle collector. He wanted to reduce his collection and decided to sell me the R65 at a very affordable price. To convince my better half, I told her I needed an outlet since we’ve been taking care of my cancer stricken dad this past year. I’m glad she agreed. I’m not a mechanic or a bike builder. This is a garage hobby/passion of mine that I juggle between work as a supply chain manager and raising a young family (3 kids).
The R65 came with full Luftmeister front fairing and hard cases. All of it came off along with the rear subframe/seat. I wanted the bike to be as light as possible given the weaker 650cc engine. Since the engine was mechanically sound, I left it alone. I also wanted the modifications to be completely reversible. As such, I did not de-tabbed any part of the frame and kept all of the original parts.
I do not have any welding and fabrication skill, so getting a custom subframe/seat made was going to be a budget buster. Instead, I sourced a subframe/seat combo from the UK shop Down & Out Motorcycles. I was not particularly fond of the R65 gas tank, so I used an R80 tank I had sitting in my garage. A custom bracket was created and welded on by my mechanic friend at Cuznbob’s Motorcycles. It also tilted the tank up by 1.5″ in the rear to better match the seat line.
To be honest, I was not in love with the white snowflake wheels. Getting them powder coated black was going to be a costly endeavor, so I reluctantly decided to keep them white. This ended up being the best decision I made as I constantly get compliments on the originality of the white wheels. I had to come up with a paint scheme to match the white wheels.
After grappling for weeks, I decided on Lexus pearl white along with minimal racing stripes in Lexus pearl molten orange. The gas cap was also painted in pearl molten orange to give a splash of color to the tank. The headlight was a leftover piece from the previous project that was accented with pearl molten orange. Hudonearth Customs handled the paint job along with powder coating the rear subframe as well as other bits.
I purchased an old front wheel fender off eBay and trimmed it down to the shape that I like. The airbox was removed and replaced with DNA pod filters. Carbs were re-jetted. I ceramic coated the exhaust pipes and replaced the mufflers with shorter ones. The bike came with high handlebars, so I had to replace the choke, clutch, and throttle cables with shorter ones to go with the LSL handlebars.
To keep the build budget low, I elected to keep the original wiring harness. I wired in a new Acewell MD052 digital speedo along with LED blinkers and brake light. The ignition switch was relocated to the rear subframe upper connection point. I made a battery cover as well as brackets for the speedo, ignition switch, and license plate. I lack fabrication skills, but made what I could to add some originality to this build.
The next stage will be a complete rewire with the Motogadget M-Unit Blue. Watching my dad deteriorate from cancer was heart breaking. I’m glad I had the opportunity to work on this project as it greatly helped to maintain my sanity. It’s definitely a fun bike to cruise around the streets of Austin, TX. I dedicate this bike to my dad who passed away from lung cancer on 27May.