The BMW R65 was the company’s middleweight airhead, built both in twin-shock format (1978-1984) and monolever (1985-1993). While it had the same-sized frame as the larger airheads, many of the supporting components were downsized — swingarm, subframe, forks, front wheel — giving the bike a smaller, lower look and quicker handling. Meanwhile, the 648cc boxer engine made a respectable 44-50 horsepower, propelling the 455-lb machine from 0 to 60 mph in 5.8 seconds and on through the quarter mile in 14.3.
Enter Sebastien Ledis, the 33 year-old founder of Seb’s Atelier — a workshop located in the small village of Fargues Saint Hilaire, near Bordeaux in the southwest of France. Seb spent 15 years as a chef, building bikes for himself, friends, and family before quitting his job to open his workshop a little over a year ago:
“I am happy to live on my passion, trying to do my best and improve my competency for my next projects.”
Recently, we featured his Honda CX500 cafe racer — one of ten CX builds he’s done! But Seb doesn’t just work on Japanese machines — he works on anything with a carburetor. This build started life as a 1986 BMW R65, one of the early monolever models, and was built for Seb’s best client, Jean-Christophe (@castellon565), who has a twin-shock sibling of the same bike!
Below, we get the full story on this gorgeous, updated monolever!
BMW R65 “La Monolever” — Builder Interview
• Please tell us a bit about yourself, your history with motorcycles, and your workshop.
My name is Sebastien Ledis, I am 33 years old. I live in Fargues Saint Hilaire, a small village near to Bordeaux (southwest of France). I opened my workshop a year ago. Before being a builder, I was a chef (15 years) and I used to work in a gastronomic restaurant. I have two passions: cooking and motorcycling.
I’ve had my motorcycle driving license for 13 years. Since I’ve had my license, I’ve owned about 20 motorbikes (Ducati, Suzuki…). I used to ride a Ducati as my principal ride, and an old school modified motorcycle for my leisure and time off (BMW R100 RT cafe racer, Honda CX…). I am currently working on a DR650 Djebel flat tracker, which I will bring to the next Wheels and Waves Festival.
I discovered the cafe racer concept when I went to New Zealand, Australia, and Bali 12 years ago and visited the Deus Ex Machina workshop. When I came back to France, I started to work on my first cafe racer. It was just the beginning of the modified motorcycle trend in France.
After that, I have done motorcycles for my family, my friends and myself — I decided to quit my job and open my workshop. It’s been one year and three months since I’ve opened my workshop. I am happy to live on my passion and trying to do my best and improve my competency for my next projects.
When I do a new motorcycle, this one has to be beautiful, surprising, and to be in working order. I am able to work on all the motorcycle models with carburetors — European, Japanese, and American.
• What’s the make, model, and year of the bike?
BMW R65 MONOLEVER 1986.
• Why was this bike built?
It was built for my best customer, Jean-Christophe (@castellon565). We’ve done four projects together!
• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?
Built to J-C’s specification with “Seb’s Atelier” touches, giving a classic neo-retro style. To have a motorcycle that is snappy, easy and comfortable to ride.
• What custom work was done to the bike?
- At first, we had to see the engine. It was an old police motorcycle with 97,000 km. Mileage not guaranteed, since it has a five-digit speedometer — maybe 100,000 more!
- Engine overhaul, pistons rings, engine gasket set, carburetor repair kit, adjust valves, carb synchronization.
- Lithium battery
- BMW fork gaiter boot
- Short muffler, Kevlar exhaust wrap
- Aviation brake hoses kit, pad, master cylinder
- New BMW switch controller
- Renthal handlebar
- LED lighting
- LED signal mirrors Highsider
- Digital speedmeter Koso
- Shinko E270 tires
- Fork spring kit
- Custom build Hagon shock
- Build subframe
- Custom seat
- Epoxy paint on frame in gray
- Gray and black paint tank with white border
- New ball bearings on wheels, swinging arm, steering head bearings
• Does the bike have a nickname?
• How would you classify this bike?
There are no specific classifications. I just modernized the bike while keeping its old side.
• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?
The reassembly of the motorcycle when the imagined takes shape. I am proud of the general aspect of the bike, that Jean-Christophe is left with a little freedom for the achievement, and when he reports to me every time he uses his motorcycle to tell me that people have found it beautiful. The motorcycle is successful.