“Cool It” — a Desert Sled inspired by the King of Cool…
In the final chase scene of The Great Escape (1963), Steve McQueen’s character jumps a stolen German motorcycle over a fence into Switzerland. In actuality, the motorcycle used by stunt double Bud Ekins was not a German machine but a British one: a Triumph TR6 Trophy disguised as a BMW R75. Legend has it that Steve McQueen, a diehard Triumph fan who would race a Triumph at the International Six Days Trials in East Germany, would only allow a Triumph for the stunt.
Enter Stephen Bentley of UK-based Dust Motorcycles, who builds some of the sweetest desert sleds on the planet, combining vintage and modern tech in subtle, harmonious ways. Bentley decided to build a BMW R80RT inspired by the classic Triumph desert racers of the 60s. The irony wasn’t lost on him:
“I do wonder after The Great Escape if the King of Cool himself might have seen the humour in making a Beemer look like a Triumph 🙂 “
We certainly know that McQueen would itch to swing his leg over the saddle of this desert sled, which scores insanely high for us on the “wanna get on and ride” scale — just what Bentley hoped. In fact, this beauty — dubbed “Cool It” for obvious reasons — is currently for sale, and Bentley hopes the new owner uses it as intended:
“Dump the lamp, fit the board, and take it across that desert!”
Below, we get the full story on this gorgeous, rugged-built BMW desert sled.
“Cool It” R80 Desert Sled: In the Builder’s Words
The build is based on a 1982 BMW R80RT and the styling is heavily influenced by the classic desert rides of the 1960’s.
The fundamentals of the bike are pretty standard. Stock 800cc engine (overhauled), bing carbs, original shocks, forks. Brembo calipers — with the usual bearing and seal replacements upon rebuild.
The handlebar levers/master have been swapped out and replaced with a clutch lever/perch and Brembo ps16 master — typically found on 80’s and 90’s Duc’s and Guzzi’s, with the master hooking up to braided lines for a bit more “stop” when on the “go”.
Motogadget m switch has been used for the controls, MG pins for the indicators, and the m-unit taking care of the clever stuff… I’ve used a new Bates style lamp up front and rear LED for the illuminating and a Velona Daytona speedo and separate warning display to help with the informing.
For the physical change I’ve used classic Triumph western bars, an original T140 export tank, and later (modified) T100 side panels.
I’ve further borrowed from Triumph sled styling with an adjustable rear loop and “large” style exposed air filter. (Figured rather than go heavy pods on bings I’d modify an earlier airbox cover to “reveal” the filter…giving a simile of styling with a good dose of practical (original) “anchorage” to stop the carbs falling off when hitting the bumpy stuff!)
The finish is high gloss black for the gas tank and panels, and satin for the frame — with a mix of alloys, brushed steels and stainless for the other “not so shiny” stuff.
Other things include a set of handmade stainless pipes with 8″ baffling (still raucous) designed to flow closely with the shape of the bike to minimize heat transference.
A simple scrambler style leather seat has been made and some early /2/5 series round foot rubbers and earlier oval rockers have been added for the classic touch. Guards are alloy with handmade brackets and the tyres are Pirelli Mt43 rear and an ensign trial up front. To work with the tank I replaced the two large Bosch coils with later (smaller) monoshock twin out’s.
Although the bike is a new build it has a feeling of “always having been that way,” which from a personal point of view is just great. As a builder I can only ever judge a bike on its “wanna get on and ride” feeling…and it’s got plenty of that going on!
I’m just hoping whoever gets to own this bike shares my sensibility and uses it as intended — dump the lamp, fit the board and take it across that desert!
As for the name… It’s an airhead, you have to “ride it fast” to “cool it”!! And I do wonder after The Great Escape if the King of Cool himself might have seen the humour in making a Beemer look like a Triumph 🙂