The BMW R45 was the smallest of the BMW airheads, sporting a 473cc / 35-hp version of the iconic boxer engine good for a top speed of 95 mph. Although it looked like a scaled-down version of the bigger airheads, there were some key differences:
“They had a shorter stroke engine and a completely different frame… Sleeker styling made them look leaner and slimmer.” —Classic Bike Hub
While the R45 was no performance monster, it did score high marks in practical departments such as rider comfort, smoothness, range, fuel economy, and more:
“All this comfort was important because the R45 has both an exceptional range and fuel economy. Most boxer twins, these days, have appalling economy, in the 40 to 45mpg range. The smallest Boxer managed to better 60mpg most of the time, giving a range of well over 200 miles.” —Yew Emm Gee
“An experimentation lab for daring motorcycles…”
We last saw the men of MAAN with the MaanDrake 650 scrambler they built for Dust’n Sardinia, a three-day, 300-mile off-road charity ride that Nicola co-founded. Now they’re back with this ’82 BMW R45 cafe racer, “Rust-a-Maan.” The owner and project were actually recommended to them by another workshop — a main point of pride in the build. Says Nico:
“The fact that another customizer recommended us… It means that the custom world continues to be a beautiful, clean world with little envy.”
Not only that, but the owner had supreme faith in the MAAN crew, entrusting everything to them but the color.
Nicola and gang got to work fixing the bike’s existing mechanical issues and then set out to transform the lines and performance of the airhead. They retrofitted a set of CBR600 forks, rewired the bike with a Motogadget M-unit, swapped in a set of spoked wheels, machined a set of high-mounted pegs, and built a new subframe and custom saddle.
Collaboration and division-of-labor is one of the Motocicli Audaci’s strong suits. Says Nico:
“As usual, I took care of the construction; Matteo “Moor” took care of the decorations, the paint job and the saddle; Lorenzo “Umpalumpa” and Stefano took care of the finishing touches and above all the breaking down of boxes that we never want to do!”
Last but not least, Andrea Caredda (@andrews_diary) took care of the gorgeous photos. Below, we get the full story on this pint-size BMW cafe racer!
BMW R45 Cafe Racer: Builder Interview
• What’s the make, model, and year of the bike?
BMW R45, 1982.
• Why was this bike built?
It was built for a guy we didn’t know. He was advised to bring it to us from another customizer and he trusted us with all the choices except the color.
• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?
We wanted to make a bike that had a very clean line, which contrasted with the rust effect of the tank and frame. We played with the contrast between Motogadget’s refined electronics and the worn leather of the saddle and the strap that holds the tank.
• What custom work was done to the bike?
The bike has been completely redone. It arrived with problems with gas leakage and the electrical system, but the owner, to be honest, initially wanted only to redo the saddle: he was optimistic!
The bike is now equipped with a 46mm fork from a Honda CBR600, complete with yokes and handlebars. Bitubo shock absorbers are mounted on the rear.
The entire electrical system has been rebuilt using a Motogadget M-Unit, pulse keys, and a new instrument set on the top yoke.
The pegs are machined from solid alloy and adapted for more sporty riding despite the small displacement of the bike, but who knows, it could grow in displacement.
Spoked wheels were also installed.
As usual, I took care of the construction; Matteo “Moor” took care of the decorations, the paint job and the saddle; Lorenzo “Umpalumpa” and Stefano took care of the finishing touches and above all the breaking down of boxes that we never want to do!
• Does the bike have a nickname?
Like all motorcycles built at Maan — Motocicli Audaci — this one too has a name that recalls our garage: Rust-a-Maan .
• Can you tell us what it’s like to ride this bike?
The bike has a more sporty feel thanks to the raised pegs, higher subframe, and stiffer suspension, but the seat is comfortable even for long trips.
It definitely has more character and precision, though a few more horses from replacing the cylinders would be a step to take in the future.
• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?
The things that made us most proud are two-fold: the fact that another customizer recommended us is definitely one of them. It means that the custom world continues to be a beautiful, clean world with little envy. Depending on the type of work to be done on the bike and the style of customization, it’s good to direct the customer to those who can satisfy him. We’ve done it in the past with choppers, which are definitely not our vocation.
The other thing that made us proud was being able to hide virtually all the electrical cables to get a very clean line that highlights the forms of the bike, keeping a vintage look but with a lot of technology underneath.