Descending Dragon II: BMW R75/5 “HaLong 2.0”

BMW R75/5 Custom

Destined for Handbuilt Show ’22: DT Motoworks’ Slash 5… 

The 1970 BMW R75/5 (“Slash 5”) was a landmark machine for the company, whose motorcycle designs had become dated in the years since WWII, still in rooted in the technology of the 1940s.

“Although the R series motorcycles had enjoyed technical advances along the way, they appeared to be anything but modern in a world that had welcomed the Honda CB750K0. Then came the BMW R75/5 motorcycle.” —Ultimate Motorcycling

BMW R75/5 Custom

The 745cc R75/5 was the largest of the new /5 models, which included the 600cc R60/5 and 500cc R50/5. While they retained the horizontally-opposite flat-twin “boxer” engine layout of past BMW motorcycles, the engine had been completely redesigned, featuring new heads, a repositioned camshaft, and more. What’s more, the R series gained a Bosch electric starter, breaker points / coils instead of the old magneto system, and a generator that put out 180 watts — 50% more than most of its contemporaries.

BMW R75/5 Custom

More than that, the BMW /5 models seemed to be imbued with a new soul and character, yet remained stoutly built, perfect for long-distance touring and cross-country adventures.

“Every time I ride a BMW R75 /5, it makes me wonder what I was thinking when I parted with mine a few years back. Sure, the Laverda that replaced it was a heck of a lot sexier, but there’s a price to pay for all that Italian flash, and it usually begins with a big “M” for maintenance.” —Motorcycle Classics

BMW R75/5 Custom

Back in 2018, we featured a BMW R65 from young father Duc Tran (@dtmotoworks) of Austin, Texas, who built the bike in tribute to his late father. The next year, Duc was back with his 1973 BMW R75/5 “HaLong” — a name which translates to “Descending Dragon” in Vietnamese:

“The bike ‘descended’ on him by chance, and what’s more, riding the bike through the Texas hill country gives him the same peace and tranquility he experienced at Vietnam’s HaLong Bay.”

BMW R75/5 Cafe Racer
“HaLong 1.0”

Four years later, Duc is back with a new evolution of his /5, dubbed “HaLong 2.0”:

“The original design concept was a minimal and clean restomod…However, I cannot leave well enough alone. My wife claims that I have ADHD in my design. I felt that it needed a tad more character and custom touches. Hence, HaLong 2.0 was born.”

BMW R75/5 Custom

The changes from the original version are significant. The toaster tank was swapped for a sport unit, stripped down to the bare metal and painted with subtle M-stripes and clear coat, topped off with a leather tank strap. The bike now has a leather pouched snugged into the subframe, and a set of Cone Engineering mufflers give the BMW some bark. Duc also added crash bars and upgraded the front and rear suspension:

“Custom billet aluminum triple clamps and Progressive springs were added up front and Öhlins shocks to the rear help to improve handling.”

BMW R75/5 Custom

Duc says the bike has shed the clunky, heavy nature of the stock /5. It handles much better than stock, looks great, and is the perfect machine for cruising the Hill Country around his Texas home. What’s more, Duc started the build with a personal goal of getting it invited to the prestigious Handbuilt Show in his hometown, and we’re happy to announce that he achieved that goal. You can see “HaLong 2.0” in person next week at the 2022 edition of the show — the show’s first time back since 2019!

Below, we talk to Duc for more details on the build, and share more photos from both Duc himself and Ray of @investomoto.

BMW R75/5 “HaLong 2.0” — Builder Interview

BMW R75/5 Custom

• What’s the make, model, and year of the donor bike?

1973 BMW R75/5, which oozes character.

BMW R75/5 Custom

• Why was this bike built?

This was a personal build with the goal of getting it invited to the Handbuilt Show by Revival Cycles. It was invited to the 2020 show, but due to Covid the show was cancelled. There was hope that the show would resume in 2021, but sadly it was delayed. After a two-year wait, it will now be in the 2022 show.

BMW R75/5 Custom

• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?

The original design concept was a minimal and clean restomod. I wanted the bike to retain most of the /5 characteristics with the option to take it back to stock form. However, I cannot leave well enough alone. My wife claims that I have ADHD in my design. I felt that it needed a tad more character and custom touches. Hence, HaLong 2.0 was born.

BMW R75/5 Custom

• What custom work was done to the bike?

The red toaster tank was swapped out for the same size sport tank. I stripped the tank down to bare metal and gave it a brushed finish as well as leaving any imperfections in place. Subtle M-stripes were painted on around the roundels and automotive clear was applied. A custom leather tank strap helped to complete the look I was after.

BMW R75/5 Custom

I made a custom seat pan and leather seat. I fabricated a battery box to accommodate a small lithium ion battery and relocated it underneath the bike, next to the gearbox. With the help of a friend, we made a fender bracket that was welded onto the rear swing arm and struts to secure the rear fender in place. I made a small leather pouch that fit snugly into the rear subframe. Turn signals and brake light were converted to LED.

BMW R75/5 Custom

I splurged on a set of Cone Engineering mufflers for improved exhaust flow and sound. Custom billet aluminum triple clamps and Progressive springs were added up front and Ohlins shocks to the rear help to improve handling.

BMW R75/5 Custom

A small vintage Bates style headlight was mounted to the crash bars to complete the look.

• Does the bike have a nickname?

HaLong 2.0.

BMW R75/5 Custom

• Can you tell us what it’s like to ride this bike?

It’s a smooth ride with good midrange acceleration. I built it for short distance cruising in style through the Central Texas Hillcountry roads. It corners better with the rear Ohlins than the stock setup. Overall, it doesn’t feel heavy and clunky like the stock /5.

BMW R75/5 Custom

• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?

To be honest, I’m not proud of any particular part of the build. I’m more proud of how HaLong 2.0 turned out overall. The minimalistic style with no fancy paint and little bling is what makes HaLong 2.0 stand out.

BMW R75/5 Custom

Builder Thanks

Instagram: @dtmotoworks
Photo Cred: @investomoto and @planetducky
Mechanic: @cuznbobs_motorcycles
Leathersmith: @workingmanscustoms

3 Comments

  1. Il ferro spazzolato sulla moto per me resta una delle più belle rifiniture, avrei fatto anche il telaio uguale.
    Gran bel lavoro amico!

  2. Tom Parker

    DESCENDING DRAGON II: Clean, well done. Nice work.

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