Motörhead: BMW R850GS Scrambler

BMW R850GS ScramblerBorn to Lose, Live to Win: Motörhead-Inspired GS from Custommade C.A. 

Never heard of a BMW R850GS? You’re not alone. Not to be confused with the parallel-twin F850GS, the R850GS was a boxer-powered adventure bike — a smaller displacement (848cc) version of the R1100GS available in the late 90s, mainly in Europe.


While some may wonder at the need for a smaller capacity GS, the 850 engine offered several advantages. In fact, one long-time member of the ADV Rider forums went so far as to swap the smaller engine into his GS:

“The 850 motor is significantly smoother than the 1100. It has 73 HP instead of 80 HP. It is also free revving (in comparison). Mileage is also improved. I have done 54 MPG on one tank, at fairly constant speeds under 70mph, on secondary roads. My mileage in general is maybe 7-10% better than my 1100GS.” -Grok, ADV Rider

BMW R850GS ScramblerRecently we heard from our friend Christos of Greece’s Custommade C.A., whose client, George, had a 25-year-old R850GS in the garage. Over the years, George had become bored with the bike’s styling — which was never a GS strong point, especially during this era.

“On the other hand he was happy with what it had offered him all these years, so he decided to give it a transformation.”

BMW R850GS ScramblerThe idea was to create a “badass scrambler,” slightly taller than the original bike as George stands over two meters (6’6″) tall. We’ve mostly seen Honda customs out of the Greek workshop in recent years, but given their creative range in both donor models and style, we had no doubt Christos and team could pull off a successful build — even with such a challenging base bike.

BMW R850GS ScramblerThey built an entirely new subframe that blends perfectly with the rest of the bike, designed with a slightly higher and more aggressive rake for George’s long frame and a custom saddle. Up front, there’s a custom headlight mount and a set of two asymmetric lights — a GS signature of the era — with custom grilles that subtly echo the BMW logo.

BMW R850GS ScramblerOther highlights include a relocated oil cooler with laser-cut stainless guard, rear rack, scratch-built full exhaust system, new YSS fully-adjustable shock for the Telelever front suspension, Continental TKC80 tires known to work surprisingly well on both trail and tarmac, and a killer Motörhead-inspired paint scheme courtesy of Custommade’s go-to paint man, Vasilis Flets of Athens, Greece…complete with matching helmet!

BMW R850GS ScramblerThis BMW scrambler looks properly badass, and Christos notes the ride has transformed right alongside the aesthetics.

“The dull R850GS has lost some weight… The bike now is more agile and responsive, ready to conquer every kind of road… It looks and sounds like a beast… It makes you smile even on a daily ride to work.”

BMW R850GS ScramblerWe’re happy to see an aged adventure bike brought out of retirement for a new life, sure to provide many years of smiles to George and the Custommade C.A. team. Our full interview with more details about the build is included below, and make sure to give @custommade_gr and painter Vasilis Flets (@_flets) a follow if you’re on the ‘gram!

Motörhead Scrambler: Builder Interview

BMW R850GS Scrambler

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

BMW R850GS 1999.

BMW R850GS Scrambler

• Why was this bike built?

The project was brought to us by George, who found us on the internet. He had the bike sitting in the garage; it had no issues but George was bored with its appearance. On the other hand he was happy with what it had offered him all these years so he decided to give it a transformation.


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

The concept was to turn it in to a badass scrambler, taller than stock since George is about 2 meters tall (6’6″).

BMW R850GS Scrambler

• What custom work was done to the bike?

We started with the subframe, making a new one based on the original but more tailored and hardcore.

BMW R850GS Scrambler

We did a custom front headlight mount based on the upper yoke clamps, which hosted two lights that follow the BMW GS style (one bigger and one smaller), covered with custom grills that with some imagination looks like the BMW propeller inspired logo. We moved lower the oil cooler and also covered it with a laser cut stainless radiator guard.

BMW R850GS Scrambler

A new full body exhaust system was made from scratch and a new slick rear mudguard. The rear shock absorber was rebuilt and we changed the front one to a fully adjustable unit from YSS. The TKC80’s from Continental gave the bike the ability to go off-road and have tons of fun.

BMW R850GS Scrambler

A new speedometer from Acewell was fitted to give the driver all the necessary information.

BMW R850GS Scrambler

New seals and bearings were fitted on the freshly powder coated frame and renewed driveline, but the fuel tank is where Vasilis did his magic with the paint job. The original idea was something that would look like gunmetal but the final decision came when George said the word Motörhead. Vasilis smiled and said, “I got you!“ The next day he came up with a digital preview of what you see right now, pure Motörhead combination…

BMW R850GS Scrambler

Brushed aluminum look sides with Motörhead logo, airbrushed black shades that look like smoke for contrast, a razor sharp red outline over them and deep black for the rest of the fuel tank. “Born to lose, live to win” quote around the fuel tank cap, which was also custom painted to matte smoked-brushed aluminum.

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

After the bike was finished, we were stunned at least by the looks of it. We realized that an outdated and not so stylish 90’s heavy bike was transferred to a badass looking all-terrain scrambler. We are particularly proud for this project as old BMWs are not easy to deal with, especially when it comes down to the electrics.

BMW R850GS Scrambler

Everything works like it should from the factory (or even better), even the ABS module and warning light, the new oil temperature sensor and the factory heated grips. The fitment of all the one-of parts also makes us puffed up with pride.

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

Regarding the riding experience, as it really is an experience, we have a transformation. The dull R850GS has lost some weight and is really notable. The bike now is more agile and responsive, ready to conquer every kind of road. The extra protections, the new suspension, the tires and the added height make the bike more than capable in the dirt.

It looks and sounds like a beast, but when you’re in the saddle, you understand how easy it is to handle and how spontaneously it makes you smile even on a daily ride to work. Very good for an almost 30-year-old, not so adventurous, heavy and uninspired bike.

Follow the Builder

Paint by Vasilis Flets (@_flets)

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