Escape Vehicle: Building a BMW R80RT To Stay Sane
Using a motorcycle as a coping mechanism is nothing new. For most of us, that means clearing the head with a ride after a rough week—but for Mark Ceilinger, it meant building this BMW cafe racer as a respite from the reality of his girlfriend’s serious illness.
Mark’s not an established builder—yet. He’s a guitarist from Slovenia who’s kept an eye on the custom scene after noticing the Voltron build from his countrymen at ER Motorcycles.
When life took a dramatic turn, Mark was motivated to find a bike and get wrenching. “When my girlfriend got ill, it was a difficult time for both of us, and we struggled day by day,” he says.
“People are more vulnerable than they think. Most of us live in a safe bubble, away from big changes or challenges. I decided to start fighting my fears and start realizing my dreams.”
Mark sourced a 1993 ex-police BMW R80RT from an older gentleman, and dragged it to an industrial space owned by a band mate. “It’s a big hall full of old production machines, garage tools and a vintage lathe.”
With help from a painter, a welder and a mechanic, Mark started transforming the BMW into a classy custom that would tick all his boxes. Pretty soon the idea of a custom shop called Vintage Room Motorcycles started taking shape.
“Working on a project like this distracts you from bad thoughts,” says Mark. “This motorcycle saved and changed my life. I also got a few white hairs during the process!”
Most of those white hairs are down to the motor, and the complex rebuild. It’s now got new seals, bearings, gaskets and rings, and a fresh clutch plate. On the outside, Mark had it powder coated black, before belt- and hand-sanding elements some down to the bare metal for contrast.
The carbs were refurbished and polished, and treated to a pair of aluminum velocity stacks turned on the lathe. A set of modified megaphone silencers with removable dB killers handle exhaust duties, with a pair of custom aluminum heat shields to stop Mark’s boot soles from melting.
There’s an all-new wiring system too, running off an Odyssey battery stored under the transmission. The setup includes most of Motogadget’s catalog, including an m.unit 2 control box, a speedo and switches.
There’s also an RFID keyless ignition, with the transmitter stitched into a leather keyring ‘fob.’) Blaž Šuštaršič of ER Motorcycles handled all the wiring; “He was a big inspiration and a good reference for me,” says Mark.
As for bodywork, the R80RT still wears its stock fuel tank—but it’s been lifted just over an inch at the rear. The subframe’s gone, replaced by a seat support that runs off the central backbone for a minimalistic effect.
The seat is eye-catching. Aleš Urbanc handled the upholstery, wrapping it in black leather a VR tag to finish it off—but it’s the neat wooden seat hump that seals the deal.
Mark spent forty hours crafting it from solid teak—going as far as to integrate a tail light at the rear, and the Motogadget keyless receiver on the side.
“I loved the idea of a wooden rear end,” he explains, “because it reminds me of my guitars, and I’m also a big fan of Riva boats and Mr. Hazan. I’ve seen a lot of projects with wooden ends, but none of them integrated the brake light.”
There are more subtle nips and tucks, like the refurbished and lowered forks, and a new Wilburs shock. Heidenau K60 Scout tires give the bike the requisite scrambler look, with enough grip to be sensible on road.
Tarozzi rearsets are bolted to the Beemer’s redesigned exhaust-slash-passenger peg brackets. Renthal bars round out the control package, topped off with Motogadget grips, mirrors and bar end turn signals. The headlight’s been modified with an LED, but with a twist—it includes a vertical strip to match the tail light design.
Small custom touches include a shock-mounted license plate bracket, and a honeycomb mesh plate with the VR logo sitting just in front of the tank on the frame. Brane Gajic at Motolicar handled the paint, finishing it in dark gray with stripes inspired by muscle cars.
It took Mark almost a year to finish the R80RT, and he’s happy to report that it started the first time. He’s dubbed it ‘Amulet’—a small object worn to defend you from bad things. But in this case, “It’s not a small object to wear, but a big thing to jump on.”
And jump on it he does, every chance he gets: “This is not a trailer queen, I ride it almost every day. The seat is not the most comfortable, and the suspension is a bit stiff and sporty, but even after a hundred kilometers you don’t feel like a wreck. You just wanna ride it!”
Therapy session, anyone?