Custom motorcycle visionary Paul Yaffe revealed his latest masterpiece: a one-of-a-kind customization of the BMW R 18 Transcontinental. Melding classic hot rod aesthetics with the distinctive BMW essence, this project is a testament to Yaffe’s excellence as a designer.
A Legend in the U.S. Customizing Scene
Since 1991, the custom motorcycle world has known Paul Yaffe as one of the elite creators of motorized masterpieces. That’s because Yaffe is more than a builder or fabricator: He is truly a designer. Beginning with the establishment of American Legend Motorcycle Co., which later evolved into Paul Yaffe’s Bagger Nation, he has earned accolades such as three “World’s Most Beautiful Motorcycle” awards from the Oakland Roadster Show and two “Builder of Year” and three “Trendsetter of the Year” awards from Easyriders Magazine, as well as become an inductee into the Sturgis Hall of Fame in 2015. His custom bikes have been featured in over 300 magazine articles worldwide as well as on the Discovery channel, the History channel and other television shows. His products, distributed through a network of partners in six countries, continue to inspire a generation of customizers.
Now, Yaffe reveals his latest masterpiece: a one-of-a-kind customization of the BMW R 18 Transcontinental, which will debut at the MBE Show in Verona, Italy.
Preserving BMW Essence and Hot Rod Inspiration
Before getting started, Yaffe spent time getting to know the BMW R18 Transcontinental, riding 3,800 miles across the U.S. and an additional 2,600 miles to Sturgis and back.
Once the customization process began, Yaffe knew he wanted to create a big wheel bagger like no one had ever seen. Crucial to the project was retaining as many original BMW components as possible. Yaffe wanted his custom creation to remain authentically BMW and knew that it should not be made from or look anything like parts from his existing product line.
He commissioned a 26-by-5.5-inch front wheel cut from a 400-pound block of solid aluminum, which holds a handmade 180-millimeter-wide front tire. The frame had to be stretched and raked to accommodate the new front wheel, and special triple trees had to be engineered to correct the trail measurement and optimize handling.
Embracing the look of an iconic ’50’s Mercury Lead Sled, the team crafted several one-of-a-kind components and modified existing R 18 elements. The steel front fender was made from scratch. The original R 18 fairing was cut into several pieces and restructured to correct headlight position and flow into the new front wheel. To address the gap between the fairing and the fuel tank, a unique chin spoiler was developed, strategically concealing the radiator. Additionally, an exclusive set of Yaffe Monkey Bars was crafted to complement the overall design.
“The team wanted to retain the saddlebag lids, latches and speakers so a new set of ‘skins’ was created to give the bags a completely new and unique stretched profile while retaining the excellent engineering and functionality that BMW had created for them,” Yaffe said. His team extended the original rear fender by crafting a second R 18 rear fender, ensuring it seamlessly matched the profile of the new saddlebags.
As the build began to take shape, Yaffe rearranged the original R 18 taillights into the handmade filler panels and worked an area for the license plate into the fender in classic hot rod styling. He also stretched the original R 18 side covers to retain their original shape and cover more area to help the eye flow into the bags.
Classic Lead Sled Look
Staying true to the classic Lead Sled aesthetic, Yaffe prioritized two crucial components: air suspension and side pipes.
Yaffe and his team designed a sophisticated air tank and distribution system as well as a dedicated frame beneath each side of the saddlebags to accommodate essential components, including the necessary air storage tanks; a sizable air compressor; and all the controls, valving and solenoids necessary for the effective support and operation of the system.
Turning its focus to the side pipe design, the fabrication team aimed to preserve the distinctive “BMW feel” that sets this build apart. Retaining the classic Boxer head pipes was non-negotiable in Yaffe’s vision. The catalytic converters were removed from the head pipes, making way for a bespoke, perforated, high-flow baffle system. This innovation not only replaced the restrictive emissions system but also retained essential back pressure for optimal performance. To further enhance the auditory experience a precision-crafted, three-step muffler system was introduced for reversion. The final touch was a wide-open megaphone, delivering that quintessential classic hot rod sound.
It All Comes Down to Cosmetics
Shifting focus to cosmetics, Yaffe wanted a classic hot rod feel without any distracting graphics, highlighting the bike’s elegant new stance and profile. The emphasis was on simplicity and allure. “We went to work perfecting all the fabricated body panels and smoothing everything to a glass-like finish,” he said. After settling on a timeless deep gloss black finish, the team’s attention turned to achieving perfection for the body. Yaffe tasked his dedicated painter, Hector Martinez, with applying the flawless gloss black paint. Recognizing the need for contrast, Yaffe decided on a classic oxblood red interior. The art is in finding the perfect balance. “The trick is not to overdo it!” Yaffe proclaimed. Guys Upholstery created the contemporary-style saddle and dash console and Hector mixed up a color for the front calipers to match.