When you design a bike what are the three main things it needs - Speed? Poise? Style? And what do you do when two of these factors are at odds with one another. Compromise? Well you can or you can push on as AJ Pushkarna did when embarking on his first custom build. AJ is a master of computer wizardry in San Francisco’s über cool Silicon Valley and has been riding for some 15 years now. Like many of us AJ had an itch that he needed to scratch, so a couple of years ago he stopped talking and started building.
The basis for the bike is an ‘82 BMW R100 purchased from Craigslist and chosen because, in AJ’s own words; “I wanted to build a bike, which could be an all-rounder - I wanted to also adapt to a scrambler platform, to be able to have a bike able to enjoy, whatever the terrain.” Before putting grinder to tank the bike was ridden for about 6 months to evaluate the pros and pitfalls and see what could be improved.
Once AJ knew how he wanted the bike to feel, he needed to get cutting, saying “I wanted to do something different with the overall design, to emphasis the classic look of the bike.” For a guy who spends his day speaking in binary code, this was the daunting part!
Luckily enough in the San Fran’ area the custom scene is well established and AJ found himself at a local community garage called Piston & Chain, a kind of build what you brung space for petrol heads who don’t have tools or workshop facility at their disposal. Here the bike was taken back to bare metal and piece by piece laid out while it was decided what to cut and what to shut.
In his search for somebody to help with the pipework, AJ came across the most unlikely of heroes, a plumber – hell; if he’s good at bending pipes, a frame is not so different! Luckily the guy was also a petrol head and the project gathered some much needed momentum.
With some help and guidance the rear subframe was chopped and shortened slightly whilst still maintaining the capacity for a passenger. Opting for a boneline that rises from front to back avoids the often clunky look that results from many a scramblerised BMW build.
In keeping with AJ's desire for a go anywhere bike the original forks and brakes were ditched in favour of a setup from a Triumph Speed Triple, complete with radially mounted calipers. Herein lay another hurdle that AJ had to cross; Speed triples are not known for having spoked wheels! So, calling upon the pool of knowledge contained at the community bike shop, a custom front hub was manufactured and mated to lightweight, yet strong, aluminium Excel rims.
While the bones of the bike were laid bare the electrics made their way to the top of the hit list. Opting for the slick looking and ultra-reliable Motogadget kit and speedo, the whole wiring loom was given a re-vamp, powered by an underslung battery box, courtesy of local custom shop Untitled Motorcycles. The original, clunky switchgear has been swapped for billet switches, mounted to the Renthal Fat Bars. A period headlight was sourced from a classic BSA that matches perfectly to the ’67 BMW teardrop tank, all this meaning AJ stayed true to his dream of mixing the old and the new harmoniously.
The engine was given the once over but, seeing as the bike has shed 80 pounds in weight, AJ didn’t need to try and squeeze too many more horses from the old girl. A complete overhaul offered the chance to swap the camshaft for an asymmetric version and whilst everything was apart he ported and polished the heads.
The glut of custom airheads seems to have reduced of late but it's still no easy task building one that stands out. But with his very first effort that's exactly what AJ has done. The stance is spot on and the finish, from here at least, looks to be every bit as good as some pro builds we've featured. Hopefully AJ enjoys his bike in the canyons and fire roads above San Francisco but something tells us it won't be long before he's back on the tools with another itch needing a scratch.
Let's wait and see but for now keep an eye on AJ's Instagram
Images by Sean Donahue