BMW R 18 – that's "The Wal", the latest creation of the Japanese customizer Shinya Kimura. After Roland Sands and Dirk Oehlerking, Kimura is the third customizer to transform the R 18 into an extraordinary unique piece for the "SoulFuel" series. "SoulFuel" is a collaboration between BMW Motorrad and selected customizers.
Until recently, Shinya Kimura mainly worked on older motorcycles, but more and more the Japanese customizer is also devdicating himself to projects with modern machines.
"The Wal is one of them. The base is the R 18, powered by the latest and largest engine I've ever worked on. It all started with the visit of the BMW Motorrad R 18 development team to Germany. In the process, I got to know the immeasurable passion and innovative strength that prevails at BMW Motorrad. After all, in February 2021 in California, I drove a few hundred kilometers with the standard R 18 to get to know the character of the motorcycle. Together with many conversations, this finally led to my personal interpretation of the R 18, in which I used the entire spectrum of my work as a customizer," says Shinya Kimura from the initial phase of the project "The Wal".
In mid-February, Kimura began work and by the end of June "The Wal" was already on the wheels. "But then there were still some mechanical problems that kept me busy for about two weeks," Kimura continues.
Kimura's motorcycles are created exclusively "hands-on"
Shinya Kimura's handwriting can be aptly described with the term "hands-on", because there are no sketches, drawings, blueprints or mockups during a construction process. However, there is a precise idea of what the customer or in this case the customizer himself wants.
"I built the R 18 entirely for myself. When I drove the standard R 18, I thought that it might be better suited to my stature and my driving preferences if I designed it a little more front-oriented with a fairing. I decided to adopt frames, wheels and tires, as well as suspension elements and brakes, because I didn't feel the need to change them after driving. I also wanted my R 18 to be used for long distances while I felt and enjoyed the legendary boxer engine. It was very important to me to preserve the two characters of the R 18, as I experienced them while driving. Thanks to its powerful engine, it is on the one hand wild and of almost inexhaustible power, but on the other hand completely good-natured. Just like a whale, hence the German animal name for this R 18, which for me is something like a "Sports Endurancer", explains Kimura.
The "Sports Endurancer" is unmistakably evident in Kimura's R 18 "The Wal". This is ensured by a larger tank that is completely different from the original, an elongated, harmoniously rounded seat hump and a half-shell trim.
"I also moved the footpex backwards by about two inches to get more flexibility for the position of the legs. At the same time, I lowered the position of the handlebars and changed the seat to my liking. The seat cushion was also designed by me and then handmade by BACKDROP Leathers in Japan. All of this together resulted in the very natural posture that I like," Kimura continues.
The half-shell fairing houses two asymmetrically arranged headlights that look almost like eyes and actually give Kimura's R 18 the appearance of a whale together with a "dentition" incorporated underneath with a little imagination. In keeping with the theme "The Wal", the colour scheme and the coarsely structured lacquer surface are also chosen. In short: "The Wal" – an animal R 18. Powerful, powerful, but always good-natured.
"What I like most about my version of the R 18 is that I was able to change the style and seating position to my liking without destroying the excellent original functionality of the R 18. But drastically changing the seating position, as well as adding my own style and taste, was a big challenge in my interpretation of the BMW Heritage. "In addition, all these computerized systems and cabling were quite new to me and I learned a lot," Kimura is pleased with the result of his work.
Hard facts about the R 18 Customizing Project "The Wal":
The King of Customizing: Shinya Kimura.
Born and raised in a family that runs a small rivet factory in downtown Tokyo, Shinya Kimura was always surrounded by smells of steel and oil, as well as the sound of machines and metals. Maybe that's why, after studying entomology, Kimura decided to return to what felt most natural to him: tinkering in his workshop and building things out of different metals.
Kimura, the father of the so-called "Zero Style" motorcycle, began his career as a customizer in Japan at Zero Engineering, a company he founded in 1992. He rose to international fame during the 1990s, when his Custom Harley-Davidson "Samurai Chopper" was created. She followed his characteristic wabi-sabi-influenced style.
In search of new inspiration, Kimura later moved to Azusa, California, where he founded his own independent company, Chabott Engineering, in 2006. Today, the sought-after customizer only produces a handful of motorcycles per year – exclusively for customers with whom he feels mutual understanding and no time pressure. His great passion, which drives him: "Passion for all the motorcycles that were born into this world", as he himself says. While working on the project "The Wal" he discovered new things every day that stimulated and motivated him. Looking back, he says: "I appreciate BMW Motorrad and all the people who supported me in this project. It was such a valuable and impressive experience for me."