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Beautiful Opposition : A BMW R5 Tribute Custom

A classic boxer takes on a modern twist in the hands of Swedish pro customizers with the BMW R5 Homage.

Eighty years ago BMW launched the R5, a bike that represented a new design and manufacturing process for the brand. The BMW R5 became a favourite for sport riders and racers of the era as the electrically welded tubing of the frame and the new 494cc design featuring two chain driven camshafts offered adequate power but substantially less weight than existing 750cc BMW machines. The output of this new half litre and engine was an impressive 24 horsepower allowed the minimalist, lightweight machine to reach top speeds of 135 kilometres an hour. 

BMW Motorrad’s Head of Design Edgar Heinrich positively glowed over the original R5, saying that it was “not only a masterpiece of engineering,” but also “one of the most aesthetically appealing motorcycles in BMW history.” 

Heinrich’s words were high praise indeed. And obviously the model was a good spot from which to draw inspiration for a custom tribute project – a modern take on the classic lines of an important model. The BMW R5 Homage as seen here, was presented in honour of the 80th anniversary altering being created  from BMW Motorrad Design Team specs by Swedish customizers Ronna and Benna Noren, who had previous experience with boxers through their their custom rNineT project. The heart of this creation is an original R5 engine while the rest of the build echoes, yet modernizes, the R5’s original design theme. 

The original engine had been damaged in a race so there was opportunity to re-imagine some of its parts. The frame, fuel tank, and rear fender are hand-crafted as are the custom-made fork and fork covers. 

As a homage is not a reproduction there are modern pieces incorporated into the build including a supercharger to get a little more power out of the small opposed twin and modern piston brakes and a rear suspension that, while emulating the original hardtail design, make that additional power usable by keeping the rubber on the road. 

The bike is finished in a combination of translucent coatings, paint, heritage pin striping, polished and glass beaded aluminum. What truly comes across is the simplicity of the original R5’s design that gives the machine a sparse and functional appearance while maintaining a stark beauty. 

The BMW R5 Homage captures the elegance of the original while spicing it up with subtle modern influences—not re-inventing the wheel, just making it sleeker.

BMW unveiled the bike—for which they say no original BMW R5 bikes were harmed in the making—at the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2016, held on the shores of Lake Como, Italy.

by John Molony Canadian Biker Issue #323


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