Andrew Knott’s 1986 BMW R65: Incorporating Some Tasmania into a Unique Custom Motorcycle
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Andrew Knott’s 1986 BMW R65: Incorporating Some Tasmania into a Unique Custom Motorcycle

By DrJohnWright - 06 May 2024

Andrew Knott is a proud Tasmanian who lives in Hobart and was keen to take advantage of beautiful Tasmanian oak in this radical and imaginative custom motorcycle. His 1986 BMW R65 was essentially a basket case when Andrew acquired it some years ago. ‘I like all motorcycles. I find basket cases for the right money, preferably close to home and I don’t feel guilty about chopping them up,’ he says.

The R65 was introduced in 1978 as a lighter motorcycle ideal for touring. It had a 648cc air-cooled flat-twin and a five-speed gearbox. With a full tank of fuel, it weighed 205kg.

In profile, the R65 combines the unique look of a flat-twin BMW touring bike with all the brilliance of polished alloy and warmth of timber: what a beauty!
Image: Andrew Knott

Andrew admires the BMW marque for its involvement in the early aviation industry and pioneering work in developing boxer engines from radial units used in aircraft. At the start of World War One, BMW’s forerunners, Eisenach, Otto and Rapp were three separate companies. Then in March 1916 the Otto and Rapp factories merged to form Bayerische Flugzeugwerke (Aeroplane Works) AG (BFW). Then, with the rapid growth of the fledgling German Air Force, BFW’s reputation as an aeroplane engine builder of the first rank flourished. The following year, the company went public and the name was changed to Bayerische Motoren Werke GmbH (BMW). A decade later, BMW acquired the Eisenach car manufacturing business.

So, for BMW, motorcycles preceded cars by several years. When World War One ended, demand for aero engines went into free fall. Getting into the motorcycle business seemed like a good idea at the time and so it has proved abundantly.

BMW’s first masterpiece was the R32 which was unveiled at the 1923 Paris Motorcycle Salon to a sensational response. The R32’s 494cc boxer twin-cylinder engine was transversely in unit with a three-speed gearbox with shaft drive to the rear wheel. The frame was a full-twin triangle design. The front fork had short arms and a quarter-elliptical leaf spring. The R32 provided the template for BMW’s trademark boxer-twin, shaft-drive powertrain: this design concept was sufficiently modern to endure throughout the twentieth century, which means the BMW R32 is among the most influential motorcycles ever created. In total 3090 R32s were produced from 1923 to 1926 and the motorcycle’s success launched the BMW marque.

Since 1923, an ‘R’ prefix in the name of any BMW motorcycle denotes the presence of an air-cooled, boxer twin-cylinder engine.

Despite his interest in this history, Andrew is not especially focused on any one brand of motorcycle. His daily rider is a big boxer-twin BMW 1200GSA but the previous custom machine he created was a 1972 Honda CB750K

From any angle, this is an awesome custom machine.
Image: Andrew Knott

‘The Tasmanian oak is a real thing down here. I like the juxtaposition of working with wood on metal.’ He also notes that ‘wood smells nicer than metal!’ In the automotive industry, highly finished timber has long denoted luxury, so why not in motorcycles also? The way in which Andrew has combined wood and aluminium is nothing short of awe-inspiring. You may never see another machine like this unique creation.

Andrew takes inspiration from an American custom motorcycle genius called Max Hazan who runs Hazan Motor Works and incorporates wood into some of his showpieces. ‘He builds just amazing, stunning bikes pretty much from scratch,’ says Andrew. But even so, he acknowledges that it is still quite rare to find woodwork melded with metal in custom motorcycles.

Timber contrasts perfectly with polished aluminium.
Image: Andrew Knott

Otherwise, the BMW is mostly aluminium. Andrew prefers using natural materials where possible and tries not to paint many of his surfaces. His previous project had a raw steel frame and raw steel tank. When he acquired this BMW, the flat-twin was still in pretty good nick and so he left well enough alone. But he upgraded the brakes and suspension, lowering the front dampers. For details of the modifications he has made, check out this link.

Detailing and finish are exquisite.
Image: Andrew Knott

He worked on the BMW on and off for the past few years. It is his third creation. Before the CB750 there was a CB350.

‘I only finished this one a month or two ago and stopped counting at 700 hours.’ Already, he has collected a trifecta of awards for his efforts – Best Motorcycle at the recent Shannons Show & Shine, Best Custom at Ulverstone and Best Modified Motorcycle at Devonport only a week or so before I interviewed him for this Member Spotlight feature.

But although Andrew loves riding the machines he creates, most of the joy he derives from his motorcycles is the process of coming up with the concept and making it reality. So, this brilliant and unique R65 will soon be sold to a doubtless most appreciative new custodian and Andrew will prepare to embark on his next project.

View Andrew's Shannons Club Garage and Connect with Noddy78