This steampunk BMW R18 custom bike is called The Whale | Top Gear
BBC TopGear
BBC TopGear
Subscribe to Top Gear magazine
Sign up to our Top Gear Magazine
Sunday 24th September

This steampunk BMW R18 custom bike is called The Whale

Japanese customiser creates The Wal, 'powerful, mighty, but always good-natured'

Published: 10 Nov 2021

BMW launched the R18 bike ripe for some custom reinterpretation. And indeed they’ve come thick and fast. We’ve seen the graphic novel-inspired R18. The long-grilled R18.

Now it’s time for some steampunk. Meet ‘The Wal’, the latest modified R18 and the creation of Japanese customiser Shinya Kimura, the third person to concoct their own boxer-engined bike as part of BMW’s ‘SoulFuel’ series.

Advertisement - Page continues below

Kimura has been fully welcomed into the BMW fold, spending time with the R18 and its development team in Germany before an elongated Californian road trip on one back in February 2021 “to get to know the character of the bike”.

BMW says his customisation is fully hands-on, claiming The Wal came about without the use of sketches, drawings, blueprints or mock-ups.

"I built the R18 entirely for myself,” adds Kimura. “I thought it might suit my build and riding preferences better if I designed it to be a little more front-facing with a fairing.

“I decided to adopt the frame, wheels and tyres as well as suspension elements and brakes because I didn't feel the need to change them after I had ridden the bike. I also wanted to be able to ride for long distances with my R18 while feeling and enjoying the legendary boxer engine.” A torquey flat-two 1.8-litre engine which he describes as the greatest he’s ever worked on, in fact.

Advertisement - Page continues below

“Thanks to its mighty engine, the bike is wild and has almost inexhaustible power on the one hand, yet it is completely good-natured on the other. Just like a whale, hence the German animal name for this R18, which for me is something like a ‘Sports Endurancer’," he continues.

He’s lowered and narrowed the handlebars, lengthened the fuel tank (both to increase its touring range and draw the seating position rearward), moved the footrests back and added a more bucket-esque seat swab, then applied a bronze powder-coated paint finish – as well as additional design flourishes – to lend The Wal its own unique look. Named after a whale, the intention is that it has its own teeth sat below its lights and screen.

“The Wal R18 is an ‘animal’ of a bike,” we’re reminded. “Powerful, mighty, but always good-natured.” You can see how it compares to a regular R18 below. Like what Kimura's done?

BMW R18 The WalBMW R18

Top Gear

Get all the latest news, reviews and exclusives, direct to your inbox.

More from Top Gear

See more on BMW

Promoted Content

Subscribe to the Top Gear Newsletter

Get all the latest news, reviews and exclusives, direct to your inbox.

By clicking subscribe, you agree to receive news, promotions and offers by email from Top Gear and BBC Studios. Your information will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

BBC TopGear

Try BBC Top Gear Magazine

Get your first 5 issues for £5