Most of us take it for granted that we can modify our bikes. As long as the VIN number is correct and the modifications are not visibly unsafe, there’s rarely a problem.
But in some countries, the regulations are real tough. Several territories in Southeast Asia make it virtually impossible to register a custom bike. And in Germany, Switzerland and Austria, there’s the notorious TÜV system.
TÜV requires official approval for almost every modified part fitted to a bike. The frame cannot be welded or drilled or deformed in any way. Even a new muffler must have an approval sticker—and be designed for the model of bike you’re riding.
This makes life extremely difficult for custom builders in the Germanic countries. But Paul Brauchart and Philipp Rabl of Austria’s Vagabund Moto have managed to circumvent the system without compromising on style.
Vagabund have been wowing us with their precision bike building skills for four years now. But this BMW has been their toughest challenge yet.
The R nineT we’re looking at here is the first in a new series of ‘V nineT’ bikes, and despite the extensive work, it comes with that critical TÜV Certificate. (Which must have made the decision easier for BMW’s Austrian distributor, which has already commissioned a V nineT to take to moto shows.)
The V nineT also takes just eight weeks to build, which is a short time frame for a custom that doesn’t use exclusively off-the-shelf parts.
The Graz-based workshop have designed and manufactured a whole bundle of new body parts, including a bolt-on rear end with an integrated LED taillight. They’ve also designed a new leather seat, headlight housing and front fender, to give the bike the futuristic style that’s now a Vagabund signature.
“First of all, we did 2D sketching to get a feel for the proportions,” Paul tells us. “We also 3D-scanned the whole R nineT, so the Vagabund parts would perfectly replace the stock parts.”
The new parts are produced using a laser sintering 3D printer at an Austrian prototyping specialist. “The material is flexible, petrol resistant and UV resistant,” says Paul. “It’s also used in automotive manufacturing.”
The level of finish is up there with the BMW factory, and probably even better. But it wasn’t an easy process, and Vagabund found themselves with a steep learning curve.
“With this build, we were treading a new path. There’s a huge difference between cutting things off and redoing them, and working within the existing structure of the donor motorcycle.”
Vagabund will not be selling the parts individually, but there are different levels of customization available. The ‘basic’ V nineT retains the gold finish on the forks; upgraded specs include anodized fork tubes and a powder coated axle mount, plus ceramic coating for the exhaust system.
A smattering of aftermarket accessories completes the build, supplied by top-shelf brands. Remus, for example, has produced a variant of its Hypercone exhaust muffler exclusively for the V nineT.
Other parts adding to the upscale spec come from Rizoma, which supplies the valve covers, rearsets, indicators and control levers.
There’s a Motogadget Motoscope Pro speedo just ahead of the bars, and a Koso Thuderbolt LED headlight right below it in a custom housing. It pumps out over a thousand lumens of light on low beam. (“The bike includes all the gadgets modern motorcyclists love and need,” says Paul.)
Custom paint is included in the package, to the customer’s spec, along with new aluminum badging and extensive powdercoating of stock hard parts.
The V nineT is a numbered series and will not be sold as a DIY body kit. But Vagabund can procure a new R nineT and work their magic on it for a turnkey €28,990 (US$32,000). And then ship the bike worldwide.
But if you’re in Europe, you can drop your own R nineT off at the workshop and get the same work done at a considerably reduced price.
Quality doesn’t come cheap, but the V nineT concept gets a big tick from us. Not only because we love the style, but also because it reminds us of the golden era of coachbuilding and mid-20th century carrozzeria specials.
And as painful as the TÜV system can be, it’s also a guarantee of mechanical quality. Which has to be a good thing, ja?