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Paul Yaffe’s R 18 One Eight C custom Transcontinental

Motorcycle customizer Paul Yaffe of Bagger Nation revealed his latest creation, a unique take on the R 18 Transcontinental that blends hot rod looks with BMW’s history.

Bagger Nation started in 1991 as American Legend Motorcycle Company, and Yaffe has earned a number of accolades and awards as the lead designer, including three “World’s Most Beautiful Motorcycle” awards (Oakland Roadster Show), two “Builder of the Year” nods and three “Trendsetter of the Year” awards (Easyriders). He was also inducted into the Sturgis Hall of Fame in 2015 and his custom bikes have been featured over 300 times in worldwide publications, on the Discovery and History channels, and elsewhere.

Paul Yaffe with his custom BMW R-18 in a Phoenix, Arizona warehouse. Photography ©2023 Michael Lichter.

The One Eight C will debut at the MBE show in Verona, Italy, after a process that started with Yaffe riding the R 18 Transcontinental for over 6,000 miles around the USA. He thought about what he would do the whole time, and settled on a big wheel bagger design like no-one had ever seen, but one that retained as much of the originality and authenticity of the Transcon. First up was a 26” front wheel milled from a 400-pound block of aluminum; it utilizes a customized, handmade 180mm tire. Yaffe had to stretch and rake the frame, as well as construct custom triple trees to accommodate the massive wheel and ensure the bike could still handle well.

Paul Yaffe’s custom BMW R-18 near Florence, Arizona. Photography ©2023 Michael Lichter.

From there, Yaffe took the iconic ‘50s Mercury Lead Sled’s aesthetic into account as he and his team set about crafting unique parts and customizing existing parts off the R 18. The front fender? Scratch built. The fairing? The team cut up and rebuilt the stock unit, adding a chin spoiler to strategically conceal the radiator, then added a handmade set of Yaffe’s Monkey Bars.

Embracing the look of an iconic 50’s Mercury Lead Sled the team crafted several one-of-a-kind components and modified existing R 18 elements. The steel front fender was made from scratch. The original R 18 fairing was cut into several pieces and restructured to correct headlight position and flow into the new front wheel. To address the gap between the fairing and the fuel tank a unique chin spoiler was developed, strategically concealing the radiator. Additionally, an exclusive set of Yaffe Monkey Bars was crafted to complement the overall design.

Paul Yaffe’s custom BMW R-18 detail. Photography ©2023 Michael Lichter.

Yaffe said, “The team wanted to retain the saddlebag lids, latches and speakers, so we created a new set of ‘skins’ to give the bags a completely new and unique stretched profile while retaining the excellent engineering and functionality that BMW created for them.” To complement the saddlebags, the team extended the original rear fender by crafting a second R 18 rear fender, ensuring it seamlessly matched the profile of the new saddlebags.

Yaffe rearranged the original R 18 taillights into the handmade filler panels and worked the license plate holder into the fender to mimic classic hot rods, then stretched the original side covers to cover more area to help the eye flow into the bags. The bike is also equipped with a sophisticated air suspension system (including an on-board air compressor!) and one-of-a-kind side pipes that at the same time both retain the classic Boxer head pipes and incorporate a wildly updated styling.

Before finishing the build, Yaffe focused on the bike’s cosmetics, wanting a classic yet simple hot rod feel but without anything to distract from the bike’s elegant new profile. “We went to work perfecting all the fabricated body panels and smoothing everything to a glass-like finish,” he said. Yaffe had his lead painter, Hector Martinez, put down classic gloss black with blood red highlights. Yaffe called the final look “the perfect balance” and that it “came out spectacular.”

Paul Yaffe with his custom BMW R-18 near Florence, Arizona. Photography ©2023 Michael Lichter.