PHOTOS Alex Martino WORDS Chris Nelson
In an interview in our very first issue, builder Dustin Kott said, “I want to stay relevant in the mtorcycle world while still celebrating, yet redefining, the classic lines of vintage standard motorcycles…to get ahead enough to reinvest in order to reinvent year after year.”
Over the past half-decade Kott has continued to invest in his trade, perfecting his formula to create motorcycling’s cleanest custom Honda CBs, but he hasn’t seemed all that concerned with reinventing himself. Then, from Kott’s small SoCal shop, springs this: his first-ever BMW.
“I said I’d never build one,” admits Kott. “I had no idea how. I didn’t know the bike parts, what it would cost, how long it would take, or what was going on inside that big engine cover. I always thought it was a giant hamster wheel or something, you know? But in the last year and a half, I realized that if I didn’t improve my skills, either I was going to lose interest or people would lose interest in my shop. I wanted to fall back in love with the craft, and then this guy called me and said, ‘I totally trust that you would be able to do a BMW. I’ve followed your work for a long time. I’ve never seen you approach a BMW, and I want to. So here, do it for me.’”
“I said I’d never build one,” admits Kott.
“I had no idea how."
Once the donor bike — a 1977 BMW R100/7, white with blue pinstriping — made its way down the coast from Seattle and ended at Kott’s shop, the 39-year-old builder had no idea what to do with it. The “ultimate old-timer touring bike with perfect riding posture” had him stumped, but he started building up steam after discovering the airhead’s removable subframe.
He yanked off the original, bolted on a new, narrower one, and finally started getting traction with the build.
A flat, ribbed brown leather seat wraps tightly over a small rear cowl and butts neatly against a ridiculously wide gas tank sourced from a Yamaha XJR. “That tank had been hanging in my rafters forever,” says Kott. “I just wanted to use it on something, and it made sense here because of that boxer twin, its heads sticking out from the sides of the engine. I wanted to try to make sense of that aesthetic weight, especially from the front and rear views. If you had too narrow a tank on there, that motor would look even more obnoxious.”
Kott turned to Virginia-based Cognito Moto for custom triple trees so he could run forks from a Suzuki GSX-R, and he also picked up a set of Cognito’s wheel hubs so he could swap the BMW’s stock mag wheels for more striking wire-spokes. Dual brake discs with Tokico calipers and a pair of clip-on bars finish off the R100’s front end, and sitting above each of the exhaust cans are exquisitely polished rear sets, handmade by Kott himself.
The electrical system caused a lot of headaches for Kott, who had to replace all of the charging circuit components. “The stock battery is literally the size of a small car battery,” says Kott. “It’s probably 35 pounds. Now we have a tiny lithium-ion battery under the seat, but we had to make adjustments to the wiring in order to get that battery to crank that huge motor over — especially with the size of the starter motor itself. We almost had to run two parallel batteries and hide one underneath the fuel tank.”
Fortunately, one battery worked just fine, and the bike made its debut this spring at L.A.’s inaugural OG Moto Show. With people fawning over the prominently placed, deep blue BMW, we asked Kott how he felt now compared to five years ago, when we featured him in our first issue. “My skill set has improved dramatically since being part of the very first issue of Iron & Air, and Iron & Air has since become a worldwide publication, so it’s kind of vindicating for both parties involved because we have another story to tell.”