Anyone discussing the US customizing scene mentions Fred Kodlin almost in the same breath. For over 40 years, he has dedicated himself to customizing motorbikes, from radically modified creations to sophisticated new designs. 

Since the 1990s, he has been incredibly successful with his custom bikes and has regularly won various important Daytona shows. He was the first non-US citizen inducted into the Sturgis Hall of Fame.

For the first time, Fred Kodlin has now customised a BMW with his son Len – the BMW R 18 B. “The R 18 B HEAVY DUTY was an actual father-son project. 


There was a lot of creative input from Len, which also shows that the next generation at Kodlin Bikes is already in the starting blocks,” says the boss of Kodlin Bikes in Borken happily.


Massive R 18 B chassis technology adaptations. Modified frame and air suspension.

The biggest challenge in customizing this year’s crowd puller at the Daytona Bike Week in Florida was undoubtedly the frame. “We have remanufactured the upper tubes to lower the fly-line and thus the seat height of the R 18 B. We also redid the steering head and the triple clamps so that the caster fits despite the changed steering angle, and the bike rides well,” explains Fred Kodlin.

The result was the R 18 B HEAVY DUTY, a bike in typical Kodlin style. Viewed from the side, the fly-line drops sharply to the rear from the chopped windshield taken from the Original BMW Motorrad Accessories range and finally runs harmoniously into the side cases made by Kodlin out of glass fibre-reinforced plastic and the low rear end. From the top, the R 18 B HEAVY DUTY is characterized by a strong waistline in the seating area and a flowing connection to the side cases.

Finally, the technical chassis highlight is an air suspension system at the front and rear, supported by a compressor barely visible behind the left side case. This allows the R 18 B HEAVY DUTY to be lowered and raised in a fraction of a second. This is as useful as it is spectacular: To park, lower the chassis, and it rests on hidden support points letting the bike crouch just a few centimetres above the asphalt, waiting for the next ride.


Extensive body modifications, including winglets.

The Kodlin team delved no less deeply into body construction for a good three months. A completely new sheet metal tank was created – longer than the original, flowing in shape and with indentations on the sides. The connection of the tank and rear frame was also modified for this purpose. On the other hand, the original mobile phone charging compartment has been taken over from the R 18 B.

A front spoiler includes a 3-colour underfloor lighting system – a popular feature, not only in Daytona – and a front mudguard is also made of sheet metal, the mudguard fitting snugly around the 21-inch front wheel. Finally, Kodlin created a counterpart for the rear wheel from two R 18 B rear mudguards joined together, in which the rear and side indicator lights are integrated discreetly. 

The two side covers made of sheet metal, which form a smooth transition to the side cases, are entirely custom-made. Speaking of side cases: R 18 B loudspeakers by Marshall and an amplifier are fitted inside. Kodlin’s attention to detail is also evident in the aluminium milled hinge panels of the cases in the style of the original R 18 B components.

The so-called winglets above the cylinders are another design element. They are also made of metal but do not fulfil any function in the true sense. Instead, they underline the R 18 B HEAVY DUTY design’s design and make it appear unmistakable, especially when viewed from the front. The customizing job is rounded off by a seat made by Kodlin and an instrument cover with covers made of Alcantara and imitation leather, specially made handlebars, and a self-created exhaust system.


Detailed paintwork by tattoo artist Marcel Sinnwell with ties to 100 years of BMW Motorrad.

Marcel Sinnwell has painted other Kodlin show bikes in the past but now only rarely picks up a spray gun for extraordinary jobs. For example, when he paints yachts or an R 18 B HEAVY DUTY.

For this project, the colour gradients were completely airbrushed with translucent paint. The inspiration for this was mixing colour pigments in colour and especially the way they form streaks in the milky basecoat when first stirred. The result goes along very well with the Daytona bike week, where complex and colourful paint schemes are more than just good form.

Additional design touches on the R 18 B HEAVY DUTY are provided by hand-painted pinstripes and an airbrushed pattern on the rear mudguard that combines Kodlin and “100 years of BMW Motorrad”. However, the brake callipers, gearshift, foot brake levers, and footrests are BMW Motorrad standard components that have been colour-matched.


BMW R 18 B: The perfect bike for customizing.

But Fred Kodlin only touched some of the assemblies and parts. What was an exceptionally positive surprise for him: “The bolts. They are all made of stainless steel, with a nice Torx head. That’s not the way it is on other bikes. 

The basic bike and especially the engine are very, very cleanly finished. He explained that all the electrical cables are already nicely hidden, so we didn’t have to do anything to the engine,” he explains.

For this reason, numerous R 18 B components were deliberately not replaced but, at most, modified. For example, the shortened hand levers and handlebar end weights. Likewise, the engine remained unchanged from a technical point of view. Only the cylinder head covers, belt cover, and intake snorkel were painted metallic black.

Cruise control with distance control, reverse gear and eCall have remained unchanged. These are unique features of the BMW R 18 B in Cruiser, where no other manufacturer offers these functions.

via Kodlin and BMW Motorrad

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