Shinya Kimura’s custom R18 ‘The Wal’ breaks cover

Shinya Kimura’s custom R18 ‘The Wal’ breaks cover

Unique, different and yet wholly BMW R 18 – that’s

“The Wal”, the latest creation by Japanese customizer Shinya Kimura. After Roland Sands and Dirk Oehlerking. Kimura  the third customizer to transform the R 18 into an extraordinary unique specimen for the “SoulFuel” series. “SoulFuel” arrives as a collaboration between BMW Motorrad and selected customizers.

Shinya Kimura Custom R18

R18 Platform

Until recently, Shinya Kimura worked mainly on older motorcycles, but the Japanese customizer is increasingly also devoting himself to modern bikes projects.

“The Wal” is one of them. “The basis is the R 18, powered by the latest and greatest engine I have ever worked. It all started with a visit to the BMW Motorrad R 18 development team in Germany.

Got to know the unbounded passion and innovative power that prevails at BMW Motorrad. Finally, in February 2021 in California, I rode the standard R 18 for a few hundred kilometres to get to know the bike’s character.

Following a whole series of conversations. It eventually led to my interpretation of the R 18. In which I applied the entire range of my activities as a customizer,” says Shinya Kimura. Recounting the initial phase of “The Wal” project.

Kimura then began work in mid-February, and “The Wal” was already built up by the end of June.

“But there were still some mechanical problems that kept me busy for another two weeks,” Kimura continues.

Shinya Kimura Custom R18-r-18-the-wal-by-

Kimura’s motorcycles are created exclusively “hands-on.”

Shinya Kimura’s craftsmanship can be aptly described by the term “hands-on”. As there are no sketches, drawings, blueprints or mock-ups during the building process. But there is a precise idea of what the customer, or the customizer, wants.


“I built the R 18 entirely for myself. When I rode the production R 18. 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.

Decided to adopt the frame.Wheels and tyres, and suspension elements and brakes because I didn’t need to change them after riding the bike. 

I also wanted to ride for extended distances with my R 18 while feeling and enjoying the legendary boxer engine. It was essential to me to preserve the two characters of the R 18 as I experienced them when riding. 

Thanks to its mighty engine, the bike arrives as wild and has almost inexhaustible power on the one hand. Yet it comes entirely good-natured on the other.

Just like a whale, hence the German animal name for this R 18, which for me is something like a “Sports Endurance”,” Kimura explains.

The “Sports Endurance” is unmistakably evident in Kimura’s R 18 “The Wal”. It is ensured by a larger.Entirely differently designed fuel tank than the original, an elongated, harmoniously rounded seat hump and a half-shell fairing.

Shinya Kimura Custom R18

How it was made?

“I also moved the footrests back about two inches to have more flexibility for positioning the legs. At the same time, I lowered the handlebars and changed the seat to my liking.

The seat cushion was also designed by me and then handmade by BACKDROP Leathers in Japan. It all added up to the very natural posture that I like,” Kimura continues.

The semi-shell fairing houses two asymmetrically arranged headlights that almost look like eyes and. With a bit of imagination, actually give Kimura’s R 18 the appearance of a whale together with a “set of teeth” incorporated underneath.

The colour scheme and the coarsely textured paintwork also match the theme of “The Wal”. In short: “The Wal” R 18 arrives as an “animal” of a bike. Powerful, mighty, but always good-natured.

“What I like best about my version of the R 18 I was able to change the style. And seating position to my liking without destroying the excellent original functionality of the R 18.

But drastically changing the seating position and adding my style.And taste was a big challenge in my interpretation of the BMW Heritage.

Besides, all these computerized systems and wiring were quite new to me, and I learned a lot,” says Kimura, pleased with the result of his work.

Shinya Kimura Custom R18

Hard facts about the R 18 customizing project “The Wal”:

  • Handlebars: 8 inches narrower, 6 inches lower.
  • Fuel tank: Made longer to move the seating position rearward and gain additional fuel capacity of about 1 gallon for longer trips.
  • Seat pad designed by Kimura himself, handmade by BACKDROP Leathers in Japan in bucket style for more bottom support.
  • The seat creates a natural flow from the seat cushion and leads to the round rear light.
  • Semi-shell fairing for comfortable handling at high speed.
  • The side covers are designed so that they do not destroy the look of the original frame.
  • There is an exceptional paint finish in a bronze powder coating after the components have been hammered to give the surface texture.
  • After Kimura had completed all the bodywork, he decided to keep the classic symbolic shape of the standard exhaust system but paint it black.

via BMW

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