From Alaska To Australia: Ellaspede BMW R65LS
Words: Hughan Seary Photography: Rachael Baskerville
Sometimes you just can’t ignore family history. This was certainly the case
with Ross’ 1984 BMW R65LS.
Sold new in Alaska the bike soon made its way to San Francisco and into the
hands of Ross’ Uncle where it was soaking up the sun across the Golden
Gate Bridge no doubt.
Ross’ dad had shown some interest in the bike, so in 1998 he purchased it
from his brother and imported it to Australia. A few years of riding later and
the family ties continued with Ross purchasing the bike from his dad.
He enjoyed riding the bike in stock trim for a number of years before it was
tucked away in 2012 when ‘kids and life’ started to takeover the available
When the interest began growing for a custom bike the R65 certainly wasn’t
the original donor of choice for Ross. But he couldn’t go past the history
attached to this machine, so he decided to ‘keep it in the family’ and explore
Being Sydney based he looked around the local shops before one of his
customers referred him to Ellaspede in Brisbane. Soon after looking at the
Ellaspede builds online he knew the ‘designs were right’, calling the next day
to book the bike in.
With the amount of black custom bikes getting around Ross knew he wanted
something bright and clean, originally opting for an all white colour scheme.
Fitting given the bike originated in Alaska! Although the Ellaspede industrial
designers heeded Ross’ thoughts and took it a little further with a concept
rendering close to what you see here.
Admittedly it wasn’t originally what Ross had in mind, rather it had taken that
image and built upon it for a final result he’s more than impressed with.
Having signed off on the final design Ross sent the bike up from Sydney,
parts were accumulated and the strip down began.
Starting in the centre, the fuel tank was popped off for an acid wash, catching
some pinholes of ‘metal cancer’ before they spread too far. With the rust cut
out, a fresh tank liner, fuel tap and lines were installed to ensure optimum
The original frame and swing arm were left largely intact, taking on fresh
bearings and re-tapped threads throughout.
The thin factory subframe was modified and strengthened so that now
matches the visual line of the tank and shortens the rear. A custom metal seat
pan resides atop with some carefully shaped foam providing subtle profile
changes and taking care of seating duties.
The rear guard is another custom shaped metal item, doubling as an inner
guard and mounting the Ellaspede Ninja Star licence plate holder off the rear.
At the other end the front guard was deemed appropriate once it was cut
down and reshaped to suit.
The front forks had the lowers shaved before being rebuilt with new seals,
Ikon progressive rate springs and thicker fork oil. Completing the suspension
package are Ikon rear shocks with satin black springs.
Once out of the frame the engine and gearbox were separated, degreased
and inspected before covers were painted, surfaces were linished and new
gaskets were installed. An Ellaspede aluminium cover replaces the factory
plastic airbox and further accentuates the iconic shape of this classic Bavarian
Although in good condition, the original carbs came off for a full strip and
ultrasonic clean before being screwed back together with genuine BMW
rebuild kits, new needles and floats. The carb tops and bowls were polished,
with the bodies being coated in a contrasting satin black.
Stainless headers with classic 2-into-2 lines were welded up, scour finished
with exposed welds and heat colouring purposely left for an authentic custom
look. Fibreglass wrapped baffles and reverse cone mufflers cap the decibel
level and complete the look.
The original electrical harness was modified for routing out of sight, with some
sections and components replaced for modern smaller items. A new ignition
harness ensures amble power at high rpm, while a slimline AGM gel battery
tucks up under the seat in a custom battery box to get things going.
The 5 3⁄4 inch bottom mount headlight sits on a custom headlight and
indicator mount, with Posh Chamfer Indicators all round. Simplifying the front
end is an Acewell 2853 gauge that mounts low and tight against the top triple
tree. Completing the front-end electrics are stock switch blocks that were
stripped, cleaned and painted before being reinstated.
Ross controls the whole show via black superbike bars with Eastwood grips
wrapped in leather sheaths. Replacement foot peg rubbers for the rider and
pillion are on standing duty and ‘lane splitter’ bar end mirrors keep the past in
After inspection the useable original cables cleaned and refitted, while new
choke, clutch and throttle cable inners were installed to prevent any unwanted
split ends. Ross identified that the mid '80s braking abilities didn’t align with his
requirements, so a simple but effective front brake upgrade kit was supplied
and fitted. A braided line and rebuilt front calliper now hang off a custom CNC
calliper mount to clamp a new 320mm rotor. It’s a vast improvement over
stock that doesn’t require a modern brake calliper or master cylinder. Fresh
pads all round complete the pull up package.
Adding to Ross’ initial all white colour scheme is a gloriously smooth grey,
giving some contrast and visual slimming to the side of the factory tank. The
headlight, front guard and rear guard also took on the two-tone hues, with the
remaining brackets, parts and pieces in a factory finish satin black. New tank
badges proudly splash a little BMW blue on this classic build.
The popular ‘snowflake’ wheels were definite keepers, dressed in black for a
subtle finish on a detailed design. New bearings and seals made their way in
before Bridgestone BT45’s in 100/90-18 front and ‘as large as the shaft drive
would allow’ 130/80-18 rear.
Bringing some organic flavour to an otherwise clinical colour scheme is the
clay brown leather stitching up the seat, saddlebags and grip sheaths. A
horizontal bar seat design sits between brown stitch panelling that follows the
frame and tank lines to tie it all together.
Small felt lined saddlebags provide a little extra storage and fill the usual
under seat void left on many modern custom builds.
When the whole bike came back together it was time for final testing and
adjustment. Sometimes a timely process that can reveal items overlooked
during the build, this was not the case with Ross’ R65 as only some minor
timing adjustment, carb balancing and speedo calibrations were required.
Today the bike is back in Sydney and Ross is looking forward to reliving a
little family history. When his dad was still riding, Ross would join him on the
R65 for some fond memories riding together through the local National Park.
Now, with a new lease of life on the ‘Alaskan white’ BMW you’ll find Ross out
taking the same turns. But now with his son on the back, the fond memories
with this R65 will live on a little longer yet.
Follow Ellaspede: @ellaspede.