German in Jakarta | Kickass Choppers BMW R75/S
Words Geoff Baldwin Photography Luke Ray
As soon as we set foot into Kickass Choppers I knew we were about to see something special. Custom builder and workshop owner Vero (pronounced Fero) is one of Jakarta’s original chopper builders and his workshop is a testament to decades of commitment to the art of building custom cars and motorcycles. Shelves lined with helmets, cabinets filled with carbs and a staircase garnished with fuel tanks are just a few of the visual treats in his showroom. Attached to the showroom is his workshop where his staff were tinkering away on a dozen or so different bike builds and upstairs is his living space, which is decked out to look just as cool as the bikes he builds.
As Vero gave us a tour of the Kickass premises I spotted at least five different builds that would make great additions to the mag, but unfortunately I had to narrow my choices down to two due to our time restraints. The first bike we shot was this BMW R75/S Café Racer, the second you will find further on in the pages of this issue. Before we began shooting the BMW I had a chance to sit with Vero and talk about his past as a builder in Jakarta and how Kickass Choppers all began.
Vero: When I was 4 or 5 years old, before I could even read, my father never had a new car, but he always used to talk about how you could work on your car so you could be happy with what you could afford. He had a Jeep at the time and even though petrol prices were high he would go to a local race shop to buy parts to improve its performance. While we were there I would look at all the pictures in the magazines and one day the shop owner gave me a pile of Easy Rider and Hot Rod magazines stuck together in a folder. I brought it home and it became one of my biggest influences. I also discovered Mad Max and my dream became to have a car with a supercharger and the engine sticking out of the bonnet along with a custom Chopper. I had no interest in stock cars or bikes, they had to be custom.
When I was a teenager Harley’s weren’t really expensive, but they were hard to come by. My first bike was a ’52 WL, which I customised myself. I soon realised I could make money selling that bike now that it was custom so I then bought a dual start Sportster and it went on from there. At the time there was only really one shop in Jakarta where you could buy performance parts. I wanted to also change how the bikes looked so I started making my own sissy bars, handlebars and pipes with a friend while I was in uni. We started building together on weekends and in the late nineties he left his job and we started producing parts full time.
I turned my Mum’s backyard into a workshop, but she soon got fed up and I had to find my own place. I bought a small piece of land in Jakarta and set up my first workshop. I started meeting ex-pats in the motorcycle scene that liked my work and would hang out at my place in the evening and on weekends. They helped me to get parts through their European and American connections and I started looking at ways of improving Harleys to make them more powerful and more reliable. I used to spend a lot of money and time working on Shovelheads. S&S did some great work with the Shovel improving their oil system and reliability, but even with those improvements these days in Jakarta’s traffic they still suffer. So I turned my interest to Evo’s because they are more reliable and can handle the slow moving traffic.
Kickass Choppers is all about chopping and customising. Not just Harleys. I’ve been building Café Racers since 2006 and was one of the first to introduce pinstriping into the local scene. A lot of people at the time hadn’t seen these things before and didn’t get it. I was confused, but I kept doing what I loved and what I thought was cool.
I toured the States visiting swap meets and junkyards. Sending boxes full of parts home as I went. A German friend put me in touch with Cole Foster and Max Schaff and I met many other builders through them in the US custom scene. I was invited as a judge to the AMA World Bike Building Championships and I got to hang with some of the best builders in the world. In 2009 I went to Sturgis then on to Speed Week for two weeks. That trip really opened my eyes and inspired me. On the salt people were racing and wrenching everyday to go faster and nearby at a Casino the car park filled with hundreds of custom bikes and cars. It was great to see how performance and looks were combined here to create some really amazing machines.
I then started visiting other places closer to home to explore the Asian scene better. I went to Japan, Malaysia and Singapore then to closer places like Bali. Soon I was being invited to display my bikes at shows and be a guest builder. Now I build bikes for people around the world, France, Germany, Australia, but most of my customers are local friends.
Now I’ve met many people through the bike scene. We became friends and spent a lot of time together and in recent years I’ve partnered with these friends on other businesses like bars and restaurants that suit our tastes. It’s amazing the relationships I have made through bikes.
Vero’s BMW R75/S Café Racer was built for a local customer who sourced the bike after Vero had expressed to him interest in working on a Boxer. When the bike arrived it was decided to keep the frame mostly original and do what he referred to as a “smart modify”, making small changes to create a dramatic new look.
The engine block was blasted clean leaving it with a lightly textured finish that became the starting point for the look of the BMW. The engine covers, air box, triple trees, hubs, rims and guards were consequently stripped raw and brushed to compliment the look of engine cases and tie everything together.
The bike’s suspension was changed to a mono-shock set up to reduce clutter and a custom rear wheel arrangement was devised. After careful measurements Vero ordered a blank Akront rim, which he drilled to match the spoke pattern on the BMW’s shaft drive hub and a fatter, 4.25 inch Coker Diamond tyre was added.
To buff up the stock BMW forks Vero’s team fabricated a set of custom alloy fork sleeves to slot beneath the Telefix clip-ons and a fork brace was added to stiffen the handling of the front end. The top clamp was shaved clean and vintage style Raask rear sets were used to replace the stock BMW foot controls.
With these changes in place the proportions of the bike had already dramatically changed so Vero went mild with the rest of the mods. A universal Café Racer styled tail section was mounted to match the top line of the fuel tank, positioning the rider in a higher, more aggressive sports bike riding position. To fill the space beneath the seat he then fabricated the high mounted stainless steel exhaust and mufflers, adding alloy heat shields to protect the rider’s legs.
As Vero explained, “If you get the proportions right you can use almost any finish or paint scheme and it will look good”. Once Vero was satisfied with the bikes stance the owner advised his colour choice of blue and the tank and tail were prepped for paint. To match the look of the rest of the bike Vero went with a satin finish, metallic paint, which he broke up with cream panels similar to the colour scheme of the BMW’s emblem. It’s a killer looking Café Racer and to quote Vero’s own words I think it’s “smart modified” exemplified.
This article first appeared in Tank Moto issue 07.
Follow Vero: @kickasschoppers.