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How Renard Created a Custom Single-seater with All the Style of a Cafe Racer, plus Modern Handling and Comfort

Renard, a European custom motorcycle company, added its own touch to the BMW R100 for an updated look and riding experience.


How Renard Created a Custom Single-seater with All the Style of a Cafe Racer, plus Modern Handling and Comfort

Renard, a European custom motorcycle company, added its own touch to the BMW R100 for an updated look and riding experience.

There’s a certain class of motorcycles that exude cool. Cafe racers almost always fall into that category, and have for decades. Yet what defines the bikes–modifications to single-seaters to push speed and maneuverability–also often decreases comfort and handling for longer rides. Renard, a European company that makes customized motorcycles, takes that style to the next level without the downsides.

“The Renard R100 is a classic single-seater, rider-oriented motorcycle,” Andres Uibomäe, the driving force behind Renard and the principal designer and builder, tells me. “It’s a timeless bike that offers both visual appeal and riding comfort. We don’t classify our bike as a cafe racer ourselves because we believe it’s something much more than that. While it falls under the cafe racer category in terms of motorcycle classification, we leave it to the rider to decide what it truly represents.”

The Renard R100 builds off of the BMW R100 air cooled boxer. It operates just as well as an analog machine without the modern gadgets. “Simplicity embodies beauty,” as Uibomäe puts it. For those who want modern tech like alarms, battery monitoring, and tracking, however, the options are there. And few have spent as much time learning the ins and outs of the BMW R100 as Renard.

The frame, suspension, and swing arm underwent lab tests equivalent up to 200,000 kilometers. Brake components meet the highest category of EU standards. The 17-liter aluminum fuel tank has been pressure tested and is certified for street use, while the custom exhaust with in-house designed pre-chamber is fully street legal and operates within noise regulations. Torque at low revs and a riding position that doesn’t strain the wrists too much make it ideal for urban rides and winding mountain roads alike–the Renard-designed wind deflector works at speed and the rotating boxer engine makes cornering endlessly enjoyable.

Most importantly for longevity, the bikes are serviceable at any BMW airhead specialist.

“We want all our bikes, each of which is individual and unique, to embody Renard’s brand values and vision, being aesthetic and timeless machines that, on the day petrol is banned, find their new place in the living room or perhaps even an art gallery, rather than collecting dust in a garage corner,” Uibomäe says. “We see them as an Industrial art. The symbiosis of aesthetics and technology brought in line with the demands and expectations of today’s riders.”

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

What updates did you make for the modern rider?

Yes, absolutely. The “Cafe Racer” as such was originally each rider’s individually customized bike. Everyone made their bikes with whatever they had on hand and in mind plus duct tape. The reimagined R100 is different on a qualitative level—we have a dedicated team and production process that has been refined and perfected over the years.

The Renard R100 was designed with the goal to provide superb riding comfort, safety and performance in a carefully crafted package. The production of a Renard R100 involves the best of today’s technical methods, from CNC milling to 3D scanning and printing. In order to deliver a unique riding experience the handling of the bike was improved, and brakes and suspension are without compromise. All modifications onto the bike have been type-approved like it is done on modern bikes.

We want our customers to experience the same times and adventures in our imaginations as when these bikes were created, but we’ve also grown accustomed to modern comforts. This is where Renard R100 comes in, serving up the symbiosis of these two worlds.

What are some examples of the modern manufacturing and materials?

We have touched and improved every aspect of the bike. The most important task was to achieve ergonomics and comfort. We are proud of how we managed to achieve a riding position that provides a relaxed feel and full control over the bike.

Modern technologies allow for the production of parts that are as lightweight as possible while still meeting the strength requirements. Thanks to the aluminum tank, carbon fiber tail section, special suspension components, etc., the wet weight of the Renard R100 is approximately 196kg.

The 300mm dual discs, paired with six-piston calipers, provide superb feel and stopping power.

Internally designed front suspension is visually reminiscent of the 1970s Ceriani forks, but conceals modern Öhlins technology within its shell. The suspension settings are three-way adjustable (compression, preload, rebound) according to the customer’s riding preference and weight.

Relay and fuse-free electrical system is installed, allowing you to connect the system to your mobile phone and monitor the bike’s status if needed. A 410W generator produces enough power for lights, charging your smart phone or navigation unit, and all other necessary equipment.

Hydraulic brake and clutch master cylinders with excellent feel, ergonomic and clear switchgear whose operation can be felt even through riding gloves.

Have there been any exciting customizations that you've seen?

Making engine components in gold finish was an interesting challenge.

We needed to find a way to make the cylinders, exhaust, and intake parts appear golden without compromising their ability to resist wear and withstand high temperatures. Painting was out of the question as these were components that needed to endure extreme heat. Anodizing and ceramic coating didn’t provide the authentic look we desired. Ultimately, we had to find a partner capable of applying real gold onto the surface of aluminum in a way that would remain stable.

Weeks of background research led us to a company that manufactures gold-plated parts for space satellites, which must endure temperatures ranging from hundreds of degrees to extreme cold.

We developed tooling to ensure no acid or anything else that could damage the cylinders inner surfaces would enter. Careful planning and preparation paid off; the engine was assembled and is now running. The customer is over the moon.

Weeks of background research led us to a company that manufactures gold-plated parts for space satellites, which must endure temperatures ranging from hundreds of degrees to extreme cold.

Why base the customization off of the BMW R100?

Riding a bike with boxer engine is something special. The flat-laying design of the boxer engine offers better balance and stability, making the bike turn into corners like no other.

BMW’s classic motorcycles walk the same path as the Porsches of that era, which are also air-cooled and boxer-engined. That appeals to people.

It’s just my personal opinion, but it seems to me that nobody has done with a motorcycle what has been done lately with the Porsche 964. The incredibly beautiful restomods, each one better than the last, have elevated the 964 back to cult status. The Renard R100 could be the equivalent of that on two wheels.

Performance-wise, how does Renard push the things?

“Cafe Racer” typically implies a dreadful riding position and poor ergonomics. We’ve worked hard to find a sweet spot where all the essential elements come together.

The Renard R100 single-seater saddle, handlebar, and foot peg geometry are carefully chosen to enable longer rides. Foot pegs are positioned as low and forward as possible, close to the engine, so the rider can better distribute body weight. The handlebar is brought as high and as close to the rider as possible for the opposite effect, not to leave too much weight on the arms. The seat is wide enough to accommodate riding longer distances comfortably, yet all is designed in a way that the bike remains sleek and sporty.

As it’s a single-seater, we use lighter flywheels and modified crankshafts in our engines, making them livelier. In our tuning program, customers can choose between two engine options: either entirely stock; or a tuned, more torquier 80hp engine.

Who do you see as the core target market?

People who appreciate aesthetics, who love classic motorcycles and cars, but who aren’t quite satisfied with how they perform in today’s conditions. They are the ones responsible for the rise of restomodification and the reason why this trend is currently experiencing its golden age.

These are the individuals who attend exhibitions and shows, admiring the beauty of vintage vehicles, yet they never purchase those vehicles because their daily use is a headache and a significant challenge.

They are not purists or advocates of originality; however, they still desire to be part of this wonderful classic world.

How involved can buyers be with the customization?

The client can participate in various finishing processes, such as choosing a personalized color scheme for their new R100. They can decide on the tank, whether it’s polished aluminum or multi-colored, the color of pin striping, and the finish of the leather seat and handlebars.

Clients can choose from five different anodizations for brake calipers and handle controls, as well as various surface coatings, whether it’s pure aluminum, chrome, nickel, or even real gold-plating–even on engine parts.

As the bike is designed for single-seater, some aspects, such as the frame, cannot be changed anymore. However, personalizing one’s R100 up to, for example, a street tracker configuration, is not ruled out.

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