There is more than Fabergé eggs in Moscow
Not very much is known about the Russian cafe racer scene, but sometimes little gems unexpectedly pop to the surface. In the heart of Moscow, there is a “small atelier” as they call themselves, who work under the name “Z17 customs”. They are surfing the edge between shed builder and semi-pro. We noticed their exquisitely designed BMW K100, which not only stood out because of its stunning looks but largely due to the sterling photography.
Marketeer versus mechanic
Mikhael (Mike) and Sergey are more or less opposites. One of the pair having a commercial background, the other the craftsman. But it seems to work out fine in the heart of Moscow. Mike is a relative novice when it comes to the bike scene, with just over five years of riding under his belt.
What lured him onto two wheels was a combination of a group of riders who had sheltered their rides in a garage just across the street from where Mikhael lives and other riding friends who listed their adventures on their Facebook timelines.
Hard to resist, but still, Mikhael had to get the blessing from his love to buy his first bike, a Yamaha FZ6R. With the motorcycling virus now solidly nested in his glands, the Muscovite and his friend Sergey decided three years ago they wanted to take things to the next level.
Going for German quality
The latter had already rebuilt a few bikes and was looking for a new and even more interesting challenge. As German quality and innovative technical design were high on the list of priorities it was no surprise a BMW K100 was the required donor for Z17’s plans.
Unfortunately, these bikes are hard to find in Moscow. More specifically the one they found was the only one still available in the area and it had been on sale for quite some time. Not a very promising sign.
The 1988 Beemer had the looks of an abused Russian beauty queen, with her broken mirror, limping turn indicators, and rugged overall looks. The black smoke that filled the garage when the salesman started the engine did not exactly help to convince the two either. According to the seller, it was ‘just some oil residue in the exhaust pipes.
Still Sergey, being the technician of the two, probably saw the ‘Fabergé egg’ deep within. His basic instinct strengthened by the fact that this was the only K100 on sale within a 300-mile radius dictated the decision to take the risk and escort the lady to her new palace.
In the Z17 atelier the K100 was stripped naked and lost about 50 kilograms of eighties plastic and other stuff Mike and Sergey decided they could do without. As the spell was released, slowly but surely the queen started to blossom again. As the wrenchers were getting closer to the actual skin they found out that the screws, nuts, and bolts were all as fresh as if they came from the factory the week before.
Opening and examining the engine was as exciting as opening a vault with a long lost key. Amazingly enough, the condition of the German heart was superb. Z17 customs set out on this project with a commercial plan. Rebuilding the bike and selling it. But doubt set in when they discovered the engine to be in such excellent condition. For weeks they were on an emotional rollercoaster whether to sell the bike or not, once it was finished. Until today no decision has been taken yet.
Moving forward, Sergey suggested that his buddy would be in the lead and determine the way forward. Russians grow up with the notion not to stand out from the crowd. Even though Sergey’s designs are more futuristic oriented, Mike managed to shed his more conservative stance and let his background as a professional photographer take the lead in this project.
“This seat is reserved”
Starting with the seat, the color puzzle came together piece by piece. The result is very different from what is normally seen on the road in Russia. ‘Boring’ is a word which fits the bike the least. ‘Elegant’ is a more fitting description.
The pair really pulled all stops. They wanted to get it right. Whatever could not be found in Germany, China or Russia was produced in-house. Trying to make as many parts themselves in their own workshop. The seat stuffing and stitching had to be outsourced.
The ‘piece de illuminance’ was to be the lighting. Not satisfied with a standard classic look, Mikhael chooses to “combine old style cafe racer with modern city road safety” as he describes it. “This is why we installed bright fog lights for increased visibility.”
Noticing from the ‘en face’ picture, the lights are not the only safety-enhancing feature. On the left and right side of the headlight, there are loud looking horns. Obviously installed to warn sleepy Russian car drivers as the BMW is whisking past.
These Moscow Motorists have dramatically failed at one important point. Not standing out from the crowd has failed miserably. They have come up with very well thought through end magnificently executed project. Fabergé, go eat your egg out.
The way they go about their business is as adventurous as it is to ride a bike from the Western border to Moscow in dead winter. In their own words: “you must spoil before you spin… But sometimes you have to break the rules.”