BMW Motorrad SoulFuel Series: Shinya Kimura’s R 18 – “The Wal”


"The Wal" - a BMW Motorrad R 18 hand-built by artist and customizer, Shinya Kimura for BMW's SoulFuel series. This is the third bike in that series.

“It all started with a visit to the BMW Motorrad development team in Germany,” admits BMW Motorrad’s latest muse in their SoulFuel series – a down-to-earth man named Shinya Kimura. 

“I 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 kilometers to get to know the character of the bike. Following a whole series of conversations, this eventually led to my personal interpretation of the R 18, in which I applied the entire range of my activities as a customizer.”

"The Wal" - a BMW Motorrad R 18 hand-built by artist and customizer, Shinya Kimura for BMW's SoulFuel series. This is the third bike in that series.

A proficient in entomology and the bloke responsible for this beauty of a project, Kimura has incorporated his own highly-popular “Zero Style” into a BMW R18 – and the results are nothing short of breathtaking. 

The R18 in question – a sleek, grungy (and beautifully hand-built) unit christened ‘the Wal’ – is the third bike in the BMW SoulFuel series, with Kimura’s iconic “Zero Style” loud and proud with the low-positioned gooseneck frames to emphasize the engine.

"The Wal" - a BMW Motorrad R 18 hand-built by artist and customizer, Shinya Kimura for BMW's SoulFuel series. This is the third bike in that series.

The result? A monster of a machine that is “subtly artistic, representing the change from the older, vintage styling to the more modern…produced as a one-off with copper and brass to fit organically into the design.”

"The Wal" - a BMW Motorrad R 18 hand-built by artist and customizer, Shinya Kimura for BMW's SoulFuel series. This is the third bike in that series.

Kimura explains on NewsPressUSA that his goals for this build were to ride long distances while still staying comfy on the caboose.

Combining inexhaustible power with good-natured comfort is a tricky business, so to make sure the bike fit this mould, Kimura installed a “larger and completely differently designed fuel tank compared to the original; an elongated, harmoniously rounded seat hump, and a half-shell fairing.”

"The Wal" - a BMW Motorrad R 18 hand-built by artist and customizer, Shinya Kimura for BMW's SoulFuel series. This is the third bike in that series.

The Wal also comes with two asymmetrically arranged headlights that look like eyes, with the grill below giving off the appearance of ‘teeth.’ 

Combine that with the dull, burnished hide of the bike, and the whole scheme really does set off the appearance of life – the ultimate compliment to the brilliance of the boxer engine.

"The Wal" - a BMW Motorrad R 18 hand-built by artist and customizer, Shinya Kimura for BMW's SoulFuel series. This is the third bike in that series.

“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. I decided to adopt the frame, wheels, and tyres as well as suspension elements and brakes because I didn’t feel the need to change them after I had ridden the bike.”

To Kimura, the balance of power and comfort is “just like a whale, hence the German animal name for this R 18, which for me is something like a ‘Sports Endurancer,’” Kimura finishes.

"The Wal" - a BMW Motorrad R 18 hand-built by artist and customizer, Shinya Kimura for BMW's SoulFuel series. This is the third bike in that series.

“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.” 

"The Wal" - a BMW Motorrad R 18 hand-built by artist and customizer, Shinya Kimura for BMW's SoulFuel series. This is the third bike in that series.

The hardest part, though, was maintaining the integrity of the original concept for the bike – introducing new elements that improved the beast, keeping to the theme of the build without losing the roots of what the bike was always meant to be for a rider. 

“What I like best about my version of the R 18 is that 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 own style and taste was a big challenge in my interpretation of the BMW Heritage.”

"The Wal" - a BMW Motorrad R 18 hand-built by artist and customizer, Shinya Kimura for BMW's SoulFuel series. This is the third bike in that series.

Today, Kimura still works on bikes of all shapes and sizes – though he is limited to a mere handful a year, all of which are highly sought-after builds. 

His largest contribution, though, is to the soul of riding, that enigmatic energy that fuels our passion for two wheels down. Rather, a “passion for all the motorbikes that were born into this world,” as he says himself. 

“While working on ‘The Wal’ project, I discovered new things every day that stimulated and motivated me. I greatly appreciate BMW Motorrad and all the people who supported me in this project. It was such a valuable and impactful experience for me.” 

"The Wal" - a BMW Motorrad R 18 hand-built by artist and customizer, Shinya Kimura for BMW's SoulFuel series. This is the third bike in that series.

Here’s a list of the bits and bobs tweaked on “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.

Seat: Designed to create a natural flow from the seat cushion and leads to the round rear light.

Semi-shell fairing: for comfortable handling at high speed.

Side Covers: Designed in such a way that they do not destroy the look of the original frame.

Paint: Special paint finish via a bronzed powder coating, with a hammered surface to give texture.

Exhaust: After Kimura had completed all the bodywork, he decided to keep the classic symbolic shape of the standard exhaust system but paint it black.

"The Wal" - a BMW Motorrad R 18 hand-built by artist and customizer, Shinya Kimura for BMW's SoulFuel series. This is the third bike in that series.

Let us know what you think of this BMW beauty and drop a comment below as you’re checking out our photo gallery; Be sure also to stay updated on all things BMW Motorrad, and as always – stay safe on the twisties.

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