An unusual take on engineering and craftsmanship between two wheels

It’s a bird…it’s a plane…it’s the Watkins M001.

A unique concoction by a Polish engineer, Jack Watkins, this machine on two wheels is the result of nine long years of sweat and blood. Jack’s brains were wound up by the extreme engineering he saw on another custom motorcycle built by Stellan Egeland back in 2009 - a BMW Harrier that had the hub-center steering design.

Fast forward to 2018, Jack managed to complete his vision of the funky front-end onto a bespoke metal plate chassis and bodywork built around a 2002 air-cooled BMW R1150RT engine. Luckily, he had the folks of Moto Spec in Gdańsk to help him set up his first ever build in their workshop. It is nothing short of an inter-galactic spaceship ready to take on the planet.

The Watkins M001 Exterior
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Why nine years? As they say, “Great things take time.” But honestly, it is because Jack was an engineer by trade who had no experience whatsoever with building a custom motorcycle previously. While juggling between his family and work, his eyes fell on the BMW Harrier’s front-end one day and was bowled over.

Holding a Ph.D. in Mechanical design, working for an Industrial firm, and being a lecturer and researcher at the Gdańsk University of Technology, Jack did possess a few learned qualities to vision his variation of the hub-center steering. Working on it for a few hundreds of evenings, he finally perfected his innovation onto the Watkins M001 we see here today.

The Watkins M001 Exterior
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The Watkins M001 Exterior
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The Watkins M001 Exterior
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The Watkins M001 Exterior
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Through his profession, Jack had already built up a digital rendering of his hub-center design and sewed it to perfection over the course of time. He began construction by procuring parts from a network of suppliers and craftsmen he became acquainted at his workplace. The assembly though took two well-handed mechanics at Moto Spec headed by one Mateusz Kozlowski.

With the swanky front-end all done up, Jack drew his attention on a used 2002 BMW R 1150 RT which he then stripped it down and procured just the motor, transmission, final drive, and the rear shock for the M001. At the rear, wheels from a BMW GS takes position while the front sees a Yamaha XJ6 wheel with a milled hub and shocks from a Moto Guzzi V750.

The Watkins M001 Exterior
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The “over-engineered” phenomena of the main body are courtesy of two laser-cut steel sheets welded together with a few other hidden pieces. All of this included heavy 3D modeling to lineup with mounting points and structuring of the body panels. All electrical components are hidden in a small framework under the saddle.

Talking of which, local artisans upholstered the saddle onto aluminum panels, tightly packed in leaving sufficient space for the 4.2-gallon fuel tank. The inside of the tank gets a spatial structure points to guide the loads onto the rear shocks. The steel sheet body panels are tastefully finished with laser line cuttings and the number “1” showcasing Jack’s first build. The single sheet gets bent at six strategic locations required for the build.

The Watkins M001 Exterior
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At the rear, Jack used a unique polycarbonate finned structure that covers the fuel tank from sight and also gets mounting brackets for the rear LED taillight and the number plate. He built the exhaust unit all by himself using stainless-steel for the pipings that end up at a 2-into-1 twin-layered box.

With so much happening with the bike, Jack decided to keep the dash quite simple. Standard switches, bar-end turn signals and mirrors, and a KOSO speedo. Levers and pegs too are standard units. At the front, Jack surprisingly used a retro round headlamp offset from the center with a race number plate depicting the number “1” again.

The Watkins M001 Exterior
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The entire build has been majorly seen through using steel to save costs, but he has also strategically made use of high-strength 7075 aluminum for the M001’s moving parts. “All the components were either CNC machined, or laser cut, milled and bent.”

With such fascination and diligence with the work seen here, I dare not question its credibility on the streets. It is not a regular motorcycle by any means. Even if it doesn’t run, I guess there will be people appreciating this piece of work as art and would want one just for their living room, just like me.

Would I ride it to work every day? Maybe not. But I will make sure it will be the first thing I see as soon as I open my eyes every day.

What do you think?
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