Sunday, September 23, 2018


The sequel

Reader take note...

The following reflects something I decided I never was going to do: Get hold of an old motorcycle and try to fix the damned thing up.  Among my many limitations, I know, are mechanical skills.  Even the most basic ones.

Recall this Church of the Open Road entry from only last March:

Except this old BMW– the one now in my possession – I rather inherited when my brother’s throttle hand came out on the losing end of an industrial accident.

The model he wished to unload, I had a history with:  In 1982, as recounted in the above link, my first real motorcycle was a 650cc naked BMW. Naked refers to it having no fairing or wind protection for the rider.  In those days, none of ‘em did.

Two years into my ownership, when it was time to bring the R65 in for service, Ozzie, the owner of the local BMW franchise said, “Why don’ chu take dis new mahdel out for a schpin.  Go ahead.  You can have fun mit it.  I’ll call you when your bike ez rrready.”

Even through his thick Bavarian accent, Ozzie didn’t have to repeat himself.

The demo was a red BMW R80RT.  It had everything my little black bike had and more. It had wind protection.  Sailing under a canopy of oaks and through the gentle curves of Chico, California’s lower Bidwell Park I thought, “Why don’t I get one of these?” The R80 retailed for about $1500.00 more than my bike and I didn’t have $1500.00, that’s why.  Still, the memory of that little tryst in the park lingers.

Fast forward about 30 years into a new century, add in Bill’s terrible accident, and here I am: toting home a 32-years-ago fantasy.

The new-to-me RT is not new.  It’s going to need some work, not because it wasn’t cared for, but because it’s three-plus-decades old.  Automotive-type  things just don’t last that long.  Quick, go out to your nearest major through-fare and count how many 32-year-old vehicles pass by.  See what I mean?

Although I’d trailered it home from Chico, I took it for a shake down around nearby Lake Sonoma today.  Fifty miles of variable curves and variable speeds would help me assess just what I’d gotten myself in to.

Visually the thing looks fine.  The instrument dash is cracked and broken away from the windshield – probably something I caused while trailering it home.  I’d gone over an unanticipated bump at too high a speed and the bike – secured though it was – took a pretty good jolt.

The front tire is new but the rear needs to be replaced.

Two tiny oil spots have developed on the garage floor where it’s been parked for a month, so it’s gonna need seals.  Fork seals as well, I noticed.

The light patina on the finish looks okay.  Who am I to be critical of how some other old thing has aged?

Firing up the horizontal twin engine with less than 32,000 miles on the clock, the motor chortled to life and after about five or six minutes of easy warm up riding, hummed along Dutcher Creek Road almost begging me to twist the throttle just a bit more.

Living in the era of anti-lock brakes, the stoppers on this machine are not.  Longer distances and a more nuanced squeeze will be necessary in order not to lose rear-wheel traction.

Driving through the twisties, up over and down some of the hills along Lake Sonoma, I am faintly reminded of the “death wobble” sometimes experienced on my old ’82 R65.  It is a curious phenomenon that happens as you pass through a band of speed.  Once on the other side of it, everything smooths out.  San Jose’s BMW shop developed a fork brace to alleviate this concern, but I think they’re no longer in business.

So, there’s work to do.  And I’m not a wrench.

A small company out in Point Arena repairs and restores classics and near-classics.  I am eagerly scheduling an assessment visit as you read this.

And today’s fifty-mile ride?  It was like one of those blasts from the past one usually experiences while listening to the oldies station or a when woman walks by wearing a certain fragrance.  Arriving home, I concluded that this acquisition may be both a money pit and a simple pleasure.  

But since I am pretty certain that I only get to go around once, I am happy that part of that once will finally be astride the R80RT.

© 2018
Church of the Open Road Press


  1. Driven them in anger; guild luck

  2. Thanks for sharing this wonderful post with us. I enjoyed stopping by for your informative articles. Have a great upcoming weekend and keep up the wonderful posts.
    Greg Prosmushkin