While I loved my RZ350, it wasn’t exactly a touring machine; any more than an hour in the saddle would cause anyone who is not a contortionist severe pain. This was especially true for the person on the back, namely my girlfriend. We had always enjoyed two-up touring, so either the RZ had to go or another bike had to be bought. This led me to some serious soul searching: it had to be lightweight, reliable, comfortable and able to eat up miles. It also had to be a capable handler. In 1990, about the only bikes that could fit all these criteria was a BMW boxer twin.
Several weeks’ searching turned up a reasonably clean 1977 BMW R100/7 and an even more reasonable price of $1400. My beemer was by no means perfect, but it had no dents or dings and it ran great. It had been owned by a Harely type who lost interested in it. Any malady it had was due to sitting so long. It was full of stale gas and all the fluids needed changing out. With this done, the BMW ran very sweetly indeed.
I have always loved BWW airheads. These boxer twins were as close to indestructible as any engine can be, having its roots way back to 1923 gave the Black Forest boys quite a while to iron the bugs out. At sixty horsepower, it was no powerhouse, but the bike was less than 450 lbs wet so there was no shortage of power. The boxer was not about power anyway, it was all about torque. This 1000 cc motor had a flywheel the size and weight of a manhole cover; you could lug the thing down to the point of hearing each cylinder fire individually. From there it would pull cleanly right up to redline. In town, all you had to do was get it into third gear and use the throttle as rheostat; little shifting was necessary.
The R100 thus became what was for me the ultimate touring bike, able to do 800 km days without undue strain. The flat twins have a very low center of gravity, making it a pleasure to maneuver in any situation. The shaft drive didn’t appreciate abrupt throttle applications; the best way to ride the beemer was to be as smooth as possible. If one was careful not to chop the throttle in a corner, surprising speeds could be achieved. However, that was not the beemer’s strong suit; where it reveled was on long distance, two lane highway, such as British Columbia’s highway 97C through the Okanagan Valley. The huge gas tank meant a range of 400 km, and I often drained it without a stop. Doing that on my RZ350 would mean a month of traction!
I had the BMW almost as long as the RZ, meaning over three years. It was very easy to live it as the engine as about as high-tech as an anvil. While I had it, it had the same recurrent problem: for some reason, it would burn the positive contact off where it met the alternator. For no reason, the battery light would come on and then the engine would die. I replaced everything, battery, alternator, wiring, all to no avail. I just started carrying extra connectors with me wherever I went. Besides, removing the front cover was a breeze, just six allen bolts. The quality of all the fasteners was so good nothing ever stripped.
This leads us to a funny story about the beemer: while going pucka-pucka (all Airhead devotees know what I am talking about) down US 101 amid the Redwood Forest, the light came on, so I pulled over to replace the lead. No big deal, just a half hour tops. About the time I had the cover off, we head the rumble of many Hogs coming down the road. A short time later, about twenty Angels arrived, and seeing an old BMW twin they stopped to render assistance. My girlfriend was about to have a coronary but I’ve never had any bad blood with Angels. Anyway, they were really friendly and when I was all wrapped up, they invited us to their clubhouse for dinner. My lady almost jumped out her skin when I accepted the invitation!
The hideout was off 101, up a dirt road like five miles, and what a place it was; gorgeous views, a swimming pool and a whole cow on the barbeque. We ate all we could and by that point I was pretty loaded and I never even sniff alcohol and ride. They were so nice they put us up and in the morning fed us a fantastic breakfast. The night’s antic’s are not for a public website like this one but suffice to say, a good time as had by all, even my girlfriend.
When I decided to relocate overseas, the BMW needed a good home. I was not about to let anyone have it. I advertised it many days and had no decent bites until Victoria, BC motorcycling legend Reg Shanks called me. Reg was a founder of the Victoria Motorcycling Club and the legendary Brooklands Cycles, where I spent many a teen year. Reg was eighty-six years old at the time, and he bought the bike. When he rode me back to my place on the back of his K75RT, it was one of the best rides of my life. When I told him, he graciously thanked me. A good memory to keep for the rest of my life.
So ends my contribution to CC for the time being. I’ve really enjoyed putting these pieces up and found great pleasure in the comments fellow CCers have posted. If so desired, I will be putting more auto related pieces here on CC, so we will see ya all soon!