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Thread: Someone's new to them first airhead bike

  1. #1
    Registered User STEVENRANKIN's Avatar
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    Someone's new to them first airhead bike

    So, I am on my grump wagon this morning. This is a message or plea to some of you in the airhead owners community.

    I can laugh at the jokes along the lines of the cheapest thing about a BMW motorcycle owner is the owner. I get it, I am not impressed with what I call BMW Bite my Wallet prices however, I am not cheap enough to compromise the safety, running of my bikes just to save a few bucks.

    I have been helping a new to BMW airhead rider sort out his first used but new to him bike. What is the BIGGEST thing we are finding? Screwed up and mismatched hardware and half baked add on accessories.

    For example, the fork brace on this bike had only two of the proper size diameter, grade length bolts holding it together. The previous owner had added some cockamamy turn signal lights to the bike when he installed an after market fairing and cut the stock turn signals off. Instead of the proper bolts, he used smaller diameter carriage bolts commonly used for non motorcycle things like children's wagons. So the wrong diameter, wrong grade/type, fine for him but I bet he never thought about the stress on the front forks and why it is BMW put four high grade bolts there. Of course, other examination of the bike showed the same theme of inappropriate bolts or fasteners in other places, some cosmetic some not.

    So, all joking aside, I have said in the past when I am on a rant some people should not be allowed to turn wrenches, and I sure want to make that point again. Second, and to be honest, I doubt this applies to anyone reading this, USE the proper parts and hardware for your bikes! Also, just because it is OKAY for you to half do something and ride the bike, have some consideration for the next guy who may buy it from you.

    Sadly a LOT of posts in this forum are just the sort of story I am writing about, a person wants an airhead for what ever reason, is a first time buyer with limited knowledge and finds the pretty bike they just bought was worked on by someone who should have their hands tied behind their backs. Oh granted some previous owners are oblivious to the fact they are screwing things up, those are the really scary guys. But, I bet a lot of them do know what they are doing and don't care or don't think about it.

    Like I said, most of you who read this forum are very likely are NOT in need of this bawling out, thankfully, and you have helped enormously poor guys who get stuck with the previous owners disease.

    For some of you and I hope a small minority, just because the modification works doesn't mean it is the right way to do things, you are not on a battle field or in a disaster where the only way to get to safety is to improvise and make do with whatever is at hand. Parts are available from many sources and with some looking can even be found at a reasonable price. So quit using baling wire, and carriage bolts, buy the right parts. St.

  2. #2
    BMWMOA #24809 jhall's Avatar
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    Airhead Cobbo-Jobs

    I have owned six Airheads since 1981, and musta been lucky, since I have never ran into problems created by POs. About 99 percent of the problems I have encountered were due to BMW's PP engineering, and apparent priority given to profit margin. For example, the current 59 R100RT, which I bought at 25,000 miles and unmolested: The OEM (Boge) rear shock began puking oil all over the rear wheel on the 225 mile ride home, so I replaced it with an IKON; the front springs were mushy, so I replaced them with Progressives; the rear tail light would burn out a bulb every 2-3 weeks, so I replaced with a LED assembly from EME; the OEM kickstand was dangerous, so I replaced it with a Brown; the OEM alternator would not put out enough wattage to power electric clothing, so I replaced it with an OMEGA 600; the dash lights were too dim, so I replaced with LED and KAT-DASH; the OEM starter was making terrible/weird noises, so I replaced it with an upgraded(?) Valejo; the OEM type 'wet' battery was a PITA, so I replaced it with a maintenance free one; the rear trunk, mount and backrest were for aesthetics only, and non functional, so I replaced it with a Reynolds rack; the fork seals were shot, partially due to no guard to keep bugs off the tubes, so I installed gaiters; the forks would not turn lock-to-lock due to interference caused by the OEM weather seals in bottom of the fairing, so I removed them same time I installed gaiters. There's probably other stuff I have forgotten, but I have never owned a MC that needed so much factory engineering re-engineered in order to make the bike useful and safe. Only factory engineered problem I have not conquered is the pathetic rear brake, which also plagued the other 5 Airheads I owned prior, including at least one RT with rear disc brake.

    The good news, it's now a pretty good rider. One thing a PO did, that I am grateful for, was install a leather, RDL seat, with backrest! Without that seat, I probably would not have bought the bike, and certainly would not have ridden it s much as I have (so far, 20,000 miles 8 months). I certainly would not consider the RDL a cobbo-job. LOL

    No problems whatsoever with PO combo-jobs. Thank Goodness, because the factory already does a good (bad) enough job at cobbo-jobbing.
    BMWMOA #24809

  3. #3
    BMWMOA #24809 jhall's Avatar
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    Another OEM Thing To Fix

    One more goofy thing I still need to fix on the 95 RT is the HI/LOW switch for the grip heaters. HI gets too hot, and LOW is too cool. It needs a rheostat, which I will probably get round to before winter.
    BMWMOA #24809

  4. #4
    Sorry, but the rant makes me smile. The only issue like this I've had was my R100. Extra brake, parking lights, reflectors, a Q switch to make the headlights flash and fender extenders made from a rubber welcome mat. I pulled a hundred feet of wire out of that thing.

    I also remember the Gold Star which stock had at least three thread standards on it -- BSW, UNF, BSF.
    '13 690 Duke, '13 Daytona 675R, '18 Street Triple RS, 2020 R1250R, '19 Ninja 400 (track bike), '21 Duke 890R (gone but not forgotten: '61 Clubman's Gold Star, '76 R75/6, '84 R100, '76 R90S)

  5. #5
    Registered User STEVENRANKIN's Avatar
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    The worst

    The worst case of PO disease was a side car rig my friend received on a trailer to his shop with a plea to get it in running order. He found a wonderful combination of three wire house wire, three different gauges of single strand wire, six different styles of crimp on connections, and a dozen 15 pin electronic plug connectors. The wiring harness was chopped up every place and the turn signals wiring consisted of six inch pieces of different gauge wires with crimp connectors. I think he removed about three rolls of electrical tape to get every thing into view. I wish he had taken pictures of before and after. Needless, the new owner spent a bit of brass on new harnesses as well as the labor to remove and install. He didn't hold any grudge against BMW, as it was not a BMW design fault that caused the lightening of his wallet. He did have some choice words to say about the PO.

    While the above story is an electrical one not mechanical, I add the PO to the list of people who should have their hands tied behind their back and smacked soundly on the hands when picking up a wrench or wires.

    Those of you who have had good luck buying a used BMW, are blessed, lucky or above all else had the knowledge to look for the things I am ranting about. We can look at an airhead and know, hey, that does't look right. Or, we dig deeper into the pretty bike before us and try hard to see the blemishes.

    Some buyers are not so knowledgable or and I don't want to be rude but not as savvy about the brand. To be honest, I would imagine less of this kind of PO disease exists in the newer bikes. I cannot imagine one of the new computer controlled bikes working at all with 100 amp house wiring installed into a system. PO disease in the newer bikes is a topic for their forums. St.

  6. #6
    Minnesota Nice! braddog's Avatar
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    When I bought my first airhead...

    When I bought my first airhead, I was told by the owner how he and his brother were maintenance-focused, and they were good mechanics. This guy was a mechanical engineer, and had a fully restored R60/5 toaster tank setting in his garage as well. The bike was a '77 R100RS (Black Beauty) that I still own.

    After reading a lot about airheads (mostly here) and other good airhead web site resources, it didn't take me long to realize that this bike needed help. The tires were ancient, the rear shocks were toast, the front forks were barely functional, the brake fluid looked like coffee. The handlebars came off of who knows what, and I noticed that there were several home grown wiring splices.

    So, after a few years of fixing things myself and bringing it to a trusted mechanic, that bike didn't seem like the same bike I had originally purchased.

    I learned that it's really best to stick to original parts (where available) and don't try to re-engineer something that the Germans started with. It may be archaic in some respect, but it flat out works in its original form. Now, I do have Progressive front fork springs, IKON shocks, and a Brown sidestand. So, yeah, some aftermarket parts work really well. But really, caveat emptor when it comes to buying an old airhead. Your response to that last comment should be, "Thanks, Captain Obvious."
    -----------------------------------------
    Brad D. - Member #105766
    '77 R100RS - Black Beauty (big pipe, baby!)
    '94 R1100RS - Sylvia

  7. #7
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    The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

    I purchased two motorcycles last year that both needed help: a 1971 R75/5 and a 1971 Triumph Tiger 650. The BMW had been neglected for several years after the death of the original owner and I bought it from a guy who picked it up at an estate sale with lots of documentation and extra parts from the original owner. The Triumph had actually sat in a barn for a decade or so and the seller knew little about previous owners.
    While the BMW needed lots of rubber parts replaced, most of the bits that were metal cleaned-up very easily, thanks to quality German steel. While the BMW had been neglected, it had previously been well-maintained by the original owner and was a fairly easy project.
    The Triumph, on the other hand, had an unknown number of POs and had been modified and abused. It has been a difficult bike to bring back to useable condition, e.g., rusted parts generally needed to be replaced versus cleaned-up.
    The lessons I learned from these two projects are: 1. buy quality motorcycles, 2. look for unmolested original condition versus a "modified" bike, and 3. ensure proper maintenance was performed by the original owner(s).
    I intend to keep my R75/5 but will sell the Triumph.

  8. #8
    Registered User STEVENRANKIN's Avatar
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    The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

    Sadly, the situation could have been flipped with the BMW having all the problems you ran into with the Triumph. German engineering and quality doesn't always trump stupid, cheap or lazy POs. St.

  9. #9
    MOA #24991 Pauls1150's Avatar
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    I've detailed elsewhere some of the issues I had with my two used Harleys, but here's an old Gahan Wilson cartoon...
    MechanicSchool.gif

  10. #10

    Let's be real

    If you believe you are going to purchase a vintage motorcycle and find it in factory condition you need to lay off the drugs. Part of the fun of motorcycles is working on them and customizing to make them yours. After 30 odd years it is going to need restoration and undoing the ham handed "fixes" of who knows how many previous owners. While I agree, some people should not be allowed to have tools that is just not reality. My .02 YMMV

  11. #11
    Registered User STEVENRANKIN's Avatar
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    I don't do drugs!

    I don't do drugs and I am not stupid, I know the risks of buying any used product. I think my post was and is pretty clear reading and I resent the drug inference. St.

  12. #12
    BMWMOA #24809 jhall's Avatar
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    Agree 100 Percent

    Quote Originally Posted by ltbiker View Post
    If you believe you are going to purchase a vintage motorcycle and find it in factory condition you need to lay off the drugs. Part of the fun of motorcycles is working on them and customizing to make them yours. After 30 odd years it is going to need restoration and undoing the ham handed "fixes" of who knows how many previous owners. While I agree, some people should not be allowed to have tools that is just not reality. My .02 YMMV
    I agree with the jist of what you're saying; the drug reference may have ruffled some feathers, but I get it, that it was just a figure of speech. One reason I watched the Airhead market over a year, before pouncing, was due to the plethora of Airheads out there that have been heavily cobbo-jobbed. Yes, many old Airheads have been band-aided to keep them on the road. I can appreciate that, but don't wanna buy one. OTOH, I definitely appreciate 'era correct' mods, i.e. luggage, backrests, fairings, safety bars, Lester mags, and so on; I'd be inclined to find one with the accessories I like, then leave them on and just ride & enjoy. One thing I have NO interest in is an Airhead that has been chopped down to look like a plucked chicken. LOL
    BMWMOA #24809

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by STEVENRANKIN View Post
    The worst case of PO disease was a side car rig my friend received on a trailer to his shop with a plea to get it in running order. He found a wonderful combination of three wire house wire, three different gauges of single strand wire, six different styles of crimp on connections, and a dozen 15 pin electronic plug connectors. The wiring harness was chopped up every place and the turn signals wiring consisted of six inch pieces of different gauge wires with crimp connectors. I think he removed about three rolls of electrical tape to get every thing into view. I wish he had taken pictures of before and after. Needless, the new owner spent a bit of brass on new harnesses as well as the labor to remove and install. He didn't hold any grudge against BMW, as it was not a BMW design fault that caused the lightening of his wallet. He did have some choice words to say about the PO.

    While the above story is an electrical one not mechanical, I add the PO to the list of people who should have their hands tied behind their back and smacked soundly on the hands when picking up a wrench or wires.

    Those of you who have had good luck buying a used BMW, are blessed, lucky or above all else had the knowledge to look for the things I am ranting about. We can look at an airhead and know, hey, that does't look right. Or, we dig deeper into the pretty bike before us and try hard to see the blemishes.

    Some buyers are not so knowledgable or and I don't want to be rude but not as savvy about the brand. To be honest, I would imagine less of this kind of PO disease exists in the newer bikes. I cannot imagine one of the new computer controlled bikes working at all with 100 amp house wiring installed into a system. PO disease in the newer bikes is a topic for their forums. St.

    St. totally agree about POs being cheap or lazy.
    I bought a 1975 R75/6 from someone who professed to be an A-1 BMW mechanic. I felt I needed to save it from him using a sawzall to make a 'cafe racer'. I should have looked closer: used a beer can to cover up a hole in the muffler. I didn't see it because it was right at the muffler/ footpeg clamp. Almost every fastener was loose, many not matching in length, etc. The bike is now sorted out.
    And now, like a fool I bought a 1974 R90S that had been sitting a few years. It had a Windjammer fairing added. And whoever installed it apparently loved green colored wires. Every factory wire was crimped to a green wire. So, unable to trace their wiring, out came the wallet for a new harness.
    It does upset me sometimes about the subpar work people do, but I get a good feeling knowing it has been corrected.
    whatever...........

  14. #14
    Registered User STEVENRANKIN's Avatar
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    I love the feeling

    I love the feeling of returning a bike or car back to their former glory. While I don't do much for show bikes, I do emphasize the sorted, correct bike. There are a lot of us out there in BMW airhead land who feel the same way, thank God for them. They are the people who help others who find PO disease rampant in their bikes.

    It is always a gamble buying an unknown bike, LOL, even a known bike sometimes. The world would be a better place of some people had their hands tied behind their backs when they think of picking up a wrench. St.

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