Saturday, November 5, 2011

First Day of R60 Tweaking...At Mike's Place

My good buddy Mike, who I met on a Beemer messageboard a year ago, lives a few miles away. He has an R100 with a fairing on which he does cross-country touring, and a perfect R65. He spent quite a few years restoring the R65, and finished it a year or two ago. It's what I want all of my bikes to be eventually -- as nice as when it came from the factory (or, actually, nicer). Have a look...

He was the devil on my shoulder when I was considering picking up another bike (not that I needed any encouragement), so when I told him about the R60/5 in Oakland he said "DO IT!"...or something to that effect. Today was to be his first time seeing the bike. Another local Airhead guy, Scott, came over to Mike's place as well. Scott has a bunch of R27, an R75/5, a Slash 2, an R100GS, etc. He's also got a few 2002 BMWs, which are on my short list of cars I want to own in the very near future. Definitely a good guy to know.

Mike and I immediately got to tweaking on the R60. I don't remember the exact order of the work we did, but here's a list of what we did:

- Verified fuel flow from petcocks. Flow is extremely strong, so no clogging in the petcock screens.
- Disassembled, cleaned, and lubricated throttle handgrip assembly. Removed 1/2 turn excess play.
- Checked spark plug coloration, applied anti-seize plug threads on reassembly.
- Removed left hand carb to inspect float needle. Found needle worn excessively, binding inside shaft.
- Re-set left hand carb float shut off level.
- Removed left hand intake spigot at head, cleaned threads, applied blue Loctite.
- Tested and verified bad brake light switch at hand lever.
- Re-stripped wire for better connection at right front turn signal.
- Removed exhaust nuts, cleaned threads, applied anti-seize upon reassembly.
- Removed driveshaft fluid fill plug. Found that threads had been Helicoiled in the past. Helicoil installed improperly, not square to hole bore. Tried 3 stacked aluminum crush washers to seal plug to hole, still leaking. Will have to fit a rubber "crush washer" for now, re-Helicoil the hole later.

So, a productive day. The left hand carb is dripping fuel, so I'm going to order a pair of rebuild kits for the carbs this week. At that time I'll re-set the idle level and jets (it's idling mighty high after we adjusted the slop out of the throttle gearing today) and sync the carbs.

I'm also going to get together all the necessary parts to do a full fluids swap next weekend, and get my hands on a new brake light switch for the hand lever.

I found that those bullet auxiliary taillights are only running lights, not brake lights. Both had bad bulbs. I replaced the bulbs and found that only one of them, I think I'll just pull both of them off. I've already ordered a Beacon LED taillight insert from Motorrad Elektrik (, and I'll probably put a set of P3 lights ( on the bike in the near future as well.

And now for more photos. First, the R60 in Mike's shop, borrowing the hallowed ground on which his R65 normally parks...

Now from the other side, with Mike's R100 in the background...

And then Mike took the R60 out for a test run, just to make sure I wasn't missing any obvious problems with the clutch, transmission, brakes, etc.

Good news; He gave it the all clear! Time to start ordering parts...

'Till next time!

Thrift Store Motorcycle Jacket Score!

We've got a final halloween party to go to on Saturday night, and I'm going to be a boat captain for this one. To that end, I needed a pair of khaki pants as I haven't owned any in years (though I do happen to have a blue blazer in the closet that must be 10 years old or more). I ran to the thrift store this evening (sorry, make that "recycled fashion" store) to see what I could find and while I didn't find a good pair of khakis, I found a sweet moto jacket!

It's a Wilsons Leather brand. Made in China, but decent thickness/quality leather. The shoulders and elbows/forearms are double layered, and the sides are gusseted. Fits nicely. I dig the racer-esque'll look good when riding the Cafe R65 when that's ready. I'll wear a Bohn Armor shirt under it with spine protector and shoulder/elbow pads, so it'll be a good around-town setup.

Anyways, for $40 I could have done a lot worse...

Friday, November 4, 2011

My Awesome BMW R60/5 Buying Trip...

I just got home from one of the coolest trips I've ever taken, and I only had to fly an hour and a half away...

Let me explain.

I'm a member of a few motorcycle-centric forums. I tend to read them several times a day to see what others are doing to their vintage BMW bikes. It's inspiration that someday I might be as talented as some of these guys with their restoration skills. It's also a way to dream about all of the different Beemers I'd like to own someday.

Last month a member of one of the forums posted a thread talking about flying from the lower Midwest to Portland to buy an old Beemer and ride it back home. He ended up finding a bike within driving distance, but it started a thought in my head. A few days after reading of his plans (before he found that bike closer to home), I found myself a nice Beemer to fly out and buy. This one was in the Bay Area and looked to be a perfect rider and eventual restoration candidate. After working out the details with the seller, I posted this thread...

I got to thinkin' a few weeks ago when Jo-Nathan posted his thread that, dammit, summer is ending and I didn't do any sort of multi-day ride this summer. In fact, my last multi day trip was in April for the ADV WARPED VII event. A 5 hour ride each way with two nights of camping between.

So of course I started looking for a nice airhead which I could pick up not too far away and ride back to San Diego. Something which will give me an airhead to putt around town on while I really dig into my R65. After the R65, I reasoned, I could pull the newer (to me) airhead apart and do a nice restore on it, too.

Thinking about things, I thought I'd like a little older bike than an R65. I dig my R65, but I have always admired the lines of the older bikes. I'm not ready for a /2 yet, and I really like that gauge-in-headlight sleekness of the /5, so maybe one of those...

After a few weeks of searching I heard about a /5 for sale up in the Bay Area. A '73 with just under 50,000 on it. California bike. Completely stock except for a Staintune stainless exhaust in the pea-shooter style (one of my favorite exhausts). Talked to the seller today and worked out a deal, so I'll fly up Monday and pick the bike up.

The plan is to stay a night in Tiburon with an aunt and uncle, then hit the road Tuesday morning. Planning on an easy day Tuesday, just about 90 miles along the coast on Highway 1 down to Santa Cruz. I want to drop in on Ted Porter's Beemer Shop in the afternoon, and I'll find a place to stay in SC that evening. Wednesday I'll hit the road for Santa Barbara, about 250 miles down Highway 1, still sticking to the coast. I'll overnight with friends in Santa Barbara and get back on the road Thursday morning to do the last 200 or so miles to San Diego. I'll probably do that last leg from SB to SD on the 101/405/5...superslabs. Not my favorite, but I think I'll want to be home by that time. I can always elect to stay on Highway 1 through LA, though I haven't yet figured out if it's worth it (anyone?)...

So there ya have it. Thanks a lot, Jo-Nathan. Now you've got me bringing home my own /5 and doing the fly-and-ride thing.

So, on Halloween Day 2011, I flew to Oakland and picked up my new bike. It was everything the seller had described, and more. I had given myself 3 days of riding to get home to San Diego, and the plan was to take California Highway 1, the famous coastal route, all the way down. Why? Why not...

The following is my account of the trip, along with pictures I snapped during the ride.

The first fillup, after stopping in Berkeley at AAA on University to register the bike in my name. I got gas and a young guy in a BMW E32 pulled up to ask about the bike. He knew his stuff about Airheads, even though he was probably 21 at most. Adjusted the tire pressure after filling up and hit the road for the 15-20 miles to Tiburon, my first overnight stop.

Here's the bike in front of my aunt's house in Tiburon. She and her husband have an incredible house in Tiburon...truly gorgeous and tasteful. I took the right side exhaust and shock off so that I could take the shock down to the shop to have its lower bushing pressed back in (was wiggling its way out) and hit the hardware store for a couple of washers to keep it from coming out again.

The view from her patio. Not too shabby. This was taken late afternoon, just before sunset...

Tuesday morning I stopped by my uncle's office to chat with one of his employees (a cool guy with a BMW Z4 M Roadster) before hitting the road. Ended up staying later and having lunch with my uncle, so didn't leave Tiburon until 2PM. This is just before shoving off.

About 15 minutes later I was riding towards the Golden Gate bridge when I realized that I've always seen people take pictures of cars and bikes with the bridge in the background, but I had never tried to find out where. Moments later I spotted a sign for the Golden Gate bridge overlook park, so I followed the signs. Snapped this picture (it was windy as hell and I was afraid the bike might tip over with the big luggage catching all the wind) and jumped back on to keep going.

A few minutes after crossing the Golden Gate, I hopped on Highway 1 and followed it down through Pacifica and along the coast. The scenery was beautiful but I didn't stop for too many pictures...nothing too stunning yet, and I was anxious to get to Santa Cruz. I wanted to be there by 6, as a famous Beemer shop (Ted Porters) is there and I wanted to pick up new handgrips (the ones on the bike were hard as a rock) and chat with the guys there.

I ended up making it to Santa Cruz about 4:30 and the guys at the shop were nice enough to throw the new grips on at no charge, which was awesome. They suggested I head down to Watsonville for the night (another half hour south), so I kept on riding. I stopped in Watsonville for my first gas stop of the actual journey and snapped the following shot.

There was enough light out that I decided I would keep pushing, maybe even all the way to Monterey. I figured there would be plenty of good hotel pickings in Monterey and it'd be safe enough to leave the bike outside overnight there. I ended up staying in Cannery Row, a few blocks from the Monterey Aquarium, at a Holiday Inn. Underground parking and free breakfast the next morning! Can't beat that. The guy behind the front desk had a soft spot for the bike and gave me a great deal on the room, which was superb (for a Holiday Inn Express). Had a nice dinner at El Torito down the street and called it an early night...the plan was to leave by 8:30 Wednesday morning.

As it turns out, I woke up early Wednesday morning due to going to bed so early the night before. I took advantage of the free breakfast in the lobby (Holiday Inn Express does a halfway decent free hot breakfast, if I do say so myself...and following the "you get what you pay for" rule) and was on the bike by 8AM heading out. I stopped for a minute at a parking lot near the hotel for a quick "Bye Monterey!" shot, and an older guy came up to ask me about the bike. We talked for about 10 minutes, then I shoved off for Santa Barbara. This was going to be a full day of riding at Highway 1 speeds -- about 250 miles to do!

About 15 minutes after leaving the hotel I came across a sign that made me double back for a picture. I was giddy! I love me some curves, although I had to remind myself that the idea today was to go nice and slow and enjoy the sights, take plenty of pictures, etc...even so, the sign was worth doubling back for!

Shortly afterwards I entered Big Sur. This is where the beauty of California hit me like a ton of bricks. I realized two things...first, that California is truly the most varied and beautiful state in the country, and second that I was not going to be able to capture the true beauty of Big Sur with my point-and-shoot Canon and my goal of getting to Santa Barbara before sunset. Thus, I decided that I would soak in the scenery for myself and not worry about taking beautiful pictures to show friends and family. Instead, I just took pictures of my motorbike with the scenery as a backdrop. The point is that I want my pictures to be both a tease and a challenge. A tease since they're just giving the viewer a taste of what there is to see in Big Sur. A challenge because the intent is to show you that YES, you too can get out from behind that desk you're chained to and see these types of places for yourself. All it takes is a few days, a few dollars, and a will to explore.

My favorite photo from Big Sur was at Point Sur. As I rode south towards the Point, there was a fog hanging over the spit of land connecting it to the mainland. It looked mysterious and beautiful. I knew there was no chance of capturing the fog the way I saw it, so I rode on until I came to a plateau where the angle of the sun, the point, and the road all made the photo I wanted to take.

An hour or two later, after several 15 minute plus waits at construction sites (they're building new bridges here and there to replace areas where landslides happened, so traffic is down to one lane with flagmen on either side alternating the flow), I found a lookout point with an incredible bridge in the background. It's hard to see at this magnification, but it's beautiful back there...

After a few more stops here and there for snapshots, I decided to get back on the road for the ride into Santa Barbara. It should only be another hour or two, but I'd be veering inland for a while to go past Vandenberg AFB and other sights. One of the places I passed was Lompoc, and in driving through Lompoc I found an abandoned drive in movie theater. The parking lot was overgrown with head-high weeds and there was now a metal recycling facility on the side of the lot. I thought the faded drive in advertisement on the back of the screen was a great backdrop...

At this point it was a quick last hour into Santa Barbara, although I stopped one last time at El Capitan State Beach. I had to use the facilities, and besides I had done a photoshoot here about 8 months ago and remembered the cool trestle bridge on the way towards the parking lot. My client didn't want to shoot under the bridge at the time (fashion catalog, and it didn't really fit the theme we were shooting for) so I thought this would be a great time to use the bridge for one of my shots. Turns out the light on the bridge was excellent...

As I pulled in to Santa Barbara my good buddy Andy, whose place I was staying at that night, came out to greet me with a cold Mason jar of water and a snack. He's a vintage kind of guy, with a house that is comfortable and eclectic to the hilt. It's like stepping into the most tasteful mid century and before curio shop you've ever seen. He's got a vintage Ford sedan outside, a mid 70's Vespa that he runs into town on, and a Shasta travel trailer in the front yard that doubles as guest quarters. He's also got a guest room downstairs with a Mies van der Rohe vintage daybed worth many times what my Airhead cost me. He offered my choice of where I wanted to stay, and I thought it would be fitting to stay in the trailer for the night, so that was that. I snapped a quick picture of my Airhead next to his Vespa and the Shasta trailer before the sun went down...

I went out with friends and clients that evening for dinner and drinks in Santa Barbara, then called it a night early at 11PM. One of my clients who had seen the bike on Facebook and saw it in person in Santa Barbara said she wants to use it in one of our upcoming fashion shoots. She got back to me later after I had returned home and said we'd likely use it in the Fall 2012 shoot (we'll shoot that book in Spring 2012), so that's great. It'll be neat to have an Airhead featured in a fashion catalog.

Before I shoved off for San Diego on Thursday morning, Andy got out his vintage Polaroid Land camera and had me set up in the driveway for a picture. He framed it perfectly, with the nose of his old Ford in the street behind my Airhead and me looking as much as I'll ever look like an older, overweight James Dean. The only thing that throw off the picture from being a perfect copy of what we would have shot in the 70's are the lack of black plate on his Ford, the modern Alpinestars jacket I'm wearing, and the modern REI cinch straps around the luggage on the bike!

Thursday was another long day, about 250 more miles to San Diego, and I was determined to stay on Highway 1 as long as I could. Andy and I had talked work over a late breakfast and I didn't shove off from Santa Barbara until 11AM. I had stopped to see the home of a friend in Ventura for about a half hour, so I knew it would be tough getting home to San Diego by dusk. Because of that I slipped right through Oxnard and Point Hueneme, Malibu, etc., without stopping for pictures. The worst was going through was just terrible riding. Everything after and including Lomita was hell on earth until I got down to Long Beach. I saw more people run red lights, even truck drivers running orange lights in semi trucks (!!!), and generally just ugliness. It was at this point that I decided LA is in the top three ugliest cities I've ever seen. The other two are Rio de Janiero and Lima, in case you're curious. Several times I would have people purposefully squeeze over in their lanes coming up to stop lights so that I couldn't filter through to the front of the line.

I finally made it down to Seal Beach, Huntington Beach, Laguna Beach, etc., and things started to clear up. Traffic wasn't too bad and I was cruising along. Finally I got to San Clemente and just before I hit San Onofre I was forced to jump on I-5. At that point I was tired and there only looked to be about an hour of sunlight left, so I didn't argue. I could have got back off I-5 to take Highway 1 through Oceanside, Cardiff, Solana Beach, Del Mar, etc., but I've driven that route a thousand times in my life and I just wanted to get home! I stopped one last time at the view area just south of San Onofre for a final photo before the last sprint home...

Sure enough, just a few minutes after the sun set I pulled into my driveway at 6:15. I opened the bike side of the garage and moved one of the other bikes forward to make room for the new girl, then took a quick photo of her before I pulled her into the spot and unloaded the luggage...

So, final thoughts from the was incredible. Gorgeous. The weather was PERFECT. Not a spot of fog on my route, not a drop of rain. Sunny and warm the entire time. I rode in kevlar jeans with long underwear and wool socks. I had on my Chippewa Rally leather boots, which are just below the knee. I like to wear athletic shirts to wick away sweat, and I left the Alpinestars liner in the jacket. There were a few times I contemplated putting on my balaclava to keep my neck warm, but I never did get it out. I wore my usual Olympia Race Kevlar 305 gloves, which are gauntlet style (gauntlets over the jacket cuffs on cool days for warmth, under the jacket cuffs on warm days for ventilation).

I had a blast, slept like a baby every night, and saw some good friends and family. I got to make my own rules, and the only thing on my "to do" list every morning was "Ride Motorcycle." How much more could I ask for?

The old girl performed perfectly all 625 miles. I knew of a starvation issue at about 70mph, so that kept me honest (speedometer being broken and all) on the higher speed stuff. There's a leaking seal inside the final drive that's slinging a bit of gear oil onto the rear rim, but it wasn't leaking more than 15-20 drops in a full day's ride, so no big concern on the trip. The only issue she developed was the high beam indicator lamp burned out about halfway through the trip. Since the gauge needs to go to a specialist for new needles and a rebuild anyways, that'll get taken care of just fine...

I can't wait to get out there again for another adventure.