~Since 2004~
A site about memories, thoughts, photos, and unrepentant opinions about motorcycles and motorcycling after four decades of twisting the throttle.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Beater Bikes

The Kaw 900 has been around for a year now and I've put a couple of thousand miles on it, mostly with short rides.  I have no major complaints about the bike except the rather harsh and limited rear suspension.

Since Kaw has been around a whole year I'm afraid my thoughts have strayed once again to other possible bikes.  I can't help myself, it just happens.   I've tried to stop, stayed away from Craig's List motorcycle ads for weeks at a time.   I thought I was clean, kicked the habit.  No more bikes. 

One day a little Bavarian gnome sat on one shoulder saying "Re-live the old days, buy an old  airhead BMW" and on the other shoulder a little banker angel (there's an oxymoron) said "Be sensible. You're broke!"   But if I sold the Kaw I could get something else and the Kaw, since it was bought right, is still worth what I paid for it.  If I could find one more old BMW like I had in the good ol' days, one proper opposed-twin air cooled Beemer, well, that would be a fine thing, especially if it was black with white pinstriping as all proper BMWs are.  Visions of when I was a 25 years old on my '74 R90S danced in my head.  I dare not dream of another R90S, way out of my price league now, but a nice clean pre-1994 R-bike doesn't seem too much to hope for. 

California Highway 49. 1974

So I slipped back to browsing the motorcycle ads, not every day, but some days, and then every day.

Eventually I spotted a possible candidate, an early '80s BMW R100RT, the pearl white 60th Anniversary Edition with just 57,000 miles on it.  One of 600 made for the USA market. >sweat, sweat<

Should I?  Could I?  No, I mustn't.  But I must.  I'll go look at it when I drive up to the big city about other business, it will probably be gone by then anyway.  And they were asking too much for it. And it's probably a beater bike.

Well, just by coincidence I needed to go to the valley the very next day.  Imagine that.  So I made an appointment to see the bike.

I told the wife "It's probably a beater anyway."

"Why go look then?" she asked.

"Well, because it could be cream puff or at least a diamond in the rough" I said trying not to sound too hopeful.

As we rolled up to the house I saw the BMW sitting in the driveway and from about 150 ft away I said out loud "It's a beater."   We got out to look closer and the bike was dirty, the tires low, and while it wasn't that bad cosmetically and wasn't dented or obviously broken, it would need a lot of help to regain it's Bavarian pride.  Nothing major, nothing a long weekend of scrubbing and detailing wouldn't fix, but help it needed.  I can do that.  I even like doing that.  Hope springs eternal.

The owner had a folder of paperwork for the bike with all kinds of receipts.  That's not unusual for used BMWs, they seem to attract owners who like to keep records.  German thing, I guess.  "Yör paperz muzt be in order!" 

Turned out that the present owner wasn't the one who'd rolled up the 57k on the bike, that was the previous owner of a year or so back.  The bike had been sitting for nearly a year now.  So I looked through the records and something was odd, the bike had a service and minor repairs totaling almost $3000 when it had just 54k miles on it.  No old Beemer at 54k should need that much routine service work and bits & pieces replaced unless it's been ridden very hard.  Hmm. 

image source
I hopped on the bike to take it for a little spin and it was a nice enough ride, just like a remembered my '92 R100RT having.  The old BMWs are amazingly light compared to modern 1000cc bikes and I like that a lot.  Riding up the street I glanced down and saw low on the right inside of the fairing, a plaque...A BMW mileage award plaque for 100,000 miles.  BMW presents those to owners of bikes who can document 100,000 miles of their very own butt-on-seat time on a specific BMW.  Ah...  I don't always catch on quick but I catch on eventually, especially with the evidence staring me right in the face.

Back at the house the owner seemed to know nothing of the plaque or what it meant.  I explained that in all likelihood the bike had 157,000 miles on it, not 57,000.  That would also explain why it needed so much maintenance at 54,000 miles.

I thanked the person for their time and we left.  I was both discouraged and oddly relieved. After we got in the car the Mrs. said simply "How did you know it was a beater before we even pulled to a stop in front of the house?"   "I dunno" I replied.  I had to think about that one for a minute.  What detail could you really see from a moving vehicle a 100+ feet from a bike?  "I guess you can just tell. Something about the aluminum engine parts, the paint doesn't look quite right, the black parts aren't black enough.  It just doesn't look well cared for even from a distance.  I guess I've looked at enough beater bikes over the years to know one now even at a distance."

I'll keep looking for the cream puff or at least looking for a diamond in the rough.  Back to Craig's List.


D. Brent Miller said...

Okay, it was a beater bike. But, was the price right for a restoration project? --Brent

Doug Klassen said...

Sadly, Brent, it wasn't. If the bike had been pristine and with just the odometer miles showing the price might have been ok. What the bike was really worth at that mileage was about $2000. And then it would have taken another $2k+ to put it all right.

Gymi said...

It's nice to know others have the "sickness" too.

Jac Brown said...

So lets sum up. You have the itch for a new bike but are a bit light on cash which limits your choices. In the meantime, there is real enjoyment in looking for a new motorcycle, even without buying one.

If I may, a humble suggestion. Ignore the Bavarian gnome and think about bikes and brands you haven't yet owned. There must be at least one brand that you have missed somehow.

Spend some time researching what's out there in your price range and then spend more time looking for that exceptional deal. If your also saving a bit into the bike fund, something interesting is bound to pop up.

Doug Klassen said...


Just beware, apparently there is no cure.


Good suggestions. The only other bike that interests me at the moment (that I might be able to afford) would be a Triumph (Hinkley edition). I've never owned a Brit bike of any sort. Not sure if I'd want to do a long ride on one though, I suspect it wouldn't offer any improvement in comfort over the Kaw 900. Never the less, it can't hurt to look. Looking is still free.

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