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

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Silver Smoke Fountain of Youth

1974 BMW R90S in factory style "Silver Smoke" paint

on the road, 1974

You guys that pay attention to my ramblings might recall I bought an R90S new in late '73 when they first came out.  House of Yamaha / BMW in Santa Monica, CA got in two of them, I bought one and Tommy Smothers of the Smothers Brothers comedy duo bought the other.  I was 22 years old, had a decent job working for UniFilter, and good credit. I was 22 years old living in So. California just about 10 miles from Mulholland Dr. and the Rock Store, and had a new BMW R90S under me.  It was a sweet moment in life.  The bike left eventually, as they tend to do in my life, but the fascination with the machine never did. I have a model of it, I have all the major magazine articles, I have the original sales brochure the dealer gave me in '73, and I have a lot of great memories.

After the Gold Wing left back in June I got it into my head that I should get another R90S, maybe recapture a bit of my youth and enjoy owning a now truly classic BMW.   Wonder of wonders I spotted one on Phoenix Craig's List a week or so after I started looking.  What were the odds?  They didn't build vast numbers of the 90S and 40 years on they don't just turn up in your town every week.  They are around, some very nice ones, too, but usually far away.

So I went to look at the 90S in Phoenix. The price was too high, the bike needed some stuff, and the owner did not seem real flexible.  My gut told me to walk away so I did but not without some regret.  One fellow on the R90S group on Facebook commented after I related that story "In two more years it will cost you twice as much." He may be right.   R90S values are climbing and pristine examples or museum quality restorations are bumping $20k.

So yesterday out of the blue I get an e-mail from the seller offering to lop $1000 off his asking price. I did the logical thing and wrote him back offering $500 less than that. We settled on $1250 off his original asking price. I met up with my buddy David and we went up to get the bike and I rode it home last night.

late 1973.  Life was good even if I wasn't smiling

2014.  Life is still good, maybe better.

I think the R90S has held up better than I have, it's become a true classic, I've merely become a little bit eccentric.  I could use some fresh paint and an overhaul but will have to rely solely on my charm to get me by.

The R90S cockpit, complete with quartz clock, was a revolution in 1974
This bike looks better in the pics than in person, it does have some cosmetic issues and some mechanical faults but nothing major. New shocks first, the ones on it are flat. The forks are off a later model and need to be changed out to be correct.  The odometer is kaput and that will be a little more problematic to resolve, I think.  Near as I can tell the bike has about 50k on it so the motor should be good for a while.   It rides very nice, I have no complaints, so I can wander around on it while I sort out the mechanical and cosmetic issues over time. The paint is near new and is very nice, not quite "correct" but close enough. The previous owner didn't have it pinstriped so that's on my list; the bike should have some simple gold pinstriping as they came that way from the factory.

Riding it home last night in the dark I had a lot of thoughts running through my head. I was making a mental list of the stuff that would need to be addressed even as I recalled riding my original 90S to Canada from SoCal in '74, to Colorado in '75, and doing 922 miles of twisting roads one Saturday in an old event called the California 1000.  I have lots of history with the 90S and racked up a lot of little stories. The bike means something to me, it's not just another bike like so many I've own.

I'm not clear how much I'll ride it, the riding position is still young and I am not, but I think the riding I do should be thoroughly enjoyable. I have no quibbles with the functions of the bike, some things are obviously 40 years old but nothing about it comes up short enough to spoil my fun.  The adventure continues...


RichardM said...

Looks really good in the photos. Is it your intent to restore to better than new or to ride it? There was a Daytona Orange R90S for sale up here and after it was sold, it's never been ridden. Seems to be a shame...

I've always liked the "smoke" paint jobs.

Unknown said...


what luck to find a 90s and relive some memories of the old days. I thought you were going to say that it was the same one that you actually owned, what would the odds of something like that

I think in 1974 I bought a new Valiant and drove it across Canada. I spent the summer in Toronto that year, and then I drove back to Vancouver in time to go back to school

bob: riding the wet coast

Canajun said...

Great find. One of the best-looking BMWs every in my opinion. A friend brought one back from a posting in Germany in '74 or '75 and I've often thought if I'd ever owned a BMW it would have been that one. Have fun!

Trobairitz said...

Congrats. Sure is a pretty bike.

RE: riding position - you may not be able to put the miles on it at a time that you could on the Gold Wing, but just think of the smiles.

I look forward to more posts on the bike.

Doug Klassen said...

Thanks for the comments, folks.

Richard, I intend to improve it slightly, there are some cosmetic things it needs and some parts like the shocks need to be replaced, but I won't chase after the whole restoration thing, that way lies madness and poverty. And no matter how perfect you make it, some guy will come along and say "Ah, nice, but the black decals are the wrong shade of black." I want the bike to be a decent example that can be ridden without devaluing it.

Joe said...

When I started reading this post, I was afraid that there was only going to be disappointment in it. Imagine the thrill when I read that you got it, and vicarious at that! Congratulations, Doug. May it carry you far and wide and gloriously so!

- Joe at Scootin' da Valley

D. Brent Miller said...

Congrats on the new-to-you motorcycle. I did not think it would take you long to buy another one.


Theo van der Meulen said...

Hi Doug, after the somewhat 'down' tone of you last blog that saw the Goldwing ride into the sunset (literally) I'm happy to see you with a new ride and a new project by the sound of it. Great stuff, look forward to reading about it.

Curt Carter said...


Now that's a story. What a find. The bike looks immaculate and must have been a blast to ride for the first time after all those years. I would have never known the bike wasn't perfect if you hadn't mentioned it had some cosmetic flaws...it really looks great in the photos.

Enjoy your "new" ride!


Joe said...

That bike sure is clean as a whistle. Gotta love the late 73 shot, and the car in the background. Good old days.

Ali said...

Great pictures! Loved the picture of you in 1978 and you in 2014! Crazy how fast time goes by. but looks like life has treated you well. Awesome bike you have there by the way!

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