Thursday, April 8, 2010

Favorite Bikes: My 1977 R100/7/S

Photo: Kenyon Wills

A post on the kick-ass Bike Exif Blog brought back memories of my favorite bike: a 1977 BMW R100/7 I bought from some guy in San Francisco in 1992. It was custom-painted like the S version, with smoke-grey paint and a bikini fairing, and it also sported the bigger "S" heads and 40mm Bing carbs. The bike turned out to be kind of a lemon: almost imideatly it started smoking and exhibiting hard-start symptoms. That led to my discovery of Dave Gardner's Recommended Service (probably the best independent BMW mechanic anywhere, call him at 415/822-2041), and Dave's discovery of several thousand dollars in my checking account, which he used to do a masterful rebuild of my motor.

It was a great bike. Under 500 pounds, with about 60 horsepower at the wheel, purpose-built for long trips and carrying a passenger. It was also stable in turns and had great throttle response. The bike taught me how to ride, and after a couple of seasons of roadracing (not the Beemer!), I could keep up with guys on much faster, lighter bikes.

The R100 held up through four years and about 70,000 miles of abuse. I modded it with rearsets, lower bars, a dual front-disc conversion, and a succession of shark-tooth-painted fairings, art courtesy of artist friend Francis Mcilveen. I learned to not be intimidated by routine maintenance and simple bolt-on repairs. I could do a valve adjustment, change the clutch flywheel (I swapped mine for one lightened by the owner of Rennsport, a Moto Guzzi expert), even pull the cylinder heads for service.

My love affair with BMW Twins ended one July Sunday, up on Mines Road, headed up Mt. Hamilton. I was at maximum lean when I hit a bump midcorner. The bike was levered up on the right cylinder head, and when the rear tire regained traction, we high-sided. I broke my leg, got a helicopter ride to San Jose, and the old Beemer was sold for parts.

I still have great memories of leading modern sportbikes up a twisty road, cylinder heads sparking, the roar of the flat-Twin behind me. If you want a '70s superbike, a good-running BMW Twin is hard to beat.


brax4444 said...

I have observed the observatory on Mt. Hamilton while approaching SFO. It's cool to read about your connection to it. (Except the crash and injury parts.) Is it possible that you'll rekindle your love for BMW twins with a modern model?

Gabe said...

Yo Brax! Thanks for reading my post!

One of my favorite all-around bikes is the R1200R...and I dig the F800 series as well. But I think if I was going to buy a new bike I'd want something much lighter than the new Twins. Maybe when I'm 50...

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