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.