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1974 BMW R90S

A Reluctant Goodbye

Classic Velocity

An impending move requires some thinning of the herd, and the R90S moves on to a new home out west. The new owner is a Harley guy who has always wanted one. It is little consolation, but perhaps this will create a new convert to the church of the horizontally opposed.....

The Defiant Ones

Classic Velocity

October was a strange month around these parts with an unexpected early snowfall. It did not last long, but it scared all of us gearheads into thinking the riding season was over. My immediate reaction was to go for a ride as soon as the roads cleared. It was a nice day for a ride in the brisk air. It was also  interesting to see snow on the ground covering green grass, with corn still on the stalks, and plenty of leaves on the trees. Just like the R90S and me, nature was in a defiant stance against this unwelcome visitor....  

The Rain Machine

Classic Velocity

It was Todd Trumbore's annual vintage ride, and it was raining buckets all morning. I decided not to take the R50 and to opt for something with better brakes in the wet and better electrical. There was a break in the rain and I headed out. 5 miles later, the rain resumed, and combined with the cold for an adventuresome ride (see squandering the attention budget). Although the R90S has no windshield, the bikini fairings does redirect much of the rain. Another pleasant surprise were the Dunlop tires. They displaced water very well, and felt very stable in the wet. This might have been a pleasant ride if I wasn't suffering from lack of rain gear, and lack of warm gear....

The event ended in a picnic as usual, and despite the gloomy skies and chilly temps, a good time was had by all. Both Bill Foster and Horst brought their R65LS bikes, so that was a rare sighting of more than one. A few new folks showed up and added to the fun collection of bikes. An R100 with a Yamaha front end !! The engineering skills never cease to amaze. I was amused to see an R69S with a magnetic tank bag on the rear rack, in identical fashion to the way I had equipped my R50 the year before!

I was among the last to leave hoping that the clouds in my direction would move on. No such luck, as 5 miles into the return journey, the rains came back with a vengeance. It was a bit more tolerable as I had my grocery bag diaper on to keep the water out of my crotch. Well some of it anyway.....back home, a hot shower and a cup of tea were in order. I could swear it was only yesterday that we were sweltering in the 100 degree heat at the MOA Rally...

The Cafe Caper

Classic Velocity

Like many, I have a favorite local coffee shop. Except it is really a great French bakery. And by local, I mean 50 miles away. It is the perfect early morning destination, as there are no major roads that can get you there from home. You have to ride backroads that meander along the Delaware river and its tributaries. Depending on the mood, you can make this a spirited ride, or a very ponderous one. On this occasion, I was feeling more spirited than ponderous, and the R90S was the weapon of choice. It has not been getting much exercise lately with the other activity in the stable, and the new tires were still, well, new. This would be a good chance to scrub them in a little.

The R90S Dellortos actually need to warm up. They are grumpy when first started and get noticeably better after 5 minutes of riding. Today was no different, and I sputtered away to spare the neighbors. The morning was cool and rain from the prior evening left damp patches along the shady parts of the road. Once warmed up, the bike was its usual brilliant self, inhaling the cool air and translating it into thrust. I had to remember the tires still equipped with whiskers and go easy in the corners. I had the roads mostly to myself, and thoroughly enjoyed the bike and the ride there. At the bakery, I had a coffee and Brioche, and then got some still warm goodies to put into the Krausers for the sleeping mob at home. I decided to keep them warm by getting back at a very spirited clip. The bike was a willing accomplice, and it once again showed what a masterpiece it was in 1974. 

Tired Tires Retire

Classic Velocity

The tire procrastination on the R90S ended with a coupon code deal from Bike Bandit. Metzelers were hard to find, and not cheap. given the more touring nature of my setup, I opted for some dunlops with a vintage looking tread. I must say that they look a little odd on the bike after the very sporty looking metzelers, perhaps because they were practically bald ! In any case a quick trip to the local shop for mounting/balancing, and they were back on the bike with greased axles. I took the bike out for a few hours to get the slippy mold off the rubber (at least the middle parts). The tires ride well and once the whiskers are gone they will begin to look ok as well.... 


Winter Exercise

Classic Velocity

The air is crisp (read cold), the skies are blue with cottonball clouds scattered about, days of rain have washed the salt and sand from the road (at least the middle of it), and you are itching to ride. Oh yeah, and there is a classic bike show 50 miles away. Nuff Said. The R90S was off the trickle charger and the tires were checked. Low in the front, ok in the rear. It was at this point that I remembered that the bike needed tires last fall, and I committed to tackle that over the winter. Well maybe over the early spring....The bike usually takes a couple of tries to get started and this time was no different. It catches and sputters the first two times and then starts and fires. 

It was great to have it out on the road again. I took a circuitous route to the event and discovered quickly that the sand/gravel was not clear in the corners on many of the back roads. This was no time to test lean angles, just in case the state of the tires was not enough to deter me. Still, being out in the fresh air and on a motorcycle was just what the doctor ordered for both man and machine.

The event included a pristine example of an R90S from the collection of Mac Kirkpatrick of R90S Rally fame. It was a nice ride to a great event (see Classic Winter Break), and a great opportunity to get the bike some exercise.  

Watching Time

Classic Velocity

The R90S had an interesting assortment of guages when it was acquired. IT included an oil pressure guage, among other guages and was missing a clock in its modified fairing. I changed the fairing back to a stock one a long time ago, but the second guage position had the oil pressure guage just holding the space. I eventually located a VDO clock and now it is in the fairing and the bike is on the trickle charger thanks to work described in the previous post. Finally, a proper looking R90S cockpit.... 

Power Pigtail

Classic Velocity

Although you can technically get to the battery terminals on the R90S without any dissassembly, the clearance for the alligator clips is a bit too close for comfort with the battery in place. Although it is an early bike with a working kickstart, keeping the battery up to snuff is important, as I rarely choose to use the kickstarter, and the bike has an ignition module. In a cool black friday sale, I got a couple of Yuasa trickle chargers for $20 each. They came with pigtails, so I decided to wire one to the R90S. It is not the 5 minute job it should be, as the ignition module is fixed in the seat pan and needs to be removed. A side benefit is that I can now connect the heated gloves or other accessories. There is now no excuse for not using the bike this winter....except for the rear tire.

Two Therapeutic Hours

Classic Velocity

Sometimes you only have a limited amount of time, but a ride is the best way to spend it. It might be a rough day or just some spare time, but the bike calls you. On this day, the R90S was just the ticket for a few hours of therapy. The loop took in some of my favorite local roads which included twisties and long sweepers on narrow country roads. The bike was smooth once it got warmed up, and the weather was perfect. With fall in the air there were a lot of picturesque points, but I wanted to keep riding. I had to take it easy in the twisties as the R90 needs tires. Other than that, a great couple of hours in the saddle on a great bike. Prescription filled.

Krausers at Krauszer's

Classic Velocity

Lest you be thinking that the R90S has not been out much this summer, the reverse is true. It has been out a bunch on routine runs to Home Depot, and a MAC PAC breakfast or two. It even did a work commute one day. It has a finnicky ignition switch, which I need to look at this winter, but the bike runs better and better each time I take it out. It seems to really like the octane boost that I throw in it periodically, so I'm sure the winter blend gas that is beginning to show up will make it a challenge to find the good stuff that it likes. There have only been a couple of minor issues to contend with. The first is the mirrors. There is no position where they work effectively for me, so I have positioned them as well as possible for now while I figure out alternatives. The second is the squeak that I thought was the air breather valve, but it is not. You only hear it at idle warmed up, so it is another item to be tracked down. 

A Case of the Krausers

Classic Velocity

It is well known among fans of vintage iron that the only valid motivation for getting a project completed, is an upcoming event. There are TV shows whose entire plot revolves around getting a vehicle ready for an event and burning the proverbial midnight oil to do so. And so it was with the R90S Krauser bags. I decided that it would make it to the First & Last R90S Rally with the Krausers attached. Problem was, I decided this a few days before the rally. No worries, the frames were in the basement along with the bags patiently sitting and awaiting attachment. I had some "seatbelt" attachments for the frames somewhere, so a simple job to assemble everything and mount the bags. Or not.

It turns out the frames I had did not have the seatbelt tabs, which was ok since I could not find the seatbelt attachments. Now, I did have a set of newer bags from the R100 and up family, but they just didn't look as good on the R90S, despite attaching securely with the clasp style latches. They may be destined for ebay, or kept just in case (or something).

Undeterred, and being aware of the tendency of Krausers to depart the bike at speed anyway, I hatched a plan. I would bolt the bags to the bike, just like the previous owner of the bags had apparently done. There were two small holes in each bag where they were bolted to the frame, so all I needed was some hardware. Now you would think that with all of the metric vehicles I've owned, and the crates and crates of parts and hardware, I would have the nuts, bolts, and washers I need for this simple task....and you would be right. However, putting my hands on them would possibly takes days or even years.

Muttering to myself like a 90 year old asylum escapee, I got to the hardware store at 9:54 pm, right before they closed and walked out with $5 worth of critical hardware. At 11:15pm, the bags were on the bike securely, and I retired victorious. 

The next day, the bike ran flawlessly to the rally and back (read about the event in the main blog), and the bags stayed attached during stints exceeding 90 MPH. They look great too, somewhat worn and very much in keeping with the bike itself.

Grappling with Grommets

Classic Velocity

This clearly goes down in the cheap fix category. The fairing was rattling a bit around the turn signals and it was a perfect application for a couple of rubber grommets. For 2 weeks, I had been forgetting to get the actual diameter of the openings, and I found myself once again at Lowe's. Vowing to get this resolved, I grabbed two pairs of grommets. $3.67 later, I had the only two sizes that looked close and wondered why I hadn't done this two weeks earlier. It turns out that the thicker set was about right after a few snips to remove a couple millimeters worth of material. A perfect fit, and I took a nice test ride to ensure the rattles were really gone. 

Hermy's Demo Days

Classic Velocity

Hermy's BMW in Port Clinton, PA is one of those throwback motorcycle dealerships that you love to visit and just hangout. It is not new, it is not stylish, but it oozes ambiance. Great customer service, and great mechanics. They advertised a Demo Day, and it was a good excuse to ride a couple of the new models. More importantly, it was the next step in the concentric circle method of road-testing the R90S. Hermy's is a 90 mile roundtrip, so it was just the right length. It had capabilities for a scenic route, or a highway blast.

After getting the tires up to recommended pressure, I opened the petcocks and tried starting the bike. It took a few tries, but eventually fired to life. The choke and the throttle play definitely need adjusting, and I probably need to balance the carbs. Once it warmed up a little though, it ran perfectly. Once underway, the bike performed flawlessly. I chose the highway route so that I could open it up a little. It accelerates with gusto and feels like it will run all day at 75+ MPH. The turn signal was sluggish after 25 minutes straight on the highway, so a relay may be on the blink. Other than that, and a mirror that needed tightening, I was happy with the shakedown test.

I chose to ride the 800GS and the S1000RR. Talk about contrast ! The S1000RR was what I expected, blistering performance, great feel of the front wheel, and compromised ergonomics. I did not even use half of the rev range on the ride, and I still hit 85 MPH at points. It reminded me a little of my former R1, but smaller and more nimble. That said, the 800GS was actually more impressive given my expectations. The meat of the torque band seems to start from idle and last to....well...past what I was able to use on the ride. I was expecting a baby version of my 1200GS, but it felt light and flickable like a true dirt bike. It was also relatively relaxed at highway cruising speeds.

I got a key blank for the R90S and headed back home. The bike was even better on the way back, and you can readily understand what a rocket this must have been in 1974. It was also comfortable (particularly after the S1000RR), so you can readily understand how with a little luggage, a transcontinental trip would beckon.

Motor Music

Classic Velocity

There was one last piece of progress needed before being ready to start the bike on a lovely weather weekend. The day dawned sunny with temperatures in the 40s. All that was needed was the reinstallation of the exhausts, and then some fuel and a quick test ride of the concentric circle variety. The first delay was the exhaust clamp. It seems the bolt in it decided to snap, and leave the semi-siezed part of itself (of course) in the clamp. After some penetrant, a trip to the vise, and some vise grips, the offending bolt vacated the clamp. I chased the threads and found another M8 bolt. With the clamp on, we were able to move on to the next delay, starting the bike. When you have taken a bike apart and put it back together, the failure to start sends your mind reeling over potential missing pieces or disconnected wiring. It turns out that I had a key ground wire connector not well.....connected. Once in place, the bike took a few minutes to start. Idle was high, and the throttle grip needed adjustment, but the motor sounded good. I went up and down the block a few times to make sure the brakes were in fine working order. The bike made it back under its own power, so a more adventurous ride was in order. I rode a few miles to put some fuel in the bike, and then took a slightly longer route home. Despite needing to go gingerly because of gravel still all over the road, the bike ran great. There are a few niggles to take care of, but I was very pleased with the results. On to the next concentric circle.....

Some Cosmetic Progress

Classic Velocity

It is always a good sign when work on the bike has progressed to the point of tackling some cosmetic items. In this case the decals are applied to the sidecovers, and the rear emblems are cleaned up or replaced. These are small things, but the net effect is a big jump in progress from a visual perspective. It is beginning to look like it will be ready to get on the road soon. However, Puxatawny Phil has seen his shadow, and the snow storms seem to be queued up back to the pacific waiting to pound us into submission. It could be a while before we are riding around....

Fiddling with Fairings

Classic Velocity

I was finally at the point where the fairing swap needed to happen. The old one had a major crack in it, and had a "touring" windshield which seemed somehow incongruent with the concept of the R90S. Not that it wasn't a great sport touring mount, it's just that touring conjures up images that are the exact opposite of bikini (which is how one would describe the R90S fairing). It distorted the lines of this iconic machine. I mean, bikini is short and skimpy, while.....but I digest.
The old came off and the new (as in new to me) went onto the bike. It has its own share of blemishes and is far from perfect, but it is consistent with the rest of the unrestored bike and looks great. The hardware needed some cleaning up on the grinding wheel, and the turn signals were returned to operating condition after some sandpapering of connections. The guages were bolted in place, but sorting out the wiring associated with them will wait for another day.
The windshield I got with the fairing is looking a lot better, but a long way from new. The little plastic hardware thingies (what is the correct name for these things?) securing the windshield were all able to be reused except for 3 of them. I'll track some down and replace them. All in all, a decent session that had the fairing looking much better.

Seat and Signals

Classic Velocity

  There were two objectives for this garage session. The first was to clean things up since the area of the garage where the R90S sat was full of scattered tools and parts and rags and chemicals. There were also many remnants of the tie-wraps used to sort out the wiring system. With the area partially cleaned up, I moved on to objective number two which was to get the seat and front turn signals back on the bike.

  The seat hardware cleaned up nicely with the wire wheel and mounted easily. The rear decal on the seat assembly was tatty, so it came off and will await a replacement. The underseat and the seat foam seem to be in fairly good condition, and the rubber bumpers are ok as well so this part is easy.

The turn signals need a little work with some metal polish and fine steel wool. The result is excellent. Both sides get reattached to the bike.

Patented Dent Removal

Classic Velocity

Progress continues on the remantling of the R90S. The holiday period allowed for some time in the garage and with the aid of a heater it was a decent place to work. The main thrust of this assault was sorting out the remainder of the electrical gremlins affecting the tail light. A continuity test revealed that there were problems somewhere between the handlebar switch and the tail light !! A slow process of testing every 6 inches or so located the problem in the seat pan area. An examination of the removed section of wiring revealed brittle and cracked shielding as if exposed to heat. Other adjacent wiring was fine, and so I replaced the wiring, shrink-wrapped the connections and put some flex shielding around the whole section for good measure.

The shocks were remounted on the bike. They seem to be fairly responsive and just needed some cleanup along with the hardware. I also decided between the 2 used fuel tanks. One had decent paint but a few dings, while the other had faded paint and few imperfections. I decided on better paint, and then used my patented dent removal system on two dents on the top of the tank. The patented system involves a selection of c-clamps and welding vise grips, an assortment of rags and cloths, various custom designed pieces of wood and plastic, and a few yoga moves. One dent is now perfectly repaired. The other is much improved and now looks like a minor dent. Lastly, I transferred the petcocks and gas cap to the chosen tank, and got it mounted on the bike.

Some Goodies Arrive

Classic Velocity

A few parts necessary for sprucing things up arrive and get applied. The speedometer and tachometer both had trim rings which were split or damaged. The speedometer glass lens was separated from the base and needed reseating with adhesive. New emblems and a tool tray also arrive.


More mantling

Classic Velocity

The gradual re-assembly proceeds in small spurts. Here, the components along the spine get returned to their rightful place after repair and repaint. In particular, several wiring connectors are replaced, the master cylinder is put back in place, as are the coils. The cylinder heads have also benefitted from some scuff pad and light wire wheel treatment.