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1980 BMW R100RT

Head and Tail

Classic Velocity

After several trips of a few hundred miles, a couple of things are apparent. First, the Corbin seat looks comfortable, but the wings interfere with this human's thighs, and after giving it a while, the looks have not grown on me. Consequently, I went looking for a stock seat, which lead to discovery #2. Parts for the RT are plentiful, but not cheap. Bad seats were $200 and good ones were $300! It took a lot of searching to uncover a good one on Craigslist for a poor one price. Sold. It turns out that the stock seat is very comfortable, and now the tail of the bike looks right.

Meanwhile, up at the head of the bike, the stock windshield had a problem. One of the metal posts which allow you to adjust the height of the windshield was broken. I only discovered this because the wind last hit me right in the face shield when lowered. I went to raise it and voila. I am not sure how you can break one of these posts, but it was sheared off and rugged although aged. I should have spotted this on inspection before purchasing the bike, but I missed it. Discovery #3, there is no such thing as a cheap windshield. You would think that there would be a $100 deal for an old RT, but no. $200 and up, same as the seat. I finally found a blemished one from ClearVue who I can recommend. It has a slight tint, and a cool vent that reduces buffeting and will be good in warmer weather. I have yet to find the blemish, and the bike looks great.


More New Shoes

Classic Velocity

The year of the tire continues, as the RT needs new shoes. This follows the Dakar episode recently. This time, once again, it is due to the age of the existing rubber. Based on the date codes, the tires go back to the early 1990s. Although the tread does not seem to be in bad shape, there is a little sidewall cracking on the rear. This was fine for my shakedown runs, but not so fine for any long distance or high speed runs. A local shop produced a front tire, which was an Avon Super Venom for $30 !! However, it proved difficult to find a matching rear, so I opted for a Shinko which had very good reviews. We are clearly at the point where you cannot just dismiss non-Japanese Asian tires as cut rate and substandard.

I know that having mismatched tires is not ideal, but the kind of mileage that this bike is going to see and the fact that it is a touring bike to begin with makes me more comfortable with this choice. Besides, and new tires are far superior (and safer) than what I found on this bike, much less the original rubber as it shipped from the factory. 

RT Shakedown

Classic Velocity

With the pipes now in sonic harmony, and a few other things sorted, the RT was out for a day of shakedown following the Classic Velocity law of concentric circles. The radius steadily increased, and confidence grew accordingly. Happily, there were no issues to report in a couple hundred miles of riding in pretty hot weather. Although I have to say that the brakes are a physical workout for your hand !

Exploration and Discovery

Classic Velocity

It is funny how you intentionally seek out the best possible version of a vintage vehicle both in terms of its cosmetic condition and it's mechanical and running condition, only to then take it completely apart as soon as you can get it back to your cave. Of course, sometimes they're not in great condition, and sometimes they are not running well, or at all.

The RT was one of those vehicles Where I expected to find a few issues. It had a Dunstall two into one exhaust installed by a previous owner. It just seemed odd to do this with an RT when there were so many more sporting BMWs to apply this to. But then I learned that what he really wanted was to make sure that he was heard by deer and by other motorists.

Once back at the garage, I could not wait to get those pipes off the bike. I also drained the fluids which were pretty nasty, and installed new air and oil filters. In the process of changing the oil, you need to drain the oil cooler (yes, this early bike surprisingly has an oil cooler). I dumped some SeaFoam in the tank, and drained the float bowls which looked pretty good. Brake pads were pretty good as well, but the fluid was not. I found no evidence of electrical modifications or any other changes, other than the exhaust, so I was very encouraged.

I removed the front lower faring with an eye towards installing new points, but discovered that I didn't have the right ones so that will wait. I did change the spark plugs though which seemed old, but were a good color. They were a pair of of splitfire plugs, and I hastily replaced them with Bosch units.

Finally Among the Elite

Classic Velocity

I have never really gravitated toward the top of the line vehicles for several reasons. First, I could not afford them. Second, you could usually get so much more with that money if you did have it. But that has all changed now. When it was introduced in 1979, the BMW R100RT was the most expensive production motorcycle that you could buy in the USA. It was the motorcycle for the discriminating tourer, with a full fairing, generous storage, enhanced instrumentation, and luxurious accomodations.

And that is where the commercial ends. The version that I managed to acquire has issues. It runs, but not well,  it has a shaved valve cover on one side, it has a very loud 2 into one, a cracked windshield, etc. The good points are that the paint is fairly good, and the luggage is as well. All of the electrical seems to be in working order. Looks like just a lot of work to make it a good rider.

We shall see.....