The RT is perfect for running around town. It takes a few minutes to warm up, but then it is fine for stopping and going and stopping and going again. It has good storage and will consume unexpected packages, groceries, and even 4 feet of PVC, with ease.
1983 BMW R80RT
On a perfect 74 degree fall day, an aimless ride out in the country was required. The RT is now the premier touring machine in the garage, as the R12RT has departed for a new home. It is of course less powerful, brakes are not as good, no cruise control, etc. However, it does everything you need a touring machine to do, in a basic fashion. It does interstate speeds, it handles curvy roads surprisingly well, it has luggage, decent fuel range. Today was a day for backroads and handling covering about 90 miles, and then 15 miles of errands around town. No problem.
An R80 was out for an errand run, and an R1200 ended up beside it, creating a nice grandpa-grandson side-by-side opportunity. We have commented before about the strong DNA that links these machines despite decades of evolution. Either one could cross the country today. The R80 would choose a more scenic route and take a bit more time to get there.....
I have been impressed with the improvement that the Luyken LED bulbs have made on previous bikes, so I got an 1156 version for the R80RT. This time I recorded a snippet of video to show before and after.
Here was an opportunity to dust off the cobwebs from winter with a quick ride to clear the carbs and circulate the oil. The competence of the R80RT is almost always a surprise, although it should not be given the /7. It took a while to idle smoothly without choke, so I will do a timing check next opportunity.
An opportunity to log more miles on the RT turned into a nice jaunt to the northwest. About 100 miles of perfect running for the RT with a few photo stops along the way. This was part of a back to back ride with the 2007 R1200RT following immediately afterward. The R80RT is surprisingly enjoyable to ride in comparison, and offers superior wind protection on a cold day. The missing heated grips and heated seat were not showstoppers on this short run, but I think grips would be nice for any extended trips.
The bike came with a locking storage compartment on the right side keyed to the seat, but the lock was not correct for the bike and it came loose with any significant vibration......like running the bike! The left side had the correct latch mechanism, but not a locking one. I thought about keeping the bike's paperwork under the seat velcroed to the tool tray, as I had done on a previous airhead, but the plastic pouch really does not fit well in the rhomboid tray. Same for the rear tray. Even if I did, I would still be in danger of losing the compartment lid in a gust of wind.
The fix was easy. Seven dollars and a new cylindrical lock from the local hardware store. However, this now introduced another key for the bike. I opted to live with another key in exchange for having it secure. A bit of foam was trimmed to further tension the lid. On this machine, there is no real need for a small tank bag, as I usually like to carry given the space in these two forward compartments. It is too bad that on the modern RT these spaces are now reduced to very small coin pockets.
I have always liked the BMW cases from this generation. They were a big improvement over Krausers in function and durability, and they looked good. The cases that came with the RT were not original to the bike, but they were the correct type. They had cracks and weather beating, and one had clearly taken the brunt of a bike being down. One of the latch mechanisms was full of fine sand and would not open or close without a lot of manipulation. After a good cleaning, the bags were marginally better, but they needed attention. Some JB Weld closed up a small hole in the bottom of one bag. Both hinge stays had broken, so the bags flopped open. The drill came out and removed the old rivets. The stays were sanded and painted, and then new rivets were installed. Once complete, they did not look markedly different, but they functioned as originally intended.
In true Classic Velocity style, the brief ride since getting the RT back on the road, was followed by about a 50 mile circle. This brief ride had a couple exits of interstate, followed by back country roads through Amish country. The RT proves that the 800cc version is a very well matched engine for this motorcycle. It cruises at 80mph indicated, and feels smooth at 5,000 on the tachometer. Like the /7 on which it is based, it corners effortlessly, and you can understand why there are so many shaved valve covers! Once fully warmed up, the oil light stays off at idle, As with any RT, protection from the elements is excellent, and a chilly fall day was hardly noticed.
After 6 solid hours of dismantling and cleaning, the bike looks about the same from 15 feet, but a lot better up close. It has the normal aging body seals, and plastics that need help. The seat lock mechanism was sticking, and some WD40 brought relief. Parts of the frame and seat pan needed some sanding and light rattle can paint. Wheels needed heavy cleaning. A few pieces needed to be removed and repaired.
A dramatic improvement under the seat...
finally, a brief walk around video after a brief initial ride. A long journey to running status, but we are now ready to make more progress.
Among the Airhead wizards and sages, the conventional wisdom is that the 800cc version of the Airhead RT is better than the 1000cc version. What's that you say, there is no replacement for displacement? Well, just like today, when adventure bikes and monster tourers are giving way to small and mid-sized alternatives, so it was for the initial RT. Arguably. The main argument is around the engine, which is a bit smoother, and perhaps around the gearbox which is better suited to the intended mode of travel. This argument is often passed off as the envious utterings of those not able to step up to the top of the line R100RT. Sour grapes, as it were. And perhaps for some that is true.
However, having now owned both, there is merit to the claims of the baby brother. I would argue that it is indeed smoother, and the gearbox shifts better. I would also argue that the 750-800cc engine is a BMW sweet spot, that has been true since the R75/5. This R80RT has about 50,000 miles on it, and a commensurate number of rough edges and the paint has a number of chips and flaws. Patina. Just the way I prefer it.