Caterpillar to Butterfly?
The metamorphosis is nearly complete! Only the heart of the beast remains to be transformed. I am nearing the end of rebuilding/refurbishing my 1984 R80RT into an R100 "S" type. I know the purists will be offended. But then there never seems to be a shortage of both useful information and offensive remarks on this forum anyway. There will even be fodder for the safety monitors later. The bike looked pretty good from several feet away and was in fairly good shape. I purchased it last fall for my son to ride on a 3000 mile trip we took and planned to sell it afterwards. There were a lot of used bikes available in the $2500 and under price range to choose from and having owned an R60/6 and an R100GS previously I figured it would be fun to find an Airhead for him to ride and probably cheaper than renting after reselling it. The fact he didn't fall in love with the bike made it a little harder for me to decide to keep it but I did. Subconsciously I probably always knew I would get another Airhead- why else did I keep my Clymer and Haynes manuals, the rotor bolt, the exhaust wrench,
and the special sockets I have never used for anything else?
Closer inspection shows the 88K miles of wear and tear.
The bike had been well maintained and came with $5500 worth of repair and maintenance receipts performed in the previous 5 years. The only real issues were the bike was SLOW to accelerate but would eventually obtain and maintain any speed. The voltmeter was disconnected and the rear brake was all but useless. All I did before our ride was replace the pogo sticks in the rear. The caterpillar reference in the title could have several interpretations but the big one was the bike was SLOW.
WOOOW! Deer whistles. :lol3
Barn Door Fairings
When the 1984 R80RT and others of this ilk were new I was lusting after a G/S but thought the RT's were a beautiful design. I can understand why the purists bemoan stripping another one down. I really tried to like it as is. But I didn't. The huge barn door fairing insulates you from bad weather but also good weather too! People often remark what a huge bike my R1200GS is but at least in frontal area the RT has it beat.
Right after New Year's I removed the front wheel to replace a balding tire and got a wild hair. I was starting to like the bike better already after this
Then perhaps I took it a little too far.
My non-Airhead friends questioned my sanity. Actually, they always question my sanity but in this case it was directed to why mess with this old bike when I already had a much better one. I love my R1200GS. I have owned a lot of motorcycles and it is my all time favorite. In MY opinion and in any category I can think of except 2 it is superior to the Airhead. Those 2 areas are character and appearance. Very subjective I know. Maybe not as important as performance, handling, braking, comfort, and reliability but certainly important characteristics to me. I stated earlier I thought the RT's are a beautiful design. I just didn't care for riding behind that big fairing. I have always thought the BMW "S" bikes were some of the most beautiful mainstream bikes ever made so I made a decision to go that route.
Klonis is emerging
I don't normally name my vehicles. Usually just refer to them by color or description. The red bike, the old truck, yada. This time its different. This bike has a name. When I started painting the body parts I thought what am I going to put in that little rectangle on the seat cowl? It will not be an R80RT anymore. It really is not an R90S or R100S either. I decided to name her Klonis and put that in the rectangle.
If you don't get it, try saying it slowly.
I had to say it about a dozen times before I finally heard it and got it. I'm getting old......er.
I started this project right after Christmas. There was no money for the project before Christmas let alone after.
I had to figure out how to get started on the cheap. I had several plastic tarps already so I made a makeshift paint booth in my shop.
Powder coating the frame and related black parts would have been easy but I don't think it is necessary and doesn't offer a whole lot of advantages over what I used. I already had plenty of paint left over from other projects. What I used is a single stage industrial paint called ALK-200. I get mine thru a PPG auto paint store. I have used it on tractors and trucks and once fully cured it is extremely tough, durable, and resists UV degradation. Its been on the running boards on my old truck for over a year and despite getting in and out countless times, often with muddy boots it is still holding up great and doesn't even show any scratches. It can be applied over sanded bare metal but works better with a primer. It does take a while to reach maximum hardness so I started the project by painting all the black parts first, knowing it would be at least a couple of months before I was ready to start reassembly.
Once I got new races installed in the steering head it only took a couple of hours to sand the frame and shoot it. And it was done! It would have taken me that long to make 1 round trip to my nearest powder coater.
Actually, since I did all the black parts at once there was a break between the sanding and painting but I didn't spend more than 2 hours total on the frame. It actually looks better than the picture shows and I think it looks as good as powder. Since I already had paint my cost for all the black parts on the bike was $10-20 for sandpaper. Once you start putting everything back together its clear that much of the frame is not going to be visible anyway. I wish I had taken a photo of all the black parts hanging, piled, and stacked all in my little paint booth. I had to do a combination of limbo moves and yoga positions to be able to spray everything without touching the wet parts.
Some engine work preceded this photo but this was my next step in the reassembly.
Painting is the area I have the least experience with and the most issues. I am not a good painter but I am getting pretty good at fixing my mistakes. I always carefully plan out how things will go and start with a very optimistic attitude. Nothing ever seems to come out perfect, mostly because of the lack of a real paint booth. This time was no different. I think I have made every painting mistake possible (some many times) but I am always able to find new problems.
I have grown very fond of the orange color on my wife's VW GTI. I decided to try and match that but add a gold pearl middle coat. This is a basecoat/pearl coat/clear coat approach. It is very similar to what Hearse has shown on his build thread. I looked thru the paint books at my local auto paint store and found a color I wanted. Then I choose one somewhat darker since I was putting the pearl powder into a "clear" basecoat binder. This is the same as a basecoat without the toners. It is somewhat milky and will lighten up the colored basecoat. When done there are gold highlights in the orange where the light is reflected. It is much more dramatic in sunlight than these pictures will show.
The parts above and below are all the same color, its the pearl coat that makes them look different.
If you look close at the fairing photo you can see several black spots. One of my painting issues. This time my problems started with the basecoat. With any color but orange I should have been able to basecoat everything with 2-3 coats. The pint of basecoat plus reducer almost made it. However, it took more coats to cover than I thought and I needed at least one more coat. I was already behind schedule when I had to make the 50 mile round trip for more paint and waiting for them to mix it up. Just as I was finishing the 3rd pearl coat our new propane truck driver came screaming up our gravel driveway trailing a huge cloud of dust and debris just outside my open paint booth. That didn't help and the heated exchange with the driver cost me more time as the sun was going down. I had to start the clear coats after dark and without great lighting in the paint booth. I did this earlier in the year when we had a freak warm spell that allowed me to do the painting. The warm spell also brought out the bugs in force. They seem to be attracted to clear coat like bees to pollen. Little black bugs in everything. Could anything else go wrong? Of course- runs in the clear coat. I was pushing the flash times and it was getting cold. All in all a fairly normal painting experience for me. Eventually all was fixed.
Timely thread. I might be doing one of these myself in the future. I like your progress so far - keep up the fine standard of work.
Cool! I went even further
Let the airhead purists complain! I personally could not stand the way my R100RT rode when I bought it. It was so heavy and I felt so isolated, I might as well have been driving a sedan!
I started with a very similar RT as yours, but it was even shinier...
I write a column in the BMWRA club magazine, On The Level, about my build from RT to café. She's almost done after over a year...
and now this is how she looks now:
Keep up the good work! An RT is no rare classic bike. There are plenty that are still preserved. They make great bikes to turn into something you will enjoy much more.
Thanks for the Encouragement Guys!
Things should start moving along pretty rapidly now. I finally got the call that my cylinder heads are ready. Been waiting several weeks for that and now will be able to button up the engine. Should get it all done just in time to put a few miles and adjustments on it before my son comes out from PA next month for another visit/ride. Hope he likes the bike a little better this time around.
It's your machine, build it like you want.
Tires, Wheels, and Voodoo beads
I really like the look of the snowflake wheels and think they deserve a little more attention than they get in stock form. I originally planned to paint mine. I know a lot of people have just used rattle can wheel paint or similar very successfully. I didn't want to put a lot of effort into something that may not last well so I looked into the proper primer for aluminum and good paint and found the costs comparable to powder coating (at least for my area).
I decided to go with powder coating and got both wheels done for $100. They did both the inside and outside of the wheel and did a great job. No powder got in the bearing recesses or the brake drum. One potential issue is they used very heavy wire wrapped into the center depression of the inside wheel to do their work. When that wire was removed there were a few spots with small sharp projections that formed between the wire and the wheel. This would wreak havoc with a tube unless cleaned up.
I mounted (that's not quite true) Michelin Pilot Activs front and rear and I am running them tubeless. I am very aware of the pros and cons of doing this and I have chosen to do it. What I wasn't aware of was the difficulty in getting these tires to fully seat. I got the front tire spooned on with drama but couldn't get the tire to fully seat despite my best efforts and all the tricks I knew. I was using special tire lube, high flow from my air compressor, strap around the exterior, bouncing wheel and tire. I could get all but about 6-8 inches fully seated and even that last 6-8" looked seated until I noticed the line just outside the bead wasn't out as far in that section. I could move that 6-8" section to different places on the rim but never fully seated.
I was attempting to mount these myself because I had decided to give Dyna beads for tire balancing a try. I have read a lot of positive and negative comments about Dyna beads and was an optimistic skeptic. (Still am). They recommend installing them thru the valve stem. Unfortunately, the tubeless valve stems I used on the rims had a very tiny opening on the tire side (perhaps part of my seating difficulties). That meant throwing in the beads while mounting the tire. I didn't trust the only shop in the area that will mount tires you did not purchase from them to do this but didn't have much choice after my failure. I was really concerned that the powder coating had added enough thickness that I just might be shit out of luck.
I told the tire guy at the shop what I had tried. That I used special tire lune and had taken the pressure up to 60psi without fully seating the tire. He gave me a look like I was an idiot and told me he never uses that much pressure and just soap and water. He did get the front tire I had loosened up seated pretty fast much to my chagrin. However he fought the rear for about 20 minutes. When he finally brought it out to me he mentioned he had to use pure soap and a pressure so high I am afraid I am not remembering it correctly. WAY past the 60 psi he chastised me about. My concern now is what might be happening with those Dyna beads and all the pure soap he used. Since I don't expect a lot of people to read this I will post that as a question to the forum. Heres some pictures of the completed wheels. The color pretty well matches the engine and trans colors but with some flake in the powder to add a little sparkle.
I used this setup to check and adjust the new wheel bearing preload. The axle is held firmly in the vice and it makes it very easy to check the spinning of the wheel and feel for any lateral play. The square steel pieces are just being used as spacers- they were handy.
Getting Close- Slight SNAFU
The engine build was pretty straightforward and went without drama right up until I hit the stater button. All I got was click...click...click. WTF? I had been hooking my battery up to a battery charger every couple of weeks since New Years and it always showed fully charged right away. It had also been lighting my headlight and turn signals as I tested the wiring. Thoughts of how I could have fuched up the starter motor when I took it apart or got the wiring to it wrong flashed through my brain. The voltmeter wasn't working before and I thought I had it wired up correctly now but it was only showing 10 volts. I finally focused on the real culprit- the battery. It is done. Overnight charging actually made it loose more voltage. So why did my fancy battery charger show it was fully charged? Some idiot left a tiny switch, barely visible to the naked eye, in the position marked 6 volt instead of 12 volt.
This is the point where I almost allowed myself to go astray. Just 2 bolts stood behind me and a cam change. It was very tempting but finances were not supportive of such an effort along with the high compression pistons, ignition changes, etc. I am using my R80 shortblock. I only took it down as far as replacing the connecting rod bearings, timing chain and guides, and crank sprocket. The entire top end is from a 1982 R100RS. It includes the airbox top, 40mm Bings, big valve heads, and 8.2 pistons and Nikasil cylinders. I went thru the carbs and the heads have 4 new valves, 4 new guides, and new exhaust seats. The motor is ready to fire as soon as I get a new battery.
Hopefully I will be able to breath some life into that engine by next weekend.
Excellent work but, you left out way too many details. :deal
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