Got to see / ride the R90 today. Forecast was rain / thunderstorms, but thankfully they never came and it was actually quite a nice day! I had basically made up my mind to get the bike before I even got there (no thanks to you guys!) and lets just say the ride did nothing to change my mind
It fired right up and I took off on a ~40 mile ride through the various country roads and speeds without incident. The bike shows 56,600 miles, he did say the cluster was replaced but he's pretty sure they set the mileage about where the old one was, so this mileage is believed to be accurate. Suspension was stiffer than I was expecting (a good thing) and the bike felt very nimble. Not much room for my feet for the controls with the boxer engine, but some adjustments to the bike and for myself I can get used to it easily. He had lowered the pegs too, which is a big plus for me. He actually cut the rubber part on the bottom to keep it from being in the exhaust so I don't think they could go much lower. It was one of the most comfortable bikes I've ever sat on just because my legs could sit more or less naturally.
The fairing is a Vetter. The finish on it and the bike is a bit rough, mainly due to my grandfather never washing or waxing anything he owns. Good chance some elbow grease and maybe some buffing will go a long way as there isn't any obvious cracking or rust, just dull and spotted with bugs and things over the years. I wasn't impressed with the fairing, with my height I found the air to be pounding the back of my helmet. If I slouched and leaned forward dropping my head a couple inches, the air was perfectly clean and nice. A taller windscreen, or a different angle on it would probably help a lot but I think I'll just remove it and shelve it for another day. Also, the mounting on the fairing seems very loose... it moves around a lot on bumps and the like. Don't know if it was always this way, or has worked loose or rusted mounting points or what the deal is but it doesn't matter if it's coming off anyway.
Hard bags I forgot to check the branding on, but I'm pretty sure they are the Krausers. They lock on with a key from the back of the bike and open by flipping up a latch on each side. One is scraped up pretty good from when my grandfather forgot to lock it on and it hopped off the bike at 50mph. I'd say for going through that, it looks pretty darn good! Maybe I'll paint them to hide the scratches, not sure. They do have lighting in the bags. Connection is an audio type RCA plug on the back lower corner (just below the tail lights) for quick disconnecting. Illuminated yellow strip on the front, and red lights on the back. Don't know if they came this way, or if it was added. Just seems to be running lights, switched on the left handlebar with a yellow lever.
Now - As for the mechanical condition. I don't think the bike is in as good as shape as my grandfather thought. Not to say that it's bad (far from it), but I think a few things may need addressing before putting many miles on it. I'll throw them out there and see what you guys think:
He mentioned before I took off that it uses a bit of oil, and to check it before setting out. Well, I can tell you a good portion of it ended up on top of my boots. How he had not noticed this, I don't know. Maybe it just came up this year? In any case, seems to be coming from the head gasket, on the front side of the engine, right near the exhaust header. Same place on both sides, so I'm assuming this is a common thing? He has the owners manual, and a service manual so we looked it up. It does mention torquing these bolts every 5k miles as part of servicing, I think to 25-28 ft/lbs (although the wording in the service manual is seriously weird on this... I think it says "25 + 2.8"?) He had done this maybe once in the 16 years he's had the bike so I'm guessing they just worked loose on both sides. The question is, will tightening them up fix the issue? Or will the head gasket need replacing at this point, or worse... has something warped due to them being loose?
I pretty much knew about this one going in... it's factory, and it's crap. I had to get used to grabbing a fistful in a hurry (my Buell takes 1, MAYBE 2 fingers if you dare on the brake lever). I know no old bikes are like my Buell, but still I could haul that lever in until it almost touched the bars and still didn't feel like the old front tire was going to lock up. Grandpa never noticed a problem, but it's entirely possible he hasn't tried to stop the bike from faster than 45mph in many years. It stops fine, but a panic stop it just doesn't have the stopping power. I asked him about maintenance, he hasn't done any regular work on the brakes besides ensuring it was topped off. No regular flushing. I suspect the MC may be pitted, or maybe it just always was that way? Hard to say for sure from my description I'm sure, I'll probably just go with upgraded modern brakes with the MC on the handlebar and be done with it either way and shelve the factory setup.
Clutch / Transmission:
- To say that it doesn't engage smoothly is an understatement. It's pretty much on or off. Makes low speed maneuvering difficult since you can't keep the revs up because when it grabs you shoot ahead 7'. Keeping the revs way down (just a tinge off idle) works much smoother, but I very very nearly stalled it more than once doing that. I was a lot better at it by the end of the ride so I could learn it, but it just didn't feel right to me. Is this normal?
- Also, even when I was sure I had the clutch pulled in as far as it would go, I would occasionally get gear chatter when changing gears. Had to be sure to really be deliberate with my punch of the lever with the clutch lever touching the bars, especially going 2-3 and 3-2 or it would grind the gears. Thinking back, I was not really attempting to rev-match though, perhaps I can't get away with as much on these bikes as what I'm used to with the really light quick revving motors and newer transmission designs. Seems some adjustment could be in order here or is that just how they are?
- An additional concern, once the bike was warm engaging the clutch on shifts was accompanied by a "shiiink" noise, possibly metallic in sound. Seemed to get worse as the ride went on, and was not present at all to begin with. Pretty sure this is also not normal, it was pretty prevalent at times. Also a faint rattle in neutral when warm, which I believe is perfectly normal.
Those were the things that concerned me the most. I don't know which of them are issues, and which of them are best described as "character" of these bikes. I was able to mostly compensate for all (except the oil leak, which I know isn't normal) as the miles wore on. The turn signal is a bit funky too, but easy to get used to once you realize you simply push in the direction the handlebars will go when you turn. It kind of does make sense and flow, once you get used to it. It would have been nice if the cluster indicated which way you were signaling, because with the fairing I couldn't see which lights were blinking and I didn't have a clue which way was which until I pulled over and hopped off the bike.
Don't know when I'll be bringing it home, it may depend on the oil issue... it's leaking pretty bad I'd be scared to ride it any distance for fear it suddenly gets worse without my knowing. I can always borrow a trailer and go that route though. My grandfather was very upset about the oil, he thought the bike was ready to go and didn't want to give it to me needing work. I had to explain to him it was an 37 year old motorcycle, I know I'm going to have to do work on the darn thing! If I wasn't OK with that, the whole thing would be a pretty bad idea now wouldn't it?
I snapped a few pictures with my phone:
Also snapped a quick one of the Matchless tucked away in a corner of his work room: