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Old 03-07-2015, 08:23 PM   #1
coffee_brake5 OP
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Joined: Feb 2006
Location: Jaw-juh(GA)
Oddometer: 105
Gal on a budget--can I do right by this old thing?

It's a 1976 R90S, black smoke/silver, 109k miles, and it was much loved by its first owner. That owner was my very dear friend and riding buddy. He recently lost his fight with cancer and I miss him so bad. All the local riding buddies are doing our best to help the widow with selling his small stable and all his motorcycling stuff. She is a strong, smart woman but knows nothing about bikes. She trusts us completely and although she's not impoverished, she can't just give away valuable stuff.
I've looked through threads here and everywhere and I don't even know where to start with questions about my suitability for this bike, and vice versa. I've never even ridden an Airhead. I had a problematic R1150RT that made me absolutely hate the marque but I always thought the old Airheads were still cool, and they needed a personal touch, not just a big thick wallet to throw at the service department. I always liked the idea of a motorcycle that is best maintained in the home garage and designed for exactly that.

I'm going through a (mostly amicable) divorce and moving soon, and I could afford to get this bike. It's no garage candy; it's had the snot ridden out of it but (it seems) no expense spared for maintaining it. Thing is, I'm completely out of the loop with older BMWs, don't even know what questions to ask. Widow only asks that a friend of her late husband buy it, and not flip it.

Will this bike do well when asked to perform in the corners and given the proper suspension maintenance to do so? Nobody's asking for a modern racing machine, but was it made to make me smile throught the curves?
How can I tell if the ignition system has been brought up to date?
What are the expensive things I'll have to do soon to keep it running right?
God forbid I touch up the (scratched, chipped, RIDDEN ON) original paint...will the Airhead people stone me?
These Delortto carbs, CAN I DO THIS? I've rebuild a whole lot of 80's Japanese in-line four carbs. Can I handle the Delortto?

What else do I need to be asking? the bike isn't beautiful, it has rust under the paint chips and a restorer might not even want it. I don't know if the shocks have been replaced, I don't know if the fork seals are gone, I don't know anything about the bearings and cam journals and valves on this machine....I only know it was an iconic bike that my friend dearly loved, and I loved him. I love his widow enough to make sure it goes to someone who wants the bike for what it is, and not as a "classic" to flip. My long distance love is my 1995 Kawasaki Concours that I've had since new, and no modern bike can make me wish I had any other than that carbureted heavy old beast. Nobody works on my bikes but me, since I learned the hard way that mechanics in my area will never treat a bike like they should. So I think I can take on this R90S and at least ride it well...but can I make it sing like it should?
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Old 03-07-2015, 09:11 PM   #2
Houseoffubar
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Sure sounds like your on the right track. There is nothing about this bike, or the Dell's that you can't handle.
You will have to be patient, this forum is largely male, and you will get a lot of posturing in place of considered advice, but the vast majority here are very helpful.
Enjoy your new bike!
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Old 03-07-2015, 09:18 PM   #3
OLD GREEN
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The short answer is do it! It's not that often that a person has a chance to own such a classic that was previously owned by a close friend. It will put a smile on your face in the curves, or just looking at it sitting in the corner.

If you've managed to maintain Japanese in line fours you can certainly learn to keep an old airhead rolling down the road.

Please don't forget to post pics, these guys love pics.
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Old 03-07-2015, 09:22 PM   #4
Warin
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Originally Posted by coffee_brake5 View Post
So I think I can take on this R90S and at least ride it well...but can I make it sing like it should?
You have the right attitude/background. If possible take the bike for a ride... a day ride .. not 15/30 minutes. An old bm dealer here would give you test rides .. but you'd have to go for a few hours .. not minutes .. that way they sold bikes not give tyre kickers smiles. After that time on the bike you will know if it is for you.

Don't worry about the maintenance.. you can handle the basics fine. Some prefer the older ignition systems - points. The bike ran fine with them and should continue to do so.
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Old 03-07-2015, 11:09 PM   #5
spo123
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Yes...it is for YOU.
You could always find another worthy owner, further down the line...IF you do not like it. EASILY!
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Old 03-07-2015, 11:48 PM   #6
disston
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You sound perfect for this bike.

No maintenance records? No idea if any of the bigger jobs have been done? At 109K miles this bike is probably ready for extensive and somewhat expensive renewing. The engine may need new rings and valve work. The transmission is at the point that a rebuild may be needed. It should be possible to do this stuff as needed but some of it may be needed soon.

There are several aftermarket electronic ignition systems made by different manufacturers. Many riders appreciate the advantage of lower maintenance worries but many of these bikes also put on a lot of miles with the stock ignition. If the ignition is still stock you can leave it while more pressing items are taken care of first.

The riding position is bent forward on this bike. It is not very comfortable for longer rides for most riders. I guess some riders deal with it better than others but it is an issue.
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Old 03-08-2015, 04:27 AM   #7
FrankR80GS
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If you are not into wrenching, don't buy an old airhead with high milage. You can't compare an old airhead with the oilhead you hated so much, since the airhead technique is very simple but well designed. Much simpler and easier to work on than japanese inline four. So if you like to do some smaller repairs and maintenance buy yourself, go for it.

Check the valve clearance, compression, timing. If it doesn't blow blue smoke when hot, the top ends should be OK. The top end is the most delicate thing about old airheads.
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Old 03-08-2015, 04:48 AM   #8
damurph
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The best thing you have going for you is respect.
The machines requirements can be learned and there is a huge following for airheads that are very helpful in all things mechanical.
Your respect for the previous owner, his wife and a much loved classic will get you through the learning curve.
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Old 03-08-2015, 05:37 AM   #9
Jim K in PA
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Going by nothing more than your post, since I do not know you, it sure sounds like you and the bike would be a good match. The R90S is no mystery machine. You can make it hum or sing at your discretion. There are lots of airhead folks in the Atlanta area that I am sure would help you out. If you can take a carb apart and put it back together again, the Dels are no harder than any other carb. Take your time, learn the bike, and you will have another 109k of enjoyable miles available to you on that machine. My '75 R90S (Olga) has 115k and runs like new! And it's a sidecar tug.

HTH.
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Old 03-08-2015, 06:36 AM   #10
hardwaregrrl
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Woot!! That sounds like a great honor to own your buddies bike and wring the crap out of it!! These bikes are pretty easy to work on vs UJMs IMHO. Where in Georgia are you?? There are lots of us here and we love to wrench!
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Old 03-08-2015, 06:49 AM   #11
red bud
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^all of the above^


pretty much everyone thats reponded is a better wrench than me. i've got a 74 r90s that i've rode all over, some how its still running. even alot of 2 up. still makes me smile


2 shops you could take it by are boxerworks in watkinsville & apex in elliay & get thier opionion.
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Old 03-08-2015, 06:50 AM   #12
red bud
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shit it just hit me are u talking about jim h's bike?
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Old 03-08-2015, 06:58 AM   #13
CafeDude
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My advice: jump on the opportunity. Not only will you be preserving your friend's legacy, but you'll have a great bike to do it on. The 90S is an iconic treasure, they can be made to handle very well, and although not nearly as powerful as today's superbikes, it'll handle the streets just fine. I'm currently resurrecting a long-neglected '74 R90S. They are easy to work on, so just DO IT! And lets see some photos!
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Old 03-08-2015, 07:14 AM   #14
hardwaregrrl
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shit it just hit me are u talking about jim h's bike?
Jim H? Who's that? Do I know him? Hiya Mark
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Old 03-08-2015, 07:46 AM   #15
red bud
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Jim H? Who's that? Do I know him? Hiya Mark

if u don't, u probably saw him at some time or another. He was a member of the M.O.B. lived in sc just past augusta. He also had a place in nc. Just passed last month.
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