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Old 04-10-2012, 09:06 AM   #1
QCDStick OP
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Thoughts on a 1975 BMW R90/6?

As fate may have it, I may have a '75 R90/6 in my near future. My grandfather is moving into his 80's and starting to question his ability to ride. Earlier this year while moving the Beemer in the garage, his knee gave out and he dropped it. I think that combined with apprehension of some upcoming surgeries, was kind of the last straw for him. Last night he called and asked if I would have any interest in the Beemer. He says he isn't giving up riding, but doesn't see himself handling his bigger bikes anymore. I didn't really know what to say, I'd never even thought about it.

I've decided to ride up to his place on Saturday and take it for a spin. I've ridden on this bike many times, but only as a kid on the back seat and many many years ago. Never been on it since I've started riding myself so I don't really know what to expect. Obviously, the ride will tell me a lot, but I'm still looking to find out as much as I can about what to expect on a bike like this. The last thing I want to do is accept his generous offer, only to end up not riding it much for one reason or another. I owe him, and the bike, better than that.

What should I realistically expect from the R90 in terms of maintenance and reliability? Would it still make a reasonably reliable distance touring bike? Are parts available most places I might end up? I know from talking to my grandfather that general maintenance is dead simple due to the engine configuration, which is a major plus for an older bike especially. Obviously, it isn't going to be a quick bike by today's standards, but how does handling / braking compare when the bike is in good shape? I know the bike I'm looking at is in riding condition, but it may well need some work to be in top shape too, so I don't want to judge it's capabilities on the initial ride alone. Is it comfortable for long distances (say 400-500 miles) for a tall guy like myself? I'm 6'6 with a 38" inseam so I don't fit worth a crap on 90% of the bikes out there that were designed for normal sized people. Any things in particular I should be looking for / paying attention to?

I've been kicking around the idea of adding a classic motorcycle for years, just for something different and to take things at a different pace. Bonus if it surprises people to see a young guy on it. The kicker is, it still needs to be fun though! I really enjoyed riding his Matchless thumper even though it was slow... but it was a small bike. Not sure I'll feel the same way about the BMW? I've never really been interested in a cruiser sort of bike, which I realize the BMW isn't really a cruiser, but compared to what I've been riding it is a few steps in that direction.


Where I'm coming from (just as an aside):
I've been riding for just shy of 10 years. Currently I'm riding a Buell 1125R with a ~15% bump from tuning and exhaust work. I've been looking pretty hard at a new bike recently as it is. I'm freakishly tall and can't ride the Buell for long distances with any degree of comfort. Also, I've had more than my fair share of mishaps due to throttle mismanagement over the last few years, so something a bit more sane in the power to weight department would be better for my health. My other bike is a '82 XS400 Seca that I learned on. I still keep it around, but it seldom gets ridden since it isn't any good on the highway and I rarely ride in town. From my research, I've all but settled on a KTM 990 SMT, even though I've never ridden one. Still sporty and fun, more distance capable, and a much more reasonable power output for me. I've ridden the BMW 1200GS, and Yamaha's Super Tenere, both are good bikes but from what I've read contrasting those (which I have ridden) with the KTM (which I haven't) the KTM would be a better fit. Seems it would make for a pretty good all rounder. The problem is actually finding one to test ride! Now, with the possibility of the BMW thrown in the mix, I am a bit less sure. The BMW may compliment the Buell's weaknesses to an extent, though I can see myself still getting the KTM eventually anyway and then the question becomes would I ride the BMW enough to avoid guilt in taking it? I'd like to think that I would, but I just don't know.

Sorry for having a bit of a rant, I'm just mulling a lot of things over in my head right now.
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Old 04-10-2012, 09:11 AM   #2
Beater
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Absolutely nothing to think about. Get it. Ride the snot out of it. Have fun.
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Old 04-10-2012, 09:18 AM   #3
Canuman
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The R90 is a fantastic classic. It will not handle like a modern bike, which is arguably part of the charm. They are indeed simple, tough, and reliable.

Things to note: if the suspension is original, it's almost required to swap it. The original shocks were piss-poor from the factory, and the fork springs were little better. A set of new shocks and some new front springs and oil really helps.

If it's equipped with the ATE front brake, you should examine upgrading. By today's standards, it is also marginal. Having the master cylinder under tank makes it all the more squishy and vague. Simply putting modern pads and a stainless line on the front will help somewhat. There is any quantity of info on various solutions for modernizing the brakes, but these two items are reasonably cost-effective.

Valves should be checked -- a very simple and logical procedure.

Lube the drive-shaft splines.

Depending on when they were last done, you'll want to put new diaphragms in the carbs. When they fail, not only will the bike not run, they will fill your boots with gas. While doing this, check the floats. The older floats don't care for ethanol.

It is likely that at some point, the speedo or odo or both are going to crap out. An inmate here rebuilds them.

That being said, they are a great bike. They look like a BMW should look. They sound like a BMW should sound. I miss mine.
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Old 04-10-2012, 09:32 AM   #4
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You might just be surprised at how capable that R90 will turn out to be. It has a heavy flywheel so it won't pin you back with acceleration but get it up to speed and it will cruise comfortably for long distances.

I have a '75 R90/6 and am 6' 6". I have several seats available to mount on it--my favorite is a thick Denfield "Daylong" seat I found on eBay. It's not as comfortable as it could be for a two meter man, but it beats most of that 90% of other motorcycles we can't sit on comfortably.

You don't have to think of the R90 as an antique. It was built to be used and used for years. You will need to perform more maintenance than on a new motorcycle but that maintenance is easy to learn. The parts are affordable and available. Read this site for a few weeks and you will have the knowledge you need to be a successful owner.

You may want to modify several systems to increase performance: mount a handlebar front brake reservoir instead of using the stock under tank unit; add a second disk to the front brakes; change to an electronic ignition; upgrade/increase the alternator output; add LED lights; and so on. Check the threads here for pro and con discussions and tips for all work.

That R90 will be a fine legacy bike and will be your entry into this great community of Airheads. Beware, though, that once you get the airhead bug, one airhead won't be enough.
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Old 04-10-2012, 09:41 AM   #5
sebastianhammer
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cordless View Post

I have a '75 R90/6 and am 6' 6". I have several seats available to mount on it--my favorite is a thick Denfield "Daylong" seat I found on eBay. It's not as comfortable as it could be for a two meter man, but it beats most of that 90% of other motorcycles we can't sit on comfortably.
I'm 6'6" as well and have a '77 R100/7. There seems to be a lot of us around. :-) My wife tells me I make the bike look like a silly moped, but it feels comfortable enough with the standard seat, and I enjoy a small bike you can throw around.
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Old 04-10-2012, 09:56 AM   #6
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Man, I can't believe that there is any question in your mind about what you should do!

Your Gramps is offering you something that you can't put a price on, and that can't be measured by the normal bike evaluation process.

You need to get your ass up there, bring that bike home, get onto the Old's Cool and Airheads forums, and get busy keeping that bike in road worthy shape!

Truly, you should have known...
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Old 04-10-2012, 09:59 AM   #7
Cordless
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sebastianhammer View Post
I'm 6'6" as well and have a '77 R100/7. There seems to be a lot of us around. :-) My wife tells me I make the bike look like a silly moped, but it feels comfortable enough with the standard seat, and I enjoy a small bike you can throw around.
Since we are talking TALL, I have to add that my '77 R75/7 stock seat is amazingly comfortable--not as much tushy support as the R90 Daylong, but better than the stock seat on the R90 by far. I don't know what changed between the /6 and the /7 seat/frame but it was an improvement for tall riders.

My favorite comment from another inmate here who saw me on my R90 is that I "look like a spider humping a paperclip."
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Old 04-10-2012, 11:00 AM   #8
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I'm sure the comments I'll get on the R90 won't be half as bad as the ones I got on the XS400!
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Old 04-10-2012, 11:12 AM   #9
Chip Seal
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Re R90

It's a "vintage bike" that comes with factory disc brake!
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Old 04-11-2012, 10:45 AM   #10
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Sounds like you're still stuck a little in the latest is greatest craze and maybe you're afraid the R90 will massively disapoint you next to all the modern hardware you've been sampling. Nothing wrong with owning the latest fast bike but if you got some grins riding that ancient thumper and can see the charm in owning an older classic motorcycle then you might just be surprised with gramp's bike. The charm of the R90 is the unstressed but eager rightness of the thing. There is a good reason why airheads still have such a cult following but you would need to give the bike a chance to get under your skin. Sometimes it takes a while. For what it's worth - in the last couple of years I've gone through a ZX14, a heavily modified Aprilia, a Ducati and I have probably put more miles on the 30 year old airhead than the others combined.
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Old 04-11-2012, 12:20 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by kaput13 View Post
Sounds like you're still stuck a little in the latest is greatest craze and maybe you're afraid the R90 will massively disapoint you next to all the modern hardware you've been sampling. Nothing wrong with owning the latest fast bike but if you got some grins riding that ancient thumper and can see the charm in owning an older classic motorcycle then you might just be surprised with gramp's bike. The charm of the R90 is the unstressed but eager rightness of the thing. There is a good reason why airheads still have such a cult following but you would need to give the bike a chance to get under your skin. Sometimes it takes a while. For what it's worth - in the last couple of years I've gone through a ZX14, a heavily modified Aprilia, a Ducati and I have probably put more miles on the 30 year old airhead than the others combined.
Yeah, you summed up the situation pretty well. I've been doing some reading up, and am very much looking forward to getting to know the bike. I really had no idea so many people think so highly of the R90's today, that really says a lot. Then again... I suppose most people wouldn't bother to post online if they hated the bike, if they felt that way they would have likely sold it off long before the internet even existed :-)

More than anything, I was just worried about offending my Grandpa. If I didn't like the bike, it would just be sitting in my garage taking up space, or be sold. Neither option would sit well with either of us given the situation.

Have no fear, I've all but made up my mind. Heck, even the wife liked it when I showed her some pictures of similar bikes and she doesn't even like motorcycles
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Old 04-11-2012, 02:05 PM   #12
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It's a no brainer, go get it and love/live/ride/maintain it. Keep the granddad feeling and love it, as long as that is positive it's all OK.

They have their quirks and can drive you crazy from time to time. Still they're addictive in a way that makes you hate them when something is wrong and deeply love them when on the road. You'll be unable to get over them and start riding something else.

At least, for me it is, I just can't stop owning/riding airheads no matter how hard I sometimes try and rationally I do know it is a better choice to move along to anything different from time to time.
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Old 04-11-2012, 03:10 PM   #13
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make sure you turn up to see grandad on that bike loaded up covered in dust. Grandad we just did Alaska or Mexico. You know those bikes will still be around for your grand kids.
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Old 04-12-2012, 07:54 AM   #14
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Sounds like a no brainer to me. The R90 is one of the best of the breed. It'll gobble up great distances effortlessly and handle like a sport bike in the twisties. It's not heavy on acceleration, but once up to speed, will maintain it all day long. It's got a wide power band and you won't need to shift constantly to stay in it. These bikes are described as user friendly - relaxed, no-nonsense machines that calmly do what's intended. I think these airheads are one of the best of the rideable classics. Fairly cheap and easy to maintain (getting more expensive all the time, but hey, that's kind of how it is with old bikes - in this case - 37 years old)

Ok, so give! How much will he give it to you for? How many miles on the old girl? What color? Any extras - luggage, etc?
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Old 04-12-2012, 08:04 AM   #15
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Money might be an issue but it sounded more like a freebie in the original post.

Another criteria that might be more relevant is, 'Do you have the space for another bike?" An Airhead will not make a good substitute for your currant ride, it is just not the same. We all think you will like it but it's not a replacement. So you will be a two bike person.
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