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Old 01-21-2014, 05:34 PM   #1
Beezer Josh OP
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Location: 15.6 miles from the U.S. Capitol
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The perfect bike?

So I got my most recent issue of Motorcycle Classics in the mail today. First, I would really like to thank them as I hadn't received the most current issue in the mail as of the first of the month which necessitated a quick call on the 13th. They were kind enough to send me a complimentary copy, even though my initial copy is somewhere within the great machine of the U.S. Postal Service, through no fault of Motorcycle Classics.

The article from the Editor-in-chief is titled "The perfect bike". A section of a letter from a reader is quoted, "Which bikes are the most reliable ever built?". The first bikes mentioned, as suggested by the associate editor, were the airheads (no surprise, right?), and the /5s were particularly noted. I've had a couple of bikes, but my first airhead, a /5, I purchased just over a year ago and I feel completely relaxed on it, never having to worry whether I'm going to make it home. The services I've performed, other than regreasing steering head bearings, are just because I like to tinker with bikes and not necessarily necessary; I can never seem to leave well enough alone. I love how easy it is to work on this bike and it's been completely reliable for over 8,000 miles so far. So, this begs the question, which airhead do YOU think is the most reliable? Stories of problems, solutions, concerns, mileages, rants, and raves are welcome, even if you've never broken down.
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Old 01-21-2014, 05:40 PM   #2
bpeckm
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The only airhead that ever left me stranded was because I ran out of gas.....

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Old 01-21-2014, 06:12 PM   #3
picinisco
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bpeckm View Post
The only airhead that ever left me stranded (was because I ran out of gas.....)
Stupid airhead!
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picinisco screwed with this post 01-22-2014 at 07:08 AM
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Old 01-21-2014, 07:12 PM   #4
Ron Bernert
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bpeckm View Post
The only airhead that ever left me stranded was because I ran out of gas.....

You too? Sheesh. I thought mine was the only piece of crap out there..


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'77 BMW R100RS euro, '95 BMW R1100GS, '71 BMW R75/5 SWB, '68 BMW R60/2 (in boxes), '82 Suzuki GS450, '98 Triumph Thunderbird Sport
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Old 01-21-2014, 07:16 PM   #5
r60man
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Beezer Josh View Post
So I got my most recent issue of Motorcycle Classics in the mail today. First, I would really like to thank them as I hadn't received the most current issue in the mail as of the first of the month which necessitated a quick call on the 13th. They were kind enough to send me a complimentary copy, even though my initial copy is somewhere within the great machine of the U.S. Postal Service, through no fault of Motorcycle Classics.

The article from the Editor-in-chief is titled "The perfect bike". A section of a letter from a reader is quoted, "Which bikes are the most reliable ever built?". The first bikes mentioned, as suggested by the associate editor, were the airheads (no surprise, right?), and the /5s were particularly noted. I've had a couple of bikes, but my first airhead, a /5, I purchased just over a year ago and I feel completely relaxed on it, never having to worry whether I'm going to make it home. The services I've performed, other than regreasing steering head bearings, are just because I like to tinker with bikes and not necessarily necessary; I can never seem to leave well enough alone. I love how easy it is to work on this bike and it's been completely reliable for over 8,000 miles so far. So, this begs the question, which airhead do YOU think is the most reliable? Stories of problems, solutions, concerns, mileages, rants, and raves are welcome, even if you've never broken down.
I have had 4 road bikes over the last 28 years. The first was a 1979 Triumph Bonneville. It didn't matter how much preventative maintenance I did that thing broke down a lot. I had parts vibrate off that had been tightened and loctited the day before, I had wires break from vibration inside the insulation. I loved the bike, but it was not reliable and I didn't have the magic required to make it so.

My first BMW was a R60/6, I upgraded the engine to 750cc because the parts were stupid easy to get from everyone bumping their 750's up to 900ccs. I rode that bike all over the East Coast, several long trips, and daily commuting for 10 years until my father passed away in 1998.

At that time I sold the R60 and kept his R75/6. At the time the clutch on the R60 was shot and the R75 had the front disk, so it seemed like an upgrade. I still own it. I had one catastrophic failure of the front brake master cylinder. At the time the bike was almost 30 years old and had a ton of miles on it. I got the master cylinder fixed but then it started running funny. Never thought that the brake fluid on the starter relay could do that, I mean it started just fine.

In 2003 I purchased my K1100RS, it was 10 years old with about 25,000 miles on it. The PO had dropped it but the damage had been repaired and the frame was straight. This bike has taken me close to 90,000 more and has been bullet proof. Little stuff gets fixed as it arises, like tires and brake pads. I tend to do larger regular stuff over the winter. The k is getting all new fuel lines and stuff like that this winter.

Almost any bike can be incredibly reliable if properly taken care of. I would have no hesitation to go out and ride the R75 or K11 across the country tomorrow, except for the 10" of snow we got today.
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Old 01-21-2014, 07:29 PM   #6
Pokie
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I have been inconvenienced a few times but only needed a ride back once. Brand new 1973 BMW R60/5 with 650 miles on the clock, broke it's cam shaft just before the oil pump. The only indication that something was wrong was the valves got VERY loud. When slowing down, the oil light came on. I didn't wait to stop, I pulled the ignition key and coasted to a stop. Sat for a couple of hours waiting for a friend to come get me and the bike.

That same bike suffered from overshim in the transmission at 1000 miles. I overhauled the transmission behind a used car lot in Dawson Creek. I had some tools and parts shipped up from Vancouver by Greyhound Bus. I caused quite a stir when I poured gas on the transmission and lit it up to get it open. The used car salesman almost called the fire brigade!
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Old 01-22-2014, 01:52 AM   #7
squish
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Of the four airheads I've had, the 1986 R80 proved to need the least amount of futzing to keep it running.

Currently all three airheads have issues.
New batteries are needed on all three. The R80 is currently overcharging, and it's starter motor is sometimes kind of wonky.
The R80st also need a new bean can,
The R100GS always need something.
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Old 01-22-2014, 06:45 AM   #8
Gripsteruser
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8,000 miles is way too short a sample interval to decide.

But if you like the bike and take care of it you'll get good service out of it.

My present R100GS is my 5th motorcycle. None have been unreliable.
But they have all needed routine maintenance to keep them so.
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Old 01-22-2014, 10:57 AM   #9
Beezer Josh OP
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Nice stories!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gripsteruser View Post
8,000 miles is way too short a sample interval to decide.
...but, it's all I got on an airhead... Besides, I'm not trying to sway anyone's opinion, just stating what little I've experienced and what joy the bike has been so far. More importantly, I was interested in others' stories.
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Old 01-25-2014, 04:30 PM   #10
685
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I hope my Motorcycle Classics is just delayed in the mail. New subscription, so any thing can happen I suppose.

I'm new to Airheads so I'll reserve judgement. Like lots of old bikes that have had a variety of owners and caretakers, it's needed a lot of sorting out. Maybe it will eventually end up feeling reliable. For now, I don't think I'd take it more than 10 miles from home. The previous owner did probably $2 or $3 grand worth of 'improvements' and proved that the more improving you do, the less rideable and reliable the bike ends up.

Perfect Bike means different things to different riders. Reliability is one thing, styling is too, and "fun-ness" means a lot. The measure of it is the one bike you hate to have sold for years after you saw it ride away. My such bike was one of those white with red & blue stripes '89 Honda Transalps. Except for the ignition modules (2) they were dead reliable--as reliable as an appliance. Fun to ride, handled well on the road and had sufficient power to make 85 mph an optimal speed. My '08 KLR is a close second, but never will be the shining star that the Transalp was for me.

A lot of my motorcycle life was DOHC 4 cylinder UJM's. CB750F's, some Suzuki's, a CB1000C (w/ the famous 2 speed sub trans.,) and my favorite UJM a Kawasaki GPz Turbo. All of them were sleds for handling, tho.

Sorry, for now my Airhead is just too sketchy to be anything close to perfect.
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Old 01-25-2014, 07:00 PM   #11
Trippps
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Quote:
Originally Posted by r60man View Post
I would have no hesitation to go out and ride the R75 or K11 across the country tomorrow, except for the 10" of snow we got today.
Don't let that stop you. ;) Found this in a shed where it had been sitting 20 years, changed all the fluids and took the mouse nest out of the airbox, added a side car, and it has been my winter ride ever since. Fires up at 15 F.

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