Coffee with Craig

During the recent rebuild of “Grover”, my wife’s 1973 BMW R75/5, I wanted to restore the original Windjammer II fairing it came with. The Windjammer was designed and sold by Craig Vetter who has long been associated with motorcycles, fairings and fuel economy. So I was pleased to find he and his wife maintain a web site and store for his fairings with what I needed to repair it.

I had a question about what adhesive was used to attach the headlight bracket to the fairing and sent a note to Carol Vetter, his wife. In short order I was in an email exchange with Craig. I thought at the time how cool it is to be able to get information directly from the designer of the Windjammer 40 years later.

When I got done with the fairing repair and paint work, I send him a link to these write-ups.

Last week I got a note from Craig saying he would be coming through Colorado on his way back to his home in California and would I like to get some coffee.  And yesterday, I got coffee with Craig Vetter.

Chatting with Craig Over Coffee

Craig Vetter

What Craig Has Been Up To

Craig has documented the work he has been doing to build  “The Last Vetter Fairing” in his quest to boost fuel economy and mileage for motorcycles. He had been in the mid-west at a mileage competition, the 2014 Vetter Fuel Challenge at the AMA Vintage Days, but the weekend before we met, someone stole his trailer with the bike in Kankakee, Illinois. The good news is the bike was recovered but the bad news was the trailer is still missing and he was now returning much later than he had anticipated, but he was still willing to stop and chat with me.

I rode Grover over to a Starbucks near the intersection of I-76 and I-70 where Craig would be arriving so he wouldn’t have to detour far from his route.

We talked about his goal for energy efficiency, a long time passion, and his efforts to “learn what I don’t know” to design and make available a motorcycle fairing that can double fuel efficiency. So, does anyone really care enough about conserving fuel on a motorcycle to want a fairing that doubles the mileage?  He admitted it has been a struggle, but he believes the need for energy efficient gasoline powered bikes is inevitable as the cost of oil exploration continues to rise with the corresponding hike in gasoline prices at the pump. The near term opportunity lies in the emergence of electric powered motorcycles since they need more range between recharges and that matches up with a well designed, cost effective, slippery fairing that cuts drag enough to double the range of any electric powered bike.

As you might expect from a man who built a successful company, sold it and then continued to work on projects to extend the limits of what is possible for motorcycle fuel efficiency, our conversation was fast, wide ranging and equal parts observation, questions and guesses about what the future could be.  It was the best hour of coffee drinking I’ve spent in some time.

We took some pictures of the old (Grover with a Windjammer II, circa 1974) and the future (The Last Vetter Fairing) that span 40 years of Craig’s thinking, learning, testing and trying in the parking lot at Starbucks.

40+ Years of Vetter Technology

Craig Vetter Surrounded by 40 Years of His Innovation

Criag and his "Last Fairing"

Only 16 HP, 70 MPH, and Over 100 MPG

Me Holding Grover's Hand

Me Holding Grover’s Hand

One of the stories Craig told me is whenever he rides the bike or trailers it, it’s almost always a women who will stop to ask him what it is, but not men. We both think men are reluctant to ask because they are uncomfortable admitting they don’t know what it is (sort of a corollary to the “men don’t ask for directions” syndrome), but women are genuinely curious and are not so encumbered. He jokes with me that if the women is older he will tell her “It’s really a chick magnet” which always gets a chuckle before he tells her the rest of the story and why it matters.

And then as he is about to leave, a lady drives by the two of us and leans toward the passenger window of her car and asks, “What is that?”

A Curious Bystander

“What is That” From a Women Passing By

Craig looks at me and just smiles. He tells her what it is and before you know it she is out of her car and the two of them are talking about fuel economy, how to get 100 MPG on a motorcycle and why he believes this matters.

Then, after saying good bye to her, he tows The Last Vetter Fairing out of the parking lot and heads west on I-70 toward home. As I fire up Grover, I realize rebuilding this old bike opened a door for me to get a cup of coffee with one of the icons of motorcyling. The old airhead engine runs that much smoother as I head back to work.

9 thoughts on “Coffee with Craig

    • Hi Chris,

      Yes, it was an opportunity that I did not expect, and was that much more fun because of it.


  1. Hey Brook, glad you got together with Craig Vetter. He mentioned he was being honored back in Rantool, I’ll. where he started his company before moving it to San Luis Obispo where I lived. I ran two sheltered workshops and he sent a lot of work our way, assembling, sorting, packaging parts.

    My R100/7 w/sidecar is all together and I do breakfast every Sat. AM with the local Monterey Bay BMW riders. Mostly old guys still riding! Will send photo of rig. Am filming ride along Elkhorn Slough where i live on action can also. Best regards,
    Larry Steffen
    Monterey Bay, CA

    • Hi Larry,

      Yes, it was an unexpected opportunity. Say hi to Craig when you see him again.

      I’d love to see the pictures. You have my Email address, so send them along.


  2. WOW What an AMAZING experience! The TRULY GREAT people are the ones who take time to respond to query letters, stop for coffee and who are constantly trying to learn more about a craft in which they are already recognized as one of the leaders in the field. A STUNNING lesson about ego!

  3. Just found your rebuild/blog etc. on the web, I have a 75/6 and i am learning to work on it. it makes a big difference if you do it yourself. Your pics of the rebuild are really helpful. Your interview with Vetter was warm and delightful to read…

    • Hi Silas,

      Cool beans. Enjoy working on your R75/6.

      There is a sense of satisfaction when you maintain and fix something that offsets the momentary pain from the scrapes and cut knuckles when tools don’t always do what you wanted, or you bozo a part and have to buy another one .. DAMHIK 😉


  4. Excellent story about Mr. Vetter. He is one of few gurus with longtime practical and manufacturing experience in moto aerodynamics. Like you, I have a airhead with one of these old Windjammer fairings. Good weather protection and a few more mpgs, but at the cost of appearing super nerdly! But water off a duck’s back for those of us who were “uncool before uncool was cool!”

    I always thought the Windjammer name a glaring marketing mistake. These things are suppose to [and do] make bikes slipperier. I don’t know why they quit making these generic fairings. Could have been the nightmare logistics of making and supplying a multitude of mounting hardware required to fit all the makes, models, and years of bikes. Or more likely, it was the legal liability of a large fairing catching sidewinds, truck air blasts, or catching brush on narrow roads. Who knows?

    Anyway I have always thought that a major moto manufacturer should retain him as a consultant and build much more slippery bikes. Nothing dirtier aerodynamically than a person sitting in a “chair” at 70 mph. There could be massive increases in mpg by streamlining bikes. Skipping the looks, the utility of a smooth, quiet, and highly efficient bike would spread through the market.

    Right now I am lubing the splines on my R60/6. And since the tranny is off I might as well do the rear engine seal and the oil pump seal — untouched at 60K. So in the process I was looking at videos on the topic. I saw several of yours. I like how in one you used the transmission’s input shaft for centering the clutch by leaving the pressure plate bolts loose and suspending the transmission on long headless bolts at the back of the engine block. Clever idea I had never seen done before. Thank you, Brook.

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