If you missed my adventure on the first day of my ride to the rally, here is a link:
Ride to 40th RS Anniversary Rally-1977 RS Break In Is Complete
Here are links to two set’s of pictures, the first are the ones I took on the trip and at the rally, and the second are by, Andy Muller, a photographer, who is the proud owner of the 40th RS sold in the US so of course he brought it to the 40th RS anniversary rally. What a nice bit of serendipity.
- My Pictures: 2017-09-10 40th RS Anniversary Rally Pictures
- Andy Muller’s Pictures: The R100RS 40th Anniversary Celebration
Getting There, Days 2 – 5
My route to the rally follows US 36 which passes through Hannibal, MO.
I planned a shorter ride the day I arrived in Hannibal so I could spend some time visiting the Mark Twain museum. I stayed at a B&B in a 19th century home, the Dubach Inn. My suite was on the second floor with it’s own staircase and balcony where I enjoyed a Gin and Tonic at the end of the day.
The city turned the block where Twain grew up into a museum that includes his home, his father’s justice of the peace office, Becky Thacher’s house, and the home that was occasionally used by the street urchin he crafted Huckleberry Finn from. I really enjoyed the exhibits and learned a lot more about Twain’s life and the impact of it on his personality and ultimately how it became the source for many of the books that made him famous.
Along US 36 I saw a number of signs about the pony express and the stops and routes they used. A rider would take the mail and ride a set distance each day and then hand the mail pouch to another rider who continued with the mail. The first rider then took mail from a rider coming the other direction and returned with it to where he started. This shuttling operation moved the mail from St Louis to California. Little did I know at the time that the Airhead Pony Express would be enlisted to deliver Gonzo and I on the last leg of the trip to the rally.
The next day I stop at a hotel in a suburb of Indianapolis, IN. At the start of the day I enjoyed riding on two lane roads although I was riding in a light rain and some fog for awhile. I took some state and county roads to avoid the heavy traffic I recall from a previous ride to the east coast on I-70 through Indianapolis. Alas, I poked along through Indianapolis suburban sprawl, construction zones for the last hour. It was a long day.
After I got to the hotel, I thought I heard noise from the transmission. I had replaced the bearings and seals, my first time doing this work, so I was worried I had failed to do the work correctly. But when I got up the next morning under a dull gray sky with light rain and drizzle and started the bike the transmission seemed to be quiet. I chalked up the noise I thought I heard to my paranoia and being hyper-sensitive to the new sounds from an unfamiliar bike and transmission.
I headed out in the drizzle and mist on my way to West Virginia near the Pennsylvania boarder to my next hotel. At my first gas stop late in the morning, I could hear the transmission noise again. It was louder and clearly something was not right. I still had another 200 miles to my hotel and no hope of finding any airhead transmission experts in this part of the country. At the end of the day I would still be about 350 miles from the rally location in Pennsylvania.
Diagnosing the Problem
Tom Cutter, one of the best airhead mechanics and an expert transmission builder, was coming to the rally and he lives pretty close by. When I got to my hotel in Triadelphia WV I called him and described what I was hearing. I told him I planned to bring the bike to him and leave it and I would figure out how to get back home. He told me not to worry. He would start work on the bike on Sunday right after the rally and would get me back on the road as soon as possible. The huge weight of worry and dread that had been weighing on me all day suddenly vanished.
He had me do a number of tests including draining the transmission at an auto parts store to see what came out. When I got there and bought some gear lube and a drain pain, it was raining lightly and the light was fading as I started to drain the gear box in the parking lot.
When I removed the drain plug, I found a circlip stuck to it. It secures the plastic roller that rides on the shift cam to a pin on the shifter arm. That can’t be good. I used my cell phone to send a picture to Tom. His advice was to not ride the bike any more if at all possible. I was tired, a bit wet and dejected as I rode Gonzo five miles back to the hotel in the dark to get something to eat.
The Airhead Pony Express
After dinner I decided to post a note to the newsgroup used by rally members for communication to see if anyone might be in the area with a trailer that could take Gonzo and I to the rally hotel in Pennsylvania and then went to bed for a night of fitful sleep as I reviewed scenarios of how to get to the rally and all the changes I had to make to my return hotel reservations since I was going to be delayed. On top of that, my credit card had been fraudulently used on the internet and the card company had cancelled it. Ah, it never rains but it pours 🙂
The next morning, I saw a note from Duane Wilding who lives near Annapolis, MD. He offered to load his bike on his trailer instead of riding to the rally and it had room for mine. The detour would double the time for him to get to to rally changing a 5 hour day of riding to more like 10 or 11 hours of towing. I didn’t see any other offers so I called him and asked him to come pick me up. It would take him an hour and a half to get the trailer hooked up and and I agreed to call him if in the mean time I heard from someone closer who was able to help.
I started to call my hotels to put my rooms on hold, called my wife to let her know what was happening and as I scrolled through other email, I suddenly saw a reply posted by Scott Mercer right after I sent my note. I had missed it when I first looked at my Email. His note said he was an hour and a half away and had a truck with his bike in it and there was room to add mine. I connected with him, confirmed he was still able to come by and pick up Gonzo and told him I’d call him back as I had to cancel my ride from Duane who was going well out of his way to help.
When I called Duane back and told him to stand down, I reached him just before he was about to start driving my way. And then I got two more calls, one from Scott’s friend, Tom Gaiser, who was bringing his R90S in his pick up truck and said he would come by in case we needed help getting Gonzo in Scott’s truck. When I hung up I got a call from Keven O’Neil who was bringing his bike on a trailer following my route from Indianapolis. He too said he would stop to help and in case my bike didn’t fit in Scott’s truck, there was room on his trailer. I had gone from famine to feast. I was overwhelmed by the generosity and support from these Airheads. What a great bunch they are.
Five hours later we turned off the Pennsylvania Turnpike and stopped next to an appliance that was as ubiquitous as cell phones are today when the RS was brand new. I couldn’t resist; I went over, picked up the handset and it had a dial tone. That pay phone still works for it’s intended purpose, just as my 1977 RS does. How unexpected, and fitting to find this relic on my journey to a 40th R100RS anniversary rally.
We pulled into the Holiday Inn parking lot, unloaded Gonzo and parked him in the growing group of RS bikes in the parking lot. Then Scott and Tom drove to their hotel 20 minutes away.
The Rally at Todd Trumbore’s Home
The next morning, Friday, I got a ride to the rally at Todd Trumbore’s home where the rally was held from Mike Cecchini who brought his bike on a trailer.
I spent the day in awe of the variety of bikes parked outside Todd’s “Bavarian Bike Barn” including a Munch Mammoth, an ISDT race bik, a replica of the Udo Gietl prepared R90S that won Daytona in 1976 and the first AMA Super Bike championship, A Mondial and of course, multiple examples of well cared for RS bikes and more first year bikes than I’ve ever seen in one place a one time.
Here is a short video of starting the Mammoth and the sound it makes.
There were talks by Hans Muth, Udo Gietl, and Tom Cutter, and numerous conversations with fellow airhead RS owners about their bikes. Hans graciously designed the logo on the far right and Todd did the other two. I have all three stickers from the rally and will find a suitable place of honor for them in my work shop.
On Saturday, Mike put Gonzo in his trailer and as the next airhead pony express rider, faithfully delivered us to Todd Trumbore’s. We unloaded Gonzo and I rode him up Todd’s driveway so I could say with a straight face that I rode him to the rally. 🙂
Meeting Hans Muth and Getting Gonzo an Autograph
It took a year of work rebuilding the bike and several adventures along the way while riding him to Pennsylvania, but I met Hans Muth, shook his hand and got his autograph on Gonzo’s factory inspection sticker. An amazing end to a year of work and adventure riding to the rally.
Fixing Gonzo’s Transmission
Saturday evening, Tom Cutter and I loaded Gonzo on his trailer and I rode Tom’s “Fake S” R100/7 to his house that is about an hour away. What a treat, to say the least. 🙂
On Sunday, he pulled the transmission out, disassembled it, cleaned and inspected it, replace the circlip and roller, and reassembled it. He found no other damage to the transmission. After careful measurement of my circlip and a new one, it seems the new one I installed is not the correct size. I failed to catch that when I installed it since this was the first time I had opened a transmission so I had no experience with the parts. That said, in the future, I can compare the new parts to the old to reduce this kind of mistake in the future.
the circlip was a bit too large compared to the new one he installed. Either it was a defective part, or I damaged it when I installed it. On Monday morning, we installed Gonzo’s transmission and Tom took care of a couple other assembly mistakes I made. By 2:00 pm Monday, I was back on the road heading home.
Going Back Home
I rode on US 50 most of the way until Topeka Kansas where I got on I-70. I went through Athens, Ohio on Tuesday and stopped to meet Kent Holt of Holt BMW who provided the paint and a great deal of advice when I tried my hand at painting. He took me on a tour of his facility and he spent almost two hours talking with me. What a treat/.
I stopped in Jefferson City, MO to stay at a B&B housed in a civil war ear home built on a high bluff over looking the Missouri River and had dinner at an Irish pub around that corner, Paddy Malone’s, that is one of the oldest continuously operating pubs in the mid-west. There is a flag from every county in Ireland on the ceilings and walls. A great place to relax.
The next day I rode to Hays, Kansas. In the afternoon, I had 30 MPH cross winds for several hours and at one point, the bike thermometer showed 102 F. The air conditioned lobby of the hotel was very refreshing 🙂
I arrived home on Friday about noon after riding over 3,300 miles in the past 11 days, meeting great people who love BMW bikes and especially the RS and attending a fabulous rally celebrating the 40th anniversary of the introduction of the R100RS.
To all the airheads at the rally who directly helped me get there or took a moment to talk with me and provide words of encouragement that lifted my spirits, thank you from the bottom of my heart. RS riders in particular, and Airheads in general, are some of the nicest folks you could ever want to spend a weekend with.
Thank you for sharing your adventure!! I really enjoyed reading it!! WELL DONE on the rebuild of Gonzo!!!
Brook – I heard from Radar that your journey had included a bit of drama. Thank you so much for taking your camera and for posting this excellent story about your journey. As you might exclaim, Cool Beans!
Yes indeed, I got my money’s worth and more 🙂
Thank you for this fine trip report and for your invaluable contribution to airhead maintenance documentation. Gonzo is the luckiest airhead on the road. Thanks too to Tom Cutter and all the airheads who pitched in along the way. Life is short, but not too short. Good things abound.
1975 R75/6. 110K
Yes, I marvel at how quickly things went from “Oh S&^%t” to “My Goodness. I’m really fortunate.” on this trip.
Airheads are cool.
Great report Brook. Good pics with excellent words. Glad I could help you at the rally. Hope our paths cross again. Be well my friend. Mike Cecchini.
Thank you and once again, my profound thanks for being one of the Airhead Pony Express riders. 🙂
If your travels bring you to Colorado, please contact me.
Thanks for the invite Brook. Since I’ve done 3 USA sea to sea rides in my 20’s & 60’s, I’m thinking my next trip across will be at 30,000 ft @ 500 mph. 😉
This said if I am in Col. I will give you a ring and hope to visit.
My joining the ranks of helpers for you, it was an honor to do the little bit I could.
All the best………. Mike
Brook, it was a pleasure having the opportunity to help out a fellow enthusiast in need. We had great conversation too on the 5 hour drive from WV to your rally hotel. I’m very pleased to hear you made it back home without incident. If you’re ever in the vicinity, broke down or not, I’m always a phone call away!
All the best,
1978 R100RS Motorsport
I too enjoyed our conversation on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. I never would have expected to meet so many neat people and have so memorable a set of experiences from the failure of a $2.95 part. The last two weeks were awesome.
And, thank you for the invitation. It would be great to get back east again and connect.
I thoroughly enjoyed your RS ride report. Your website is a wealth of knowledge. I was sorry to hear about your transmission problem. One reason is I plan on rebuilding my transmission myself. It has nothing to do with money. I can easily afford to just ship it off to Ted Porter or Tom Cutter. I’m just the sort of person that has to dig in and know how things work. I’m sure you understand. My question is; can these transmissions really be that complicated? I usually have more faith in my repairs than work I’ve paid someone else to do.
Thanks for the good work and cheers, Bill
I glad you enjoyed reading about my adventures and the rally.
I don’t know the best way to answer your question. Like much in this world, working on the transmission is “easy when you know how.” So of course that’s the rub, isn’t it?
Based on what I learned as I replaced the bearings and seals on mine, there is limited information available about “acceptable and not acceptable” when it comes to parts condition, tolerances, clearances and best practices for assembly. Therefore one is hard pressed to know what “good” looks like and how to measure it. In addition, BMW made numerous changes in the transmission over the years which complicates assessment and repair even more.
To “rebuild” a transmission is therefore complex, perhaps not in the procedure, but in acquiring the correct knowledge in advance.
To be clear, I did not rebuild mine. I replaced bearings and seals and had access to two long time BMW mechanics who inspected the parts and provided advice when I needed it. I would not have done the work without access to those resources. And, even then, my work was inferior as shown by the failure of the shift cam roller circlip after riding the bike 1,000 miles before I left and then having it fail 1,400 miles into the trip.
I guess the answer to your question boils down to how much “adventure” you are up for and how well you can handle failure of your workmanship. Note that complete failure inside the transmission can be catastrophic to your life and health.
Tremendous posting, Brook, thank you. Could you publish the link to the sound of the Mammoth – I can’t seem to find it? Also, the image of your shaking hands with Hans Muth is AWOL. Thomas
Thanks for your note and letting me know of some issues with my post.
I fixed the Muth handshake link. The video in the blog post is working for me. You can find it on my YouTube channel.
Great ride report and I must say the support you got from fellow Airheads is quite heartwarming and encouraging!
Great photos and info from the other stops as well!
Thank you. I was gob smacked by how many offered help, encouragement and moral support. What a Hoot 🙂
I’m glad you made it to the rally and back home safely. Somehow, I thought things would work out for you. The Airheads are a wonderful group of riders who always try to lend a helping hand, especially to a fellow boxer enthusiast.
One note/correction. Hans designed the logo to the far right, I designed the rest…not a major accomplishment by any means though. By the way while we are discussing banners and commemorative items, I still have lots of those items left over for sale and if there are any banners you wish to hang in your garage or shop, let me know, I can have those reproduced also.
I hope you enjoyed the event.
Good Afternoon Todd,
First of all, my personal thanks for putting on this spectacular tribute to the RS model. Your dedication and enormous effort to bring this from idea to fruition shows how fond you are of BMW airheads-both the bikes and the owners.
I made the correction about the logos. Thank you for spotting my error and letting me know about it.
As to ” … enjoyed the event.”, I was, and still am, over the moon about all I saw, heard and shared. It was one of the most stellar motorcycle experiences I have had so far.
Banners … hmmm … could you provide dimensions and prices in a separate email: [email protected].
What an AMAZING and inspiring story! LOVED the photos too. I seriously doubt that you did anything wrong in installing that circlip. You are TOO meticulous to have made a mistake. Yes, the trannies are complex and some variability over the years, but they are also doable if one has the proper tools, patience, knowledge and take your time. The biggest problem I’ve had is finding a press big enough to get the bearings on as the Harbor freight ones are a tad too short. You have clearly demonstrated the power and brotherhood of the airhead community. AND also proven that what goes around, comes around You have given so much to other airhead riders that is it wonderful to see it coming back to you in spades. Moreover it is reassuring to know that one can solo do these long trip and rest safely knowing that help is handy if the roof falls in. Just a wonderful story/posting in every way. So glad you made it home safe n sound and put this up for all of us!
Thank you for your kind note. In many ways, the adventure allowed me to meet and get to know folks I likely wouldn’t have. That’s a nice plus.
Brook : I’ve ridden some of the same roads you took and explored some of the same places. I have some good airhead buddies along the way too –ie Jeff City MO. If you’re interested I’d be happy to share contacts with you for any future “hauls” I’m sure Roger in Jeff City would have enjoyed putting you up and chatting and he’s done multiple air head trannies ! Just a thought!
As you say one of the great aspects of these kinds of trips are the unanticipated adventures and detours where folks connect in such open, meaningful and heartful ways! ONWARD!
Yes, there were parts of US36, US250 in PA and US50 that were “special”. I don’t plan to use the super slab any more when going to/coming from the east coast.
What a nice write-up Brook! Enjoyed reading it and seeing the pictures! So glad you were able to attend the rally, and in the grand scheme of things, everything worked out about as well as it could have. This airhead community and friends made through it, is something to behold. Not sure that one could find this sort of camaraderie riding another type of bike.
It was great to see and talk with you again. Your pictures on your site are gorgeous 🙂
It’s always a pleasure reading your blog posts. Thank you for taking the time to record in word and picture your latest adventure. Your bike is beautiful and the way you handled adversity and the “downpours of life” are encouraging and uplifting.
Best of luck in all things,