I left on Saturday morning joined by two friends, Chris and John, who decided to ride along to the St. Francis Motorcycle Museum in St. Francis, Kansas. I noticed a sign for it when I took US-36 to the 2017 R100RS 40th Anniversary Rally, but didn’t feel like I had the time to stop. The museum is about 200 miles from metropolitan Denver, so it’s about the half-way mark for today’s route which ends in Belleville, KS.
As last time, US-36 is a lightly traveled road in excellent condition with almost no 18-wheelers. The traffic this time was about twice as much as the 2017 trip because I left on Sunday that time and most of Kansas stays home on Sunday. But it was light traffic nonetheless and made for a relaxing ride.
Kansas Border-Brook & John
Kansas Border-Chris & Brook
St Francis Motorcycle Museum
What an enjoyable collection of turn of the 20th century American motorcycles from the numerous manufacturers in business before WWI and the later Great Depression. As is the case with the computer revolution of the middle part of the 20th century, which had a large number of computer hardware companies, the American motorcycle industry consolidated over the next 50 years into a handful of companies. The collection was a delight and even included two BMW’s, an R60S and an R27.
St. Francis Motorcycle Museum Decal
St. Francis Motorcycle Museum-1968 BMW R69S
St. Francis Motorcycle Museum-1968 BMW R69S
Geographic Center of the US
After I left John and Chris in Bird City where they turned off to visit a good friend of John’s before heading back home, I continued for another 200 miles to Belleville KS. Not too far from there is the geographic center of the US. Although I didn’t exactly go to the exact spot, I did take some pictures of the memorial to it on US-36.
Days Slide Show
Here is a slide show of the days pictures, mostly of the fabulous motorcycles on exhibit in the museum.
Gonzo (my 1977 R100RS) and I are going to be on the road again on our way to Todd Trumbore’s home where he is hosting his third airhead 40th anniversary celebration of bikes designed by the legendary Hans Muth, on September 19-22, in Harleysville, PA. (Yes, an ironic location for a BMW airhead rally 🙂 ) This time Todd is celebrating 40 years since the introduction of the iconic R80 G/S and the R65LS models in 1979. Once again, Hans will be in attendance along with a notable list of other airhead and motorcycle legends who will be speaking. You can see the details here:
The first rally Todd hosted was in 2014 for the R90S and the second was in 2017 for the R100RS, which is the rally Gonzo and I first attended. Even though my garage does not yet include an R80 G/S or R65LS, Todd was happy to let me attend the festivities despite riding “only” an RS.
The R80 G/S and R65LS are the last two designs Hans developed for BMW before starting a design studio, Target Design, with some friends, Jan Fellstrom and Hans-Georg Kasten. One notable design from the Target Design studio was the Suzuki Katana in 1980. I find the lines of the R65LS and Katana are similar, as if Hans extended the design vocabulary he developed for the R65LS to the design commissioned by Suzuki for the Katana.
Suzuki Katana-To Me, It Echos The Design Vocabulary of the R65LS
When Gonzo and I went out in 2017, we had an adventure when the shift cam retaining circlip in Gonzo’s transmission came off the shaft. The BMW dealer I ordered it from supplied the wrong size circlip and I was not attentive enough to notice. Gonzo and I ended up being transported to the rally hotel by Scott Mercer with assistance from Tom Gaiser, and Keven O’Neil. Tom Cutter, at Rubber Chicken Racing Garage, one of the best airhead transmission re-builders, was a speaker at the rally and put Gonzo on his trailer while I followed him to his shop riding his “most excellent” R100 “Fake S” bike. He took apart the transmission on the Sunday after the 2017 rally while I watched and assisted with cleaning parts, and I was back on the road that Monday. Here is the story of my adventures going to the 40th anniversary of the RS rally in September 2017.
Although Gonzo and I are very appreciative of Tom’s generous assistance. we plan to avoid imposing on him again on this trip. 🙂
Since I we didn’t complete the entire trip last time in 2017, we are going to take the same route out and back this time. Somehow that seems appropriate.
Gonzo now has “matte” clear coat, which is correct for the 1977 RS bikes, but due to my failure to communicate with my painter, he was repainted with gloss clear coat back in 2017 when I did the restoration. He is also sporting the commemorative badge Todd provided to the participants of the 2017 R100RS rally. I think it’s a very nice touch and a lot classier than the cheap decal BMW originally used on the cowling in 1977.
I recently renamed this site “Brook’s Airhead Garage” in recognition that over the almost 10 years since I started it, 95% of the content is about how to rebuild, restore and care for BMW airhead motorcycles. So what happens? A friend, Rohn, talked me into doing a 72,000 mile service on his 2004 R1150RS.
I too own a 2004 R1150, but mine is an RS. Generally I’ve had a dealer do most of the routine maintenance on it. Although, I have told myself that I ought to broaden my horizons mechanically and become more knowledgeable about it’s maintenance. Rohn’s request pushed me over the edge.
In researching the work required for this service and the history of work done on Rohn’s bike, I noted that his fuel pump is original. Mine died at about 75,000 miles in Des Moines, IA at the intersection of I-35 and I-80 in a construction zone on my way to Michigan. Unlike an airhead, there wasn’t a thing I could do to coax it back to life. I told Rohn he might consider his fuel pump and the internal hoses a “preventative maintenance” item and he agreed to have me replace it.
In looking around for information on the internet, and YouTube, to prepare me for this work, I wasn’t able to find good instructions for replacing the fuel pump. There are several resources that show how to replace the filter, but the fuel pump seemed to be left out.
So, I put this material together to fill that gap.
“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”, A. Einstein.
It is a “scientific” creed similar to Occam’s razor summarized as, “The simplest explanation is usually correct.” These two guiding principles provide direction when you are looking for explanations and aren’t sure how to proceed. But, they also underpin a philosophy of design that creates unadorned, straightforward products that are a delight to experience.
My appreciation of BMW airhead motorcycles is a practical expression of Einstein’s prescription of what the result of science should look like. Airhead design is functional, not elaborate nor flamboyant. The styling relies on form following function for its appeal, not on plastic panels and extraneous amenities that distract from the direct understanding of how the machine works. Even when BMW introduced the first motorcycle with a manufacturer integrated full fairing in 1977, the R100RS, the shape of the fairing was defined by aerodynamic necessity and the requirement to protect the rider from adverse weather. I think the RS fairing is a design that solves several hard problems as simply as possible, but no simpler.
For BMW airheads, the art in the design lies in engineering control of material properties and precision machining during manufacture. For example, machined tapers with press fits are preferred to castle nuts with tab washers when connecting driven components on a turning shaft. Parts inventory is minimized and the assembly procedure is simple.
Another example is the tool kit that comes with the bike. With it, you can disassemble just about anything on the motorcycle. I’ve used the tool kit to remove the top end to replace rings and then reassemble it. I have removed the transmission, the drive shaft, the entire rear sub-frame and the rear wheel with it. Nothing else in my tool box was required. That lowly, hidden tool kit is an elegant expression of the minimalist mindset.
The joy of motorcycling comes from a direct, frictionless connection between mind and action, but that is deepened when the machine you are riding is an elegant execution of the minimalist creed espoused by Einstein.
I think that’s why I got so involved in airhead wrenching over the last decade.
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 route to the rally follows US 36 which passes through Hannibal, MO.
On the Way to the Rally
Mississippi River, Hannibal MO
Mark Twain Statue at Hannibal Waterfront
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.
Dubach Inn, Hannibal MO
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.
Reconstruction of Huck Finn House at Mark Twain Museum
Mark Twain Museum
Mark Twain Museum
Mark Twain Museum
Mark Twain Museum
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.
On the Way to the Rally
On the Way to the Rally
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.
On the Way to the Rally
40th R100RS Anniversary Rally
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.
Draining Transmission Oil at an Auto Zone in Triadelphia West Virginia
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.
Circlip from Shift Quadrant Roller – Shouldn’t Be In The Transmission 🙁
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.
Airhead Pony Express Arrives-Kevin O’Neil’s RS On His Trailer
Scott Mercer’s Trailer with Tom Gaiser Supervising
Gonzo in Mike Mercer’s Trailer Next to His Mint 1978 Motosport
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.
Working Pay Phone at Our Exit on Pennsylvania Turnpike
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.
Todd Trumbore Host for 40th R100RS Anniversary Rally
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.
Some of the 40th RS Anniversary Rally Attendees and Their Bikes
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.
40th RS Anniversary Rally Logo’s Designed by Hans Muth
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. 🙂
Gonzo Getting Tied Down in Mike Cecchini’s Trailer
My 1977 RS – “Gonzo” – Parked Among His Fellow 1977 R100RS Bikes
Mike Cecchini’s R90S Fitted in RS Body Work – Beautiful !!!
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.
Shaking Hands with Hans Muth Next To My 1977 R100RS
Hans A. Muth Signature on My 1977 R100RS Factory Inspection Sticker
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. 🙂
Gonzo Loaded in Tom Cutter’s Trailer Next to His R Nine T
Tom Cutter’s “Fake S” That He Let Me Ride – What a Hoot and Very Kind of Him
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.
My Circlip (Left), Correct New One (Right)
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/.
Marvin Greeted Me at Holt BMW with Coffee 🙂
Kent Holt in his Work Shop
Kent Holt’s Ride with Custom Paint Work
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.
Cliff Manor B&B Jefferson City MO
Gonzo Resting at the Cliff Manor B&B Jefferson City MO
Missouri River From Patio of Cliff Manor B&B Jefferson City MO
Beer Board at Paddy Malone’s Pub in Jefferson City MO
Jefferson City MO Irish Pub with County Flags
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.
Ending Mileage – Over 3,300 Miles
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.