There is a new podcast produced by, Daren Dortin, called “Airhead Type 247” available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify. “Type 247” is how BMW identifies the airhead motor and associated motorcycles from 1970 through 1995.
Daren is interviewing folks who have a lot experience with BMW airhead motorcycles. So far he has talked with Ted Porter, The Beemer Shop, Rick Jones, Motorrad Elektric, and Bud Provin, The Nickwackett Garage.
Daren posts a new podcast once every two weeks, +/-. He owns a number of airhead bikes and has had a career in radio for more than 30 years. His interviews open the door to learning more about folks who actively support the airhead community. You might want to subscribe to his podcasts and relax with a cup of coffee, or an adult beverage, and listen to the opinions, stories and experiences of longtime airhead folks who are passionate about keeping these Bavarian creations on the road.
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 the BMW R65LS and 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 \didn’t complete the entire trip last time in 2017, I am 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.