1973 R60/5 - Reliable? Daily Driver? Any thoughts?

Discussion in 'Airheads' started by spconley, Mar 31, 2013.

  1. spconley

    spconley Been here awhile

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    Just curious as to what the straight dope is on the 70's era BMW's... I like the looks of the R60/5, but know nothing about them (aside from just thinking that they look cool)... But are they reliable or hard to keep on the road? I can wrench, I just don't like to. I also don't enjoy riding a bike that I feel may cut out on me at any time while I am out riding it... Are they known to leak? Could you take off on a weeklong 1,500 mile trip on one, or should I use a more modern bike? Any thoughts on what to look for when buying, or any typical problem areas or common issues to be aware of? Thanks
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  2. brocktoon

    brocktoon Been here awhile

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    Along with a few of the Japanese bikes of the same era, they're widely regarded as one of the most reliable 70's bikes you can find. However, they're only reliable as the owner. Properly maintained, they're extremely reliable.

    Probably not the best bike for you, then. Some wrenching will inevitably be involved. No shame in wanting to just ride. Go for a modern bike.

    Again, properly maintained, that won't be something to worry about.

    You definitely could. Personally, I wouldn't feel as comfortable doing it without knowing the bike thoroughly, knowing what's prone to failure and what kind of spares to keep on-hand. That comes from wrenching and spending time reading and talking about them.

    There's tons of stuff written on what to look for when buying an Airhead. My two cents would be that an R75/5 will likely have more resale value down the road, and a LWB R75/5 most of all.

    Here are a couple of links to get you started:

    BMW Airhead buyer's guide
    How to buy a used BMW
    #2
  3. Mal S7

    Mal S7 Been here awhile

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    Reliable yes.
    1500 mile trips, no problem.
    But expect wrenching.
    You have to love wrenching, or any 40 old bike is not for you.

    Guzzi make a modern equivalent, the very nice V7 Sport.
    Buy that.

    [​IMG]
    #3
  4. disston

    disston ShadeTreeExpert

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    Most of us Old Timers grew up with fixing this stuff on our bikes and cars and pickup trucks and you name it. Now it's just ingrained and we enjoy the adventure of this old stuff. Some of the new, younger, guys are learning and they will carry on but there will be fewer of them and fewer of these bikes too by then. But if you think you want to learn how to do this and can handle the idea that you have to use your hands and brains to fix your ride instead of a computer run by a technician that gets over a hundred dollars an hour to fix your ride then welcome.

    Right now the supply of used bikes is quit good. Look for the scene to change in the next few years. Airheads are a great deal now. Buy several. You can also get great deals on some other bikes these days but if you want highway speeds the Airhead is probably the best choice.
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  5. Bill Harris

    Bill Harris Confirmed Curmudgeon

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    Yeah, what they ^^^^ all said. They are reliable, rugged, etc, etc, etc. But a 40 year old bike in average shape will need some wrenching to get it up to speed. Unless you get an exceptional bike in exceptional shape it'll need work.

    --Bill
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  6. spconley

    spconley Been here awhile

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    Thanks all for the replies, doesn't sound too bad... I guess I should elaborate a bit more... I've owned a ton of 2v Ducati's and am more than comfortable working on them... But once they are set up and dialed-in, it's pretty much just a valve check/adjust every 6,000 and new belts every 12,000... Other than an occasional issue coming up (and I can accept things breaking occasionally and wearing; I actually have an engineering degree), I think they are way more reliable than what they are given credit for and I would feel comfortable taking most any 2v ducati on a 5,000 mile trip... But I also had a Royal Enfield, and it was a royal pain... I had to take an entire toolbox and half a dozen spare parts with me just so I could make it to the corner store... And it leaked oil everywhere and needed constant adjustment and would never hold its tune, etc... It was a fun bike to look at, but it wasn't a fun bike to ride... I'm ok with, and even enjoy, getting a bike setup and dialed in, but after that I want to at least get 6,000 miles out of it with not too much more than oil changes and the like... It sounds like the BMW's are somewhere in between a 2v Ducati and an Enfield... Thanks for the input and suggestions, its all good food for thought... I'll also check up the links and lurk around a bit more and see if I can't get a good idea of what they are like to live with as I wrap my mind around if I want to own one or not... They look like a Lycoming, so I thought they would be super reliable, and I'm sure the new ones are... Well thanks again, I appreciate your thoughts...

    Also, and just out of curiosity, does any one know if there is a company supplying the swingarm/single shock setup that is found in this picture I found online? And please don't flame me for thinking a hacked up BMW is cool, I do appreciate them in the stock configuration too, but if they made a swingarm kit for a single shock that was a bolt on kit, I might consider it depending on the cost?[​IMG]
    #6
  7. brocktoon

    brocktoon Been here awhile

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    Perhaps the amount of wrenching involved was overstated. As Bill and disston said, they're 40-year old bikes and there was some amount of wrenching expected to keep them tip-top shape. They came with a tool kit, after all. But once it's dialed-in you're good to go as long as you follow the maintenance schedule -- oil/filter changes, valve settings, etc.

    I don't think you'll find too many folks here upset about hacked up BMWs, and I'm pretty sure that's far from a bolt-on kit. Talk to Chris at Boxer Metal. He has a lot of custom/cafe stuff for Airheads, and is good people.
    #7
  8. disston

    disston ShadeTreeExpert

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    Popular modification with a certain few of the younger crowd. Not available as a bolt on kit as far as I know. Custom made.
    #8
  9. RagerToo

    RagerToo vroom vroom

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    Pretty new to the forum, howdy everybody.

    Last year I bought an '80 R100T with a few alterations, sat/ stored in a good shed for 7 years. Previous owner, a buddy, didn't do any of the work to it but can't ride any more. Trashed back and can't shift it and doesn't want to deal with and can't afford to. That said he at least drained the carbs. I dropped the bowls, clean as a whistle.

    Bought a battery, drained the tank and gave 'er some Shell. Had it running in about 2 minutes. I do all my own work and it needs it. But I'm -pretty much- in awe of how well built this beemer is. And it's finally warming up so I can get back at it.

    The only thing I can think of, and I'm not an experienced bike owner or (bike) wrench, is that the wheels and swing arm run tapered roller bearings, not ball bearings. It also has all disc brakes now and I personally would prefer to have them over drums.

    Oh, and once I get it finished, I'd take it anywhere.
    #9
  10. jhh

    jhh Guzzi Dork

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    That's a one-off swingarm as far as I know, but it was built by these guys: http://meyerbuiltmetalworks.com.
    #10
  11. spconley

    spconley Been here awhile

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    Thanks for the additional thoughts on the reliability and the disc recommendation... Do you happen to know what year they switched over from drum to disc and did it happen to coincide with electronic ignition or was it still points? If I could kill two birds with one stone I would likely be interested in moving up a few years assuming they aesthetically didn't change too much... And thanks for the link to Meyers... I'm amazed it only took a few hours for someone on this forum to fingerprint a swingarm back to a fab shop... :thumb Although I must admit, I think I've always sensed that even an avid BMW rider was more of a motorcycle fanatic than the most devoted of the other brands... Good people indeed!
    #11
  12. brocktoon

    brocktoon Been here awhile

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    Front disc brakes were introduced in 1974 on the /6 bikes. /6 bikes bear the closest resemblance to the /5 in terms of looks. The biggest aesthetic difference (to me) with the /6's is the speedo/tach moving outside the headlight shell. If you like the combined headlight/speedo/tach, you're stuck with the /5 or earlier.

    The disc brakes on the early /6's can reportedly be worse than a drum brake. In fact, plenty of folks are very happy with their drum brakes when properly set up and you understand their quirks (namely, how grabby they can get before they're warmed-up on humid days). You can always retrofit the front end from a later bike to an earlier bike if you feel safer with disc brakes, but again, just maintain them and it's fine.

    As far as electronic ignition, it wasn't introduced until the early 80s, but you can always add an aftermarket electronic ignition from Dyna or Boyer to a /5. Many would argue against going this route, as points are cheap, reliable, and easily swapped out. The best happy medium for many is points with a Dyna points booster, which can be had for under $100 and dramatically lengthen the life of the points.

    Here's a good, unbiased article on the /5 series Airheads: http://www.motorcycleclassics.com/classic-german-motorcycles/ten-days-1973-bmw-r75-5.aspx
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  13. spconley

    spconley Been here awhile

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    Thanks Brocktoon, solid read... The article mentions the R75/5 has Bing CV carbs, but the smaller bikes have Bing slide-type carbs with "ticklers" for cold starting... Is it best to focus on getting a R75 just for this reason alone? I don't really care too much about the extra displacement as all these bikes are going to be slow to me and being fast/slow is not why I'm interested in them, but if the R75 is more functional or easier to start over the R60, etc. then I would indeed consider forking over more cash for the R75 as they do seem to be more expensive compared to the R60... Prices also seem to be all over the place (I've seen R60/5's from anywhere from $4k to $10k)... What should one expect to pay for a decent runner R60 for with 20,000 miles? How about a decent runner R75 with about 20,000 miles? Ballpark figures? I'm in the central US but I've shipped bikes before...
    #13
  14. bpeckm

    bpeckm Grin!

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    I had an R60/6... it had the same carbs as the /5's did, but with a choke, vs a tickler system. Frankly, that would be the least worrisome thing to look for. When tuned and set up, the bikes start well under any conditions. The ticklers were holdovers from the /2 bikes, which were an entirely different engine.

    Regarding the drum/disc on early bikes, my 60/6 had drum brakes, it was only the "bigger" 75's and up that had discs. I grew up with drum brakes, know their idiosyncracies, and would do it again in a minute. They actually perform very well at slower speeds, but the discs have a distinct advantage in high-speed stops. These old airheads are great cruisers, fun to drive in the twisties, and generally leave you with "that was fun!" after a ride.

    No, not rocket ships by today's standards, but then just about any modern Toyota on the road can run circles around the "sports cars" of the seventies as well... just depends on what you want.

    If you had 2v Ducatis, you will be right at home with BMWs... the famed "german engineering" is pretty awesome, these things are built like trucks and tractors for durability, but they handle well, too.


    ...'course you are asking the folks in the choir how the sermon is going, you realize that, don't you.....??? :evil


    :D
    #14
  15. Plaka

    Plaka Brevis illi vita est

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    Handle well? Been on a modernish bike with utterly ho-hum handling? It'll run circles around an airhead. There're called rubber cows for a reason...the crappy suspension, limp frame and jack-in-the-box rear end are legendary. All the popular mods back in the day were to the handling (and the sidestand).
    #15
  16. kantuckid

    kantuckid Long timer

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    As for taking a 1,500 mile trip on the hacked bike in the OP's picture,that
    :evilseat:evil looks like a torture device to me! Seems like you want reliability combined with discomfort? I'd be hoping for the bike to give me some downtime after riding that "creation".:lol3
    #16
  17. spconley

    spconley Been here awhile

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    ...I've peddled a bicycle 100 miles in a single day, and the seat on my bicycle is much more uncomfortable than the hacked bike in the picture... Adding to that discomfort is the fact that I have to actually peddle it the whole 100 miles, but I've found my legs to be much more reliable than any other machine I've ever owned thus far, and for that I am humbly grateful... "Reliability" and "Discomfort" are relative terms in a relative world, and one man's "torture device" is another man's lazy boy... Only those that have been to both sides of the road truly know where the middle of it is...
    #17
  18. Kt-88

    Kt-88 I like everything.

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    You'll have a hard time with that opinion here. If the seat is any kind of smaller than stock this forum inevitably drags out familiar epithets about discomfort and torture.

    I generally keep it to myself that my r90/6 is the first bike I've had with foam on the seat. Or anything but raw metal for that matter.
    #18
  19. regomodo

    regomodo Been here awhile

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    The seat on my airhead consists of 20mm foam on top of a glass-fibre base. I will admit, the 1st hour was torture but now I can ride for hours on end with no pain to the rear-end. However, my back does not fare as well but it's to be expected with clipons.
    #19
  20. kantuckid

    kantuckid Long timer

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    I rode a bicycle to work in the 1960's when a foremen in a meatpacking plant-on the days I didn't drive a 65' Cobra roadster. FWIW, I lived on a bicycle as a kid, as did all of my war baby generation. The school bike rack actually had several hundred bicycles racked up every day. When I returned to finish college in 1973 I rode a bike everyday & @ 69 we still have bikes for leisure rides. My Mtn bike these days has what I call a "fatboy" seat. To me this means a seat that is cushy & kind to my family and reconstructed anus,sciatica, etc..:D 1 of our sons still races bicycles(whatever you call long distance mtn bike races) in late 30's & one of his younger brothers raced road bikes on a university club team(NCAA doesn't mess with bicycles) and has been to bicycle factory & home built bike shops in France.
    Having now clearly made myself into a bike seat familiar sort of guy,I stand by my statement that in looking for 1,500 mile reliability in a MC then having a seat on it that is in no way conducive to reasonable comfort,ergonomics,back & butt pain, "family support", you name it, is a waste! I ride with a nice sheepskin on top and it works for me & I ride far beyond the 1,500 miles range. That distance is my one-way to the Mexico border:D where the real fun begins!:clap
    #20