Thoughts on a 1975 BMW R90/6?

Discussion in 'Airheads' started by QCDStick, Apr 10, 2012.

  1. CharlesLathe

    CharlesLathe Been here awhile

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    I owned a 1974 R90/6 for about 10 years. It had hard bags and a Vetter fairing. I didn't really care for the fairing. This past October, we were on the Blueridge Parkway and ran into a fellow from Ohio -- I think it was Ohio -- on an R90/6. He had 450,000+ miles on the odometer and likes the bike very much.

    I'm not interested in having more than one motorcycle at a time and I am very happy with my Bonneville T100, but I probably wouldn't pass up a nice R90.

    Regards, Chuck
    #21
  2. disston

    disston ShadeTreeExpert

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    Remove the fairing if it suits you, it's the way most are set up these days. Riders want to be in the wind. But don't throw it away. After not too many years and if you are going to make any longer trips you will be glad to have that ugly thing still hanging in the rafters of your garage. A fairing is a welcome change to the buffeting of the wind on long trips. And the older drivers usually migrate back to them.

    If you try to sell it you might be surprised it won't bring any money. They are hard to give away. But if two years later you try to buy one they won't be available or will be high priced. That's the way they are today. These conditions may change tomorrow.
    #22
  3. Podmiester

    Podmiester Podmiester

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    Hi, You should take the bike even if you lay it up for a long period of time I reckon you will get back to it in later years.
    You won't regret it. I had an R90/6 only fault I found with the bike it was a little too high. I'm 5'10".

    Rgs Podmiester
    #23
  4. mfp4073

    mfp4073 Long timer

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    showoff

    [​IMG]


    Yeah, I like mine sans fairing and minor cafe tweeks.

    And I am a guy who bought it in my mid 30s.

    Also, it amazing the "biker respect" I get on it. Everyone from goldwing riders to 1%s will give a nod toward it when stopped at a light or in a parking lot.


    [​IMG]

    as she sits today, about 13k miles later
    #24
  5. bereahorn

    bereahorn Long timer

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    :lurk
    #25
  6. Max Headroom

    Max Headroom lost in the '70s

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    I was just 26 when I bought my first R90/6, and it was just 10 years old at the time. I rode it for years, and thoroughly enjoyed every mile. The bike was reliable and seemed capable of everything I needed it to do, and I still own it today. It's currently in the process of getting rebuilt into a special purpose beater, but that's a whole 'nuther story . . .

    I've ridden many other diverse bikes over the years, but the old airheads are still my passion and my machine of choice. My primary bike is my R90S, and it still does everything I want in a bike. I still get a buzz when I look at it, and I still get a kick out of the quality of its design, engineering standards and functionality.

    As for the Luftmeister fairing, might i suggest considering an "S" fairing (as fitted to the R90S, R100S and R100CS) as an alternative? Not too invasive or heavy, looks good, and takes the wind off your chest. Just a thought . . .
    #26
  7. Canuman

    Canuman Crusty & Unobliging

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    [​IMG]

    Sigh. . .

    S Faring. Gustafsson tall windscreen. There is no substitute.
    #27
  8. Speed King

    Speed King Long timer

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    I love mine. I'd buy another one in a second.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    #28
  9. QCDStick

    QCDStick Adventurer

    Joined:
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    Got to see / ride the R90 today. Forecast was rain / thunderstorms, but thankfully they never came and it was actually quite a nice day! I had basically made up my mind to get the bike before I even got there (no thanks to you guys!) and lets just say the ride did nothing to change my mind :evil It fired right up and I took off on a ~40 mile ride through the various country roads and speeds without incident. The bike shows 56,600 miles, he did say the cluster was replaced but he's pretty sure they set the mileage about where the old one was, so this mileage is believed to be accurate. Suspension was stiffer than I was expecting (a good thing) and the bike felt very nimble. Not much room for my feet for the controls with the boxer engine, but some adjustments to the bike and for myself I can get used to it easily. He had lowered the pegs too, which is a big plus for me. He actually cut the rubber part on the bottom to keep it from being in the exhaust so I don't think they could go much lower. It was one of the most comfortable bikes I've ever sat on just because my legs could sit more or less naturally.

    The fairing is a Vetter. The finish on it and the bike is a bit rough, mainly due to my grandfather never washing or waxing anything he owns. Good chance some elbow grease and maybe some buffing will go a long way as there isn't any obvious cracking or rust, just dull and spotted with bugs and things over the years. I wasn't impressed with the fairing, with my height I found the air to be pounding the back of my helmet. If I slouched and leaned forward dropping my head a couple inches, the air was perfectly clean and nice. A taller windscreen, or a different angle on it would probably help a lot but I think I'll just remove it and shelve it for another day. Also, the mounting on the fairing seems very loose... it moves around a lot on bumps and the like. Don't know if it was always this way, or has worked loose or rusted mounting points or what the deal is but it doesn't matter if it's coming off anyway.

    Hard bags I forgot to check the branding on, but I'm pretty sure they are the Krausers. They lock on with a key from the back of the bike and open by flipping up a latch on each side. One is scraped up pretty good from when my grandfather forgot to lock it on and it hopped off the bike at 50mph. I'd say for going through that, it looks pretty darn good! Maybe I'll paint them to hide the scratches, not sure. They do have lighting in the bags. Connection is an audio type RCA plug on the back lower corner (just below the tail lights) for quick disconnecting. Illuminated yellow strip on the front, and red lights on the back. Don't know if they came this way, or if it was added. Just seems to be running lights, switched on the left handlebar with a yellow lever.




    Now - As for the mechanical condition. I don't think the bike is in as good as shape as my grandfather thought. Not to say that it's bad (far from it), but I think a few things may need addressing before putting many miles on it. I'll throw them out there and see what you guys think:

    Engine:
    He mentioned before I took off that it uses a bit of oil, and to check it before setting out. Well, I can tell you a good portion of it ended up on top of my boots. How he had not noticed this, I don't know. Maybe it just came up this year? In any case, seems to be coming from the head gasket, on the front side of the engine, right near the exhaust header. Same place on both sides, so I'm assuming this is a common thing? He has the owners manual, and a service manual so we looked it up. It does mention torquing these bolts every 5k miles as part of servicing, I think to 25-28 ft/lbs (although the wording in the service manual is seriously weird on this... I think it says "25 + 2.8"?) He had done this maybe once in the 16 years he's had the bike so I'm guessing they just worked loose on both sides. The question is, will tightening them up fix the issue? Or will the head gasket need replacing at this point, or worse... has something warped due to them being loose?

    Front brake:
    I pretty much knew about this one going in... it's factory, and it's crap. I had to get used to grabbing a fistful in a hurry (my Buell takes 1, MAYBE 2 fingers if you dare on the brake lever). I know no old bikes are like my Buell, but still I could haul that lever in until it almost touched the bars and still didn't feel like the old front tire was going to lock up. Grandpa never noticed a problem, but it's entirely possible he hasn't tried to stop the bike from faster than 45mph in many years. It stops fine, but a panic stop it just doesn't have the stopping power. I asked him about maintenance, he hasn't done any regular work on the brakes besides ensuring it was topped off. No regular flushing. I suspect the MC may be pitted, or maybe it just always was that way? Hard to say for sure from my description I'm sure, I'll probably just go with upgraded modern brakes with the MC on the handlebar and be done with it either way and shelve the factory setup.

    Clutch / Transmission:
    - To say that it doesn't engage smoothly is an understatement. It's pretty much on or off. Makes low speed maneuvering difficult since you can't keep the revs up because when it grabs you shoot ahead 7'. Keeping the revs way down (just a tinge off idle) works much smoother, but I very very nearly stalled it more than once doing that. I was a lot better at it by the end of the ride so I could learn it, but it just didn't feel right to me. Is this normal?
    - Also, even when I was sure I had the clutch pulled in as far as it would go, I would occasionally get gear chatter when changing gears. Had to be sure to really be deliberate with my punch of the lever with the clutch lever touching the bars, especially going 2-3 and 3-2 or it would grind the gears. Thinking back, I was not really attempting to rev-match though, perhaps I can't get away with as much on these bikes as what I'm used to with the really light quick revving motors and newer transmission designs. Seems some adjustment could be in order here or is that just how they are?
    - An additional concern, once the bike was warm engaging the clutch on shifts was accompanied by a "shiiink" noise, possibly metallic in sound. Seemed to get worse as the ride went on, and was not present at all to begin with. Pretty sure this is also not normal, it was pretty prevalent at times. Also a faint rattle in neutral when warm, which I believe is perfectly normal.

    Those were the things that concerned me the most. I don't know which of them are issues, and which of them are best described as "character" of these bikes. I was able to mostly compensate for all (except the oil leak, which I know isn't normal) as the miles wore on. The turn signal is a bit funky too, but easy to get used to once you realize you simply push in the direction the handlebars will go when you turn. It kind of does make sense and flow, once you get used to it. It would have been nice if the cluster indicated which way you were signaling, because with the fairing I couldn't see which lights were blinking and I didn't have a clue which way was which until I pulled over and hopped off the bike.


    Don't know when I'll be bringing it home, it may depend on the oil issue... it's leaking pretty bad I'd be scared to ride it any distance for fear it suddenly gets worse without my knowing. I can always borrow a trailer and go that route though. My grandfather was very upset about the oil, he thought the bike was ready to go and didn't want to give it to me needing work. I had to explain to him it was an 37 year old motorcycle, I know I'm going to have to do work on the darn thing! If I wasn't OK with that, the whole thing would be a pretty bad idea now wouldn't it?


    I snapped a few pictures with my phone:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]



    Also snapped a quick one of the Matchless tucked away in a corner of his work room:

    [​IMG]


    :freaky
    #29
  10. QCDStick

    QCDStick Adventurer

    Joined:
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    Oddometer:
    12
    A few things I forgot (doh!)

    The turn signal had a buzzer to remind you the turn signal was on. I found it loud, and rather annoying. I'm GUESSING this is an aftermarket deal? Would like to know for sure before I disable / remove it. The indicators on the cluster are notice enough for me and I'm used to checking the gauges.

    The Tach and Speedo needles would float and bounce around quite a bit as well, guessing this is normal.

    There seems to be no kill switch? The turn signals are where I expected the starter to be, and the starter where the kill switch should be. Pressing other things, I didn't find a kill switch. Would be handy to have one especially since the ignition isn't in the most accessible place.

    The kickstand is unbelievable picky on how you park the bike, and spring loaded to fold up once you stand the bike up (which is OK I guess as long as it doesn't lead to bad habits on other bikes!). Do people just end up using the center stand all the time? I mean, if the road has much of a crown, you feel like the bike could go over the far side. If you are parked in ANY way down hill, it feels like the stand wants to fold up (aided by the spring) pulling the bike forward and off the stand. I didn't have any problems, but when I stopped I had to try a half dozen places / angles to find one that didn't leave me feeling like the bike was teetering on disaster. And I live in Iowa for goodness sake, It's not like we have much for hills around here. For one photo op, I actually had to do a U turn to park the bike facing up hill to take a picture (not a big hill, nearly flat!) and then the slight crown on the road still left it not feeling very solid. Most difficult time I've ever had with any bike with a kickstand. Do you guys plan your parking days in advance?
    #30
  11. mfp4073

    mfp4073 Long timer

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    clutch may improve with riding, remember its probably got a bit of surface rust/sheen on it and will be a little grabby.

    suspect the oil on boots is from the push rod tub seals. They are rubber and at the base of the pushrod tubes on either side. Old rubber= fail

    Dont know about the cancel buzzer, but mine doesnt have one.

    Tach and speedo just need to be lubed and will probably smooth out for 95% of the time.

    No kill, gotta turn it off with the key!

    side stand is spring loaded and takes a little getting used to. Its probably not in the factory position and bent some from years of use. Stand should not fold up if the bikes weight is on it.

    Tranny, fresh gear oil will make the shifts better. Its a very clunky tranny to begin with. I have found that if it gets a little low on tranny fluid or its needing fresh then it will be harder to shift.


    ENJOY IT! You will grow to love your ugly duckling
    #31
  12. Canuman

    Canuman Crusty & Unobliging

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    Oh, yes, you are discovering the beauty of Old German. The factory sidestand sucked; most replaced it with a Brown. Yes, the centerstand is where the bike wants to be. If you leave it for more than an hour or two on the sidestand, oil drains down into those aircraft cylinder heads and smokes like a bustard on start.

    As to the turn signals, simply remember this mnemonic: It's LEFT UP to me to figure out this DOWN RIGHT silly system.

    There is a kill switch.

    That has to be one of the worst fairings and most awful seats I've ever seen. That being said, take her in hand and make a lady of her once again. You'll be glad you did.

    If you can score the Matchless, I'd be all over that, also.
    #32
  13. disston

    disston ShadeTreeExpert

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    Congratulations. Sounds like a great Airhead.

    They are noisy when shifting. Takes some getting used to. Most Airhead riders use "pre-shifting" and say it helps. Before the clutch is pulled in the toe is lifted just enough to remove free play then the shift is performed the standard way. Another technique is to shift with out using the clutch. It is allowed and works better once you get the hang of it.

    There should be a kill switch. Sounds like you have a non standard right hand control? The kill switch is a red toggle on the right? Maybe your Grand Dad knows what happened to it.

    The side stand and the center stand are more quirky features of the Airheads. There are after market options. The Reynolds Ride Off Center Stands are no longer made I believe but show up at flea markets and such. Probably not really worth the money these days for the Reynolds. But there is a good option for the side stand and it is still made. It is the Brown Side Stand. Also a couple of others are still made but I think the Brown is the most popular.

    The bags sound like Krauser's but the wiring does not sound standard. Maybe somebody added some lights?

    As far as modifying the front brake there are volumes written on this subject. The handle bar MC is a good beginning. Changing to another style caliper gets involved and is not mentioned often on these forums.
    #33
  14. mfp4073

    mfp4073 Long timer

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    Kill switch, just remembered that mine is an early 74/6 with /5 controls and they added one with the new controls
    #34
  15. WRC51

    WRC51 Been here awhile

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    Wow, you are a lucky guy. To have something like that handed down may not seem like much to some but Iam sure your Grandfather loves/loved that bike. In the pictures the bike really looks to be in nice shape, I will agree the Vetter fairing does not seem to blend with the style of the bike. Very nice.
    #35
  16. QCDStick

    QCDStick Adventurer

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    There is no doubt. He's had it for 16 years, but I found out he lusted after one for a long long time before he was able to own one.

    I still remember the first time I was up there after he got the bike, I would have been 12 at the time. He would take me on rides starting when I was so little I had to sit on the tank. I can't remember what the bikes were, mostly his Virago's I think. But I do know once he finally got the beemer, I really can't remember him riding anything else. Not to say he didn't, but there is no doubt he loves that bike.
    #36
  17. Boojum

    Boojum I Miss the PartyBoss

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    My 75 R90 /6............. I really like cruising around town on this bike. ..................... :clap

    [​IMG]


    Boojum
    #37
  18. More_Miles

    More_Miles ├╝ber-n00b

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    It could be the valve cover gaskets. My R100 did that on the left side. I could never get it to stop, until I doubled up on the gaskets. If it's in a spot outboard of the exhaust pipe, that's it.

    I'll second the suggestion that the clutch may be "sticky" and to lube the splines. Also, you would be amazed at what a difference fresh gear oil in a transmission can do. That being said, the Getrag transmissions are known as "crash boxes" for a reason. Much like shifting an old tractor. All part of the charm old son.

    I'll also add that you should expect more oil seeps from any aged gasket. I'm replacing as needed every gasket and rubber bit on my R100RT. On the bright side, as I like to tell me "must-be-cleaned-and-waxed-never-ride-when-it-might-rain-American-Iron" riding co-workers, rainstorms also double as bike washes, and the oil leaks mean I don't need to worry about the bike rusting!

    Enjoy the old BMW. They are the consummate gentlemen of the motorcycling world.
    #38
  19. QCDStick

    QCDStick Adventurer

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    Unfortunately, it looks like you can trace the oil pretty clearly to the head gasket area. Just inboard of the pipe, on the front of the motor seems to be the source. Valve cover gaskets seem to be OK, though I'll probably replace them anyway since it looks like I'll be in there.


    I most certainly will enjoy it! I don't mind any of the quirks per say, but not being familiar with these bikes it is hard to know what is a quirk and what is a potential problem!
    #39
  20. sebastianhammer

    sebastianhammer Adventurer

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    That's a very pretty specimen. Speaking as a very new airhead rider myself, I have to say what astonished me the most has been how my 77 R100/7 feels and sounds on the highway. In town, I feel vaguely conspicuous with my sewing-machine valves (they save lives) and the amazing sounds the gearbox makes when I forget to preload the shifter. But on the highway.... when you settle down for the cruise at 55-60 in fourth, the engine just sounds so... contented. Like THIS was the sweet spot they designed it for.

    Had my first freeway rides this past weekend. At 70 or so, in fifth, I found I could barely hear the engine over the wind -- just a distant, comforting hum. Nice.
    #40