Apr 1, 2012

A Call To Duty


With every job change comes a vehicle identity crisis for me. My new position at Virginia Mason hospital in Seattle does not include free parking, unless you ride a motorcycle.   I've gone round and round trying to decide if a new motorcycle would be more reliable daily commuter machine than my classic Airhead.  I know all I need is a good bicycle for my 3 mile commute but that ain't gonna happen.  It's uphill and last I checked, bicycles don't burn fossil fuel.

collector plates, save a little coin
The classic R100S is ideal for long rides, the longer the better.  Heck, it might be overkill for such short commutes in town.  Also, a bike that is 1000cc and air cooled barely gets warmed up on a short commute like mine.  A fuel injected, smaller displacement bike would be ideal for or a "jump on and ride" situation like that.  Sadly, most are just not interesting enough to me.  Frankly scooters are better suited for the city commuter, but I'd sooner wear a ballerina costume to work.


I think my biggest hesitation for commuting in this baby is I hate the thought of leaving it unattended all day.  My last mice bike met with some theft attempts that caused damage.


Those big bags are quite handy for running errands, but they can rattle a bit on poor roads.
I'm  85% decided my 1977 BMW R100S will rise to the occasion nicely.  Two years ago it was purchased primarily for the odd ride to far away coffee shops and more importantly to sit within sight so I could admire it.   Some newer bikes mike make good sense, but you just cant find bikes as handsome and practical as the R100S that easily  Just look at how well it wears saddle bags for instance.   



True to the principle described in my blog Buy Don't Build, my Beemer was bought very well.   The list of improvements I need to do is pretty small. The previous owner(s) spared few expenses in the spirit of BMW idealism.  So many of the upgrades any self respecting wrench turner would want are already done,  and done really well.

Cool shit my Airhead already has:
  • Modern Valeo starter, much lighter and more power
  • Oil temp and oil pressure gauges (see those extra gauge pods)
  • San Jose fork brace
  • San Jose swing arm brace
  • Progressive springs front and back
  • Rebuilt motor (runs on unleaded of course)
  • Rebuilt transmission
  • New Paint, it’s no Daytona orange, but it’s pretty damn sharp.
  • Cool Covers billet, o-ringed valve covers.
  • New Luftmeister luggage with improved latches that don’t fly open and locks that work.
  • Lester mags compatible with tubeless tires.
  • Dyna electronic ignition
  • Dual plugged heads
  • A-and-S Handlebar risers for comfy city driving.
  • Staintune stainless exhaust system, a must for condensation causing short rides
  • GS frame guards and oil cooler (which I've removed)

My first ride, home from Friday Harbor on the ferry and then Deception Pass.

You'll notice the valve covers are black, those photos were taken last summer.  Silver covers are this summer's pics
oil pressure gauges are far more reliable than a idiot light.  on the other side is a temp guage

The R100S is a common classic that tolerates improvement better than most classics. Meaning it  won't depreciate when you improve it.  Try explaining that to an old Corvette owner. Also because these Airheads were made in vast numbers, good advice and parts are pretty easy to find,. Toss in dealerships that are still willing (and able) to service them you’ve got something special. I’d be lying if the fact that the BMW Dealer offered loaner bikes didn’t swing me away from a Ducati.  My tired Monster 900 still holds a spot in my heart.

I actually like it better w/out the fairing,  but it's easiest to store it on the bike rather than in the basement.

I’ll finish off with these items to help the Beemer with its new call to duty:
  • Re coat tank interior with RedCoat.  I see a little rust in the fuel filters
  • Bar mounted master cylinder front brake. you need all the help you can get with braking.
  • Reynolds Ride off stand (yes, I know not to actually ride off with it)
  • Stainless bolt kit, these are so cool.  no more little rust spots on your bolt heads...

Decked out in full practicality mode.  It's not out of the question a red Ducati Monster 1000 or a Honda Superhawk could replace this machine.  But few bikes wear hard luggage as well as a classic Airhead.

Aesthetically, I like a bike with some character, and the R100S has that covered. An R90S has more perhaps, but it’s almost too much for a coffee shop cruiser turned commuter. The R100S is just right, and cost me $5000 less for an equivalently perfect machine. I don’t need a super bike, but do enjoy knowing that current super bikes are direct descendants of my Beemer. Kind of like why I love my Porsche, because it’s a direct descendant of Le Man’s winning race cars. I like a machine with some good breeding.

Massive billet aluminum Cool Covers brand valve covers, shed tons of heat and are obviously tough.  I painted them silver, didn't like the black much.  Note the easy fill oil cap, kind of gaudy, but practical.
Note my Dyna ignition.  Dual spark keeps detonation to a minimum. 

I know, for $2-3000 I could pick up a scooter or a 3 year old dual sport. But, I need a commuter with character, and it must be respectable. I also don’t want to ruin the Zen simplicity of my garage, only carrying bit and pieces for my two boxer powered machines. Lastly, I simply couldn’t sleep at night knowing I drove a Chinese built 250cc dual sport to work. After all, when you’re a car-guy everything you drive does define you, even if it’s only got two wheels.....




I know what you're thinking, "why the hell take a $6500 Classic that will appreciate and sell it to afford a $6500 bike that will depreciate like crazy?"  Well, it's quite simple, I don't need an investment, I need transportation.  The money I'd need to spend to undo the damage of daily use would be better spend on my investment car, not my daily driver motorcycle.  A classic bike also requires some acts of preservation,  like not parking it where it can't be stolen, knocked over or rained on. These are promises I cannot keep when using it as my sole transportation in Seattle.   I also question whether all the short rides in the city are that good for it.   I go back and forth of course.

my two boxer powered classics.


I'm still clearly on the fence,  A few bikes have my attention still.   Fuel injection for those easy start and go mornings and an engine that's more narrow for easier parking in the city.   Keeping this bike forever would be my preference, but again, space is an issue and you can see from above I don't have much of it.  I figure if I could clear over $6500 for the Beemer, I could go shopping for one of the bikes below.  But they aren't much easier to find than a perfect BMW
2007 S2R Red Ducati, a bit common but still sexy as hell to me.   It's gotta have a red frame though.
In Europe you can find these in a 400cc displacment, which would be a great city bike.
Custom Triumph built by I-90 Motorsports.  Figure about$11K new, used is nearly impossible.
While these look light, they are heavy bastards,  super simple and tough though.  Oh, and overpriced.





















Inspiration and my bike history.



 I spotted this photo of a great old bike on the wall at the Kennedy School in Portland..
Taken in 1928 Amo DeBernardis  sits astride his Indian motorcycle, I love that kidney belt.

Look closely and you'll see a more modern servicable motor insterted into this /2 BMW
Bikes like this serve as an inspiration that you can modernize if you have a good plan.  
You can also really screw it up badly if you don't have a good plan.  Hire somebody,
 like this bike's builder perhaps.  Chris Bynum


In no particular order are my previous attempts for motorcycle satisfaction below.

BMW K1100RS  Too big for a small guy like me.
 Also a bit oversized for downtown Seattle Living


Suzuki SV650  nearly perfect but I didn't like the passenger seating for my Catherine.
Labeled  a "beginner bike" the SV suffered the stigma of not doing 200mph.  WTF? 


Triumph Speed Triple,  too damn fast.  I was going to kill myself

Ducati Monster, a bit worn and needed carb work. 
Sold when the Triumph took it's space in the garage.
Warn bikes, in retrospect have the most character.

A gift from my wife,  My Triumph Scrambler was a good machine for passenger hauling..
Custom saddlbag and a few personalized touches, it looked pretty sharp for a new bike.

The SuperMagna by Honda couldn't hold saddlebags with those pipes.
And my improvised tail bag looked retarded.  I don't miss it much.

I'll spare you the photos of all the various dualsports, trust me, there were plenty.

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