I bought this wonderful example of BMW's classic 70's airhead 3-4 years ago. I saw her with a for sale sign on, on the side of the road near my home. I'd always wanted an R75/6. She was beat down and clearly needed a lot of work, but the legendary simplicity and reliability of BMW's Type 247, horizontally opposed, "boxer" twin engine drew me in. I wanted to learn these bikes, inside and out, so I might someday own and maintain BMW's coveted R90s.
Known for their dorky, oddly quiet, supremely reliable stodgy old man bikes, the R75/6 is pure BMW. Initially, I had to rebuild the top-end, the carbs, the petcocks and the under-tank master cylinder, and refresh the fuel lines. All this stopped her from pouring gas on me every time I started her. She also got new tires, as the set on the bike looked to be a decade old. All in all, I spent about 3 months and got her running. I learned to appreciate the Bing CV carburetor.
For around a year, it was as love. I promised myself I'd only do mechanical work on the bike and no cosmetic anything. I was feeling confident enough to start planning a road trip to Los Angeles. An LA/SF motorcycle trip, along the coast, specifically on an old BMW airhead has long been a dream of mine. The bike really felt ready!
Then a friend showed up with a perfectly good fairing, from an R90s. I could make my cute little R75/6 look a bit like a sport bike, but I'd have to have it all painted. I wanted BMW's original grenada red, with black pinstripes, as it reminds me of our website. I sent all the parts out for paint, it took over a year to get them back. Once I had them on the bike, she was no longer road worthy. I should have stuck to my original plan.
The work I'd done prior was all solid. Now, it was the handling and the suspension that went all silly. Turns out, as I was installing the fairing, and putting on low European style handlebars, I made several mistakes. Thats OK cause I now know all about the steering head and how to adjust it. I also learned to adjust brake drag up front. Also, I was unaware, but incorrect throttle cable routing can result in the bike accelerating when you turn the bars. Extra scary!
Also during the time where I was sorting the suspension out, the brake lights and turn signals started to behave oddly. Oddly like a VW bus. I'd hit the brakes and the turn signals would light up. I'd signal right and the brake lights would engage. Signal left and they'd disengage. I spent hours with a test bulb looking for a short. It that was caused by the re-installed body parts pinching a wire.
Having sorted that all out, I replaced the front fork springs with OEM new, and put on cleaner rear shocks (and exhaust) that came off the back off a donor bike. For a while I rode around with the mufflers on backwards. They are correctly installed now.
I found a beautiful set of old Krauser starlet luggage and started to tour around Northern California a bit, building my confidence back up. I've been to Jenner so many times it is silly. It was time to take the bike down to Southern California, like I always planned.
The morning was beautiful. The sun was out, but temperatures still mild. I was getting 53 mpg! I had just gotten back on the road, after a coffee, when the engine suddenly lost power. I was doing around 75 mph in the fast lane on the 101 outside of Soledad, CA. I had to drift to the shoulder, as the bike felt like it was getting no fuel, too much fuel or no spark. It just wasn't turning over. Roadside, I pulled a plug and tested for spark. At the same time, I could also see that the plugs were wet, and I could smell fuel blow out the spark plug hole when I turned the engine over. The plug was producing a weak, blue spark in the bright sunshine. I futzed with the carbs and felt all was well there. The points were also fine. I decided the bike must be defying the laws of physics, she had fuel, air and spark. I felt unable to repair it in whizzing traffic and gave up.
Towed home, I determined the problem was 40 year old coils. I ordered new coils and spark plug wires. She started right up. I rode her around the Marin coast yesterday, and aside from a blown headlamp fuse in the headlight bucket, she runs amazingly well.
I made some mistakes with this bike. While I've learned a lot about maintaining an Airhead, I also learned that a 40 year old motorcycle is 40. While I'm feeling great riding her locally, I'd want to give that electrical system a good once over before taking it on a road trip again.
I love airheads. I've already found my R90s. This R75/6 has served its purpose in my life. I've learned enough to feel good about owning a more collectable model. It is time to let someone else enjoy the puzzle that is this bike, I think she is pretty close but I'm ready to move on. She also might be haunted.
If you are in the SF Bay area, maybe she is for you.