/ Jason Weisberger / 11 am Mon, Jun 29 2015
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  • For Sale: 1975 BMW R75/6, "likely haunted"

    For Sale: 1975 BMW R75/6, "likely haunted"

    I've had an interesting run with this motorcycle. It is probably haunted, and really doesn't want to go to Los Angeles.

    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.

    On the LA trip before she died

    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.

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