The BMW R65LS

I bought the bike second hand from Dunfermline Motorcycles in 1993. I rode it with no issue for 7 years.

In 1999 my daughter and I rode just over 500 miles on it to the South coast from Dunfermline (that’s just north of Edinburgh) to see the eclipse of the sun It was a long trip with lots of Motorway driving. I will not say the average speed we kept up but it was quite high. When we got there I found the bike was a little unwilling to start. After inspection I found the tappets were far too tight – actually holding the valves slightly open! After re-setting them all was fine.

As for the eclipse – we had complete cloud cover and it got dark and light again. That was it so we headed North again doing the 500 miles at a similar speed as the way down. When we got back I had to reset the tappets again.

Doing a bit of research I found the bike was meant to run of leaded petrol, no longer available, and that the problem with the tappets was the valve seats receding. Now this seemed odd to me as I had driven the bike for 6 years and 20,000 miles with no problems. But it seems that this only happens with sustained high speed driving. Yep, a 1000 mile round trip overtaking almost everything on the road would qualify as sustained high speed.

I continued to drive it for a year without any problems until I had a prang. All my own fault. The front wheel started to skid out of gravel at the side of the road. I tried to straighten it – went onto the grass verge but then continued through a fence and down a 10 foot drop on the other side. My injuries were a dislocated little finger and lots of bruises. The bike survived but lost a pannier and a few scuffs on the nose-cone and seat.

I then rode it for another year before having another prang when I hit the kerb of a road island which I had not seen as the illuminated sign wasn’t working and it was wet and my visor was smeared. No excuses – my fault. Both wheels got dented rims and I lost some mobility in my shoulder.

I got the rims straightened out with a bit of heat treatment but then I started to worry about it as I read that heat treatment can soften alloy. I worried so much that in 2002 I bought another bike – a new Honda Deauville. I rode this for around five years then due to personal circumstances I stopped riding.

The BMW sat untouched in the garage in Dunfermline Scotland for 15 years. Then I decided to move to Cornwall. I loaded both bikes into a van. The BMW started first time, with the aid of jumpers and a car battery. The Honda would not start so it had to be pushed into the van.

The Honda was got working again (only two cylinders, but four spark plugs – all defective) but the time and hassle that it took just to reach the plugs confirmed my decision to keep the much simpler BM. The Honda was sold and I decided to restore the BMW as a project.

Many years ago I had a series of Triumphs and Nortons and these required constant work just to keep on the road. The BMW was a revelation. It was everything a British twin should have been, reliable, oil tight, easy to work on, but you hardly ever had to.

Corrosion had been at work on the old BMW, so I restored it getting the frame repainted in the process.

While I was restoring it, (it took a year) it dawned on me that I had no ridden a motorcycle for a long time.  To get back into the swing I bought a Royal Enfield Bullet. 

I will still use the BMW for trips where I may need to go at motorway speeds but I don’t flog it anymore. The panniers are quite roomy and each will hold a full face helmet with ease.

But is it still a sensible motorcycle (for me) for regular use?  I live in Cornwall and alcohol free petrol is not available.  I will be faced with having to replace the floats and the diaphragms in the carbs on a regular basis.  Two carb overhall kits will cost me around £100 from Motorworks, A pair of floats is £50 so I will regularly have to spend £150 on parts.  A pair of transparent float bowls at £70 will also be a good idea.
I think the value of the bike is going up.  I could probably get around £4000 for it now.

I tend to use my wee Suzuki Address for most trips, and I can’t see the BMW doing more than 2000 miles a year (maybe just 1000!). 

Realistically what with keeping the garden OK, looking after the dog, shopping, etc I can’t really get out for more than two hours which is maybe 100 miles per ride maximum. And I can only get out maybe once a month and that is for maybe 9 months of the year. So – 900 miles.
My days of day long trips are over.  Those were in Scotland though and the traffic was very light compared to the South West. The heavy traffic in Cornwall on the main routes make the trips more about the destination than the journey. Off the main routes the Suzuki is as good or better.
Is it worth keeping the BMW for such a small mileage?  I could probably do those trips on the wee scooter.
Also I have the beginnings of arthritis in my right hip and the old BM is not as comfy to ride as it was.
I’ll probably keep it for nostalgia and as an investment.

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