The Old Girl’s History

She came of the production line in December 1983 according to BMbikes,  but she was first registered in February 1986.

Update 29/3/2024. BMbikes seems to be off line, but the page is on the Way Back Machine.

According to the DVLA
You can apply to stop paying for vehicle tax from 1 April 2021 if your vehicle was built before 1 January 1981. You must tax your vehicle even if you do not have to pay.

So she was built before 1 Jan 1984 and I can stop paying vehicle tax after 1 April 2024.

I don’t know what she was doing between February 1986 and 12 December 1991, but she was registered to an owner in Dunfermline in 1991  I bought her from Dunfermline Motorcycles in 1993.

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.

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 on gravel on a bend, 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 “sort of” 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.

Corrosion had been at work on the old girl, so I restored it, getting the frame repainted in the process. During the dismantling I managed to break a cylinder head. The exhaust flange was completely corroded to the exhaust pipe, and it broke off.  A fitted another used cylinder head from Motor works – so it has one head with valve recession and one without.  It seems to work fine. I was amazed how clean the oil pan was.  The engine is in really good shape.

While I was restoring it, (it took a year) it dawned on me that I had not 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. 70mph is not sustained high speed (20hp will get it to 70bhp) so I am not too worried about further valve seat recession. The panniers are quite roomy and each will hold a full face helmet with ease.

Past problems

The old girl has had a few issues over the almost forty years of her life. I am ignoring the damage caused by the two crashes mentioned above, but they do illustrate the ruggedness of the bike.

She is now on her third ignition coil.  The first one was one of the old gray ones which are known to crack. That resulted in me pushing the bike home, about a mile and a half.  I was a young lad of around fifty then. I don’t think I could do that now.  The replacement, the black type that lasts forever, died after 20 years.  

The starter motor ring detached itself from the flywheel in June 2020, requiring an extensive strip down to replace it.

All in all, not a bad record.