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Buying my first BMW Motorcycle and looking for advice

So I've been around this place for 19 years and have written 10,000 technical posts on all things 911. . . I thought I would tap into the pool of expertise here.

I'm planning to buy a BMW airhead to commute to work in NYC. This is about a five mile round trip with surface hazards, mixed traffic, cyclists, pedestrians and general chaotic disregard for the norms of responsible behavior that make this the Greatest City in the World.

As this will be my first bike I'm looking for advice on BMW motorcycles generally and airheads in particular.

I'm thinking of getting an R65 or R65LS. My mission criteria are:
  • Light weight (R65 weighs around 450, compared to a K75 which is 500)
  • Single or Dual (LS) front Disc, not the earlier front drum
  • Inexpensive (not a question of whether the bike gets knocked over parking but WHEN)
  • Funky Teutonic Styling. I know you can buy a new Honda Super Cub with ABS for the same price, while cool, not my thing.

Drawbacks:
  • Monolever (1986-) or Paralever are better suspension design than dual-shock
  • Low power (not really important to me as a beginner rider)
  • Maintenance status- an old, inexpensive bike may need EVERYTHING

What am I missing?

Who here owns an 1978-1985 R65? What are your ownership/maintenance impressions?

Thanks in advance for any guidance I know that MANY of you are very experienced and not shy about offering opinions. All are welcome.

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'66 911 #304065 Irischgruen
'81 R65
Ex-'71 911 PCA C-Stock Club Racer #806 (Sold 5/15/13)
Ex-'88 Carrera (Sold 3/29/02)
Ex-'91 Carrera 2 Cabriolet (Sold 8/20/04)
Ex-'89 944 Turbo S (Sold 8/21/20)
Old 08-03-2020, 08:03 AM
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I have a 83 r-65 great bike for running around in the city.
very reliable and easy to work on.
i am selling it but i am far away.
my add is in craiglist fresno.
i had a k75 at the same time
i used it to commute from L.A. to mariposa about 3 times a month.
the k-75 was big and had a lot of heat from the engine in the summer.
I am heading out.
Will give you more info if you want it

Bernie
Old 08-03-2020, 08:50 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 304065 View Post
So I've been around this place for 19 years and have written 10,000 technical posts on all things 911. . . I thought I would tap into the pool of expertise here.

I'm planning to buy a BMW airhead to commute to work in NYC. This is about a five mile round trip with surface hazards, mixed traffic, cyclists, pedestrians and general chaotic disregard for the norms of responsible behavior that make this the Greatest City in the World.

As this will be my first bike I'm looking for advice on BMW motorcycles generally and airheads in particular.

I'm thinking of getting an R65 or R65LS. My mission criteria are:
  • Light weight (R65 weighs around 450, compared to a K75 which is 500)
  • Single or Dual (LS) front Disc, not the earlier front drum
  • Inexpensive (not a question of whether the bike gets knocked over parking but WHEN)
  • Funky Teutonic Styling. I know you can buy a new Honda Super Cub with ABS for the same price, while cool, not my thing.

Drawbacks:
  • Monolever (1986-) or Paralever are better suspension design than dual-shock
  • Low power (not really important to me as a beginner rider)
  • Maintenance status- an old, inexpensive bike may need EVERYTHING

What am I missing?

Who here owns an 1978-1985 R65? What are your ownership/maintenance impressions?

Thanks in advance for any guidance I know that MANY of you are very experienced and not shy about offering opinions. All are welcome.
You should post on the R1100/R1200 page, that's where you'll get the most info.
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“There is no nation on earth powerful enough to accomplish our overthrow. Our destruction, should it come at all, will be from another quarter. From the inattention of the people to the concerns of their government, from their carelessness and negligence.”
Old 08-03-2020, 10:09 AM
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I can't comment on your R65 concerns but if you are interested in a newer BMW, I can say that I love my 2016 RNineT. It's great for commuting and is fairly light at 480lbs compared to 600+ for any other 1200 with fairings and bags and such. I also have a G310R and it's a great little bike; my only complaint is that I don't care for its looks - too much looking like a sport bike without the umphh.
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Vern
'06 Cayman S - Arctic Silver, "R" Springs & Struts, Spyder 19" Wheels, 82mm Plenum & Throttle Body.
'74 911 Coupe - Silber Metalic, PMO ITB, Electromotive Mgt
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Old 08-03-2020, 10:37 AM
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I'm going to go out on a limb and guess this is Bernie's ad...

https://fresno.craigslist.org/mcy/d/mariposa-1983-bmw-r65/7167054167.html

Good looking bike. I was riding back when these first came out. Should be a good beginner's bike. I don't envy you learning in NYC traffic though.
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Old 08-03-2020, 11:10 AM
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No advice on the R65.

Well, Just driving to and from work in NYC traffic wont be fun or safe, sitting in traffic with full gear in the heat sucks. How long will 2.5 mile trip take? I rarely rode to work when I was in Toronto, never enjoyed it. A cheap small convertible with AC would be more fun.

To use it to get away from the city would be much better.
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Old 08-03-2020, 12:19 PM
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You do not want to look at an R65 older than 1981/82, (can’t remember exactly), they made some big improvements at that time. The older ones are not so good. The one in the ad above would be great if maintained, too far away, though.

I need to do some work outside, I’ll post more later.
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Old 08-03-2020, 12:26 PM
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I finally joined BAT yesterday and got my first email this morning with new auctions.

One of them was this 1986 BMW R65 Dutch Police Motorcycle

Not my style but otherwise pretty cool.
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Old 08-03-2020, 04:50 PM
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@ Bernie, PM sent, looks like a beauty

@ Vern, I love the 9T, first saw it at the Auto Show here in town, and it looks like they have been extensively modded and customized. Finding an unmodified old airhead, particularly an R65, is a challenge because so many have been Cafe'd. Which is cool, but not my thing.

@908 - the trip takes 12 minutes on an electric moped electronically limited to 30 mph, that I can tell you. I was doing that regularly before Revel, the company operating a shared moped service, paused operations due to two tragic fatalities. Hence the need for a personal machine.

The beauty of a motorcycle is the availability of convenient, free parking on either end. To use a car would require walking to a commercial garage, retrieving the car, driving, parking in a garage on the other end. As against the personal risk delta and risk to the bike of theft or damage.

@ Denis, thanks, I value your experience with all things mechanical and German.

@ Baz-- wouldn't that be just the thing for making it through traffic?

New York City at present has about 20% of the usual traffic (despite our "congestion pricing") scheme remaining in effect so riding conditions are ideal. With that said, with a return to normalcy someday the traffic will also return with corresponding hazards of many types.

THANKS for the advice so far. . .
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'66 911 #304065 Irischgruen
'81 R65
Ex-'71 911 PCA C-Stock Club Racer #806 (Sold 5/15/13)
Ex-'88 Carrera (Sold 3/29/02)
Ex-'91 Carrera 2 Cabriolet (Sold 8/20/04)
Ex-'89 944 Turbo S (Sold 8/21/20)
Old 08-03-2020, 05:28 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 304065 View Post

I'm planning to buy a BMW airhead to commute to work in NYC.


Are you mad LOL

Sure, buy the bike but use it a weekend toy.
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Old 08-03-2020, 05:37 PM
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John
Wish you posted this last week I just sold/gave away my 77 R100s super perfect, completely gone
through
While I loved the bike, I had it for 10 years, I never rode it for 2 reason's, 1) Ancient brakes dual discs but it still didn't stop for schite and 2) I hate carbs (bing in this case) they leak, they surge, they're never perfect.
My daily rider now is a R1150r which is cheap as dirt, reliable as an anvil
run's and stops perfect
Hope you find what works for you
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Old 08-03-2020, 05:39 PM
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I actually love riding a MC in the city, especially Los Angeles and in Europe because of lane-splitting. I'm actually more wary of riding up here in rural Wisconsin because of the deer everywhere.

Motorcycles are great and one of life's great pleasures, IMO but there are things you absolutely MUST know in order to stay alive and in one piece. Some of it is just common sense like defensive driving and situational awareness, etc., but some of it is more esoteric and learned over years of riding. I wish that I could come out there and instruct you, I'd gladly do it if we were in the same locale.

I ride as though I am an invisible ninja just slicing through traffic and no one can see me. Everyone is going to do whatever they are going to do as if I'm not there. If they are thinking about turning left, they are going to turn left. Same w changing lanes, etc.
You have to learn to read people's "body language" when they are driving and anticipate what they are about to do. Most of it is predictable, fortunately. It can be very zen because it requires focus and complete attention.

A good BMW airhead, almost any model, is a great city bike. Big improvements happened in 1981, that is the oldest year you want unless you find a great /6 from mid-'70s. R65 bikes before '81 are to be avoided, I had a '79 at one point.
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"It was either Voltaire or Charlie Sheen who said, 'We are born alone. We live alone. We die alone. And anything in between that can give us the illusion that we're not, we cling to.'" -
-- Gabriel byrne
Old 08-03-2020, 07:54 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 304065 View Post
@ Bernie, PM sent, looks like a beauty

@ Vern, I love the 9T, first saw it at the Auto Show here in town, and it looks like they have been extensively modded and customized. Finding an unmodified old airhead, particularly an R65, is a challenge because so many have been Cafe'd. Which is cool, but not my thing.

@908 - the trip takes 12 minutes on an electric moped electronically limited to 30 mph, that I can tell you. I was doing that regularly before Revel, the company operating a shared moped service, paused operations due to two tragic fatalities. Hence the need for a personal machine.

The beauty of a motorcycle is the availability of convenient, free parking on either end. To use a car would require walking to a commercial garage, retrieving the car, driving, parking in a garage on the other end. As against the personal risk delta and risk to the bike of theft or damage.

@ Denis, thanks, I value your experience with all things mechanical and German.

@ Baz-- wouldn't that be just the thing for making it through traffic?

New York City at present has about 20% of the usual traffic (despite our "congestion pricing") scheme remaining in effect so riding conditions are ideal. With that said, with a return to normalcy someday the traffic will also return with corresponding hazards of many types.

THANKS for the advice so far. . .

https://forums.bmwmoa.org/forumdisplay.php?13-Airheads
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'12 M1100 mostro rosso, old bikers don't get old by accident

“There is no nation on earth powerful enough to accomplish our overthrow. Our destruction, should it come at all, will be from another quarter. From the inattention of the people to the concerns of their government, from their carelessness and negligence.”
Old 08-03-2020, 08:52 PM
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That R65 Bernie is selling is sweet. If it was closer I'd be all over it.

I have a '76 R90/6 which is a great bike but wouldn't mind getting something a little smaller.

This evening I rode my '75 Honda XL175 over to my Mom's so I could borrow her Taurus while I got the brakes on my Silverado done. It's only a 175 but a blast to scoot around on in this smallish town. I caught all the lights tonight too!

Good luck with your quest, 304065!
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Old 08-03-2020, 08:59 PM
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I'm afraid if I were in your shoes and doing a five mile RT, I would opt for a scooter. You don't seem interested in riding outisde the city, & a scooter would be fast enough, economical, smaller & more maneuverable, & maybe safer than a motorcycle.
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Old 08-03-2020, 10:15 PM
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I have an '83 R65. Great bike. Very light weight, and handles well in the city. And your sitting fairly high up, which is helpful in the city. And they are easy to work on and very simple. Parts are for the most part easy to come by. I did a complete resto on mine. The only parts I had trouble getting was a front master cylinder and brake line. Getting the carbs synced is the hardest thing. Make sure you do a valve adjustment prior to trying to sync carbs- Lesson learned. I have the single disc front brake. Seems like plenty of stopping force.

If you are working on your own bike, here is the forum for all R65 knowledge: The Unofficial and Purposely Disorganized R65 Forum

Ive got plenty more links if you end up getting a R65 and work on it. Parts, etc.

Last edited by 911_Dude; 08-04-2020 at 10:16 AM..
Old 08-04-2020, 04:40 AM
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The early R65s were not that popular and some parts are a pain in the butt to get. Very few of the R 65 parts are interchangeable with the more popular R/bikes.

I don’t know what city you are in, but join the Airheads. I am a member and we live for traveling to get together and work on each other’s bikes. And camp and drink beer. airheads.org

This is my 1976 R75/6.

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Old 08-04-2020, 07:18 AM
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My three cents.... ditch the airheads all together for tight, in-city driving. Go with a KTM 640 or 690 - plenty fast, lightweight and very maneuverable - you can toss the lower displacement KTM's around like a toy. By the way, I've owned both R and K bikes. If panache matters, KTM covers that as well.
Old 08-04-2020, 08:45 AM
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scooters rule - in the city.
Old 08-04-2020, 09:20 AM
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I have no experience with New York City other than what I've seen on TV. However, I have used my RNineT for commuting to work (mostly freeway) but some city along the way. I have about 18,000 miles of experience for commuting.

If it were me (and in a big city), I would look for a reliable small bike in the 200 to 300 cc range. My BMW G310R is perfect for this. It is a small bike and weighs about 300 lbs. It's very easy to maneuver in tight spaces and I can practically make a U-turn in a single parking space. I've had it up to 100 mph so it definitely has enough HP to get moving. It does not have the pickup that the 1200 has and I have to plan ahead if I need to pass someone and make sure I have plenty of room. I added a trunk to the back which is ugly but adds storage since there is none otherwise. The bikes are cheap as mine was $5700 brand new with all taxes & registration. Used ones are a bit cheaper. You definitely won't have that "classic" feel or image but you will have a bike that always runs and is an easy commuter. The brakes are good but not as good as my RNineT. For split lane-ing, it's really about the same as the RNineT as the handle bars are about 1 inch narrower; the bike itself is narrower.

ps. it sounds like an electric sewing machine until you rev it and then it becomes a beast.


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Vern
'06 Cayman S - Arctic Silver, "R" Springs & Struts, Spyder 19" Wheels, 82mm Plenum & Throttle Body.
'74 911 Coupe - Silber Metalic, PMO ITB, Electromotive Mgt
'16 BMW R Nine T (the fun one) & '17 BMW G310R

Last edited by Tidybuoy; 08-04-2020 at 09:43 AM..
Old 08-04-2020, 09:30 AM
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