Dubbed a "flashbike" when it was introduced, the BMW R65LS featured an out-of-this-world design on a sport/touring bike
BMW's R65LS looks ready to slice the wind, but its performance doesn't quite measure up.
Years produced: 1983-1985
Total production: 6,389
Claimed power: 50hp
Top speed: 108mph
Engine type: Horizontally-opposed twin
Weight (dry): 189kg (417lb)
Price then: $3995
Price now: $2,500-$5,500
In 1983, George Lucas released "Return of the Jedi," the third movie in his epic space fantasy, Star Wars. And no motorcyclist who's seen it can forget the mach-speed hover bike duel through the redwood landscape on the forest planet of Endor.
That same year saw the release of the BMW R65LS — a sleek, sporty version of the standard R65. With its out-of-this-world design, you have to wonder if LS designer Hans Muth and Lucas weren't drinking from the same punch bowl. BMW hired Muth, who had already put his stamp on the original Suzuki Katana, to create an edgy, affordable sport/touring bike for a market that was increasingly being won over by an innovative Japan. With its sharp angles and sporting disposition, Muth's creation sparked a definitive "love it" or "hate it" reaction — and it still does today.
At 649.6ccs and with a compression ratio of 8.2:1, the LS houses the same engine as the standard R65 —a short-stroke version of BMW's legendary air-cooled, four-stroke opposed twin. With a bore of 82mm and a stroke of only 61.5mm (versus 70.6mm in other boxers), the result is a narrower engine with a relatively larger bore allowing bigger valves.
The LS also shares the standard 65's frame, suspension and shaft drive. In fact, the only functional difference between the LS and the standard R65 are dual disc brakes with Brembo calipers on the front wheel, as opposed to a single disc on the standard, which blesses the LS with excellent braking power. In fact, what puts the LS at arms length from the standard R65 and other motorcycles in its category are exclusive stylistic features.
Among color options was a brilliant, gleaming henna red set off by white cast-alloy mag-type wheels and black powder-coated pipes. Like biting on a gold nugget for authenticity, it's hard not to want to flick the wheels to make certain they are truly alloy. The eye doesn't linger long on the color scheme, though, before floating to the odd, angular nosecone. The wedge enveloping the headlight provides a perfect, tangible insight to the form-over-function thought process behind the LS's design.
While BMW maintained the fairing reduced wind force and front-end lift, those who have ridden it (and most who haven't) chuckle over the claim. Truth is, the only use it might have is catching the eye of some strawberry blonde strolling by in her leg warmers and oversized sweater. The black cylindrical centerpiece of the fairing wraps from the headlight over the top to form a smooth instrument panel. The LS also sports a counter wedge on the back of the bike with molded-in handgrips. If a passenger is willing to put his or her faith in bolted-down plastic, the grips are handy and feel ergonomically correct. The one dilemma to the LS's unique, jazzy style is the inability to modify it for comfort. No larger fairing or seat and storage alternatives were offered by BMW, and the standard R65 options are incompatible. If you have one with like-new original paint like the bike we sampled, strapping on a tank bag and risking mangling the smooth, bright surface becomes a major concern. That, unfortunately, makes the LS a bit of a bummer for long journeys. Owners must either endure head-on wind and limited cargo space as a consequence to its one-of-a-kindness or bungle it up with jimmied extras, in which case you might as well get the standard R65. The under-seat storage contains a respectable tool kit and still leaves ample room for a few extra supplies.
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