The ups and downs of owning a classic motorcycle
Clarence’s 1976 R90/6 BMW performs like a new R90/6 since it only had 3,800 original miles on it.
I bought this 1976 R90/6 BMW a year ago October in Ames, Iowa, from the widow of the previous owner, who had the bike hanging in the lobby of his company as a piece of art. I didn’t know the guy, but he had to be cool. When I purchased the motorcycle, it had 3,800 original, documented miles on it, and to quote the mechanic that I had get the bike ready for the road, “They put her to sleep properly before hanging her in the rafters.” The fuel system had been drained and dried, all fluids replaced and the cylinders lubricated. After a complete tune-up, new fluids, bearings, grease, tires and a battery, the R90/6 is on the road again.
I am a longtime subscriber to your magazine and also share the philosophy of your magazine’s tagline, “Ride ‘Em, Don’t Hide ‘Em.” That is exactly what I am doing with the bike. In fact, that is probably the only reason I have the bike. When I was trying to buy the R90/6 BMW out of the estate it was finally asked of the go-between, “What does that guy in Kansas City want with that old motorcycle anyway?” Woody (the go-between) told the widow, “He is going to get it running and ride the wheels off of it.” The widow said, “I think Clarence would like that, let him have it.” So, that’s the short version of how I acquired what I still call Clarence’s BMW.
The bike is totally original, from the owner’s manual, the booklet of authorized dealers, the tools, the BMW hand towel and the Made in West Germany tire patch kit. As you would expect, the bike is a true time-warp machine that runs and performs like a spanking new R90/6, which it is. I am just the lucky guy that gets to ride, keep and take care of Clarence’s R90/6 BMW for now. I once read in a classic car magazine that we really don’t own these beautiful old classics, we are just their caretakers for a while. It is my goal to keep this bike as nice as I can, but ride it just like I would if I would have purchased it in 1976.
I now have more than 8,000 miles on the bike. I have ridden the R90 more miles in five months than the previous owner did in 35 years.
Jack Bitzenburg is a classic bike enthusiast from Kansas City, Mo.