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MC Dispatch

Reader-submitted rides, reviews and stories


High-Mileage Classics: 230,000-mile 1981 BMW R80/7

bmw r80/7 
Derek Pugh's 1981 BMW R80/7 has logged more than 230,000 miles. 

After losing my fillings on a BSA, I looked around for an old Beemer and found a 1981 BMW R80/7. It had Akront wheels, an S-type fairing, a new seat and Krauser cases. As I drove away, the vendor shouted, “It’s hard to bump start.”

It wouldn’t start for two months. Firstly, the fuel was old, secondly, the battery had boiled dry. A new battery soon had it running again, but it sounded like the bike I’d just sold. After removing the drain plug, black sludge glooped out and the oil filter was a soggy pulp. Removing the sump, there was a perfect three-inch tower of gasket goo and other nasties underneath the pickup strainer.

All cleaned out, fresh 20/50 oil and filter and restart. A cacophony of noise assaulted me; most un-Beemer like. The valves were an easy place to start, but first one has to torque the head. My heart dropped when a nut pulled out its stud. Removing the cylinder, things fell onto my foot. The piston rings had long broken up, but the bore was perfect. I heli-coiled the thread, and after removing a burnt hamburger from each piston it was back together for sunny rides. Not.

With the valves quiet, a ring-clatter-ding from the front required attention. The timing chain could be folded over. A service kit solved that. Apart from a whine from the gearbox, the bike was sounding better. Assured that changing the box would take an afternoon (hah!), I obtained a good used item and set to it.

Removing the rear wheel revealed a dry bearing with a spinning outer race. The old trick of center-popping the hub and red stud lock secured the new bearing set. After taking off the gas/oil shocks for painting, I discovered they contained neither. Ho hum; a pair of Hagons sorted that one. I removed the block holding up the swing arm, but it remained horizontal; the taper bearings had given up the ghost long ago.

The carburetors were shot and very generous with their precious liquid, but a pair of second hand units reduced consumption to parsimony levels. The ditch pump ran quite well now, but handled like a hippo on ice.

I treated her to a pair of Continentals, but it was still bad. The book said the pressures were 24/26, but the Continental website informed me I was 10psi too low! That was the only cheap fix I had.

A few issues ago, you had a feature on a 1973 BMW R75/5, and a mechanic gave some pertinent theories on owners. He said people are always messing around with their bikes, fitting parts like fork braces (I did) and steering dampers (ditto) when all they need is to strip down the front end and replace/adjust or lube the bearings. You shamed me into doing what you said, and you were right; the hippo is like a Commando through the twisties.

I began to ponder whether the bike’s recorded mileage of 48,000 was correct, so I made enquiries at the government’s office. First owner was our old friends the local police, who clocked up 155,000 miles. Second owner was a courier firm who clocked up another 75,000 miles. Number three spent a lot of money on lipstick on the pig. Number four realized he’d bought a lemon and put an ad in the bike shop window for some magic beans. Number five is now bankrupt, on Valium three times a day and sees the children every fortnight. — Derek Pugh, Liverpool, England