Looking for the Right Bike


| 8/6/2019 9:00:00 AM


Richard Backus on his BMW K75

Backus on his K75 leading riders during the 2019 Tour of Lawrence (Kansas).

My modest stable of motorcycles is occupied by less than a half dozen machines, each one bought not so much on a predicated search for that specific bike but the simple expedience of opportunity. The 1983 Laverda RGS is the dream machine, a bike I never thought I’d own until one miraculously made itself available (thanks Scott Potter). I was riding a black 1972 short wheelbase BMW R75/5 when we started Motorcycle Classics back in 2005, but sold it when the Laverda came along the same year, so when a green 1973 long wheelbase R75/5 was offered to me a few years back I just had to get it. The 1976 Suzuki GT185 on the other hand was nowhere on my radar when a friend said he was selling his, but one ride around the block and I knew I had to have it. It’s a brilliant little machine, stone cold reliable and the perfect learner bike for new riders, young and old. The 1974 Laverda SF2 doesn’t really count as mine, a build I did for buddy Matt, who seems to like the fact that it’s sharing space with two other Laverdas: my RGS and yet another RGS the two of us bought as a future project.

That brings me to the latest addition to the garage, my 1995 BMW K75, which, like the others, just sort of presented itself. I’d been thinking about getting something in the way of an “appliance,” a reliable non-collectible I could ride daily without worrying about scratching its paint or dulling its brightwork from days spent under the hot sun, a bike that wouldn’t bum me out if I dropped it for whatever stupid reason. Laverda plastic is close to unobtainium and classic BMW bodywork keeps getting harder to find.

So that made the idea of finding something not so dear attractive. But what to get? The answer came when I spied the K75 for sale on the local Craigslist. I’d just sold my 1972 Datsun pickup, so with a bit of cash in hand the timing was perfect, and the K75 seemed the ideal appliance if ever there was one. Renowned for its reliability and boasting an impressive list of standard features including triple disc brakes with ABS, fuel injection, liquid cooling and a smooth, counter-balanced inline triple, the K75 seemed perfect. And yet, nine months into ownership, I’m still not sure how much I like it, because it doesn’t seem to move me emotionally.



After years of riding old and oftentimes decrepit machinery, I’ve gotten used to making adjustments in riding style and expectations with the bikes I ride. My old Norton required a certain attitude every time I swung a leg over it, and I sure didn’t ride it for the maintenance-free experience. My R75/5 on the other hand is hugely reliable, but it requires concessions to less-than-ideal brakes and suspension, the drums a little on the feeble side compared to modern machinery and the suspension regularly overwhelmed by its limited travel.

jeff488
10/17/2019 7:09:02 AM

The K75™ is much like good wait staff: quietly unobtrusive, but always there when needed. They make the dining experience that much more enjoyable. Also, like a 650 Vstrom; you’ll have to look pretty long and hard to find an owner who has many complaints about the bike.


jsk6480sm
10/17/2019 6:47:31 AM

It looks like you are wedded to BMWs, but if you're open to another option, I love my Yamaha xs850 Special (1980). These bikes were dubbed the "poor man's BMW" back in the day (as a triple with a shaft drive), they are smooth running, great sound, and very comfortable to ride. You just need to keep the carbs adjusted and balanced well. I have two; one is my daily ride (11,000 original miles), the other a project bike with 13,000 miles on it. jk




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