Looking for the Right Bike


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.

10/21/2019 2:41:45 PM

I also enjoy having several bikes purchased at reasonable prices for different days of riding or mood swings! My go to bike for cruising in town or out on the road is an 09 Moto Guzzi Griso. When I want to get the adrenaline going, I roll out the 05 RC 51 or the 75 Kawai Mach 1. The RC 51 isn't any fun at all in town, but track days and Texas hwys are great. I have two Honda 76 CB 550's that are my conversions to cafe racers. One is finished and the other is a work in progress. They are great for a run down a county hwy to get some breakfast. When I want to play in the dirt, there is an 05 CRF 230. I purchased it at a local garage sale for $700! Who said retirement was boring?! I am 73 now, and as long as I can swing a leg over the saddle; I'll be at it!

10/19/2019 4:05:06 PM

I do think the K75 will grow on you. After 50,000 utterly trouble free miles on my '89 K100RS ABS, which had an even less interesting exhaust note than your triple, I would have to say that it just mashed the miles without effort. Since the 75 has less weight on the front wheel, I would expect it steer more crisply. I'd fit some better fork springs and perhaps heavier weight fork oil, as well as change the shock for a Wilber from Germany - they worked splendidly on my 2002 R1100S. Perfect springing and damping, gives great feedback and a nice comfortably taut ride. ENJOY IT!

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.

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