The Bike That Fits (aka my BMW R60)

Reader Contribution by Alison Green
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In the back of Alison’s shop sits her first bike, a 1975 BMW R60/6.

I just finished re-reading Peter Egan’s column in the June 2007 issue of Cycle World and chuckling to myself. I like Peter’s stuff. Irreverent, unpretentious and sometimes very savvy. In case you haven’t read this particular column, he waxes on about bikes he has owned – some of them on more than one occasion – and which bikes always draw him back again and again. My first thoughts were somewhat along the lines of “why would he ever buy a bike back once he has sold it,” and “Is this guy nuts or what?”  I can appreciate his list of favourite machines; he has a wealth of riding experience and the smarts to know what he likes and why. But buying back the same bikes?

Then I paused to think about my own continually-changing-but-static collection and I realized that I have owned three BMW R100RT bikes over the years. How did that happen? I don’t even like fully faired motorcycles… The problem (?) is that they simply cannot be beaten for long distance comfort and weather protection. RT’s are possibly the least friendly of the BMW airhead line when riding off the pavement,  the lowers can cook your legs in hot weather and it can be stuffy behind the fairing. They are more of a nuisance for routine maintenance, and the very devil to tie down in a trailer or truck. BUT, for sheer weather protection and long distance comfort, the BMW fairing is in a class of its own. So I have ridden them long and hard, then moved on to lighter and more nimble machines when the itch to do really long tours has been salved.   

So I ride with small windshields or bikini fairings and have great fun. But then I find myself on a trip when the weather turns sour and I am damp and buffeted and my hands are cold and the gap at my neck is taking on water –  and then… you guessed it! I’m on the hunt for another all-weather touring machine.

I have been faithful to the BMW marque over the years – and always airheads at that… This is not due to any altruistic standards on my part, it is simply because I can usually keep an airhead running, and not one has ever left me seriously stranded. ” If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” So I ride vintage German and lust after something newer and quicker and with better brakes.

Thus far my search has taken me to try (but not buy) a Honda ST1100 (too heavy at slow speeds), a Honda Pacific Coast (too boring, no character), a V-Strom 1100 (too much bike), a BMW R 1200 GS (can’t afford it – and far too much bike for me)… you get the picture. I do try to expand my horizons a bit, but keep returning to my keeper bike which is a 1981 R 80 GS – also by BMW. Enough power to get there, light, fun and good for both the long haul highway and the logging road. The bike fits me; physically, emotionally and temperamentally – so I won’t let this one get away!  

Unlike many, I am also still riding my first ‘real’ bike. It was purchased new in the autumn of 1974 but it is a 1975 model year BMW R60/6. Over the years and many miles it has magically morphed from Curry Red (yucky -original colour) to platinum (big mistake- just looked dirty grey) to black-cherry (looked good for a couple of years) to it’s current and hopefully permanent creamy white with pinstripes. .  It seems every ten years or so, I get tired of the colour and the stone chips and the scrapes, and I spring for a paint job. This way I get to ride a ‘new’ bike at a fraction of the cost – and I already know all of its quirks!  Not a bad deal in my books.

The same machine has also run the gamut of options and add-ons over the miles. Full Vetter fairing with lowers and Craven bags – naked with soft bags – barn-door windshield with hard Krausers – and now with a small Scout Fairing by Parabellum and matching white Krauser bags. At the moment, this suits quite well.  There is also a great carbuncle of a Velorex sidecar stuck to it at the moment – but that is another story altogether…

Like changing clothes to suit the season, my bikes take on new persona to match the changing times – but the bottom line always remains the same. Satisfying and safe riding on a compliant and willing machine – wherever the road might take me.

Have a safe and warm holiday season! Alison Green

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