1963 BMW R69S: Away from the Pack


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Tags: BMW, repair, from the owner, classic German motorcycles,

1963 BMW R69S 
The 1963 R69S as it looks today.

I was a fanatic dirt bike guy in the 1970s, living in the small town on Ponce on Puerto Rico’s South Coast when a group of my street bike friends invited me to go on a two-day ride around the island. It sounded like fun, but I didn’t have a touring bike to ride. I asked some old timers, and they suggested I contact old Ernesto Garcia at his motorcycle repair shop. A nice, low-key guy, according to them, who had lots of bikes and might lend me one.

Spare Motorcycle Parts
Engines piled in a corner in Ernesto’s shop.

Arriving just before lunch, Ernesto’s small shop was on a narrow back street in the old part of town. I looked through the chain link fence, and while I could see a mass of bikes and parts stuffed into the small space and piled high along the back wall, the shop was devoid of human beings. Questioning the neighbors about the proprietor of this two-wheeled tangle brought answers like “Ernesto doesn’t like to get up early” or  “Ernest just comes down when a customer calls,” and finally, his phone number. It seemed, from our phone conversation that Mr. Garcia was very “simpatico,” and using the name of our mutual friend, he got me what I wanted, a street bike. To my surprise, from the conglomeration of junk in the shop he rolled out a shiny black BMW R69S that he said was one of his personal bikes. A comfortable touring bike in its day, it performed superbly and my ride was most enjoyable. No so enjoyable that I was willing to trade knobbies for Nortons, but fun, anyway.

Old Bikes
Old bikes were everywhere in Ernesto’s shop.

The years went by and, as these things go, my attention became more focused on family and my small industrial supply business, so the Pentons and Yamahas were sold and I lived like a normal person. Then, 25 years after my road trip, a new group of older, more financially successful friends all decided to buy Harleys and, déjà vu, invited me to join them. Unable to see myself as one of the middle-aged, bandana-wearing executive Hog riding gang, I set out to find an alternative. I’m the kind of guy who always takes the road less traveled, but I never ask myself why the hell everyone else is on the other road! The idea of being unique and riding a vintage bike caught my fancy. I wondered, was that old Beemer still in Ernesto’s shop?

It was! But Ernesto was no longer with us, having died several months before my return to his shop. Reached by phone, Ernesto Jr was happy to open the shop if it meant turning some of the old metal into cash, so we agreed on a time and date. Stepping inside, as my eyes adjusted to the darkness a veritable treasure trove came into view. There was the R69S, between an R21 and an R27. An Ariel Square Four, original Royal Enfields and BSA’s, some East European 2-strokes, a Vespa from the ‘50s and a fortune in used parts. Why? How?

TimKern
11/27/2014 1:11:57 PM

I loved my 1969 R69US, that I bought in 1972 for $1400. It had 450 miles, the big tank and saddle, and Craven bags like the ones in the photo. Paint was rare dark blue metallic -- the color of the Munich I miss my 1969 R69 US. Got it in 1972 for $1400. It had 450 miles on it, plus the big saddle and tank and Craven bags like the ones in the picture. It was in the rare dark blue metallic, like the Munich police bikes. Got 300-350 miles on a tank. Did a couple 800+ mile days on a 12,600 mile trip out of Chicago that went to all the lower-48 states west of the Mississippi, plus Alberta, Manitoba, BC and Vancouver Island -- and as far east as Pensacola. Wore out one tire (front) and spent most of the $350 cash I started with. Rolled it into a ball when I was 30 and sold it to my girlfriend's father for $1000. I miss that machine!





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