Touring on a 1983 BMW R100RS

| 11/15/2011 1:05:16 PM

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 The Wymore's 1983 BMW R100RS  
The Wymore's 1983 BMW R100RS and trailer at Monarch Pass in Colorado. 

Salmon against the stream: One classic airhead, one trailer, one wife, many destinations: 
Who tours on old – read Classic – bikes these days? I may be a salmon swimming against the motorcycling stream, as my wife, Mary, and I ride a 28-year-old 1983 BMW R100RS. We bought the bike as newlyweds, kept it when the kids were growing up, and have just kept riding it as it is now a member of the family. Admittedly it is fairly well cared for, and has somewhat low miles at around 88,000. We still like it, so we’ve kept it, maintained it, and ride it! Fact of the matter is, it’s only been in the last four years that we have ventured over 300 miles from home. We are making up for lost time!

On our most recent trip, some 3,150 miles, I crossed paths with three “older” cycles out there. Just three! And I can’t be sure that they were not “locals” … who knows? In fact on our trip, which took place on the week just after the festivities at Sturgis, roughly eight out of 10 bikes seemed to be late model Harleys, and my guess is that 80 percent of those were “baggers.” And I saw way too many touring bikes on trailers … what can they be thinking? Call it the Sturgis effect, I guess.

Which raises the question; are the older, shall we say classic bikes in such condition that they are not roadworthy? Have the owners pushed them to the back of the garage while riding a newer model? Or, have they succumbed to the belief that a classic bike is not capable of being pressed into touring service because all that they see out touring are the big luxo touring bikes. A belief that Classic bikes can’t be ridden that far. There is no doubt that modern touring bikes are more comfortable compared to some of the “elder statesmen” of the biking world, however I believe that the classics can still be, and should be put to use. And I back up that belief by getting out and going the distance! They, older machines, are most likely going to ride and handle as good or as badly as they did when new, OK, time does have its way with shocks and springs, bearings and bushings, and let’s not forget electrical systems. But an older bike’s comfort and handling can be improved with modern suspension upgrades to shocks and forks. There have been several articles written on the subject. Often a new touring seat is also worth considering, and often not. Let your wallet and your needs be your guide!

There are mechanical issues that need to be dealt with when your tour on any motorcycle either late model or the classic. Most can be satisfied with either an appointment at a service shop with some cash changing hands, or opening up a repair manual for some quality wrench time. Any mechanical issue that can be dealt with before you leave is best, no, an absolute must. Remember … the mechanic who works on Fords and Buicks in the middle of Nebraska will likely just turn away any motorcycle problem you bring his way!

Making Preparations 
Heeding my own advice, I spent a couple of weeks in the evenings prepping our bike for the tour we were planning. My bike’s preparation is a complete change of fluids, a tune up, and a trip to my dealer for new tires, where the wheel bearings were checked out (one needed replacing!). I am as confident in the bike getting us to our destination and back as I can make it. Next add fuel and it is ready to go.

neuren pietersen
12/27/2012 11:32:12 PM

tom hargrave
11/25/2011 11:53:36 PM

You aren't the only one riding older iron. I ride my 1976 R75/6 almost daily and I have taken several long trips, mostly down to Daytona Bile Week - about a 800 mile ride that I complete in one day. And no, I never trailer.

11/18/2011 11:13:55 AM

I'm surprised your commentary doesn't include any mention of the throngs of RVs and motorhomes, August is prime time for tourists. Try the same trip a week or so after Labor Day, you'll enjoy it even more! If you can stand some chill, last week of Sept. gives you some Fall colors (but chance of snow here and there). I first started riding out West on a '69 Norton-Matchless, something I'd consider insane nowadays. Any trouble outside of the Front Range and you are SOL. There just isn't much in the way of support out there!

11/17/2011 11:46:21 AM

Just keep writing those stories! I used to ride a 1953 R51/3, and i feel the same way about those older bikes. They'll go anywhere you point them as long as you do a little maintenance. I consider yours a fancy one to the one I used to own,so write on my friend. I love your stories!

ron angert
11/17/2011 10:05:27 AM

I tour on old BMWs every year. This July I followed the "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" route starting at my home in Virginia, stopping at both Bob Pursig and John and Sylvia's homes in Minneapolis/St. Paul before completing the trip to San Francisco. I met many great people along the way, rode Beartooth Pass, camped in Yellowstone and visited Crater Lake. After that 4500 miles I had to get home so I choose to ride US-50, the Loneliest Road in America, coast to coast - total of 8200 miles. The bike passed 170,000 miles near the end that trip, not one mechanical issue. Read all about it at and know that I also commute to work on that bike. Ride em don't hide em!

bruce isaachsen
11/17/2011 8:34:55 AM

Great story. These bikes are meant to be ridden. Since I got interested in classic bikes, I have come to the conclusion that older bikes deteriorate from lack of use rather than wear out from over use. Ride it, Don't hide it!

11/17/2011 8:06:51 AM

R100RS: best fairing BMW (and most others) has ever built.

denny luke
11/17/2011 8:04:19 AM

Made the same trip in summer of '09 in the opposite direction on a 1980 R100RS with several new Harleys and Wings from Arkansas. I was oldest guy on oldest bike. A highlight was Gateway Canyon on the Utah border! If I had to leave the beautiful Ozarks, Colorado is where I'd head!

doug hasert
11/17/2011 7:56:55 AM

The old bikes are great! Good story, I have a 1982 Goldwing with a Watsonian sidecar. Last year I took the rig back to Mn and towed a tent trailer. Put on about 5000 miles and it and turned 100,000 miles on the trip without problems. Also I was 72 years old and my wife had thought I was too old for the drive. Se was wrong

william patterson_2
11/16/2011 11:01:08 AM

Great log on traveling through Colorado (ahem, my home state), and a nice rig you have there. Agree, I enjoy seeing older machines on the road, esp. air-heads of whatever variety. After all, the wind and rain and road don't care what your machine is, and the modern upgrades help owner safety and comfort a lot (radials, seats, synthetic oil, etc.). Thanks for the prompting -- to us all!

william keyser
11/16/2011 10:49:15 AM

You mean we're not suppose to tour on these old bikes? Ye Gods, I wish someone would have told me that back in '09! I foolishly took my '76 R90/6 on a three week, 3 rally tour through Tennessee, Virginia and west Virginia. While the mileage I racked up wasn't anywhere near that of the couple in this story, (I only put something like 2200 miles on the old girl during the 3 weeks)I guess I was taking my life into my own hands even then!! While the bike ran fine the whole time, I, on the other hand, had a few problems... Maybe it's not the old bikes that present the problem, but the old riders?

bike on highway

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