The Airheads Beemer Club is a non-profit club reclaiming the 'Legendary Motorcycles of Germany'

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1 year 4 weeks ago #4938 by motozeke
Introduction / New Member was created by motozeke
Hi All! New member on the forum. Current owner of a 2013 Goldwing F6B and a for-sale 2007 VFR800. Been researching buying an airhead, so I'm here to learn before I pull the trigger on a purchase. Nothing to add, just thanks in advance for being here and sharing your knowledge!

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1 year 4 weeks ago #4940 by Wobbly
Replied by Wobbly on topic Introduction / New Member
Having owned and serviced several in the last 5 years, here's some observations which are absolutely worth what you paid for them...
• Generally speaking, the engines and gearboxes are equally robust from model year 1975 to 1995. That is, a 1978 model is just as likely to have a XXX issue as a 1994 model.
• Another highly generalized statement is that the early-to-mid-80's models are possibly the best. By that time they had 90% of the upgraded refinements (dual acting brakes, easy clutch, 5-speeds, good electrics) and good build quality.
• Ride the bike at your intended speed before buying. Engine smoothness varies widely from engine to engine, and model year to model year. Some is tuning, some of it is build quality. A smooth R75 is preferred over a "buzzy" R100.
• The models with the front axle in-line with the stanchion tubes handle quicker, which is better for "sport touring" but can be a distraction on long straight highways. The earlier models with the off-set front axle are much more "neutral" and "easy going".
• The single-sided rear shock models don't seem to have held up well. If you go to any Airhead rally with 100 bikes, you'll be lucky to see 2 single-sided. I believe the design lends itself to shock and final drive repair costs that are 4X that of a dual shock.
• Remember, any Airhead is going to be a "vintage" or "classic" bike. Like any Model-T or Avanti owner, you'll be doing most of the maintenance yourself.

Don't hide 'em, Ride 'em !!
#15150

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1 year 4 weeks ago #4941 by 8166
Replied by 8166 on topic Introduction / New Member
You'll find a great deal of info both here in the Forums and in the Tech articles about repairs typically needed on new-to-you airheads. Some food for thought:

It took BMW until about 1984 to sort out shifting issues in the transmissions. A "shift kit" used to be available from the dealer, but now the parts are only available separately and they are expensive.

Sometime in 1984, BMW stopped installing circlips on the transmission output shafts, which let 5th gear move and bind the bearings supporting that shaft. If not caught early, it could lead to transmission failure. The fix is to have the groove machined into the shaft and the circlip installed, and while you're in there, replace all the bearings and seals. These days, that's a $700-$1000 repair, depending on what parts are replaced.

Having owned both a twin shock R100RS and a mono shock R100RT, the latter with modern fork springs and shock, the handling on the newer bike is light years better than with the RS. I also own a '93 R100GS with just shy of 150,000 miles on it, and the final drive bearings are just fine, though I've replace the swing arm bearings twice and the final drive pivot bearings once. I wouldn't call that excessive, and the work was simple enough I was able to do it all myself.

Early and late transmissions used different angles on the helical gears in the transmissions, and the earlier parts are no longer available. Failure of any one of those gears will require updating all of the mating parts, which could be a significant cost.

There are many similar issues with the electrical, braking, steering, and other systems on the airheads, and most have remedies in the form of either maintenance or improved aftermarket parts. The availability of such parts, and the ability of even modestly experienced home mechanics to do the work themselves, are two of the most endearing qualities of these machines for many ABC members. A third, and to me at least, even more important quality, is the camaraderie and care many of the members show toward each other, and especially to new owners that wish to learn to work on their own machines. Find and attend a tech day or two and you'll see for yourself that this is a very special group of folks.

A lot of what you end up with depends on how you intend to use it. If all you're looking for is something to putt down to your favorite breakfast jaunt on pretty Sunday mornings, almost any airhead will do. The Airheads Beemer Club is for those that ride and camp, and a weekend could entail piling up well in excess of 1,000 miles, so if that's your desire, you should plan on spending some money to make upgrades and repairs to address known issues. For example, that RT I mentioned cost me $4500 to purchase, and I spent nearly that on suspension, transmission, and engine modifications to make it a bike I could rely on and have fun riding. That said, I'm not sure there's a comparable bike out there that offers the versatility and weather protection of that old RT for anywhere near the same money.

A good place to look for more information is in the article index for Oak's tech articles. It can still be purchased from his widow, and you'll find contact info in Airmail. Once you find the issues containing the articles you want, contact our back issues librarian for copies of those issues.

Welcome to the club, and please do let us know how your search ends up!

8166 Scot Marburger, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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5 months 3 weeks ago #5709 by motozeke
Replied by motozeke on topic Introduction / New Member
I'm late getting back, but thanks for your response. I'm looking forward to owning & caring for an airhead once the craziness of building a business dies down. Until then, it's good to build knowledge and awareness, appreciate your insights!

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5 months 3 weeks ago #5710 by motozeke
Replied by motozeke on topic Introduction / New Member
Thanks Scot for your gracious response! I do look forward to ownership when the time is right (not a budget issue at all, I just don't have time to do my own maintenance while I'm busy building a business). What keeps attracting me back to the airhead platform, particularly the S and RS, is not just the look of the bike but the way BMW packaged them--comfort, style, modest weather protection and hard, lockable storage in a light-ish and maneuverable package designed to go long distances. If the market offered anything comparable I'm sure I wouldn't be looking so hard at an airhead. But the only bikes that are somewhat comparable are all adventure-styled with oversized ammunition boxes for luggage. Not what I'm after. I want a gentleman's sport touring machine with high reliability and classic style, and I don't think anyone has made anything that is a closer fit to the ideal than those BMW airheads.

Safe riding.

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5 months 3 weeks ago #5711 by 8166
Replied by 8166 on topic Introduction / New Member
Keep in mind that this time of year is when used motorcycle prices typically bottom out. Once the weather starts getting nice, and people have tax return money burning a hole in their pocket, pricing goes higher, sometimes to ridiculous levels.

It also helps to watch the usual places for ads, like the ibmwr.org marketplace, the ads here on this site, and the Facebook groups, to get a better feel for what's available and what prices are being asked. Depending on what you're looking for, it may take a long time for the right bike to surface, and it would be a shame to miss it just because you don't have time to dive into a new project right now. You can always drain the gas, remove the battery, and tuck the bike away under a cover in a quiet corner of a garage, then come back to it later as time and/or funds allow. Last year, at about this time for example, I purchased an R100R in very nice condition from a fellow over in Nevada, and it's been sitting in the garage ever since. I got a very good price on it, and have been accumulating parts and sending things out for modification, knowing full well it'll be next summer sometime before I have any chance to work on it.

8166 Scot Marburger, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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