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Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Old flames: part 4

I still had a hankering for 'proper' touring, so when a friend offered me a BMW R75/6 fairly cheaply, I bought it and sold the SR.

Not the actual bike, but the same colour. The one I bought had just returned from a trip round France and Spain, and the seller had added a non-matching Avon fairing for the trip.

This is the only photo I have of this bike and it must have been taken not long after I'd bought it. You can see the patched up fairing and cracked headlight. It might have been a bit tatty, but this bike was to open up whole new worlds to me!
Soon after buying it, I took the fairing off and repaired it (learning how to work with glass fibre in the process. Rule 1 - don't sniff the resin!), then sprayed it to (roughly) match the bike. A new headlight and a few other bits and pieces, and the bike was ready for the road.
It was a lot more powerful than the SR, and the fairing and comfortable saddle meant that it was a superb long distance tourer. The hard panniers and big tank helped too, and made up for the poor handling and brakes, and that nervous 'skittish' feeling you got when riding in the wet. I was also a bit crude (aaaargh! That gearbox!) and the spares were unbelievably expensive, but I got to like its charms. A few camping trips to the Highlands proved its worth, and it was time for 'The Big Trip!'
At the time I was working for the council and got the whole month of July off as a holiday, so my friend and I planned on going to France on our bikes. About 3 weeks before we were due to go he pulled out because his mother wouldn't let him go! Yes, a 24 year old man didn't go on holiday because his Mum wouldn't let him!
This left me at a bit of a loose end until another friend offered to go. He'd been to France before and could speak some French, was really into camping and mountaineering (so had good kit), and was on holiday from University. Only downside was that he couldn't ride a bike (so had to come as a pillion), and had never been any distance on the back of a bike (just round the block a couple of times). Undaunted, he borrowed a helmet and bought a secondhand Belstaff jacket, and we were ready to go!
Except we didn't have a plan other than to meet up with some friends who were in the Netherlands at some point.
So the first day were rode from Glasgow to just outside Dover (c.500 miles) where we camped, then up the next morning to head to the ferry terminal where 15 minutes later we were on a boat heading for France (no security problems then).
The next three weeks were spent riding around aimlessly, visiting places that looked interesting, including riding through Paris city centre (not as crazy as people had told us), and heading to the South Coast, which was VERY hot, very expensive, and very busy. However, it was really nice and full of stunningly attractive women, frequently topless on the beaches. (Not the sort of thing we were used to seeing in Glasgow).
We headed north along the Route Napoleon, and made out way to Haarlem, near Amsterdam, where we spent a few days with friends. Then it was to the ferry at Rotterdam for Hull and the ride home.
The following year the same friend and I went for 4 weeks touring France, Germany (including a ride through the DDR to go to a rally in West Berlin), Austria, Switzerland, and back through France. Near Calais the bike started running on one cylinder and misfiring a lot, and I barely made it onto the ferry. Once in Dover, I spent a full day trying to repair it to no avail, so ended up hiring a van and driving home through the night with the bike in the back (don't ask how much that cost!) Once home I decided to 'rebuild the bike'.
After a LOT of searching I found the cause of the problem was part of the cage of one of the rocker needle bearings was missing allowing the needles to slip out slightly and occasionally hold the exhaust valve open. The missing part was exactly the same size and shape as the tip of the tool kit screwdriver, so it pointed towards what a previous owner had used to drive a bearing into place! Hmmm! Other than replacing leaky gaskets and rusty push rod tubes (a common job on a BMW twin), the only other mod to the engine was Lucas Rita electronic ignition.
The rest of the bike was stripped, cleaned up and repainted as necessary, and I borrowed a proper spray gun and resprayed the bike a rather fetching silver and red. (Wish I had a photo). I also converted it to twin front discs with bits from a breaker (brake now just crap rather than really crap!), and I replaced most of the nuts and bolts with stainless. I also spent a fortune of bolt on goodies from a company called 'Ultimate Source' who specialised in BMW parts including a fork brace, alloy top yolk, and fork improvements, which together with the 'Girling Gas Shocks' I fitted to the rear improved the handling somewhat.
Although I didn't go abroad again on the bike (I'd bought a flat and the mortgage ate up most of my money), I did go lots of camping trips on it. Eventually however, it started to get a bit 'worn' and really needed an engine rebuild and a new clutch (amongst other bits) and when I priced them it came to £1500!!! As it was still running OK, I advertised it in the paper for £500 'for quick sale' and a guy offered me £525! I don't think he'd got the hang of haggling, but I wasn't going to complain! By this time I also had 'Old flame no: 5' my second CB 200, and when I got offered a better paid job (or so I thought), it was time for 'Old flame No. 6'.

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