Thursday, October 08, 2015

Leaning forward through three decades


I bought my first serious sport touring motorcycle – a 1981 BMW R100RS – thirty years ago this month.

It was a used bike that sat on the Cycle Werks of Indianapolis showroom floor for several months without attracting much attention. That was probably because the previous owner, a guy from Cincinnati, had put a silly looking tall windscreen on it that destroyed the elegant design.

r100rswindscreenI was looking to step up from my 1971 R50/5 and my 1978 Kawasaki KZ650 and I saw some serious potential in this smoke gray beauty.

When I sat on it in the dealership and experienced the forward-leaning RS riding position for the first time, I thought, “I’m either going to love this position or I’m going to hate it.”

Turns out I’ve loved it for 30 years ago four BMWs.

The first thing I did to it was replace the too-tall windscreen with a stock tinted windscreen, restoring it to the look the designers in Munich had in mind when they created the world’s first production motorcycle with an integral fairing.

A week or so after I bought the R100RS, I rode it down to Bloomington to visit my son Sean and take him for a ride.

The next July, I rode it west with Tim and Linda Balough for my first long-haul tour. The excuse for the ride was the 1986 BMW MOA Rally at Laguna Seca Raceway near Monterey, Calif. It was a life-altering experience, a watershed event that permanently altered my thinking about independence and self-determination. What followed made the first 40 years of my life seem like a prelude to actually living life.

I sold the R100RS six years later when I bought a 1991 K100RS. In terms of technology, performance and handling, the K-bike was a quantum leap from the R-bike, but I loved that R100RS and wish I still had it. I replaced the oil dipstick with one that had a thermometer dial on the end – like a giant meat thermometer, so I still have the original dipstick as a kind of touchstone.

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