This is a story about a motorcycle rescue. I had heard that a work colleague, Rodger, owned an early ’80s BMW. One day in the Spring of 2011, merely out of curiosity, I sent Rodger an email asking what the bike was. He told me that the bike was a ’83 BMW R80ST. I wasn’t familiar with that model, so I went off and did casual Internet search. I quickly discovered that it was a limited production run from 1982 to 1984 only. There were 5,963 units were produced worldwide. Interesting, I thought.
Rodger went on to tell me that he has ridden the bike only around his neighborhood once or twice a year for the previous ten years. He had owned the bike for eighteen years. When he first purchased it, the motor was seized. Rodger rebuilt the motor using a shop manual. He did most of the work himself following the manual explicitly. Once he completed the motor repairs, Rodger took it to a certified BMW technician to double check the work. It checked out fine.
Prior to Rodger’s ownership of the bike, it was originally sold in Corpus Christi, Texas in September, 1983, to a man named Tim who was in the US Air Force. The original owner rode the bike far and wide. He put on well over 10,000 miles in the first couple of years. He took it on several long rides including a trip to Charlotte, North Carolina. Tim had some kind of incident on the bike that gave him a scare. He stopped riding at that point. The bike was no longer cared for and left sitting idle. It was left outside with little care. To pay some rent that was due, Tim gave the bike to the landlord who also owned a handicap van conversion shop. The bike was not running at this time, the motor was seized. This is where Rodger came across the bike in Spring of 1992 and bought it from his friend, Gary, who owned the van shop…and consequently, the ST. He saw it as a project with which he could challenge himself having little mechanical experience. Rodger took the bike home and bought the Haynes shop manuals for this model. He also got a little direction and help from this local BMW technician, also named Tim, to help with the pistons and rings.
This is a photo that Rodger initially sent to me so that I could see what it was like.
Rodger did a fine job of repairing that motor. The motor received all new gaskets and fittings. Rodger re-installed the heads, pushrods, valve train, and exhaust. The bike was repaired and roadworthy once again. Rodger rode that bike and put on about 3,500 miles in the years following. Then family and work and life happens…and the bike was left sitting at the back of the garage in Charlotte, NC. Other than those occasional runs around the neighborhood streets, the bike was not used.
So, here is where I have come into the picture. Rodger didn’t need to sell the bike, but he thought if he did sell it, he wanted it to go to someone who would appreciate it. I was very intrigued by the bike. I talked to Jen, my wife, about it and she was agreeable (as always). I also talked to my friend, Doug Morrison, who knows quite a bit about BMW motorcycles. Doug has had two R80STs and said that it’s a great riding bike. Rodger and I came to an agreement on a price and a plan was hatched for me to drive from New Hampshire to North Carolina to get it.
Of course, it was smooth sailing all the way there.
Here is Rodger with his son, Rodger Jr., seeing the bike off. Rodger Jr had known that bike his whole life.
I took a Friday off work and made the drive. I think it was about 16 hours driving that Friday to get to a point about 100 miles from their house. The next morning I drove the remaining distance to Charlotte. I easily found the house and met Rodger…and Rodger. I gave the bike a little test ride on the street before we exchanged the money, signed over the title, and loaded the bike into the truck. I was off again within the hour for the long journey home.
Here is the bike once it got to its new home in New Hampshire.
Once it was at home, I started having a thorough look over the bike. I soon discovered that the fuel tank had several small holes in the bottom. This was probably a result of the outdoor storage it endured for a few years. I asked Doug once again for advice. He recommended Ray Atwood’s Cycle in Bolton, Vermont for the repair work.
The fuel tank before the repairs were done.
Initially, I had intended for Ray to only repair the tank. This meant resurfacing the bottom with lead to seal it, sealing the tank interior, and then painting the interior with the correct BMW red paint.
In the end, I decided that the entire tank should be repainted. Ray did a really great job on the tank as well as the battery covers on each side. The battery covers were replaced with new ones as the clips to hold them to the bike were broken off.
I have used a somewhat unusual BMW roundel. This roundel was used by BMW Motorsport on some select models from 1978 to 1981. The original M1 motorcar used this roundel in grey and black. Whatever the origin, I like this roundel and it gives the bike some further uniqueness. Also, I decided to forego the red pinstripes. I like the sphericsilver paint color on its own.
The bike is currently at MAX BMW getting a full and complete service. It is having every fluid drained and replaced. Most hoses and cables will be replaced. The 18+ year old tires will be replaced. I have full faith in the guys at MAX BMW to look after the bike for me. They did a fantastic job on my 1966 R60 /2 restoration. They will discover anything that looks like it needs attention and keep what is in good order. I believe the service work might require a blog post of its own. Stay tuned…