Bikes Of A Lifetime: 1983 BMW R65 — Shoulda’ Kept It Forever

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Bikes Of A Lifetime: 1983 BMW R65 – Kept It Forever

February 10,

For my first motorcycle, I made the decision to search for an air-cooled BMW. Having heard experienced motorcyclists for years the virtues of these conservative but quality machines, I started to for a good used example after taking the Motorcycle Foundation (MSF) beginning course and adding a motorcycle to my driver’s license at the age of 24.  I hit a home run in my first experience of ownership; but then the odds of so are decidedly better than when it comes to one of the classic BMW

To give some background on the R65, the generation of classic air-cooled endured from 1970 to and in its quarter century run it established BMW as a player in the world motorcycle It all started in 1923 with first motorcycle, the R32 (above), introduced the horizontally-opposed twin shaft drive layout that became signature style.  BMW boxer twins among the most advanced in the world in their first two including a supercharged streamliner set a motorcycle speed record of miles per hour in 1937, and the R75 sidecar machine with two wheel and hydraulic power brakes, firsts.

R69S   image wikimedia commons user

After World War II, BMW developed a as a producer of well-made but quirky that were primarily and sidecar machines, known for the and high quality of their opposed twin engines but for their stodginess, with features like Earles

In 1970 a new generation of BMW motorcycles, the /5 introduced a completely revised that displaced up to 750cc further expansion potential, a new inspired by the famous Norton telescopic forks, electric and other modern features.

The R75/5 (750cc), R60/5 and R50/5 (500cc) were far sporting than previous with a frame designed for handling than sidecar BMW also designed them for volume production with skilled labor, necessary BMW was moving motorcycle production its existing factory with an work force in Munich, capacity was needed for BMW’s expanding automobile business, to a new in Berlin with a less-skilled force.

BMW rapidly made to its new design, increased engine and introduced innovative new models.  In the revised /6 series appeared, a front disc brake and improvements. The top model was now the 900cc while the R50 was dropped at the low end.  The sports model added a dash of never before seen on with a small bikini and special misted paintwork.

It a legend, as well as a turning for BMW in offering overtly sporty

The 1977  /7 series increased displacements to 800cc in the R80 and 1000cc in the and introduced the first aerodynamic fairing on a non-race bike, the sport-tourer (shown).  The full tourer R100RT followed in then the dual-sport on/off-road in 1980.  By the end of the 1970s, BMW had a very model range in the 1000cc and size classes covering from weekend canyon to long distance touring to riding, all built on the same and engine, differing only in bore diameter.

While its motorcycle line adopted engine displacements and moved BMW introduced a second line a smaller frame and engine, the smaller displacement classes.  The R65 and R45 in 1979 as simple, straightforward at a lower price point the full size models.  to underscore their modest BMW offered them only in the colors Champagne (gold) and (brown), which are best as color #1 and color #2.

1981 saw significant refinements to the of all BMW boxer twins, including ignition, Nikasil cylinder and a new airbox with a “pulse system designed to reduce The new black plastic airbox far less elegant than the integrated aluminum air cleaner of the original design, but it made air changes much easier.

were other changes as such as a lighter flywheel for shifting, Brembo front calipers replacing the former ATE and the choke control lever from the side of the engine the rider’s left leg to the right at the rider’s thumb.  Happily, colors also became including red in 1981 and black in

A special variant of the R65 was the R65LS, by Hans Muth, the influential designer who developed the milestone fairing for BMW during the 1970s and the Katana sportbike for Suzuki in the It had a wedge-shaped fairing, lower new wheels, a new seat with handles, and black mufflers and pipes.  Although the engine was not it had upgraded brakes with discs in front instead of the single disc.

  6,389 produced from 1982 to

The final version of the R65 ran from to 1987.  It was different from the R45/65s in that instead of its own smaller frame, it now shared the frame as the “full sized” R80 and Its rear suspension system was the that BMW had introduced on the R80G/S bike, with a single-sided swing arm and single hidden

  With BMW moving away its traditional boxer twins and to production of its new inline cylinder, K100 and K75 machines, it discontinued the R65 in

In 1994, my entry into the of BMW motorcycles was through a now quaint, path, the newspaper classified  After a summer of research on the then-embryonic motorcycle enthusiast available on the internet, I decided this 1970s generation of was right for me and regularly checked the motorcycle classified ads of the Washington oddly located in the sports along with classified ads for RVs and car and motorcycle marketplaces did not yet exist 20 ago.  I looked at several machines, of which I remember an R75/5 with a stylish “toaster” fuel tank but alarming nosedive on braking.

The right bike ended up a 1983 R65, which I had was especially good for beginners its lighter weight and lower height.  This particular had only 18,000 miles, broken in for a BMW, and its first needed to sell it before a new Triumph sportbike in order to his wife’s demand not to have motorcycles at the same time.

Its paint gleamed, and its red and white immaculate, clearly showing the brushstrokes from painted by hand.  His asking of $2000 seemed high, but it was in condition with low mileage, so I to the deal a day before he would had to accept the lowball trade-in from the Triumph dealer.

days later, I went first owner’s house with a check and my helmet to pick up the Never having taken a onto a highway, and probably having exceeded 40 miles per on one before, I was a bit nervous about through the Beltway’s notoriously and careless traffic on an unfamiliar Within seconds, though, felt natural and the trip passed completely uneventfully.

  It was the of two great years with the R65 as my means of transportation.


A 650cc machine weighing 450 pounds wet is larger than would recommend as a first but the R65 proved to be so easy to handle I would not hesitate to recommend one to any The R65 was my first riding experience than the Honda Nighthawk used in the MSF course, and it was instantly a to handle in any situation–city, suburban,  The horizontally opposed was the source of the machine’s virtues.

  The placed most of the bike’s very low, making it easy to handle at low speeds.  for low end torque and with a heavy typical of air-cooled BMWs, the had a gradual and steady power that was no problem for a beginner to and ideal for slogging through traffic, yet capable of out-accelerating any car and maintaining any reasonable highway easily.

The R65 was so well balanced I could perform a trick it that I would not attempt on any motorcycle that I have since: staying upright for periods while standing without putting my feet I found over time when slowed gradually, only the rear brake, the R65 was so that a long time pass after coming to a stop before it started to over.

  Timing it with a I found that staying for 12 seconds without putting foot down could be easily and consistently.  Once a behind me in traffic clapped he saw it, probably having seen me do it times at stoplights.  To this I laugh when I see riders of new motorcycles needing to duck-walk in low situations.

The other key feature of the R65 was its capacity.  The same saddlebag used on full size also fit the R65, and buyers of new practically always ordered The hard-sided plastic cases each large enough to a full face helmet space to spare, and their and latch system allowed to be fitted or removed in seconds.  handles allowed them to be conveniently like suitcases off the bike.

  Commuting to the office with of books and documents and a suit to into, grocery shopping, and for a weekend trip were all accomplished. The R65 with its saddlebag could handle the 90+% of that did not involve carrying people or large boxes.

The ease of handling and load-carrying remind me in retrospect of the Honda Cub motorbikes that I saw in Vietnam.  them, it could handle any situation that it might in its environment, was easy for beginners to and had an ability to carry things far what most people expect of a motorcycle.

These made this view one I would not have minded for a lifetime.  Keeping an R65 or any other BMW running well for a lifetime is with the machine’s well out service layout and standard which included every necessary for any maintenance and repairs of a bottom-end engine rebuild.

  the cylinders sticking straight out and blocked by a fairing or the frame, associated with regular was exposed and easy to reach, and a cylinder barrel replacement can be with little difficulty the included tools.  Not that one likely be necessary, as these are known for covering enormous before needing rebuilds.

I kept the R65 for only two years.  I had to to Chicago for graduate school the fall of 1996, and I expected it would be several years I would be riding regularly since the riding season in would be very short and I would be living during was not certain.  I sold the R65 to an architect who to return to riding after a layoff, for $500 more I had paid for it, and both of us were with the deal.

I would not start riding until 2003, and when I my search for a similar airhead BMW was The last BMW using the basic from 1970 was the R100R bike of 1992-95.  By 2003, airheads were available for and prices had climbed significantly than during the mid-1990s, they had now become collectibles of just old bikes.

  Not liking the fuel-injected boxer twins had taken their place, I up losing interest in BMWs and at the Harley-Davidson Sportster and Triumph instead.  I did own an R100RS for a while, but it was as an ridden garage queen than a regular rider.

Now the unpopular and unfashionable R65 has become a platform for custom café builds, such as the one shown With more foresight, I have kept and stored and it would now be as stylish as this but with the original BMW saddlebags and incorporated into the build, of Why give up all of a BMW’s inherent

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