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Which vintage bike should I buy?


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Hi all,


I have a 99 r1100rt that I love, love, love. I've got 80k miles on it and often take off across the country. Recently, after driving a friends triumph around town I've begun to hanker for another bike. A small around town item and I'm thinking of going with a vintage BMW.


I don't know that much about them so I'm hoping to get some insights here. Oxlips prolly spend up to $13k but of course if there's a perfect bike for less thats great too.


The only thing I do know is that going back to the kick startmay be too far back for me. But u guys with kick starters can tell me how difficult it is.


Thanks so much!


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Don't have any idea what you should get. Lots of neat old bikes out there. Some need a lot of work and money. Some have been restored and cost quite a bit up front. Spend lots of time looking and doing research (parts availability, paint and finish costs, professional help)before making a purchase.


Kickstarters?? A BMW or Japanese bike with a kickstarter will start with one kick IF it is in good condition and tuned correctly.


English bikes and Harleys are a different story! I have seen bikes in perfect condition that would refuse to start. Some would not start if they were cold, others if they were warm. Some bikes were just finicky!

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I would recommend looking around at various eras of vintage bikes and pick an era that is within your price range and that you like.


Do you consider the bike an investment or a hobby?


I haven't priced bikes lately, but you want to be careful. My mechanic told me about a fellow who paid about $3K for an R26 single that was in pretty bad shape. They felt it was going to run three or four times that amount to restore it, as it had many missing parts. There are sources for used parts, but some are hard to come by. There are parts available for the old BMW's from the Fatherland, but they can be quite pricey.


It is not uncommon to find that you have more $$$ in the bike than it is worth. If it was me, I would be looking at some late 60's early 70's model BMW's (but I've been drinking the kool-aid for a long time). I love the R90S and would buy one in a heartbeat if I had any room in my garage. You should be able to find /2 R50's or R60's are still reasonably priced, as are the /5's and /6's.


A good source for information is the VBMWO. Website: http://vintagebmw.org


There are a lot of vintage bikes that come up in the classifieds over at the BMWMOA.


FWIW, I am spending more than my R26 is worth to restore it. A complete engine rebuild, transmission rebuild and cosmetic restoration adds up pretty quickly. Even if the bike is complete and runs, it can have problems. I knew my bike was smoking after it sat for 20 years, but I had no idea how badly the piston and cylinder were damaged. I knew the transmission was hard to shift, but didn't realize the clutch rod was broken (and installed backwards).


Good luck!

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Missouri Bob

About 15 years ago, I had the same idea, except that I wanted a /2 to restore. To keep myself from buying a complete piece of junk, I decided that I had to be able to ride the bike home.


I still bought a complete piece of junk.


I learned a couple of things from the experience. Old bikes are not a wonderful as I remembered them to be. Someone else's restoration/project can be bought for less than they have in it.



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Paul Mihalka

Depends how vintage you want to go, and how much you want to ride it. Within your (generous) budget if I wanted a vintage, beautiful, but everyday rideable BMW, I would consider only a R90S.

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Or, for less, an R100S





I got this 1977 off Ebay for less than $5k. Make sure you have a little stash handy to have a good pro go through it, or do it yourself. Love it! Nothing beats vintage for relaxed Sunday backroads riding.


I'd also look at the venerable /5 Series, specifically the 1973 R75/5. My MCN article on these beauties can be downloaded here http://www.mklsportster.com/Articles/mcnbmw-5.pdf



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I'm kind of partial to Airhead BMW's so that's what I chose when I was in the vintage bike market. They are well built, and can be ridden most any distance you want once they are sorted out.

The early 80's and up bikes had improvements like Nikasil cylinders, electronic ignition, and brembo brakes.

Pick an era you're comfortable with, and a condition of bike you like and start from there. Then make it the bike you want.


I found this old unloved 1982 R100RT sans fairing for a song.





Took it all apart, and put it back together the way I wanted it.









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Bought this beauty from Scary MacNary (that is what he was known by, honest!)pictured. R50/2 with a king queen seat, ape hangers, extra holes in fenders, custom exhaust, and lots of rust and missing parts.


In a barn in Mexico, Indiana


There was even a 1939 Rudge covered up in the corner. That bike now resides in Kersting's Museum in North Judson, Indiana.


Spent an entire winter restoring her. Laced new wheels, painted and pinstriped myself. Rebuilt everything! Spent about $4000 on parts. Labor was extensive, but did it all myself. I should have never sold that bike.....sigh :cry:









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If you look at the picture on the left, you will see my main ride, a '67 R69S that gets more use than my R12RT. It's been in the family since new, so I never had to pay a vintage price for it. Good examples of this particular bike usually bring $10,000 to $15,000. The R50s and R60s can be had for less. Parts are not, repeat not, a problem, but they are expensive. A total restoration, even on a single, will cost a BUNDLE (unless, of course, you can do most of the work yourself). The bikes are reliable and fun to own and ride, but in my opinion are not suitable for the high-speed, heavy traffic conditions that many of us ride in these days. I use mine strictly for pleasure and as far away from "civilization" as I can get. Acceleration is slow, but it cruises all day at 75. It is comfortable with a good aftermarket seat (mine's a Corbin solo). I frequently do 8-hour days.


Aside from the /2s, which cannot be beat for eye-catching elegance, my choice would be an airhead, and in fact my favorite old bike in this category is the 1977 R75/7. This is a rock-solid, single year bike with plenty of speed, good brakes and lights, and electric start. Rare, but not impossible to find, and usually under $5000.

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Thanks for responding...all this info is very helpful.


To answer your question...for me this would be a bike I can ride and a hobby/passion. Not viewed as an investment.


I'm not a mechanic and I don't really have the time to restore a bike (although that might be lots of fun some day) I'd like something that has been restored and ready to hit the road.



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Looked at my post and noticed that I never included the finished bike!




I added headlight mirrors and bar-end turn signals after these pictures were taken.



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BMW had electric start from 1970. Kickstart was stock but removed after '75 (optional). Anything like a /5, /6 or /7 will do.


If you want an investment, hard to go wrong with an R90s.


All old BMW's are bulletproof if maintained.



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Rob , I had one of our local vintage club members paint it for me. Mechanicals I can handle, paint not so much.

The fairing is a BMW item along with mounting kit from Bob's BMW. Same as used on the R90S, R100S, and R100CS.




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Grant, I have dabbled in the vintage bike stuff a bit in the last few years hopefully this will help or maybe confuse you some...


#1... Find a bike that truly speaks to you.. It does not matter who made the the bike.. Do you love the looks does it represent what you want to express to others about your love of the bike?


#2... Get involved !!! Study and read as much material as you can find so you understand what you are getting into... If you get stuck on the side of the road it's up to you becase most people will not know how to help out (but they can make for good physical help)


#3...Buy the cheepest most correct bike you can find that the motor still will turn over (compression)...Why? see #4


#4...With a vintage bike, no matter what the seller says about it, go through every aspect of the bike after you purchase it with knowledgeable friends or professionals to make sure it will work and run and look as you have now learned it should through your research...and that it is safe to ride the way you want to ride it.


The true ENJOYMENT of vintage bike ownership is enjoying the EGO lift from all the thumbs up you get from others as you cruze down the road. The PLEASURE of vintage bike ownership is the pride in youself knowing you have the knowledge and love of the bike to keep the ENJOYMENT going.

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