I did it! I have finally found the right motorcycle restoration candidate, the BMW R 75/5. I have been looking for a long time now to find the right project, but my expectations have kept me from buying the first several I had found.
The R 75/5 has significant historical value, but I won’t go into a long history lesson here, as that information is readily available through a few key strokes on your computer. Rather I will just highlight a couple features that make it important to me.
In the late 60’s and early 70’s, motorcycles from the British markets were fast, fun, well handling machines (for their time). Norton and Triumph were alive and well. However, they were not alone. The Japanese were now putting out larger capacity machines that were also fast and fun, but also very reliable and much more affordable.
BMW motorcycles were still using the old frames and technology from their early bikes and were in need of a facelift if they were going to be a competitor in this new, evolving market. Facing all these handicaps while under constant pressure from the BMW Corporations automotive side (A division which was quite successful by this time and dwarfing motorcycle production).
The answer was the /5 series of motorcycles. The R 75 being the largest capacity of the series. The newly designed frame closely resembled the great handling Norton featherbed frame, but had its own technologies, such as conical shaped tubing of varying sizes to handle the different stress points of the bike. Additional features were improved telescopic forks, push button electric start (as well as kick start) and a new 12 volt battery system with an alternator.
Additional features such as a relocating the camshaft to below the crankshaft, allowed for the push rod tubes to be mounted below the cylinders. This new configuration actually gave more ground clearance when turning and a cooler method for oil to make its way back to the sump. A forged, one-piece crankshaft with automotive style plain bearings and light weight aluminum castings made for a great overall package.
Again, there are numerous writings that go into great depths, both in terms of historical and technical evolutions. If you’re seriously interested in such readings, then I highly recommend the wonderful, historically correct writings of Ian Fallon. His writing style is clear, concise, and very technical.
The R 75/5 on a personal note means something special to me. It takes me back to a time when motorcycling was simple and unabated by technology. When knowing the basic workings of a motorcycle was a necessity rather then a luxury. If you were to take a road trip, it was a good idea to have a set of tools and know how to use them. Setting points was just part of owning a bike and meant the difference between keeping your road trip going or cutting it short. A time when BMW provided a comprehensive tool kit under your seat that would allow you to turn just about every nut and bolt on your bike, all while on the side of the road or in a parking lot. A simpler time before fuel injection, traction control, anti-lock brakes, etc…A time when you felt as though you were part of the machine, not just riding on it. A time when I was a much younger man and enjoyed the wind in my face and could physically go hundreds of miles at a time, only limited by fuel tank capacity. Back when responsibility was a relative term and I only had to answer for myself and not an entire family. A time before mortgages, property taxes and other constraints.
The R 75/5 fits the bill. It’s a classic bike with great manners and legendary reliability. All this while still preserving a simpler time that might otherwise be forgotten if not for these fine machines from our past.