Restoring a 1973 BMW R75/5 Motorcycle

October 11, 2008

The journey is everything

Filed under: R75/5 — Penforhire @ 3:50 pm

The journey of resurrecting this rust-bucket R75/5 was well worth it. I do not regret a single moment or expense. Without getting too “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” on you, I was able to commune with my late father in ways I was unable to while he lived. I greatly expanded my mechanical boundaries and what I think is possible. I am pleased I could inspire some of you to fight entropy on your own project bikes and that I could even give some technical guidance (who’d have thought it?!).

The change to Mikuni carbs made this bike reliable enough for me not to fear long distance travel on it. Idle still varies cold-to-hot but I think that’s the nature of simple carbs. It has NEVER failed to start since the change, though I did pull the plugs to clean and gap them once (color was a nice tan, no soot) and I’m probably due to check valve clearances again.

I changed ALL the fluids again at least once. Great for my paranoia but nothing seemed strange in fluid colors or textures.

I added a small handlebar mount windshield, careful on size because these are known to cause instability! Highway windblast rises quickly to annoy and tire me at 65+ MPH, not to mention when trying to hang with the big dogs at higher speeds. Under, um, “controlled test conditions” I found the bike is capable of about 100 MPH flat out, with bags, for quite a distance and nothing odd happened in terms of handling. My arms might be longer from hanging onto the bars but it otherwise rides fine at the ton. I added that windscreen to remove some pressure. I think it works for that but does nothing to help with turbulence or noise.

I changed the mirror stalks for CRG’s “Hindsight LS” mirrors with their internal end-adapters in my bar. The OEM mirrors did not provide a good view behind my wide shoulders. CRG’s bar end mirrors give me a better view and really look good, in a cafe racer way. Icing on the cake is how they are designed to fold to ease lane splitting. My opinion is two thumbs up, in spite of their high price.

I had a little trouble with the EnDuralast charging rotor. It got loose, detailed in my XKE blog, but I think I have it licked after using lapping compound to mate it to the crank end. I can tell it works because my Battery Tender never has to charge the battery after a ride. It goes immediately to float charging (solid green light).

Let’s see, I also had to re-glue one of the tank panels. Gorilla snot was not quite enough!

I sold my FJR1300 a while back so I could focus exclusively on riding the /5. The magic carpet ride was too tempting on a day-to-day basis and I was worried I wouldn’t exercise the /5 enough. So now I feel like I’m at the end of the journey. And to be honest, the journey was far more rewarding than the destination.

The /5 is the king of cool. It isn’t the oldest bike to show up at BMW gatherings but it is among them. I think it might be the oldest ride I see in the SC-MA runs. I’m surprised by how few /5’s I see on the road. You know how you’re sensitized to seeing whatever you ride? Well there just aren’t as many /5’s on the road as I expected. People eyeball it wherever I go but there must be something intimidating about the marque because not many people ask me about it, but everyone looks.

After dedicating myself to this machine, both in commuting and 300+ mile sport-touring days, I feel I’ve given enough time and consideration to decide that riding it is not my cup of tea. I have a need for the responsiveness and one-with-machine feeling I get from more modern rides, plus ABS because I’m willing to admit I’m just not THAT good a rider when it is wet, dark, and I’m tired at the end of a long day’s ride. I may go to something more naked than my FJR, like the R1200R, but I haven’t decded yet.

When I started this project I never thought I’d say this — do you know anyone looking for a restored and upgraded /5 ? I know most of you will think I’m nuts. That’s nothing new. As I get older I gain apprciation for Clint Eastwood’s line from Magnum Force, “a man’s got to know his limitations.” I can’t see myself continuing to use this as my sole ride nor properly maintaining this machine if it is not. It will crush me more to see this machine go to seed than to not possess it. I could mothball it properly but that’s not a good answer. This bird should fly.

So I’m asking $6,500 for it and a promise whoever buys it will ride it, as I will until it sells. Maybe I won’t be too upset if it doesn’t sell but it feels like the right thing to do. I’ll post a for-sale eventually on the Airheads site and elsewhere but I figure I’d offer it here first, among those who took the journey with me. And if someone asks what work was done you can just point them to this blog!

Remember, the journey is everything!



  1. Eric,
    Remember when I had my R.
    Unlike yours, mine came to me in a big basket. The guy I bought it from tried to do a wheel stand. It was totaled, Bent frame, cracked engine case, and more.
    At that time, I live back in Boston, and was surrounded by guys with tons of spare parts, and a friend that was a real wizard with a heliarc. He did magic with his welding torch. We straightened the frame, and welded the cases.
    I put it together then, and over the years reworked it many times until the last big complete rebuild here.
    It started as a 1970 R65, SWB
    and after all my years of reworking, it was far from stock. It ended as a 1970,72,73,74,75,76,77,
    R90/5/6/7 LWB
    I rode it for 386,946 miles between 1981 and 2003. Lots of good times.
    As you know it turned out looking great after my last rebuild. I rode it for a while and one day I looked at it and thought to myself,
    “I think I’m done”.
    I put it up for sale, and bought the new K1200RS.
    It was tough to let go, but it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be.
    By the way, I looked at my K1200RS a while ago, and guess what? Its for sale!
    I think Im going for a new R1200RT.
    Come on Eric! you deserve one too.
    Just think, GPS, heated seat and grips, cruise, elec. windshield…..etc.etc.etc.
    Doesn’t it sound nice???
    BMW Joe

    Comment by BMW Joe — October 12, 2008 @ 4:46 pm

  2. I remember thinking you were crazy when you sold yours! Now I can join you in the loony bin.

    Comment by Penforhire — October 13, 2008 @ 6:56 am

  3. Great restoration! What windshield did you use? I’m thinking about getting one for mine…

    Comment by Mr. K — January 24, 2009 @ 6:17 am

    • Hello Mr. K, this is one of the small shields sold by National Cycle but I can’t say I recommend it. I don’t feel much difference. I think others are correct that you have to mount too big a shield to use a handlebar mount on a /5. It’d be dangerous.

      Comment by Penforhire — January 24, 2009 @ 8:22 am

  4. Nice work man here.really very good blog.thanks you for posting this thread

    Comment by tamer hosni 2011 — January 29, 2011 @ 9:52 am

  5. I know this thread is old, but….

    I have a 72 R60/5 that I bought three summers ago now. I’ve ridden it a total of 500 miles or so because it’s usually in various states of disassembly. Well, I followed your example and finally said ‘screw the Bings’ when I pressed one of the ticklers and the plunger and spring went flying through the air. A constant drip of gasoline was never very inspiring either, despite new needles, seats, floats and gaskets. So on went the 26 mm Mikunis. It would begin to start but putz out so I put new points on it, static and dynamic timed it, adjusted loose valves and tight valves and she finally runs and idles like I imagine it did when it was close to new. I look forward to some longish rides in the country side – but I’m taking hex wrenches, sockets, sparkplug wrench, an assortment of screwdrivers, open end wrenches, small crescent adjustable wrench, feeler guage, mini bicycle tire pump and air guage (I had a leaking valve stem once – no fun when the front starts to wobble). Oh and some electrical and duct tape. Oh, I better take octane booster and maybe some Seafoam too. Did I forget anything?

    Comment by Dale — April 28, 2011 @ 7:56 am

  6. Hey Dale,

    Sounds like you’ve essentially assembled the original BMW tool kit, which is what I bring with me on my long rides.

    To your list I would add Allen keys (so you can check/add gear oil etc and also part of the original tool kit), some tire tubes or a patch kit and some tire levers, just in case. Zip ties, JB Weld, silicone sealant, spare bulbs (the original round headlight bulbs are not easy to find if your bike doesn’t use a more modern H4 bulb) might also come in handy. This might be excessive, but I also bring a multimeter, Twinmax carb sync tool and battery tender (it’s very small).

    I’ve been fortunate that the only things I’ve done are check and add oil, adjusted valves and checked/adjusted tire pressures. Once I changed a worn tire by myself and on the way home I had a slow valve stem leak requiring me to pull over and re-inflate tires to get me home.

    It’s a pain to carry at times, but you’d be glad to have the stuff if you need it!

    Happy trails!

    Comment by Krez-B — April 28, 2011 @ 8:21 am

  7. Multimeter is a good idea. Even on my newer RT I carry a cheap model from Harbor Freight ($4 on sale!).

    I’ve heard of spare points as a common thing to carry.

    Consider motorcycle towing insurance, such as offered through the AMA —

    Comment by Penforhire — April 28, 2011 @ 12:29 pm

  8. Nice work you got here. But i am having trouble with the windshield part could you elaborate it.

    Comment by Matt — June 25, 2012 @ 3:52 am

  9. Matt, what isn’t clear for you? The windscreen was a generic ‘small’ sold by National Cycle for maybe $90, it has some adjustable clamps and is made to fit any bike with tubular bars. The first one cracked when I installed it and National sent me a replacement. If you were just trying to sneak your vendor link in, well, nice try but this blog still has a sheriff.

    Comment by Penforhire — June 25, 2012 @ 1:28 pm

  10. This blog remains one of the best /5 resources on the web. Please don’t let it lapse. I’ve been inching my 1970 toward perfection for 5 years now and keep coming back here for useful stuff again and again.

    Comment by Chris Earle — August 29, 2014 @ 11:55 am

  11. Thanks for the kind words Chris. I wrote and maintained this to help anyone like yourself make their dream project happen. I’m still maintaining it. I wish I had a new project to write about but I am still between garages for at least a few more years.

    Comment by Penforhire — September 2, 2014 @ 2:04 pm

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