Restoring a 1973 BMW R75/5 Motorcycle

November 2, 2007

B’bye Bing!

Filed under: /5, 1973, airhead, BMW, BMW motorcycle, motorcycle restoration, R75, R75/5 — Penforhire @ 3:31 pm

Yes, beaten into submission by my carbs. If you don’t already know, my new insane vehicular project can be found at and that is one reason I haven’t been “here.”

You probably thought that over the weeks since my last post I’ve been sailing all over Southern California on my blue dream machine. You would be wrong. The next weekend after I thought I was road-worthy Joe and I had a club ride planned. I was all excited to take the R75/5 on its first serious road trip. Come the morning of the ride it would not start for nothing! I ran the battery down, trying all variations of choke/no-choke/throttle/no throttle because I could not believe it wasn’t just about to fire up.

I dumped the fuel in the float bowls. No help. Do I have spark? Yep, pulled a boot, inserted a loose plug, and watched/heard it arc as I cranked (you have to provide a normal spark gap or a short to prevent damaging the Boyer electronic ignition). I pulled the plugs and they looked okay, a bit black-sooty but nothing that didn’t wipe off. Double-checked the gaps. The biggest hint I got was not much smell of gasoline when I pulled the plugs and they were not wet. After cranking that long the plugs should have gotten wet, if not flooded.

Next I messed with both carbs, pulling the jets with the bodies left on the bike. Blew some carb cleaner where I could spray. That didn’t get me started. Hmm, pulled the valve covers and did another complete valve adjustment. They had moved a little since my last check but nothing radical. On a warm afternoon I did get the bike to start again, though it still took some cranking to do it. At this point I double checked the timing. Nope. Perfect. I did away with the points so no gap to check there.

I was SO disappointed as I was forced to mount up on the FJR for the ride. If I recall correctly it was a HOG of Glendale club poker run benefit for Guide Dogs of America. Not the big annual run but just a side run. Still had hundreds of riders show up, final count was something like 400! It ended at the Route 66 Grill in Canyon Country. Those Harley groups know how to party! They had a live band, slow ride contest, beer stein holding contest and more. No pictures. I was too bummed. The R75/5 would have stood out in that ocean of chrome. Yes, Joe won stuff… again. In addition to many raffle prizes (I won some crap) they also had a jar of candy corn and a jar of something else and you had to guess how many in each. Joe guessed closest on both. There had to be two hundred other entries! Can you believe it?

Regarding my R75/5, the only thing I can think of is the Bings have a reputation for difficult cold starting and that morning was the earliest (coldest) attempt I made to date. All my confidence in this machine escaped like air from a balloon. How could I travel anywhere except from-and-to my garage if I was worried I’d run the battery down trying to start it later? Grrrr.

Okay. I was faced with several choices. I could replace some parts in my Bings, maybe even send them out for service since I had several whacks at doing it myself. Or I could replace them with a Mikuni carb conversion that several 5 United members spoke highly of, sold by Stan at Rocky Point Cycle (see link in my big list at upper right). Brad, an old dirt biker, even suggested Mikunis since those were a common swap for Bings back when.

I know in a prior post I said I would not be beaten by my carbs. I was mistaken. I am utterly vanquished by my Bings. But I got even. They’re stored in a box now.

The Mikuni carb conversion cost $375. That is less than just new parts required to attempt to fix my Bings. And owner history on Bings is spotty. Sometimes they work and sometimes they never work. It has to be some manufacturing tolerance issue because it is so widely reported. Not one person complained the Mikunis did not work. They are reported to improve throttle response, ultimate power, and reduce gas mileage. Hey now, THAT’s a tradeoff I can live with! They don’t look perfectly stock but I took photos. Decide for yourself.

Here is the kit from Stan. I broke down and got it this week, taking vacation Friday to get a jump on installation.


It includes two Mikuni VM series carbs (pre-jetted for your application), extra jets (to tune if needed), rubber intake adapters, hose clamps, a length of fuel hose, and custom throttle cables. Very complete! You have to discuss your order with Stan so he can pre-jet correctly and send you the right type of throttle cable. He sells a choke cable conversion also, another $40 IIRC, but I decided to try as is (separate choke levers on each carb) since I can always add it later. Stan developed this conversion to use on his personal motorcycle, a 1971 R75/5, so he has high confidence in the R75 application.

The carbs come stickered “Not for Aircraft Use.” There must be some tiny airplane engines out there if someone might consider using one of these on it? Stan includes a one page instruction sheet and a copy sheet of an exploded carb view but to be honest the instructions are pretty weak. I suppose you could say that if you cannot figure these out you should not be installing ’em. But I struggled slightly anyway.

The first conundrum was “where do the throttle cables go?” The Bings have an external lever that rotates a butterfly. The Mikunis have no butterfly. The throttle cable attaches directly to the main jet’s needle piston through the lid. Here are some views of the carb with the lid off and the guts.



There is also no diaphragm that pulls up on the slide like the Bings, just one big return spring that does double-duty forcing the carb back to idle and also providing the throttle control return force. The float bowl is screwed on, presumably needing to be removed less frequently than the Bing bowl? There are three small brass hose barbs and one big one. The big one was obviously fuel input but what about the other three? Well, one is the carb overflow, something flush-mounted on the Bing body. The other two are vents above the bowl. I’m not sure why two vents are needed but, as confirmed by Brad, don’t block those vents!

Now you know we can’t get through a retrofit like this without monkey-boy showing up somewhere, right? Well, my examination of the carbs led me to think they were two of the same model and lay-out, meaning no left and no right, unlike the Bings. That is not entirely true. Yes most of the body, and for instance the choke lever, is the same on both carbs. But I failed to notice that the idle adjust screw location varied from carb-to-carb. I ended up mounting them with the adjust screws pointed toward the body of the bike, harder to adjust on a hot bike. It was not a complete disaster though because the air mixture screws did NOT vary, meaning one was always going to be harder to access no matter how I mounted them. Strange.

Here is one on the right side of the bike —


Looks okay to me. My only real complaint about the set-up is the custom throttle cable’s length adjusters (to set the 1 mm or so throttle slack on each side) are positioned on the cables so they are hidden under the tank, almost right at my rubber cable loom. It would make more sense to have them exposed on the run of cable between tank and carb.

Yeah, it was annoying to mount up the carbs again. Same twist-dance getting everything on at once. I had a problem with gas leaking at my in-line filters. They were working fine before but now they required tiny hose clamps. Oh well, that’s a hazard of using 1/4″ filters in 7 mm fuel line. One trip to the auto parts store and everything was set right. No new puddles of gas on the floor.

The moment of truth? Rrr, Rrr, Vroom! Started right up. Immediately flipped off the chokes and it idled fine at a slightly open throttle setting. I tweaked idle adjustments so cold idle wouldn’t stall and went for a warm-up ride. It ran just fine up to redline and idle rose after it warmed up. Got it back in the garage, backed off the idle, and tweaked the air/fuel screw on each side for max RPM, keeping idle near 1K RPM. When I was done I took Stan’s advice and turned the screws in a quarter turn (slightly richer) for year-round safe riding. I shut everything off and came in to write up the experience. Took me longer than I thought it would. Call it six hours of work.

I may need to tweak them some more and if I want to balance ’em better than by-ear I’ll have to drill ports for my Carbtune but it seems unlikely I will need to.

So if you see a broken down blue R75/5 on the side of the road somewhere in So Cal, that’s probably me. Happy trails!


September 3, 2007


Filed under: /5, 1973, airhead, BMW motorcycle, motorcycle, motorcycle restoration, R75, R75/5 — Penforhire @ 11:51 am

Joe is good. One look at the fork seal photos in my last post and he calls me up, “um, you know those seals are in backwards?” Sigh.

I whip out my Clymers repair and I can’t tell the orientation. Surprisingly, the thin Haynes repair manual is explicit is stating the spring-side goes in first. Could have something to do with that fold-over failure, eh? Monkey-boy strikes again.

Oh well, two fork seal flips coming up. Geez, I just went another 20 miles and everything was feeling right. And it sure is hot in the garage…

September 2, 2007

Butterflies are free

Filed under: /5, 1973, airhead, BMW, BMW motorcycle, motorcycle, motorcycle restoration, R75, R75/5, SWB — Penforhire @ 9:52 am

Or as Brad suggested, “Dr. Leaky, I presume?” At the end of this holiday weekend we complete our long journey. Labor Day, how appropriate? Huzzah for the Knights of Labor!

Have you ever had the experience of wrenching on something you worked on earlier and, seeing incorrect assembly, thinking you couldn’t possibly have been THAT inept? I get that a lot. Like “what blind brain-damaged one-armed monkey assembled this?” Oh, right. Me.

You may recall carb rebuilds were the very first thing I did, even before I learned how to post full-size photos here. I always understood the basic principles of how a carburetor works but the gap between basic principles and understanding specific functions of each carb part is huge.

There is still an “official” Bing agency in the US ( I need to order their inexpensive CV tuning guide since everyone recommends it but I’m far from fine tuning yet. Oh yeah, they offer carb rebuild service — $180 for one, $322 for both, not including any special restoration like sandblasting. So they’re talking about installing the $50 twin rebuild kit (which is overpriced to start with for some o-rings, gaskets, and diaphragms) for $322? What a ripoff! And, of course, you can buy a new Bing CV carb for $465. Ouch! Rocky Point Cycle sells a Mikuni carb retrofit kit for $375 (for the pair!). Many 5-owners swear by it. Funny because without even mentioning this to Brad he mentioned dirt racers also swap in Mikunis for Bings with some regularity. They give better acceleration and throttle response at the price of reduced gas mileage. But I want the stock Bing look and I’m not ready to be beaten by my carbs!

So I’m determined to fix whatever ails my old carbs. I took off the left carb to work on it properly on the bench. I even have, as a guide, Joe’s pair of assembled carbs that he says are in working order. The very first thing I see is something I was expecting. I did not install the butterfly correctly. There is a chamfered edge that allows it to seal tightly against the carburetor. I installed it backwards and left a gap to the carb walls.


This may or may not be my only problem with idle. According to the archives at 5 United it is sufficient to cause impossible tuning issues. All better now —


I continued to tear the carb completely down. Hmm, the internal choke assembly was 180-degrees reversed (compared to Joe’s). Smooth! No idea if that affects idle but it’d sure affect the enrichener. Some yellowish bits of something like plastic are in the main carb body —


I had soaked the body in carb cleaner back when but now I attacked it with spray cleaner. Wear goggles if you do this because the spray comes out of the carb in unexpected ways. Just because all current sprays are reformulated to be environmentally safer doesn’t mean they won’t harm you. The ingredients mention acetone, alcohol, toluene, and methyl ethyl ketone (MEK). Stay away from sparks or open flames too!

The diaphragm-driven slide (moves main jet needle up and down) felt reasonably smooth but I wasn’t taking any chances. I could feel where slight corrosion might hang up the larger base where it slides against the carb body. I sanded the carb and the needle base with a series of sandpaper grits — 1000, 1500, and 2000. Then I used the 2000 grit on the smaller polished slide-tube and the female tube of the carb top. When I was done the assembled slide felt more free to move.

I took some of that fine sandpaper and worked on the idle air mix screw. It has a pointly metal tip and I noticed some slight corrosion on it.

I might end up replacing the main jet needle but I cleaned it up and reused it. The archive knowledge says these are wear items that should be replaced between 30K and 50K miles. The symptom is worse gas mileage. I should get somewhere north of 40 MPG and possibly over 50 MPG! There are four needle adjust positions in the slide. If it sticks out more, or “drops,” it stays more in the way of gas flow and leans the mixture. The book position is the 3rd notch or 38.5 mm sticking out from the slide base (best way to check since the notches are hidden).

If you ride for days at high altitude, some say > 5,000 feet, you want to drop the needle one notch (2 mm) because thinner air richens the mixture. Even though air volume is constant in a CV carb the oxygen content drops. I think I could do this in less than 15 minutes now (you only need take the tops off the carbs).

I had to replace a few more o-rings I damaged. They just don’t stand up well to removal and installation stress. I think I figured a way to improve that situation with a light coating of synthetic grease on them prior to installation.

On the right side carb, a miracle, the butterfly was correctly installed. However the choke guts were 180-degrees wrong and the main jet needle was off. I’m glad I stumbled across that 38.5 mm dimension because if you are fumble-fingered, like me, the hidden-notch system for setting the needle lacks surety. But whip out a caliper and you’ll know beyond any doubt which 2 mm increment you’re snapped into. I moved the float position slightly (to eyeball-level engagement with the carb body, like the book says). I didn’t spot anything else wrong on the right side but I polished up the slide areas.

Of course I had to wrestle with those intake elbows again.


I did not know the left and right are different. Fear not, it is truly impossible to mount them backwards. I know because I tried. The angle is significantly different because the two cylinders are offset an inch or two even though the air filter connections are dead even. My right side elbow fits reasonably well but the left side elbow seats on the air filter connection at a little too much angle, as if the engine or air box is not sitting in exactly the right spot in the frame. When I was done I sprayed every junction with carb cleaner while idling and did not detect any change in RPM.

Snowbum is adamant that you have to warm the bike up with a real ride, say ten miles, before any carb sync will be accurate. Nevertheless we have to start somewhere. I warmed it up in the garage with a powerful fan running air across the cylinders. Hey, it seemed to start easier and the chokes do something now! I first played by ear, adjusting the idle air mix for maximum RPM and getting the throttle stops to idle near 1000 RPM. Gee, starts even easier! Then I whipped out my Morgan Carbtune again and this time it worked. Note it has to be flipped upside down , as printed in their instructions, to read the low vacuum (they say around 8 cm Hg) of a BMW boxer engine. I was pretty close to max idle mix vacuum on each cylinder by ear. After a couple of adjustments I then balanced the left and right throttle stop screws for equal vacuum while idling near 1000 RPM. Those weren’t quite as close.

From all my reading it seems best to idle a little high rather than low because the oil pump doesn’t generate enough pressure at or below 800 RPM. It might be my imagination but I could swear the mirrors don’t shake as much now that I got an initial sync. The throttle cables are roughly synced, same 2 mm slack in the cable, measured by tugging on the cable fitting right above the carb.

Shall we? Let’s.

I rode it around my block once more to make sure everything was still traffic worthy. Yep. Clutch engagement still needs coarse adjustment. Front brake is grabbing better though the rear is still too soft (pedal engages a bit low but any higher and the brake drags). Off to the gas station for a full tank of petrol. Feels a little spooky moving around in traffic. I’m being gentle and avoiding high revs so I feel a little crippled and defensive. 3rd gear runs smoothly. I ride a larger loop on my way home, barely hit 4th gear just to check it, and when I stop I notice the idle has risen to 2000 RPM. I’ve gone a total of five miles and I pull in to the garage to immediately check carb sync again. It did shift a little, now that it is properly warm. The right carb throttle stop is a bit sensitive. A quarter-turn near proper idle makes a 500+ RPM difference.

I’m a little concerned about the left side idle air mixture screw. The maximum vacuum point is not as sharply defined as it is on the right carb. Makes me think I have a leak, maybe around the needle’s o-ring? I’ll have to check it again later. But it does have an effect if I screw it too far in or out (loses more RPM than actual vacuum change).

Let me say a few things about riding this machine. After only that short jaunt it stands in stark contrast to my ’05 Yamaha FJR. I guess modern motorcycles snuck up on me. I’ve had seven different bikes over the years, each usually newer and more powerful than the last (excluding a short-lived move to a vintage Honda CX500 turbo). On the /5 there is a tremendous sense of riding something mechanical. There are all sorts of noises and vibrations. The control responses are ponderous. My FJR’s silky smooth controls, engine, suspension, and wind protection make the /5 seem agricultural by comparison. That sense is probably what the Harley community talks about and desires. I’ll admit it has a certain charm but I can see how my FJR makes the ride easier, much more of a magic carpet than a tractor. I hope Joe can wait for me at turns if we take the /5! I’d say the /5 will be easier for commute duty but even there the FJR’s ABS brakes can be a life-saver. I can see how I need to flip a mental switch to ride the /5 safely, increasing my space cushion and dealing with slower reaction speed.

I know how the rider is such a big part of the equation. And I know I’m a mediocre rider (took MSF Advanced Rider training but zero track time). But if you put Wayne Rainey or Mike Hailwood on my /5 (before Wayne crashed out or Mike died in a traffic accident, wise guy) and put me on my FJR I say I can dust them around the Isle of Man or old Nurburgring.

Okay so I’m staring at the beast in the garage and I notice a small drip of oil. Something I noticed last time I parked it after going around the block on it.


Time to investigate. As near as I can tell, this is driveshaft oil dripping from the rubber boot at the tranny. Here’s a view from under the bike.


You can maybe see the oil weeping under the rear hose clamp. Some genius, guess who, set that clamp such that its screw cannot be accessed while the battery is in place. After pulling the battery and loosening to rotate it for future access, I tightened it as much as possible (clamp ends touch) and we’ll see if the oiling diminishes. Swingarm oil level is hard to measure accurately. You just stick a post or screw driver in there and look at the depth of oil on it, give or take a mm.

I think I have another oil leak, one tiny drip after running, weeping at one of the studs at the top of the tranny (right at one nut).


This is only a drop or two a day when run and there is not even a hint of the oil level dropping in the tranny. That nut is as tight as can be and I never pulled the rear cover off the tranny. It might just be the same drive shaft oil leak flying around. We’ll just keep an eye on this one.

Hmm, now that I think I’ve got some more stars in alignment how about a longer ride? Let’s go down to my closest dealer, Irv Seaver BMW. We’re in the middle of a heat wave so I put my mesh gear on and off we go. I’m taking surface streets to vary my RPM and keep it under 4K. First thing I notice is my idle RPM is way up again after ten miles or so. Grrr. Second thing I notice is my clutch engagement is shifting a little toward the end of lever travel! I end up taking it real easy at the lights because the clutch spun up twice when I tried to accelerate hard from a stop (that sure gets your attention in traffic!). The hand lever adjustment is a fine tuning, not coarse enough. I was sweating that one because while I have the BMW toolkit with me I’m not dead sure I had the necessary 10 & 14 mm wrenches to make a clutch adjustment (later confirmed they’re in there). Front brake is working great but the rear is still only a suggestion of a brake.

I’m glad I’m wearing full boots because I feel annoying heat at both ankles from the engine (while ambient is nearing 100 degrees). I’m thinking this will be more fun in cooler weather. Total heat is slightly less than my FJR but it moved from my crotch to my ankles, an extra improvement!

By the time I get to Irv’s my right hand is telling me a Throttle Rocker is a great idea so I buy one. I dislike the new velcro style (Cramp Buster has the molded one-piece patent) but it works. I roll around on the ground to do a blind adjustment of the throttle stops to lower idle a bit. On the way home I do a little highway time. Los Angeles area traffic is thick enough to guarantee varied RPM even on a highway. I get up to 75 MPH indicated and then back down for a short cruise at 65 MPH (just under 4K RPM in 4th gear). I can feel the engine has plenty more to give, I’m nowhere near full throttle, and I believe this bike will do the ton. Just not with me at the helm! Carburation between 2K and 4K RPM is great. Quite responsive. The front end feels fine, not a hint of wobble at any speed or change in speed so far. The front suspension & tire combo doesn’t like rain grooves in the direction of travel, dancing much more than I like, but nothing hazardous. Chalk it up to feeling the road nicely.

When I pull into the garage I’ve gone 35 miles or so. And I’m dripping a new fluid! I was careful to examine the ground when I stopped at Irv’s and nothing was leaking there. I’m pretty sure it is fork oil from the left leg based on its low viscosity along with where I’m getting fluid. I think it is squirting out under fork compression but I haven’t seen it in action yet. Nothing dripping while it is on the centerstand. It got on the left side of the front fender, a little on the left sidewall of the front tire (scary!), and a light spray on the ground where I brake to make a 3-point turnaround in the driveway to back into the garage. The top and bottom of both forks seem dry so I’m thinking it must be the shaft seal under the gaitor. That’s a new seal (see photos in a much earlier post). I hope it just popped out or ?

While the bike is still hot I immediately hook up the Carbtune and re-balance the carbs. The right side idle is more sensitive than the left but I get everything looking right and near 1K idle. The air mix screws needed no changes, only the throttle stops. When the idle was racing I double-checked the throttle cables for slack and they are fine. I let the bike, and me, cool down before I start wrenching elsewhere.

I lift the right fork boot and, what-do-you-know, some fork oil pours out and I see this.


Is my mechanic’s intuition working or what? From here it looks like part of the seal was torn off and the built-in compression spring is tweaked in a few spots. You know, just an hour ago I was at Irv Seaver BMW. *Sigh*. I call to make sure they have this seal in stock & to set it aside for me, jump in the car, and drive. Hmm, temperature is a few degrees over 100 now. All this for a $5.75 ($6.20 with tax) part! I joke with the parts guy that I’d pay more if he put it in for me. He says he’d charge a whole lot more for it.

After I drain the oil, remove the front wheel, remove the fork brace, and disconnect the fender I remove the lower fork leg.


Hmm, it didn’t exactly eat the seal. It folded over at that point. Strange. I check the upper fork leg and it feels smooth. I’m thinking maybe the bike knows I close to the end of major wrenching and doesn’t like it.

Here’s the oil I recovered.


That looks like virgin oil. No darkening or bits of anything in it. I recovered 230 ml so that means the seal blew out 50 ml. I reuse the recovered oil and load 280 total back through the top of the fork. Did you know that oil fill cap is hard to access while the handlebar is mounted?

I want to check all my work and try another ride but it is so hot I’m wilted. I sit around in my air conditioning for a few hours, contributing to the possibility of rolling blackouts because our power companies can’t plan for shit but they sure know how to rake in the money. And I eventually suck it up enough to go for another ride in the oven. Hey the full-choke start worked this time but I had to immediately (started to die) go to half-choke for a few seconds and then hold throttle against no choke (engine sputtering again) for a minute to warm it up. I go about seven miles this time. As I pull in the driveway I don’t see any fluids leaking. That’s a first. Hoo-rah! Clutch adjustment is just right. Throttle springs are still too strong, gotta give the throttle a he-man twist. Can’t wait to finish break-in because the engine is just coming alive at 4K RPM. Idle RPM after warm-up is still pissing me off because it is high. I attack the throttle stop screws again but they sure are sensitive.

At this point I estimate I have somewhere around 375 hours of labor in this project, which started in December 2006 and ran to now, the end of August 2007. I did not keep as faithful tracking of my time as of the money. I never worked on it less than 10 hours per week (every weekend, some nights) and often exceeded 16 hours. A more competent wrench could probably cut that time in half but he’d charge way more than me. It was funny how I had all the patience in the world for eight months but when I caught a whiff of the end I fell into a frenzied effort for about a month to get ‘er done. I was ready to bust if I couldn’t get on it and ride.

So what else is left to do?

The oil pressure lamp still never lights. I need to double-check but I think the switch is grounding properly with the motor off so it is in the harness or the bulb. If I go into the headlight bucket to look I should also add a hose-clamp strap around Stan’s ignition key cylinder to be 100% sure it will never rotate.

I still need to replace the horn. I’m thinking to wait until I have to take the tank off for something else. Not only would horn access be easier but I have a hankering to go for a much larger horn like the Stebel Nautilus Compact (134 dB! 18+ Amp draw!) and I’ll have to run a new relay direct to the battery, triggered by the OEM horn switch.

I want to increase the wire gage of the accessory power line I added. Right now it has a 3 Amp rating, enough for my Battery Tender to charge but not really enough for a Gerbings electric liner & gloves.

I have to finish break-in (say 900 miles), change all fluids, and perform another valve adjust.

There are a raft of other items like new shiny yellow steering head reflectors, Hepco & Becker saddle bags, and some Rok Strap bungee cords. But I don’t consider those actual fix-it tasks.

I need to find the perfect location to take some high quality photographs. I have it in my mind to ride to the San Joaquin Valley National Cemetery in Gustine CA where my dad is buried but that’s a seriously long ride, about seven hours each way, and I have to be uber-confident in the Blue Baron first. Here are a couple of documentary images. The link below each image will open a big JPEG file ready to run through a typical ink jet printer at 10 inches wide (rotate them or print in Landscape mode). They are around 1 MB in size so if you’re on a slow connection you have been warned. You may use these images in any non-commercial application as long as you attribute them to this blog.





You guys are welcome to stick around but I expect to taper off my postings unless something blows up in the next week or two. I will leave this blog as a /5 resource for as long as WordPress will host it. Even with anti-spam software I have to constantly weed junk-comments here so the weeds may linger longer.

Now that I’m feeling my oats I’m considering a go at restoring my father-in-law’s early 1960’s Jaguar E-Type (XK-E), a series one and possibly one of the earliest “flat floors.” I need to dig it out to evaluate it. He bought it new but it sat in his garage for decades after a crash. I’m sort of doubting I’ll have the energy to run a similar blog on it and the economics make it a multi-year proposition… or “foolish” to summarize. Too much hubris. But you never know. The photos and text in this blog were helpful to have for my own assembly. But it adds hours each week to do. I’ll leave you with some old English car jokes, sure to warm the hearts of BMW airhead enthusiasts —

Why do the English like warm beer? Because Lucas made their fridges.
Lucas denies having invented darkness but they still lay claim to sudden unexpected darkness.
The Lucas motto? “Get home before dark.”

Thanks for coming along on the ride!
Eric Arnold

August 19, 2007

It lives!

Filed under: /5, 1973, airhead, BMW, BMW motorcycle, motorcycle, motorcycle restoration, R75, R75/5 — Penforhire @ 2:43 pm

I was right about the chances of my poker hand holding up.


Now while I AM pleased to win, why couldn’t it have been one of the runs where the prize is a pair of new tires?! I shouldn’t complain. Not only is this a better trophy than the ink jet print-in-a-glass frame I got for my last win but I’m more likely to get a traffic ticket on one of these rides than win it.

Here are my Bing carbs.


Remember way back at the start of this adventure, how I spent all that time cleaning and rebuilding these? Funny but now the exteriors look too rough compared to the bike I’m mounting these on. I probably should have bead blasted these. I set all the jets to nominal starting positions based on the service manuals and leveled the floats. I have no idea if these carbs will work but we’ll find out soon.

Here’s the airbox outlet on one of Joe’ spare parts.


Hee’s that same outlet on my airbox.


Notice that I’m missing the o-ring that BMW must have designed on later bikes. Too bad because that looks like a good idea. It was a serious struggle to get the carbs mounted.


There is a rigid plastic elbow between the carb and the airbox and everything fits so tightly together. Why couldn’t BMW use something flexible there? If they didn’t like rubber then make it corrugated for flex, upsize it if you’re worried about air restriction. Oh yeah, even the BMW-specified hose clamps were a problem.


Looks nice, with that BMW logo, right? But the sizes were such that getting them each started over the coupling hoses was a finger-munching exercise, whether I slipped them on fromt he sides or opened them completely. I guess they didn’t want too much clamp free tail after tightening but this was just ridiculous. After my fingers were nearly useless (again) I used a couple of larger generic clamps on the left side.

After I got my clutch cable routed I tried to verify it was not binding. I was concerned because the pull required was studly. I recalled it always being stiff but I was worried about just how strong that spring tension felt. Joe assured me they really were absurdly stiff and folks rarely kept the clutch disengaged at stop lights. Darn thing felt like a hand exerciser! Well, that meant it was time to whip out the Easy Clutch from Bench Mark Works. I understand there are a variety of these devices but Craig Vechorik’s is what I think of first.


It is a straight-forward pulley system. If I remember my physics classes correctly it doubles the travel of the hand control, halves the effort, and halves the motion at the clutch. The issue is if the clutch engagement varies too much, say when it warms up or stretches, I may need to chase clutch adjustment. It didn’t feel right but I had to cut my brand new clutch cable back about 4″. The cut end gets inserted into the brass sleeve (seriously tight fit) and held with three set screws. I worry about those set screws but the cable pull should have half the tension on it that it had before.


Seems to work fine in the garage. Makes the clutch motion just stiff instead of “you’re shitting me, right?”

I mentioned some of the cosmetic parts are still rough on this bike but the tail reflector was bugging me so I splurged on a replacement. I still need to buy new headlight ears because of similar rust and dings I can’t improve enough.


Here is the ignition key kit from Stan at Rocky Point Cycle.


This is designed to completely replace the super-funky original switch but leave the bucket exterior stock look. It’ll also prevent anyone from starting the bike with just a 10 penny nail, as Joe related anecdotally.

The first piece is a collar that you wrap the original bucket tabs around.


Here’s the switch part, inserted into the collar and held with a set screw. As mentioned in the instructions, I had to grind the metal key opening larger, underneath the sliding plastic cover.


I should note that while the kit comes complete with some nice Posi-Lock connectors I was forced to use my own Posi-Lock stash because the OEM wires were too big to use Stan’s included parts for the ground and horn connections. All the remaining connections go to the new terminal block in this kit. By the way, this new terminal block is great. It uses a non-rotating clamp under a screw instead of the OEM bare set screws. If I have any trouble with the OEM block I’ll be looking to replace it with something like this.

Here’s a long shot of the bucket at this point.


And here’s a closer view of the messy spaghetti inside. I need an elf to come clean it up for me because if all my connections are good I’m not touching it.


Here’s an exterior view of the bucket and you can see how the ignition switch appears unmolested.


The key switch has three positions, extremely similar to the original switch, allowing the engine to run with or without the headlight.

Now I went to fit the gas tank and I discovered that not only is the wiring under the tank too messy but the EnDuraLast regulator/rectifier will NOT fit in the OEM location as planned. I had to move it foward and down.


By turning it 90-degrees it also made it easier to use just tie-wraps to secure it. I also had to extend the brown ground wire and use a new bolt-and-nut to ground its case. Then it was just a matter of making the wiring bundle a little tighter. I had to pull the speedo cable out of the tranny (again) to pass it on the other side of several wires. Then voila!


You might notice the stunning Keihan stainless exhaust pipes now mounted too! There is a small dimple on the left pipe but I can’t see sending ’em back to Stan because of it. We’ll see what he says.


The repair manual talks about removing the seat to remove or replace the gas tank. Nuts to that! It slides in place just fine with a little careful twist from the side. I need it to be easy to remove since I have to get back under there when I install the electronic ignition later. Here’s a teaser preview of those parts.


So now I’m down to just a couple of things that need doing before I try starting the bike. Technically I could try to start it but the headlight is not mounted to the bucket, two exhaust hangers are not secured to the engine/peg mounts, and the front brake cable is not mounted in the far arm. That’s it. When I got to tasting the finish last week it drove me to wrench harder after work this week, despite our local heat wave. I could hardly sleep, dreaming about getting it all done. Friday was my birthday and I took the day off to spend half with my wife (who works a 4 day/40 hour week) and half with this bike. I worked until I was completely spent, sore everywhere and filthy from rolling around the garage floor.

I’m frustrated by those three things left to do so I called Joe and begged him to come over this weekend whenever it was convenient to give me an hour of his time.

1) There must be a trick to the headlight ring that I’m not getting. It hooks at the top of the bucket and has a spring latch at the bottom. But seeing and doing are two different things.

2) I just need a little more muscle, two more hands, to push new springy exhaust hangers onto the engine/peg bolts. I can’t quite get a C-clamp to work in there.

3) The front brake cable is insane. I adjusted the cam spreader to its minimum but the forward arm is still just “a bridge too far.” Gary helped me wrestle with it last week and we got close but no cigar, maybe 1/8th inch away from starting the end-adjuster nut.

I just need to do those three items, fix whatever else I did wrong (probably some incorrect or poor crimps somewhere), do a checklist shortly after starting up (timing, balance carbs, re-torque head, valve adjust, fluids change, verify charging system), install the Boyer ignition, and bolting on the front cover. Hard to believe I’m THIS close to engine noise! I also got my first scratch in the paint. It is on the rear fender from the negative-side battery strap as I was yanking it into place. That won’t seem like much after the first time I drop the bike but right now it feels like a lot.

While I’m waiting for Joe to call I got a wild-hair idea. Idle hands and all that. I took the original key —


And I used a small Dremel abrasive bit to cut around the metal. After I cut away enough plastic (or glue?) I was able to pull out the bits —


Here’s the remaining plastic shell.


I was careful not to cut through to the other side and I was gentle pulling out the old key bits to avoid cracking the shell.

Here’s what one of the new keys looks like.


Yeah, I blurred the key code. Not that I don’t trust you guys but who knows who’s watching? I didn’t blur the key cuts because if you can reproduce this just by looking at the cuts then I’m not slowing you down much in any event, eh? Anyway, I went ahead and started grinding the head of one new key in a vice with a hand file until it fit properly in the old plastic shell. It took lots of back-and-forth test fitting in the ignition.

I mixed some 5-minute epoxy and poured it around the new key in the old shell.


If I did this right you won’t be able to tell I’m using a new key system when it is inserted in the bucket! How cool is that?

Okay, since Joe’s not on the way yet and to scare me straight, I promised you a better list of expenses. Here you go. These do not include any items under $3 and I probably missed a few items that belong on the list, say $100 or so. Also, I do not have saddlebags yet and if I go for new Hepco & Becker replicas they’ll cost me another $450. So we’re awfully close to a round $10K. Sorry about the formatting. I haven’t figured out how to properly insert a spreadsheet in a WordPress blog —

“Restoration expenses, 1973 BMW R75/5 in decending order
By item (smaller items not inc. tax or ship) Cost

Painting service (fenders & tank, with all prep) $835.00
Keihan /5 mufflers $595.00
Wheel lacing parts & service & tire mount service $594.00
EnDuraLast charging kit $469.00
Keihan 3-pc stainless headers $385.00
Pistons & rings (overbore set of 2) $358.00
Speedo & tach restoration service $353.74
Sargent Classic seat $319.90
Complete valve job labor $295.00
Tires & tubes $254.00
H4 headlight conversion $249.95
Rear shocks, Progressive (2) w/springs installed $249.95
Powder coating service $225.00
Stainless bolt kit $185.00
Boyer Microdigital electronic ignition $179.95
Centerstand $175.00
Rubber kit (hand grips, foot grips, etc.) $166.50
Valves (intake & exhaust, 4 total) $155.40
Polished spoke& nipple kit, front wheel $135.00
Polished spoke & nipple kit, rear wheel $135.00
Clutch plate $103.95
Lace & true front wheel $97.00
Lace & true rear wheel $97.00
EZ Clutch $95.00
Bore & hone cylinders (2) $92.00
Handlebar switch, left $90.85
Handlebar switch, right $90.85
Head exhaust thread repair $90.00
Tank emblems (2) $85.90
Ignition coil $77.39
Ignition coil $77.39
Progressive fork springs $69.95
Battery $68.00
Lock set (steering head & seat) $65.00
Hub cap $63.91
Main wiring harness $61.95
Starter relay $54.39
Wrist pins, lightened (2) $52.00
Beadblast cylinders & heads $50.00
Front end (forks) rebuild kit $49.95
Engine wiring harness $48.59
Top end gasket kit $48.00
Tune up kit (plugs, filters, gaskets) $45.90
Carb rebuild kit $45.00
POR-15 gas tank repair kit $42.50
Speedometer cable $40.39
Tachometer cable $40.39
Ignition switch kit (Stan’s) $39.95
Clutch diaphragm spring $39.59
Exhaust clamp rings (2+2), fit on headers” $39.56
Fuel petcock $36.25
Muffler brackets, stainless $34.48
Front seat hinge $34.39
Valve springs $31.60
Exhaust hangers, stainless $29.90
Mount front tire & tube $27.00
Mount rear tire & tube $27.00
Clutch cable $26.10
Wheel/swing arm bearing BR30203 $25.88
Wheel/swing arm bearing BR30203 $25.88
Wheel/swing arm bearing BR30203 $25.88
Wheel/swing arm bearing BR30203 $25.88
Bearing BR32 (steering) $24.44
Bearing, steering $23.95
Front brake cable $23.95
Wheel seals (2) $23.90
Wheel seals (2) $23.90
Throwout bearing (ball cage) $23.77
VIN plate & rivets $21.25
Valve seats $20.00
Fuel line (2 meters) $19.90
Wheel seals (2) $16.94
Battery straps (2) $16.80
Starter rebuild kit $16.80
Throttle cable $16.39
Wheel bearing (extra BR30203, other vendor) $16.10
Wheel/swing arm bearing $16.10
Wheel/swing arm bearing $16.10
Wheel/swing arm bearing, extra (destroyed one) $16.10
Spark plug wires, 5 K-ohm $15.95
Throttle cable, for USA bar $14.95
Turn signal flasher $12.95
BMW Microlube (clutch spline lube) $12.39
Gas cap gasket $12.19
Fork oil $11.99
Flywheel bolts (5) $11.00
Choke cable LH $9.59
Choke cable RH $9.59
Alternator rotor bolt $9.39
Push rod seals (4) $8.80
Timing advance spring set $8.50
Hand control perch (wedge) $8.10
Turn signal gaskets (4) $8.00
Driveshaft boot $7.85
Oil pan gasket $7.25
Hypoid gear oil $6.82
Swing arm seals $6.40
Driveshaft bolts (4) $5.80
Tach drive seal $5.70
Turn signal bulbs (4) $5.56
Clutch rod seal $5.00
Clutch rod felt $4.55
Front tank support (rubber) $4.39
Brake spring $3.20

Total $9,180.28

“I know what you’re thinking. Did he fire six shots or only five? Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement I kind of lost track myself.” Sounds like Dirty Harry was my accountant on this project.

The work continued because Joe stopped by! Yes, those exhaust hangers were really a two-man job. My new headlight needed a small tweak in the chrome ring before it would pop on. And the front brake cable had to be re-routed. Joe agreed the set-up looked right to have the cable loop to the left of the bucket and mount the gromet on the headlight ear’s clip. However that was just not going to work. Maybe my cable is not for the USA bars (it is same length as the old one). Who knows. We routed the cable to the right of the bucket and straight down. That gave us more play in the cable and it wasn’t such an absurd effort to get the adjusting nut onto the brake arm.

Joe didn’t like the amount of tension in the throttle so we re-routed the left side cable for less of a tight bend beneath the handlebars. Funny thing, that didn’t change the tension much. Must be those new throttle return springs I put on the carbs. More manly-man controls! He much approved of the Easy Clutch, and he helped me adjust it too (I didn’t have the clutch 100% engaging).

The moment of truth was upon us. I put a gallon of fresh premium gasoline in the tank. First time it was wet since the teardown. We set the petcocks to Reserve and turned the ignition key for the very first time. Headlight, check. High beam check. Tail light, check. Turn signals, check. Brake light, both switches, check. Instrument lights, all working except the oil pressure warning light. Either a bad switch or a bad connection (should light up until pressure is made) – deal with it later. Hold our breath and punch the starter button.

Nothing. Try a few more times because we’re stubborn. Nothing. I suspect the starter relay because my sense of wiring that was weak. Off comes the gas tank and Joe helps me re-wire that relay using the old one as a guide. There were some terminal # markings on the old one that are not present on the new relay. We try the starter, gas tank still off and plug wires disconnected. “Rarrarrarrarr!” Huzzah, it spins! Put the tank back on, turn the gas back on, reconnect the plugs.

“Rarrarrarrarr!” “Rarrarrarrarr!” Hmm, the starter is spinning the motor but no hint of ignition. Okay, pull one plug off and look for spark. Hmm, no spark. Well I did have the points wide open like the book said. No, Joe says we need closer to the right gap. So I twist the points closer, still not to book gap, and we get spark. “Rarrarrarrarr!” “Rarrarrarrarr!”

Hmm, “do you smell any gas?” “No, how about you?” And the spark plugs are not wet at all. Okay, so we pull off the valve covers and check the valve adjustment, not precise, just making sure we have some gap. Joe says loose noisy valves are less of a problem than tight valves that never close. Nope, gap seems about right and Joe turns the engine while covering the plug holes with fingers. Yep, we have compression (and Joe gets my anti-seize blown all over his hands). “Rarrarrarrarr!” “Rarrarrarrarr!” Nothing.

It could be bad timing but it’d have to be WAY out and I don’t think that’s possible. I never messed with the timing chain. We pull the float bowls off the carbs. Yep, we’ve got gas. But there is some fine gunk floating around in there. Joe removes one of the main jets, doable from below with carbs still on the bike. Ahh. Clogged. I scrounge for fine wire and come up with a set of pin-drill bits. He cleans jets on both sides until we’re satisfied that they are clear. He also noted they were loose in the carbs to start with. Odd, but then again I was the one who renovated the carbs. Slap everything back together.

“Rarrarrarrarr! P-too!” “Rarrarrarrarr! P-too!” Hey, it sort of wants to catch. One of the exhaust headers is warmer than the other so we were only sort-of firing one cylinder. Joe decides we should properly gap the points since they’re still way over spec. He shows me how to bend the feeler gauges to access the points more smoothly and we set a proper gap.

“Rarrarrarrarr! Vroom! Put-put-put-put-put-put…” I can’t believe it. It lives! Joe rolls back and forth under the carbs, first setting the idle adjust screws for max RPM (like it says in the book) and then setting the throttle adjust screws for actual idle speed (800-1,000 RPM). We jump for joy.

Joe calls his wife Mary. She must be out working in her garden so he leaves her a voicemail with the sound of an idling R-bike. I call Gary and make him listen to the engine purring. Joe’s got to go but his work here is done. I said I only needed an hour of his time. More like four hours.

Sorry I don’t have any photos to show of us leaping around the garage but we were busy! I’ve still got a load of things to do (mentioned way up above) before I hit the road. I’d say I’ll be scaring pedestrians next weekend. I’m too burnt now to do much more unless it cools off today (fat chance). I need to drain the carb float bowls again and I may need to clean jets again. I hope this is just form the first splash of gas through the tank but it is possible the POR-15 kit didn’t do the trick properly. I should add see-though gas line filters ASAP just to head off any future issues. Someone on the Airheads list mentions NAPA P/N 7-02323 or 7-02357 both fit the OEM gas lines.

Turns out to have been a good idea to wait on installing the electronic ignition because otherwise our troubleshooting would have been confounded by the little black box. Points certainly are easier to mess with. Now I can make the swap, knowing for sure the OEM system works.

It lives!

August 12, 2007

So close yet so far

Filed under: /5, 1973, airhead, BMW, BMW motorcycle, motorcycle, motorcycle restoration, R75, R75/5, restoration — Penforhire @ 2:36 pm

There are a couple of other benefits to the Enduralast charging system that I forgot to mention. If the charging light in the instrument panel burns out it normally causes a charging failure since that current, through the lamp, somehow energizes the OEM stator system. The Enduralast system doesn’t care about that lamp. The second thing is normally you MUST take all ground lines off the battery every time you remove the engine front cover. There is too much risk of shorting a “hot” surface to ground when you move that front cover around. It is still a good idea with the Enduralast system but the stator shell is now grounded and there are no slip rings so touching the rotor area with the cover is safer.

Right, picking up where I left off last week, still installing the electrical system. Look, new Bosch coils!


At first I didn’t understand why there is a ridge at the lip of that hole you can see in the clamp. It is a grounding burr that makes better contact to the coil body. The coils are used for several chassis grounds and very high voltage is developed inside the coils. I was careful to grind off the powder coating where the top of the clamps are screwed to the frame. You want a good chassis ground. Any the brown wires you see on this bike are ground wires.

I figured I’d show you some of the steps used to ground the regulator/rectifier, for anyone out there less electrically inclined than even me. Here’s the wire with insulation stripped off the end.


Here’s a ring terminal crimped onto that wire.


This style of terminal has a plastic sleeve covering the whole area but I should have cut it away and soldered the joint in addition to crimping. I’m afraid that idea came to me after making many crimp joints so I will just live with fixing them as needed. A good crimp lasts for years but crimp-and-solder is even better. Of course I’m not convinced my crimps are that good to start with. I do add “dielectric grease” in every joint I can. That keeps out water and reduces corrosion in crimp or spade contacts. Wherever possible I add heat shrink tubing.


This serves several purposes. It keeps out water, adds mechanical strength & stress relief, and provides better electrical isolation from nearby metal surfaces. You have to think ahead with heat shrink tubing because usually you can’t fit it over the terminal when you’re done. If it is that big it won’t shrink to a tight fit down on the wire. Sometimes I use stepped pieces of tubing on larger terminals to still get a shrink to the wire diameter.

Here’s that Enduralast ground wire placed under one of the coil clamp screws.


Note the bare connector is an OEM harness ground and, in general, grounds don’t require electrical shielding. You have to worry more about any other electrical wire touching any grounded metal by accident. If you have a forest of closely-spaced terminals, such as at the starter relay, it is a good idea to have an insulator around every terminal, just like the OEM harness.

Here are two hot leads from the stator coils.


It doesn’t feel right but you have to cut off the original connectors on the Enduralast components, that white connector from the coils and a SAE connector (just out of picture) on the rectifier/regular line. Here is the finished set of Posi-Lock connections.


The red wire below is the battery lead to the regulator/rectifier. I laid it roughly along the path I intend but it is not properly tie wrapped in place yet.


Here are the last two Enduralast connections.


I took switched power from the ignition coils (at least I think that’s switched power). The white connection is a male spade to the charging lamp connection in the three-wire female connector, originally going to the OEM regulator. The instructions for the Enduralast mention rewiring the black starter solenoid wire but it is not necessary in my /5 harness, which stays properly connected without any extra steps. The confusion is over a white two-wire connector coming from the front of the engine, that doesn’t exist in my /5 harness. Overall there is some extra bulkiness to the harness on top of the motor with the Enduralast. I’ll try to clean up the wire loom under the gas tank with tie wraps but you might notice something’s not as slick as stock.

Here’s the new battery I got for the beast, a Panasonic LC-X1220P. $68 delivered from


This is a “maintenance free” 20 Ah AGM-type that fits and some /5 owners recommend. I’m not so averse to checking battery cell electrolyte levels but I recall the vent tube was the source of much corrosion since some sulfuric acid drips out of it. Okay, I’m also spoiled and lazy. Sue me. Curiously, this battery does not come with a protective cover for either battery terminal though it does come with M5 terminal bolts, nuts, and wire-biting washers. I’ll have to rig up some sort of insulator for the positive side.

Here’s my reminder photo that I filled the engine oil pan. This is my last fluid fill. I should be properly wet everywhere except for gas now.


I have to remember to use plain dead-dinosaur oil until the new engine components break in. After that I’m a big fan of the newer synthetics, stuff like Mobil One or Shell Rotella. Heck, since this machine has a dry clutch I don’t have to worry about friction modifiers in the oil like I do for the FJR.

Now I’ve got a special treat for you. Nowhere on the web could I find images of exactly how to route the clutch cable. The service manuals are zero help. I worked through the written descriptions of the clutch cable routing and what follows is a series of photos showing it in detail. It could still be wrong. If so, post a comment. You might think cable routing is trivial but I spent quite a bit of time studying the possibilities and I STILL muffed a couple of them, having to re-do them. I only found my flaws when I got everything routed so it was frustrating.

Okay here’s the start of the clutch cable routing, at the back of the engine. You need to thread the cable from back to front because the back end of the cable will not slip properly coming from the front. The long rubber boot gets hung up and I think the cable flare, trapped in an engine lug, is too large. You can’t miss miss that engine rear engine lug, directly in line with the clutch release arm, so figuring this end out is easy.


Note that getting the clutch cable onto the clutch release lever shown above is the very LAST step in cable routing. I used a cheater-bar to lever it far enough to slip the cable end on. The cable continues between the frame and the engine, under the pushrod tubes. You might imagine you could stuff it in there from above (I did) but you would be wrong. You have to thread it through straight from the rear.


Now it just runs up along the frame front tube. I believe you do not want to tie wrap it anywhere since that would increase cable resistance. Trust me, the new-clutch pull is manly enough without adding any effort.


Now for the possibly controversial part. I ran it through the small upper triangular opening at the steering head. That seemed to give the cable the right amount of slack while not stressing or rubbing it too much when turning.


And it ends at the left hand control.


Voila! I know. Some of you are less impressed than others.

Here are my three-piece stainless steel Keihan header pipes, properly mounted.


They are gorgeous! This picture doesn’t do the stainless finish any justice. The workmanship is superb. I still had a bit of a grunt-fest getting them mounted. It doesn’t take much misalignment to jam up this trilogy of pipes between the two cylinders. I applied anti-seize liberally on the head output port threads and on the inserted stainless surfaces. Probably used too much. I got it all over me. A tiny dab of paste spreads and transfers all over your body and a towel wipe just won’t do it. There are two special washers I didn’t show but the repair manuals are pretty clear on these and their orientation.

I’ve got some Keihan stainless replica exhaust pipes on order from Stan at Rocky Point Cycle (, along with his key-conversion and a Boyer Microdigital ignition) and they should arrive in a couple of weeks. The headers make me feel good about the money I spent on these parts. Stan participates on the Airhead club e-mail list and is well regarded by those guys. Looking back on my purchases, I should have bought my stainless bolt kit from him too. He sells a more thorough kit and tumble-polishes them.

By the way, I got to talking with Stan about the Boyer Microdigital ignition. Turns out it does not interfere with kickstarting as much as some folks led me to believe. The deal is it sparks when it turns itself off, if you don’t turn over the engine within a couple of minutes. There is a built-in timer that shuts down coil energizing after “some” time with the engine not rotating. For unknown-to-me reasons the Boyer ignition fires a spark at that moment (dumping a stored charge?). If you happen to be kick-starting and out-of-phase when it sparks you could get a not-nice kickback. Sounds like a rare event and won’t happen if you start up right after turning the ignition on. Anyway that’s what Stan says. I’ll be another point of anecdotal evidence after I get ‘er installed.

Here is one of the two old fuse holders, which I did not recognize as such before. I just thought they were the funkiest splices I ever saw. Below it is one of the Posi-Lock ATC blade fuse holders I am replacing it with (I happen to have a couple).


Here is the exploded view of that OEM fuse holder.


See that nasty old cylindrical Euro fuse? When I was a college freshman I drove a VW Type III (fastback) beater. It had this type of fuse and they corroded so easily that I got in the habit of rotating them in the fuse box before I would try starting the car! Today that car would be called a hooptie. Of course, hooptie has probably jumped the shark by now.

Here’s the empty headlight shell, whose interior I painted white in a prior post.


Aside from wires, flasher, and fuses it is also missing the keyed ignition. Stan’s kit is due next week and I don’t want to mess with the original (see an earlier post for some pics of it).

Here we are with all the harnesses inserted through their gromets and the speedometer & tachometer cables installed.


These pictures make it look like elves really did come do it for me, eh? Yep, this is when I discovered another incorrect cable routing (speedo has to enter at a relaxed angle) and fixed it.

One quick disappointment was the front turn signal harness was not long enough. Oh maybe it was long enough but I didn’t get the wires routed for max length. I dunno. All I can tell you is several of those wires were short. Here’s me thinking about mounting the ground wire female spade from that harness onto a nearby male spade but encountering shortness.


So close yet so far. I tugged and massaged. Got me an extra quarter inch or so. Grrrr. I made some extension wires (using crimped terminal ends) to make necessary connections. The extension colors are wrong but c’est la guerre.

I also figured out why some of the instrument lights have two posts and some have one. It is all according to the schematic. Three of the lights are jumpered together with a grey-and-black wire. That’s what the second lamp terminals are for. Somewhere on the web I found an on-line owner’s manual and that told me which colored instrument light did what. I think I got ’em all right but we’ll see.

Here’s the work in progress of more busy elves. Er, just one slacker gremlin I guess. I sure had to squint at some of the colors in the schematic and used my ohm-meter liberally to verify where certain wires came from. There’s another green-and-black wire jumper I needed to rig up separate from the harnesses. They tie together at one fuse.


Can’t say I like that black terminal block. The set screws don’t do such a hot job of trapping multi-wire-to-one-screw layout. That is required on at least four of the posts (turn signals). Phew. That was a lot of work. Time for some fun.

Sunday is another episode of Homo Two-Wheelis! In a frying pan! Joe and I rode the Antelope Valley Touring Society’s “Saugus Poker Run.” It sure got hot today. Gary didn’t come along so once again we don’t have an actual temperature reading. On the road, around 7:30 AM, it was really nice. By 10 AM is was hot. Some time around noon it must have touched 100 degrees and we didn’t get home until after 2 PM. We started at Santa Clarita Motorsports.


The run took us over some of the best roads in the area like Soledad Canyon, Bouquet Canyon, and Elizabeth Lake/Lake Hughes roads. This was an true poker run and we drew cards at the start and several stops along the way. The cards were translated into points using a predetermined look-up table not hand values according to Hoyle. I prefer drawing old-fashioned actual hands but this makes it harder to cheat.

Here’s the Half Way House Cafe —


At the start of the ride Joe gave me a gift. A cloth skullcap. You wet it, slap it in the helmet, and it keeps you cool for a while. The only problem is on a 100+ degree ride it dries out in maybe fifteen minutes. I’d show you a picture but it just looks like a blue fabric pancake. I need a water drip system, like a Scott chain oiler, for my head. Anything helps. I used a water-crystal bandanna around my neck and a Chilly Mate personal mister too!

Right after the start of the ride I experienced a communications meltdown. My AutoCom behaved like it had a broken connector wire somewhere. I’ll be messing with it eventually but we rode our ride like stoneage cavemen. I know, that’s an exaggeration but you do get used to the ease of radio communication. Arm flapping just doesn’t help much when you need to discuss whether we just made a wrong turn or not. And there were three poorly-written turn-by-turn instructions today, worse than usual, causing several u-turns and shoulder-shrugs.

Here’s a stop at a park in Towsley Canyon —


And here’s the end, at Saugus Suzuki.


Aside from stopping for cards and a half-hour for a burger at the end we were in the saddle all day. Fun but tiring. When we left I had the high hand with 208 points and only a dozen more people not yet finished. I say my hand stands up. My hand could be described as drawing 41.6 out of an even 1-to-52 distribution, five times in a row. Or about 1-in-3000 odds of doing that well. They’ll mail me the prize if I win. Joe got skunked. Well, we both won door prizes. I got a Race Tech coffee mug and Joe got a plastic bottle. I think I beat him there too.

Here’s our ride pin.


Should just be an image of an oven set to broil.

Let me end this week by asking you if you think I’m the crazy one. No wait, this is about motorcycle clubs and their e-mail lists/bulletin boards. There is a spectrum of how these discussion groups are moderated running from virtually unmoderated to heavy-handed moderation. The Airhead Beemers Club (ABC) is one of the least-moderated e-mail lists I know of. Tangential discussions flourish as long as people want. I don’t mind this too much since topics have subject headings and I can skip over drivel or stuff I’m not interested in. It is a text e-mail so no matter how big the “digests” get it is still a no-time-at-all download over my DSL line. And when there is a technical question the responses are sharp and detailed. So I like that group. and I’m an actual dues-paying (in more than one way) member of the club.

At the other end of the spectrum is 5 United, the /5 owners group. It has no dues so it is just a directed message group, actually a Yahoo group. That group has the most heavy-handed moderation I’ve ever seen. It has been discussed on that board but the organizers don’t want to lighten up. They are afraid it’ll degenerate. But given how the Airheads club functions I don’t understand their fear. Not too many kiddies are interested in /5 BMW’s. Anyway, a fellow on the 5 United group asked a question about the neutral indicator switch on the tranny, what it is supposed to look like from the outside. I just happen to have a perfect photo of that back in this blog so I tried to post a response. Here’s the e-mail chain that resulted between the 5 United moderator and myself. You know how e-mail chains work, read from bottom to top —

From: Kneale Brownson
To: Eric Arnold
Subject: Re: Message not approved: neutral indicator switch

I figure if it’s worth being helpful, it’s worth being fully helpful. If I’m to go to the effort to edit out your URL error, then I figure I might as well get you to supply a link to a page instead of expecting me to hunt for it.

Regards, Kneale

Eric Arnold wrote:
I figure my work to create the blog is enough. Pointing to the page and post is a courtesy. Your rejecting my post makes no sense, given just how specific my help is in this case. You want to let the original poster flounder rather than put this post up and maybe edit out that comma? Makes me question the value of 5 united’s list.


—– Original Message ———-
From: kmbski
To: forhirepen
Subject: Message not approved: neutral indicator switch

Why don’t YOU find it and supply a link to that page?

Additionally, your link as sent doesn’t work. Probably the comma
after the .com

Regards, Kneale

> I’ve got a decent photo of this in my restoration blog, go back six
> pages at, look for the post
> titled “Walk Toward the Light” and you’ll find it.
> Eric

So am I the crazy one? I ended up sending a copy of my original response to the person who posted the question, directly to his e-mail. But to my way of thinking Kneale is way off base, demanding that not only I fix the typo of a comma at my link (no big deal, I agree) but that I should have provided a link to that pinpoint location in my blog or he won’t post my response. I dunno. Rubs me the wrong way, like I’m getting too much of the high hat treatment. How far from reasonable am I here?

See you next week!

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