It was 1986, I was working for Renold PLC in Bradford, it was the Thatcher era and things were looking bleak for manufacturing. The workforce on our site had gone from 5,000+ to about 500 and I could see redundancy looming. In my department we were actually quite busy so instead of turning down overtime as I had been doing for years, I took whatever I could get to provide a bit of a cushion when the final chop came.
Eventually our factory closed but I was just moved across the road to a new department and instead of redundancy I got a different job and more money! So, I had all this cash in the bank, what should I do with it? Of course! - I'll buy another bike but what bike should I buy? I had lots of friends who had BMWs but I wasn't sure they were for me. John Stanley, a long time friend, had told me in 1976 when he bought his R100RS that I should buy one but I had never really had that sort of money.
I went to look at an R100RS in Halifax. The owner had gone to work in Mozambique but his wife led me into the garage. The bike was under a cover but parked next to it was an immaculate Mercedes 280 SL Pagoda. She said 'The car is for sale too if you're interested' and I said 'I wish!'. Anyway, the bike was in almost perfect condition, a beige coloured 1980 R100RS with only 9,000 recorded miles. The registration number was PUB. That was it - I had to have it. The fact that I already had a Monkey bike, an SL125 trail bike, my black 500 four Honda and a Kawasaki GT750 shaft didn't come in to it as the ideal number of bikes to have is always what you have plus one, so plus one it was!
BMW ownership was quite a learning curve. The handling when compared to the Jap bikes I had, was strange. Soft, long travel suspension meant that you had to be in the right gear and accelerating if you didn't want to wallow and wobble around corners. I stiffened the front forks up a bit, fitted progressive rate springs and then bought some fancy S&W air shocks for the rear.
Not long after I bought it the rear crankshaft seal leaked and covered the clutch, me and my friend's drive, in oil. The bike had been parked up for years and probably the seal had gone hard, maybe the blast down to the Solent rally was too much for it! I had never worked on BMWs so I got a so-called 'expert' to fix it for me. It lasted a couple of weeks and was leaking again when I went to the Squires rally. So I did it again myself and since then all the work on it has been done by yours truly.
I suppose it has had a hard life during my ownership and also has had its share of problems but considering the miles I do it has done well. I had been looking for a bike to keep long term instead of chopping and changing all the time and I have probably succeeded and although I have still bought lots of other bikes this one is definitely a keeper.
I did a cosmetic rebuild on it but that was about 20 years ago. It has always been kept in good condition and to be honest I used to be a bit anal about keeping it clean - even washing it at rallies but I did get quite a few 'Best Bike' trophies for my labours.
Engine wise I replaced the piston rings at about 70,000 miles. It has had several cam chains. I had to replace an exhaust valve at about 190,000 but only because I forgot to take my lead replacement additive with me when I went on holiday! A spring broke in the gearbox which led to me riding home to Bradford from Hereford in second gear.
Some of the other main events in its long life with me were the time it shorted out under the petrol tank and caught fire up in Glen Coe at the Midsummer Madness rally. Then, when it had done just over 100,000 miles it was stolen, I got it back but it looked a bit worse for wear and I was sure that the insurance people would write it off but luckily they didn't. And then there was the time I got knocked off on the motorway in Spain. The bike carried on without me and broke most of its fairing panels when it finally came to rest on the central reservation Armco barrier. I still completed my Portuguese holiday on it - courtesy of duct tape and cable ties!
I would think I have done more rallies on this bike than on any other I have owned. I still enjoy the sound of it as you accelerate, its just got that certain something. It has been laid up for a few years now, to allow me to get a bit of use out of the ST1300 Pan European I am running at the moment.
I would have to admit that the engine is getting a bit tired now after 230,000+ miles. I have had it for 34 of its 40 years but next year, 2021, it will be tax and MOT exempt so I will have no excuse not to put it back on the road. Maybe I will finally get it over the 250,000 mile mark - who knows?
- Ted Trett