Thursday, October 30, 2008

OK, One More Ride

Hopefully you can indulge me one last motorcycle post before I return to our regularly scheduled aviation content; it turned out my riding season wasn't quite over yet.

The bike that we rode in the pictures from the last post is a 1988 BMW K75S. BMW K-Bikes, which include the K75, K100, K1, K1100, and K1200, are a series of sport-touring bikes featuring liquid-cooled inline engines that are famous for their durability. The first K-bike, the K100, was quite a departure from BMW's previous motorcycle designs when it was introduced in 1985; they'd built the brand on twin-cylinder horizontally opposed air-cooled motors not unlike small aircraft engines. The K100 was an instant hit. The next year, BMW introduced the K75, essentially identical to the K100 but with three cylinders instead of four, giving it a total displacement of 750 cc's instead of 1000 cc's. It was envisioned as a stripped-down, more affordable version of the K100. As the years went on, though, the K75 became even more popular than the K100. Its lighter weight gave it handling more on the sport side of "sport-touring," and the 3-cylinder engine was the smoothest motorcycle engine BMW (or arguably, any other manufacturer) ever produced. Today used K75s fetch a better price than K100s, but both are sought after and hold their value much better than other bikes their age.

The K75 pictured in the last post belongs to my brother Josiah. It used to belong to my dad, and it's the motorcycle I learned to ride on. I still ride it occasionally and always marvel at what a great bike it is, especially for one 20 years old. For the last year, I've kept my eye out for a good-priced K75 or K100. I like my little FZ600 but it's really designed for one thing, which it does very well: zipping around corners with one person on it. Touring is excruciating, as is riding 2-up (particularly for the passenger). When Dawn rode on the back of Josiah's K75 on our ride to Wisconsin, it was a revelation for her: this motorcycling thing is a lot more fun on a bike designed for 2-up touring! She indicated her openness to me buying a BMW. I kept an eye out, knowing the best deals are typically found in fall and winter.

Monday before last, I found a 1985 K100RS for sale in Aspen, Colorado, for a price significantly below bluebook. It had 64,000 miles on it, which would be a lot on most bikes but is actually average for BMWs this age; they've been known to last beyond 200,000 miles. I traded some emails with the owner, who indicated the bike had cosmetic issues but was mechanically sound. Unfortunately, I had to fly and wasn't able to get up to Aspen until [this past] Saturday afternoon; the owner already had someone coming to look at it Saturday morning. I told him to call me if they cancelled, and stashed a bag of riding & camping gear at the Minneapolis airport just in case.

Friday night, the owner called to tell me the other interested party had cancelled and I could come take a look if I wanted to. I jumpseated to Aspen via Denver on Saturday morning after I got off work. The bike was in better shape than I was expecting. After inspecting, riding, and buying the bike, I packed the included saddlebags and headed out around 3pm. I wanted to get to Denver that night, and was planning on taking US82 to I-70. The owner assured me that was the long way to Denver, and taking Independence Pass to Leadville would be much quicker. "The pass is clear," he told me.

A half hour later I yelped as the bike slipped and skidded out of control on a section of ice covered by wet snow. I eased off the throttle, concentrated on balancing while looking out at the road ahead, and somehow kept it upright until I rolled out of the shadows and back onto bare pavement. How horrible it would've been to drop the bike within my first hour of ownership! The pass wasn't remotely clear. There was snow and ice on every section not exposed to the sun. I was able to ride around most of it, and the rest I negotiated very carefully. Finally I reached the top, and with it a final sketchy section of ice with blowing snow on top. The road down the other side was perfectly clear; the ride to Leadville and then Denver was superb.

Sunday morning I set out from Denver at 7am. Denver itself was still surprisingly warm, but the eastern plains were chilled by a gusty north wind that grew more intense as I labored eastward. By the time I was 100 miles into Nebraska I was riding permanently heeled over, the gusts pushing me around in my lane. At 80 mph it was doable; every time I was forced to slow for traffic or construction the bike became increasingly hard to keep on the road. In Overton, 20 miles short of Kearney, I stopped for gas and had a tough time just riding an eighth of a mile at 30 mph. While at the service station a huge gust came up and nearly tipped my bike off the sidestand; more impressively, it visibly moved the gas pump. I checked the weather: Kearney was reporting gusts to 45, and Omaha was expecting gusts to 60. "This is nuts," I thought. I decided to quit for the day. Fortunately, there was a motel next to the gas station. Unfortunately, it was a near-exact replica of the Bates Motel, but in poorer repair. I survived by staying out of the shower; it was moldy, anyways.

Quitting early on Sunday left me nearly 600 miles from Minneapolis. I had hoped to be home Monday night; now I had doubts. The temperatures dipped well below freezing overnight; I contemplated a late departure and just trying for Des Moines before nightfall. Finally I decided to tough it out and simply stop often to warm up. It was 25 degrees F when I started riding at 7am on Monday morning. It was chilly enough just walking outside my motel room; it was incredibly cold at 70 mph. For the first several hours I stopped every 40 miles for coffee or to warm my hands under rest-stop hand dryers. By 10am, the temperature was above freezing and I was able to make good time. Between Omaha and Des Moines, it got up to a positively comfortable 41 degrees F. Once headed north on I-35, the temperatures started to drop again but by then I was on the home stretch and the cold didn't bother me as much. It was 35 degrees F when I rolled into Minneapolis at 5:30pm, having riden 580 miles for the day.

My new bike performed flawlessly. I was really impressed by its handling and comfort, not to mention relieved that it proved dependable. Dawn and I rode it a few nights ago (in balmy 40 degree weather!) and she likes it a lot too. Sadly I'll be putting the bike into storage for the winter this weekend; I think our Indian Summer is over and the cold is here to stay. The snow will be here before long; Minneapolis actually got flurries on Sunday. I've been reading our De-Ice Manual in cruise to get me back up to speed on those procedures; it's not going to be long before the deice pads of Minneapolis run red and green with glycol. Speaking of which, this seems likely a timely opportunity to discuss the JungleBus' de-ice/anti-ice systems. That'll be my next post. In the meantime I have one last short ride on Saturday before I put away the bikes and resign myself to the coming fury of the Minnesota winter.


dph said...

Congrats on the new ride...

If the guy you bought the bike from was anything like people around here (edge of the mountains up in Canada), what you rode through was exactly his definition of clear... if you can ride it, it's clear.

I used to live in Winnipeg slightly north of where you are now, and always regretted not having a motorbike when I was there for some of the spectacular fall days. I ride an inline 3 cylinder triumph myself, not really a sport-tourer but will do some highway miles just fine.


jinksto said...

Congratulations on the new bike. I personally ride Honda Cruisers so can understand the excitement about the BMW's. When I first considered buying the Honda I asked around on internet forums about known problems or common issues with the bikes. To my surprise the only response that I got to several questions was that the Honda VTX 1300C I was planning to buy had a service requirement at the first 600 miles. There were a few folks that posted things like, "well, some people get a headlight rattle sometimes... it's easy to fix, here's a link" as the "worst" thing that can happen to the bike. It's nice to know that when I get on the bike it can keep going longer than I can and when I get ready to home it'll get me there. I'm also happy that I'm able to ride year round down here... good times.

I thought it was funny that you said you "checked the weather" while out riding. The guys that I ride with (all non-pilots) find it too funny when they say, "wonder what the weather is gonna be today" and I hit speed dial to ask someone.

Ride safe.

Anonymous said...

Congrats on the new ride.

I fly Cessnas and Pipers in Florida and find your blog very interesting. I spent a lot of time in the passenger compartment of AA jets as I travel every week for work.


Grayson said...

Ahh, you went through Leadville. We once stayed at twin lakes and my dad and I climbed Mt. Elbert right there. You probably noticed it, its the 14400+ sized one! That's a great area.

Good post!

Sam said...

Jinksto - Heh, actually I have internet access on my phone, so I checked Calling FSS would've been another good option, though!

Rick Barlow said...

Nice looking bike Sam. For a non-Harley. *grin* I've always been partial to the BMW R100S myself, may have to get one someday too. Safe riding to you Sam, beware the "cages" as we BA HD riders refer to them.


Paul said...

I too fly the E190 and ride a BMW. All I can say is, I wish Embraer had a fraction of the engineering ability of BMW. Enjoy the new ride!

I enjoy your posts!