A glance at the odometer told me how much gas was in the tank. It read “63 miles,” which was how far I had ridden since topping off on my way back from my last run. In theory, this meant I had approximately three and a half gallons at my disposal, which at a reasonable 70 mph, translated into a 147-mile range. This should have been more than enough for the ride of last Thursday, April 8, 2010.
I have been riding this bike for a little more than 2 years now and can pretty much predict how it will behave under most conditions, including the extent of its thirst. It gets between 42 and 45 miles per gallon — unless I really twist on the throttle. “Fireballs” starts to hit the bottle heavily when the speedo gets above 90 mph, especially as its 71 horses dig in their hooves to move my ponderous ass. I am delighted to report that even at 7 grand in 5th gear, the machine responds “enthusiastically” to throttle inputs. But this spirit gulps 94 octane with reckless abandon.
Though the 1995 BMW K75 has a gas warning light, the meaning of this glowing red omen has become a subject of contention (at least for me). The factory preset position would trigger the advisory when there is still slightly more than two gallons of gas available (90 to 100 miles of range), which made me nuts. I can’t really explain why it made me nuts, other than I was always afraid I’d forget how long I may have been riding on it, or how fast I’d been going during these intervals.
An adjustment of the tank float by my mechanic appears to have lowered this margin to a gallon of gas, or a mere 40 miles — which is what I wanted. That way, I am compelled to get gas as soon as the damn thing lights up. And perhaps that should have been the end of my gas tank drama. Yet nothing is ever that simple.
The bike has a fuel pump in the gas tank that seldom makes a sound no louder than a low hum. This can become a chirping as the gas light goes on, and the fuel level drops in the tank. I have been told that this is a routine development as the pump works harder to suck the gas off the bottom. I have also been told that the gas in the tank serves to cool the fuel pump as it labors. And finally, I have been told that in 99 and 44/100ths percent of the time, any increase in the sound of the fuel pump means a blockage in the fuel filter, which is also located in the gas tank.
I have been told these things by BMW riders whose collective ages go back to the signing of the Magna Carta, and whose aggregate mileage is equal to three times the distance between the Earth and Saturn. They are Dr. Albert Hissingaz, Wilhelm Peltzer, and Heinrich K. Schmidt. (It is rumored that the K75 derives its alphabetic designation from Schmidt’s middle initial.)These statements cannot be contested.
Those not familiar with the unusual characteristics of the K75 will be surprised to learn that the gas tank gets as warm as a hot water heater in normal summertime operation. It was blistering hot on the day of The Great Slider Run. Temperatures were more appropriate for early July, as opposed to late March. And there was still three gallons of gas in the tank when my fuel pump started to make the “chirping” sound.
“What fucking fresh hell is this?” I asked in my most analytical tone. By the time I got to the White Castle in Toms River, the chirping of the fuel pump was quite audible over the running of the engine.
“That sounds like a blockage in the fuel filter,” said BMW sage Don Eilenberger. “It is easily fixed by replacing the fuel filter.”
By the time I got home, the chirping could be heard over a drive-by shooting... And it was constant, regardless of the gas level in the tank, though by this time the gas level warning light was glowing like a fresh rivet.
Which brings us back to last Thursday’s ride. The fuel pump was quiet for a few miles, than started in with the chirping noise again. Those of you with a strong sense of mechanical appreciation are now thinking, “Mechanical issues don’t heal like a flesh wound, stupid.” Well, there’s always a first time.
We stopped on the shoulder of the expressway for me to put my feet down. Hearing the sound, Dick Bregstein said, “You need a new fuel filter. But it’s easily fixed.”
(Above) The mighty Conowingo Dam is the largest structure of its kind in the universe. The angler in the water is actually a statue 324 feet high. Photo from Wikipedia.
Our destination was the Union Hotel (Tavern and Restaurant), in Port Deposit, Maryland. This was a short run (about 110 miles roundtrip) that would bring us to the shoulders of the Conowingo Dam. Turning left at the heavily wooded banks of the Susquehanna River, the road plunges beneath arches of oaks and maples whose roots have felt the marching feet of blue-coated troops heading off to the Civil War. This short stretch of a few miles provides the rider with glimpses of impressive stone railroad bridges in the woods, and the soothing sensation of pockets of cool air, where streams pass under the pavement before splashing into the bucolic Susquehanna. The road runs into historic Port Deposit, which is about three quarters of a mile long, and two blocks wide. Many of the buildings in this little town, are built from stone, hand-cut from cliffs towering over the main street.
We weren’t going that far.
The Union Hotel sits on a little bluff halfway between the dam and Port Deposit. I am not chagrined to let the gentle reader know that the tavern part of the Union Hotel is well-known to Harley riders in the region. The bar is typically surrounded by hundreds of Harleys — both stock and exotic —on any Saturday or Sunday. A piece of Wonder bread will be toasted to a crisp in seconds, if exposed to the sunlight refracted from that sea of parked chrome. I am an open-minded man, however, and will drink with the devil when I am hot. My objective was to snort a beer cold enough to shrivel my iguana on its way out.
(Above) US-1 crossing the Conowingo Dam. The pavement is wide enough for a 747 to land on. Photo from Wikipedia.
The parking lot was empty when we turned in. We were greeted by signs which advised that no rider wearing club colors would be admitted to the premises. These were repeated on the door of the bar — which was closed. But the restaurant (in a separate building) was open. And it was here we got the surprise of our lives. The Union Hotel was built of hand-hewn logs in 1790. The structure remains authentic inside and out. It is like dining in a museum of Americana. Our server, Heather, was dressed in period costume and presented us with menus, which include rabbit, venison, bear, and alligator tail, in the appropriate seasons. We ate light. Gerry Cavanaugh and Dick Bregstein had Maryland crab chowder, which they rated as “very good.” I had an open-faced pepper steak sandwich that was excellent. This restaurant was the kind of place you’d take a woman you really wanted to impress. We were there about 90 minutes.
(Above) The restaurant building for the Union Hotel (Tavern and Restaurant). Photo from the internet.
The chirping resumed as soon as I hit the starter button. Gerry looked at the gas tank in amazement, and said, “You got a blocked fuel filter, but it’s easily replaced.”
The ride home was fast, but not as fast as I had envisioned, nor quite as uneventful as the run down. The lack of municipal funding has the cops out in force. They were everywhere, and the stretches of pavement on which Dick and I have had some fun in the past were crisscrossed by radar beams. The attention of the authorities was warranted on at least one curve, however. Traffic was stopped as cops and fireman dealt with a pickup truck that was against the embankment — on its roof. Two young gentlemen, both in handcuffs, were cooling their heels in the back of a police car.
While there was never any hesitation nor lack of power from my bike, the chirping from the gas tank became a constant shrilling. It sounded like a song bird caught in wringer. My thought was that the electric fuel pump would draw more current as it worked against added resistance of a clogged fuel filter, either blowing a fuse or frying a relay. I had no idea if this was even a possibility, but not knowing inspired me to utter a fervent, “Shit, I just want to get home.”
I switched out the fuel filter and changed the oil (that filter too) on Sunday. Actually, Clyde Jacobs changed them while I made him a hot dog and poured a cold beer. My intentions were good though. I told Clyde I wanted to watch the process, but he asked, “to what purpose,” and I had no good answer. The bad news is that the fuel filter did not seem substantially clogged. We ran the bike for ten minutes but there was no chirping. I will be very surprised if a $600 fuel pump does not sacrifice its life for a $29 fuel filter.
Actually, the fuel pump for a K75 is not $600... It is $19,289.
Anybody want to bet me it’s not the fuel filter?
©Copyright Jack Riepe 2010
AKA The Lindbergh Baby (Mac Pac)
AKA Vindak8r (Motorcycle Views)
AKA The Chamberlain -- PS (With A Shrug)