The latest installment of my monthly column in the BMW Motorcycles Owners of America’s publication, the Owners News, (November Issue, Page 44), is a feature-length story titled, “The K75... A Love Affair.” It is the absolutely true story of how I came to own my first BMW. The story also details how I was bamboozled into paying three times more than I expected for this bike (despite the fact it was one of the oddest and ugliest motorcycles I had ever seen.) The article’s conclusion explains the hypnotic effect this machine has on me, how I came to drink the Teutonic Kool-Aid, and how this German-built motorcycle has made me one of the “boys in the bund.”
Exceptionally gratifying has been the influx of comments and fan mail I’ve since received from K75 riders around the country. I was delighted to learn that this article was the favorable focus of several on-line K75 mailing lists and forums. This is what happens when you tell the truth, I guess. Robert Davis, a reader and acquaintance from Delaware, was kind enough to send me a story describing his romance with the K75, which is presented as my newest “Guest Blog.”
Jack • reep • Toad
The muted “funk... Funk... Funk...” came through my schooner's hull. I scrambled up the companionway and saw the only other vessel in the lagoon, which made one more than there ever had been in the four months since I moored Eurydice there last Christmas. It was a Baltic ketch had come through the pass with an afternoon squall two days before. The water was like glass, except for this row of ripples, pulsing from the Baltic ketch.
I jumped in a kayak and paddled over.
A missionary family owned the ketch, which had been double-diagonally planked (6" x 6" frames on 12" centers) to bust ice, in a forested fjord a hundred years ago. The vessel was a big, burly Viking Hero, broad in the shoulders and deep in the chest. These Borneo-bound bible-beaters had the feeble delusion they could own this sailboat and serve God.
Hah! No man can serve two masters.
Beneath the cockpit, the missionary showed me his engine room, where a seven-foot tall diesel — made and signed by Otto Diesel himself — resolutely churned, going “Funk... Funk... Funk.” The missionary's young son, who was two feet shorter, diligently worked an oil can, going “Squink... Squink... Squint,” at shiny black rods thumping up and down. The was machinery straight out of the Industrial Revolution. It idled at 90 rpm. That’s “nine zero,” and redlined at 700 rpm. Redlined.
A four foot cast iron flywheel dragged her from “funk” to “funk.” A crown gear drove a shaft through the deck, which spun a windlass that at one time had inadvertently torqued up a telephone trunk cable laid across Amsterdam harbor. The fucking engine is probably still alive to this day; that is, if you can still find the kind of leather you need to cut piston rings for it. I don't remember the ketch's name, but it had an “O” with a slash through it and two As in a row with two dots over one of them.
That was the slowest engine I have ever admired. What it lacked in technology it overcame by heft.
Today, I own an R1200CLC named Annie. The same BMW R1200C cruiser (Chrome-Head) so beautifully sculpted that Guggenheim put it in a traveling art exhibition. Annie is the bagger version: panniers, trunk, handlebar mounted fairing, heated big butt seats for two old fatties, six speed tranny, digital cruise, heated grips, radidio slash CD, all that stuff.
Above: Customized BMW R1200C (not owned by Robert Davis), courtesy of Wikipedia.
Ponderous. A U-turn requires retirement planning. Idles at 900. At 3,000 RPM, her peak torque, Annie's speedo shows 70 mph, and you are hypnotized by her muted throb. You can ride Annie six hundred fifty miles at 3k, climb off at the B&B full of regret, and dream about that throb all night. I have a theory that three thousand rpm on a twin, and the sixty Hz we are immersed in, and sixty heart beats a minute at rest -- all are in harmony with the universe.
Annie's is the slowest motorcycle engine I have admired. What it lacks in zip it overcomes by Zen.
Let's skip by my KLR650, "Biffy Bullfrog." Piece of shit gives "Made in Japan" its 1950's meaning. What it undercomes in design it undercomes in quality. I do love her, though.
But I have owned some really zippy Japanese bikes with really zippy engines. My V65 Magna, mysteriously monikered "Maggie," for example. Her cams would starve for oil under 3k RPM. Redline was thirteen five. If you achieved that, you would be doing 176 mph. People had. I never more than cracked Maggie's throttle. Yet I held a ton many a time; usually by accident. You could be riding Maggie down the freeway at 90, twitch the throttle, and lift the wheel. I’ve done it. I once made the mistake of wiping her seat down with Armor-All. When I took off to work next morning, I discovered why she had a sissy bar. (That discovery was made as I was laying on the tank, feet flailing behind, grunting to pronate my wrist to close the throttle.)
Maggie did not throb; she buzzed.
Last year, I brought back to life a wrecked Honda 919 I named Soichiro. Zero to sixty by the end of the driveway. Zero to suicide by the end of the block. Redline eleven five. Soichiro howled. Soichiro, he's my hero; Soichiro Honda; but neither of his bikes are. Not any more. My new enthusiasm is silent. She does not funk, throb, buzz or howl. The Japs run smooth as stonewashed silk, but even silk has weft.
Not Ocelot. Weftless.
Every year I rescue a neglected bike and flip it. Idle hands are the Devil's playmate, and all that. This year I bought a 1990 K75C. The previous owner rode her 40,000 miles in ten years, got old, met the doctor, and wound up losing his house and savings.
Above: "Hurtling Ocelot," The K75 owned by Robert Davis. Photo by Robert Davis
This bike has been parked for ten years. Corn squeezings (ethanol) dissolved every bit of rubber in the tank, leaving black rubber jelly beans strewn all over in there. I cleaned it out, sent the injectors to Mister Injector, got new fuel pump, installed new battery, clamped on new hoses, and fired her up.
Never has there been so electric a combustion engine. I named her Ocelot. Smallish, orange and black, she purrs at idle; growls when you twist her tail; and emits a jungle cough when you downshift hard. She’s not the most powerful cat, but is quick and agile. A K75C... The bulletproof acme of Teutonic ingenuity. Built after that Rube Goldberg of an airhead, but before things got so complicated you need a PhD from BMWU and a $30,000 computer to diagnose a hiccup. Rolled out between inadequacy and hypertech, BMW outdid itself. Every part is built like a brick shithouse and fastened by the minimum of case-hardened allen head screws. And you don't need hands the size of an eight year old with double jointed wrists to get at them either.
Would Ocelot whip a tablecloth out from under stemware for sixteen? Never.
Thumpin bad ass bike?
But twist that round rubber thing until the dial on the right says "5," and your tailbone hurts. Feels like you are on a slip-n-slide lathered with olive oil laid on a golf green tilted toward the Grand Canyon. There is no funk, no throb, no buzz. It is the closest thing to hurtling through space. Jungle stealth... Agouti in the cross-hairs... Hungry cubs at home... Claws extended, ears forward, teeth bared.
I have always scorned the “flying bricks” because they have no sex appeal. A motorcycle engine should look like machinery, not like a brick. A motorcycle should sound like an engine, not like a beehive. And the styling, My God!
But I was wrong. I had left out the flying part. By far the smoothest engine I have ever owned. What she lacks in sex Ocelot overcomes by hurtling.
©copyright Robert Davis 2010
Twisted Roads is occasionally pleased to present "guest authors" whose work epitomizes the high standards and pure motorcycle riding ethics emphasized by this blog. Stories must be about motorcycles in general and include a reference to adventure, two-wheeled romance, and/or an escape from the mundane. While Twisted Roads celebrates motorcycles of all makes and models, stories referring to BMW riders as "elitist assholes, douchebags," or "expresso sipping, whine and cheese pricks, with $70 haircuts," cannot be considered. Stories accompanied by pictures of naked or nearly naked girlfriends astride cool bikes will receive the highest consideration. Articles that do cite BMW riders as "elitist assholes, douchebags," or "expresso sipping, whine and cheese pricks, with $70 haircuts," that are accompanied by pictures of naked or nearly naked girlfriends astride cool bikes will get "waivers in processing."
The editorial powers that be at the BMW MOA’s (Motorcycle Owners of America) monthly publication — the “ON,” or Owners News — informed me that the signature picture that I’d sent them to head my monthly column was scaring children and causing pregnant women to deliver prematurely. Others, who were not so kind, claimed the photograph that has headed my blog for the last year portrayed me as a “pasty-faced blob, wedged into a tortured motorcycle jacket.”
I asked Leslie/Stiffie if it was true... If the photograph (taken by my riding buddy Dick Bregstein) did make me look like a pasty-faced blob, wedged into a tortured motorcycle jacket?”
“Do you want the truth,” she asked.
“You look great in the original picture,” Stiffie/Leslie replied, “which really brings out the porcine squint in your eyes.”
I stared at her like an orphan by the side of an abandoned railroad track in Doctor Zhivago.
“Would you like me to take another one, at the same location,” she asked.
Above: My original "signature" portrait, taken by my riding parter, close friend, confidant, and bane of my existence — Dick Bregstein. It should be noted that I have more chins than a Chinese phonebook in this picture.
She did. I am pleased to note that the ravages of a four-month diet are evident in a face that no longer sags like ten pounds of shit in a two-pound bag. My Joe Rocket jacket is a tad less shapeless as my chest is reverting to contours not to be confused with “man tits,” or “moobs.” My demeanor in this new photo (as evidenced by my expression) suggests hope, happiness, and sexual fulfillment — three elements beaten out of me by years of multiple marriages.
Above: My new "signature" portrait taken by artist/photographer Leslie Marsh (Stiffie), on Augustine Beach, in Delaware, on November 20, 2010.
It should be noted that Kate Farrell, a close friend and former colleague, thought the original photograph (with the reactor in the background) was just perfect for me. Yet Mike Cantwell, one of my riding buddies and fellow Mac-Pac members, was the first to note the switch. For this, he will win an EZ Tire Pressure Gauge, compliments of Twisted Roads.