She was one of the most beautiful women on this particular college campus, and I met her as she limped out of a flash romance with the best-looking guy in the same school. It took me six weeks to make my move, and she was the first officially-recorded target of my patented battered baby harp seal look. In the 39 years that have passed since I met her, only Leslie (the enduring love of my life) has been successful in erasing the memories of taste, scent, and the passion I experienced with this woman. The first thing she gave me was the night of a lifetime.
The second thing she gave me was clap.
Not the kind of clap that you can laugh about after getting a shot in the ass from the family doctor... But a strain of the bug that originated on the docks in Manilla and which slowly turned cupid’s pillion into something that looked like the head of a strangled emu. The third series of shots I got for this were a combination of powdered tiger penis and a ground-up spent fuel rod from a nuclear reactor, suspended in solution. I pissed shrapnel for three weeks.
What has this got to do with anything?
I am currently suffering from a vicious upper respiratory ailment. The internet is great for getting endless information, and my symptoms parallel those of the flu, yellow fever, malaria, and leprosy. Any attempt to bend my body one degree out of perpendicular forces me to start hacking and choking in spasms. My head is as tight as a drum and my throat is an angry crimson red. That little thing that hangs down in the back of my throat, the uvula, has taken on the characteristics of the Alien larvae in the movie of the same name. And I am a miserable patient. Leslie claims I piss and moan like a cholera victim.
If it was up to me, I’d rather have the clap.
With the clap, I could sleep. The two hours of shattered rest I got tonight, coupled with the tortured shut-eye of Friday and Thursday, makes a total of eight hours sleep in the last three days. I had a raging headache all day today, which has finally subsided to the point where I can fool around with the story I should have submitted on Thursday. I would like to thank all of my Twisted Roads readers, my riding buddies, my friends, and that heartless bastard who writes Key West Diary — Michael Beattie — for their kind sentiment. It does not appear that I am getting better. In fact, several of my riding buddies have contacted Leslie (Stiffie) about the disposition of my K75, in the event I hack myself to death coughing, or die of natural causes associated with blunt trauma to the back of the head. (Leslie says that if I am not better by Wednesday, then blunt trauma it is.)
With its introduction of the K75 in 1986, BMW unleashed a hard-running, long-lived touring motorcycle with more than adequate power to run steadily at high cruising speeds —in a remarkably unattractive package. Many thought the motorcycle downright ugly and somewhat constipated in performance. There were plenty of Japanese motorcycles in the 750cc category that were faster, and better looking. There were other metric bikes more in tune with Euro-styling. And nearly every other bike built that year managed not to look like a cat’s asshole.
Above: The unique blister look of the Sprint Fairing on Blueballs, a 1986 BMW K75. The author looks like some kind of a "big, fat, smart bug," (line from Starship Troopers). Phot by Leslie Marsh.
Above: The Bell 47G helicopter used to great effect in Korea. The blister reminded me of the Sprint Fairing. Photo from Wikipedia.
But like its predecessor the K100, the K75 was a powerhouse of innovation. The engine was designed and built as a successful challenge to market- and trend-setting Japanese motorcycles, which already had high performance water-cooled engines. But any similarity ended there. The K75’s three-cylinder engine, rotated 90º degrees, was exceptionally smooth and vibration free. It went from 0-60 mph in 4.5 seconds, and was rated for a top speed of 120 mph. More than 16 years after it rolled off the assembly line, my K75 routinely gets up into three digits and will hold 85 mph all day without burning oil. (I used four ounces of oil for the entire riding season the year before last.)
Above: The Sprint Fairing was a work of art. This is my favorite picture of me on a bike. Photo by Leslie Marsh
The list of innovations on my first K75, which was built in 1986, is impressive. They include: computer-controlled fuel injection, all stainless steel exhaust, rust-free aluminum fuel tank, anti-lock brakes or ABS, mono-lever in the rear and single shock absorber, adjustable headlight (without having to take it apart), high capacity 460 watt alternator, gear indicator screen, cigarette lighter accessory plug-in, and self-canceling signal lights with flashers — all as standard. And the bike had one other very cool thing too: it automatically raised its side stand if you pulled in on the clutch.
Above: The Sprint Fairing made the K75 lean and panther-like. Photo by Pete Buchheit
A major cause of motorcycle crashes back in 1986 was riders pulling away with the side stand down. Leaning into the first left turn, the side stand would hit the ground and pitch the bike into a drop. The K75 (and the earlier, uglier K100) was designed so that pulling in on the clutch activated a linkage that raised the side stand. There is considerable resistance on the clutch when the side stand is down. That resistance evaporates once the stand is retracted, and from then on the mechanism is bypassed.
It is very cool.
I have amazed a lot of people with this. (Michael Beattie of Key West Diary was simply astounded and had me do it 20 times for him. Then he had to do it himself for another 20 times.) Today, modern micro-switches either prevent the engine from starting when the stands are down, or kill the engine if the bike is shifted into gear with a stand down. Raising the side stand on the clutch cable was a radical idea at the time, and it works fairly well. But there are many who believe this stresses the clutch cable and subjects it to premature wear. Those in this school of thought generally disconnect the mechanism. I prefer my bike to be factory perfect.
I was the third owner of this unique K75, which was almost in flawless condition. The only visible flaw was two scratches on the windscreen. The windscreen was part of a full fairing that had been made by Sprint, a company that built fairings for Triumph. They built this one specifically for this model K75. Like the rest of the bike, it too was an acquired taste. The Sprint fairing took some of the rough edges off the machine, and replaced them with a dual headlight arrangement behind a half-painted, Lexan windscreen. The design had a lot in common with early helicopter blisters (as seen on MASH). The windscreen was held in place by a black gasket, which itself was jammed into a groove. I had been told that these fairings were as rare as gold and that these windscreens were as precious as damn-it. In other words, “Don’t drop the fucking thing.”
It was a beautiful early summer day in 2005, when I took Blueballs, for a run on local Amish farm roads. I was riding alone and had a very flexible agenda. In fact, there was no agenda other than an appointment at 2pm for an inspection. I was buzzing about town on a tall machine that still intimidated me from time to time, when the prettiest thing caught me eye. It was a cute-as-a-button coed headed toward West Chester University on some 250 Ninja/Assassin/Torque Raider, or something. I recognized her from the motorcycle safety course (which I had just failed) and thought I’d show her what a real Edward Scissorhands motorcycle looked like.
She had a bit of a lead on me, but I followed her into a cluster of fast food restaurants. I carefully threaded my way through the interconnecting parking lots, but she was gone. ‘No big deal,” I thought. “It’s her loss really. I’ll just park here in the shade and grab a burger.”
The parking lot pavement was uneven and the side stand of the K75 had one more unusual characteristic — it leans the bike over really far. So far, that I still get concerned about the machine toppling. I parked the rig and decided I didn’t like the arrangement. I had left the machine in gear — and pulled in the clutch to move it a few feet. Then I just leaned it over in preparation to get off.
Naturally, pulling in the clutch raised the side stand. I was attempting to lean the bike on gravity. The 560 pounds of this motorcycle got the best of me at about the 20 degree point, and I nearly busted a nut lowering it to the ground..
All I could think of was that priceless, irreplaceable fairing, grating on the coarse blacktop. Fortunately, there was a cushy buffer for both plastic and paint: me. The bike came right down on top of me. So there I was, Kloot, the trained elephant seal, pinned underneath the K75. Since this was lunchtime at Wendy’s in West Chester, PA, there were no less than 700 people in the restaurant, chewing their cud and watching the entertainment unfold out in the parking lot. Plus there were about 20 cars at the drive-up window. The response to assist me was unanimous. Not one person stirred.
I carefully extracted myself from under the fallen mechanical wonder, and did the impossible. I picked it up from the handlebars. There is nothing like straight adrenaline to accomplish wonders. I was horrified for the breach in sense that caused me to drop this bike. The damage was a tiny scratch on the fairing, and a scrape on one of the lollipop mirrors. Touch-up paint (about $24 for an ounce of Beemer paint) and I switched out the mirror ($70). I wanted the machine as perfect as possible.
That Sprint fairing would give me nightmares in the years to come. The windscreen fell out and got run over by a car. (I got a new one and dealing with the folks at Sprint in Britain was an absolute delight. With shipping, it ran $365 USD.) Changing a headlight meant taking the whole fairing apart, and dismantling the headlamp basket (a four-hour job). I discovered the dual headlamp relays were stamped “Lucas Electrical.” Like everything else about that bike, I fell in love with that fairing and rejected several amazing offers to sell the bike. K75 guru Brian Curry rewired the Sprint fairing with much heavier gauge stuff. It was the perfect size to take dual FIAMM horns, and the interior finish of the unit was terrific. Nothing about it said “aftermarket.” It was in perfect tune with the soul of the motorcycle.
There would be one more drop in my driveway at home... And then the day when a left-turning minivan would put the bike down for good. The time will come when I will own a collection of K75s in every configuration. Both the Hannigan Fairings and the Krauser Fairings are equally sexy. But the Sprint Fairing is the crown jewel in the tiara.
That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.