Sunday, March 6, 2011

My First Drop...


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.)

The Story:

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 90ยบ 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.


Anonymous said...

To jet lagged to sleep so here I am.. The Old Blue K-75 was a nice bike indeed, I was devaststed to hear of her passing. Even more horrified to learn that BMWON's own Leather Dick stopped to eat lunch before lending a hand picking her up..:-) However with you on top of her she was a few hundred kilos to top heavy....:->

Good stuff Jack but I can sense you are in pain I only laughed half the time...


Nikos said...


As you point out, there's nothing like providing spaectacle to others to prompt adrenaline pumping and miraculous bursts of bike righting strength and skill.

Too bad that I am now typing this whilst wearing a chicken costume prior to my grand entrance onto the Wiesbaden "Helau bollocks" carnival scene. Mrs Nikos is frying up the meatballs. I feel like the blind opticians nervous daughter,two glasses and she made a spectacle of herself.

Arrivaderci, N

Like is never dull

Cantwell said...

Dear Jack,

Speaking of cat's assholes, that is one gay (early 20th century definition) picture of you on that bike. I was thinking "that is exactly how I first pictured Jack when I heard he was riding a BMW motorcycle!". What a coincidence.


BMW-Dick said...

Dear Jack, I hope you never recover from this flu. This is some of your best writing. You had me laughing from the first sentence. I can't tell you how hard I laughed at the thought of you try to extricate yourself from under the K75. A scene I recall seeing at least once. It won't long before we'll be on the road where you can test those crawling skills.

Anonymous said...

Jack, I have come to believe that K75s pull that kickstand trick just to fool new owners. My son-in-law did the same thing the first day he owned his bike -- in front of his wife, mother-in-law, two sons and me. It was highly amusing.

Take care of that cold. If you like I can recommend a wide variety of 'Organic' (and inorganic) nostrums, elixirs, unguents and nards any one of which is guaranteed to work within a week or so.


BeemerGirl said...

I wasn't laughing through this. My first bike didn't have a retractable clutch, but I did wrenching my back preventing a drop at the gas station when I forgot to put the kickstand down. So was was waiting, with baited breath to find out that you were OK! Stupid, friggin spectators! Maybe some long blonde ponytails stuck to the helmet would make people have more sympathy? Thinking they are coming to the aid of a damsel in distress? ;)

-Steel Cupcake/Lori

slappy said...

I had never dropped a bike in my adult life. Then a few years ago a bunch of us, (you included) helped some members of the Mac-Pac relocate some of their vintage bikes from their old house to their new house. Getting ready to leave the old house, I got the bike off of the center stand. Generally I lean the bike towards me when I do this, but this time it started to go the other way. A couple of scratches on the lower side of the fairing and the mirror popped off. Never fixed them as they serve to remind me of being more careful.

Allen Madding said...


I will admit that I laughed so hard at the image of you stuck beneath the K75 that I spit sweet iced tea all over the computer screen. But rest assured that I was not laughing at your peril, but because I had a similar drop in a parking lot at the Varsity Jr in Atlanta several years back.

I pulled in a parking spot as two adjacent were open and attempted to make a 180 turn. The parking lot had a bit of a slope in the middle of the two spots. Halfway thru my turn around a car pulled into one of the two spots and I jammed the front break to avoid hitting the car. With the front wheel turned at low speed and jamming the front brake, the bike flops over like a dead catfish.

I immediately grabbed a handful of bike was on my way back up with it when a man coming running across the parking lot to help. He later told me he had two bikes in the garage at home and would deck anyone that caused him to drop one.

Glad you survived to tell the tale.

As far as the clap goes, I seem to remember a movie years back that insinuated that Richard Nixon had an encounter with that. I do not recall the movie off the top of my head, but I do recall at somepoint the lead character ran into a men's room and Nixon was in the next stall making dribbling sounds and screaming bloody murder.


redlegsrides said...


One of Murphy's Laws for motorcyclist says that the chance of dropping one's motorcycle increases exponentially at the number of spectators that will witness never had a chance.

Hope this finds you feeling better, it's been a while since I was that sick and I don't miss it one bit....but if it would elevate my writing to your art form, I might entertain the idea.

I lost count of the times I dropped my heavy 1150RT before I learned to:

Not hit the front brakes while the front wheel is hard over and you're still moving.....

Not hit the linked ABS brakes on gravel....

Not take the RT on trails where goats take it easy....



Redleg's Rides

Colorado Motorcycle Travel Examiner

Jack Riepe said...

Dear DucDude:

I loved that Blue K75... And when the time is right, I'll own another with that Sprint Fairing. And I am also going to own a 2003 K1200GT some day too. I'm going to write about that crash in a week or two.. And the real part played by citizen Bregstein.

I still feel like shit today, but I got some great medical attention this afternoon. I bet I'll be a week recovering, but it would have been a month of misery without the attention I got today. There is every expectation I will get some real sleep tonight.

Thanks for reading this and for writing in.
Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Nikos:

I was under the impression you went around in a chicken suit anyway. So what's the big deal now?

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Mike (Cantwell):

Here is a coded message for you.

(ouy kcuf)

That was the only jacvket I owned at the time that I thought was suitable for riding. I was misinformed.

By the way, I called Chris Wofle this morning only to discover he too was sick and in the process of puking. His wife — Missey — who I always thought was too good for him, seemed to find some element of humor in that her husband was under the weather, and actually under the toilet seat, at the moment.

This is certainly the seaon for sickness. I heard Chris Luhman had been down with something, and that a few other Twisted Roads readers were still on their backs. Clyde Jacobs has been sick for two weeks.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Dick:

I am amazed at how kindly you and Dave Case are treating me this days. Did someone tell you guys I am on a suicide watch these days or something. There are at least two epic stories in the works, Dick, and I'm sure you will play a star role in both.

By the way, did you get your lasted copy of the "Owner's News?" I have declared the ride of the century, and I hoping you will be my wingman.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Snickshift:

Here is the sad truth about Ironman Jack Riepe:

I got a bad cold 5 years ago, an treated it with benign neglect, which is my response to most things. It left with a cough I had for 90 days. The cough was the asthmatic bronchial condition. It was miserable... And I developed a vicious defense mechanism, which is not be in the same room as a person with a cold. Ever,

I have canceled presentatons, personal visits, dinners, and weekends in the country when I learned the people I was going see had colds. Yet I had a power revenue meeting 10 days ago, which I was not inclined to cancel. The publisher was hacking all over the place.

I would rather be regarded as a flake than have to deal with pills, inhalers, breathing machines, and sleepless nights.

But I'll be in touch with you soon, if my current measures fail. Thank you for your concern, for reading Twisted Roads, and for writign in.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Steel Cupcake:

Let me get this straight... You forgot to put the kickstand down?

Ha ha (cough) Hahahaha (cough) Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahhahahahaha (cough, cough, hack, choke)

This was probably not the warm and fuzzy response you were expecting from me, but I am a BMW rider.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Slappy:

I just busted Steel Cupcake's chops for forgetting to put the kickstand down, but all of us have a thousand stories of dropping the bike, or nearly dropping it, becuse of one unattentive moment. Handling the machine becomes second nature to all of us, but we forget they weigh between 560 to 800 pounds, and the contact patch on the garage floor is about 2 inches. You'd think twice about handling the refrigerator in the kitchen, if it was balanced on two points smaller than an inch.

And then, in the blink of an eye, they get away from us.

Thank you for reading Twisted Roads and for leaving a comment. Obviously I know you... Now I'm just trying to think who I know who would choose "Slappy" for a screen name.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Allen Madding:

You are compelling me to write about drop #2 with Blueballs, when the damn thing was under power. If you think the first drop story was hysterical, the second one was ten times more ludicrous. I amy post it today.

I make no bones about it that I had a great time in college. They were the days when getting a dose of the clap was a rite of passage. By the time I was 40, the stuff going around (AIDS) was a death sentence.
The world always seems to change, but seldom for the better.

Thanks for reading Twiated Roads and for writing to me today.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Cantwell said...

Dear Jack,

I forgot to mention that I have never dropped my bike. Instead, I let it fall over all on it's own. I'm pretty sure you can remember seeing that happen once.


Checking reality, Ihor said...

I am surprised by your fantasy universe expectation;

"The time will come when I will own a collection of K75s in every configuration."

Why not just express a plan to acquire 1 to 1 scale models of all the state capital rotundas or a complete set of Baldwin pianos, or a slice of Yeti flavored cheesecake? Any of these three ambitions vies with yours in possibility.
Get a grip, before it's way too late!!!

Unknown said...

Jack r:

Hope you are feeling better. I did try to cheer you up a couple of times but you didn't answer your phone.

Riding the Wet Coast

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Charlie6 (Dom):

The second time I dropped "Blueballs" was the result of a operational error, and the bike wnt own with a mighty gland slam, much harder than the first time (but with even less damag). I was mortified,but I mentioned this to the guys in my riding club.

Later on, a guy named Doug Raymond, a legenday rider, came up to me and said, "We all drop our bikes from time to time. Don't give it a second thought." In subsequent conversations with other riders, I have since learned this is true.

Let's face it, they are heavy, clumbsy, and bulky... And their natural disposition is to lay down sideways.

I'm on the mend, I suspect. At least while heavily medicated, the relentless coughing has stopped. That's something.

Thanks for reading and wriring in.

Fondrest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

RichardM said...

Hope you feel better soon. This was another great story, especially the fast food parking lot part. BMW must have had a "thing" with side stands in back then. The side stand self on my airhead (the models without all of the hoses, radiators, pumps and other fragile, unsightly clutter) retracts once weight is removed from it... at least most of the time. You can't see the side stand when you are seated on the bike as there is a cylinder in your line of sight. You sort of assume that it did self-retract as designed. There was one time that it didn't. Fortunately, the first left turn was leaving the parking space and it was quite a shock to say the least. I now no longer use the over engineered factory side stand.

Take care,

BeemerGirl said...

Dear reep-man,

I would never hope for warm and fuzzy in any attempt to solicit sympathy from you. I would only ever expect to be shown scorn and continuous derision at any foolish mistake I made. I would do it so you could constantly remind me why I would never do it again. My mistake occurred after only a few months of riding and on my first solo ride. What was your excuse? ;)

Fondly Yours,
Steel Cupcake

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Steel Cupcake:

Do I understand you forgot to put down your kickstand only after a few months of riding your BMW? Whew! I feel so much better now. See, I dropped my beloved and priceless K75 (with the automatic self-retracting kickstand) on Day 4, after not having ridden for 25 years.

LOLOLOLOL.... But my second drop of this same bike was fucking priceless. And that was a year later.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Richard:

I actually love the automatic side stand retraction option on the K75, and occasionally use it to wow the crowds. There have been some days when the pain in that leg is so bad for me, that pulling up the stand with the clutch just saves me an extra move on that knee.

I understand that some model Harley's had a kickstand that retracted when the weight came off them too. This sounds like a god idea, but it would be hell for me.
Sometimes, I move my bike around three of four times before I like the final position. I'd be popping that stand down ten times before I could get off.

Thanks for signing in Richard, and for leaving a comment.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

BeemerGirl said...

:) still have me beat. I haven't dropped it for not putting the kickstand down. I wrenched my damn back to keep it from going down. And!! This wasn't on the BMW. It was that piece of crap Suzuki that was my first bike. My beloved R hasn't felt the need to nap. But that damn Suzuki did a couple more times. Time will reveal those stories. :)

-Steel Cupcake

PS. Sounds like you are starting to feel better.

Dan Mckenzie said...

Ok, well, glad you survived the "drops" and the "flu". At least you're not Charlie Sheen...
I had 2 major drops. On the way to work one morning, Harley ElectraGlide. MiniVan was trying to pass me on a 2 lane road. Couldn't have that so I excelerated saying "Oh no you don't!!". Well, an 800 pound Harley doesn't excelerate much and the minivan whipped my ass. So now I'm going 80mph going into a curve. I see to remember bouncing down the street in the on-coming lane, watching the bike roll end over end in the other lane beside me. After coming to, I picked it up, started up and rode away, trying to get outta there before 8 ambulances showed up.

The other story can wait, too embarrassed....

Dan Mckenzie said...

Actually, I screwed up, THAT was the embarrassing story. This one is where my incredible superior reflexes saved my life. Riding home from western Iowa, after dark. Two lane road, doofus in a hurry coming the other way pulls out to pass, and headed right for my nose. I flip the bike into the ditch with lightning android-like speed (Suzuki V-Strom 650). As with the last story, I came-to face down next to the bike, picked it up and rode another 3oo mile home. Kinda funny about accidents. You don't usually remember what happened. I remember the "surprise" when shit starts to happen, then no memories until I "come-to". I didn't actually loose consciousness, just too much happening at once for my little Commodore Computer brain to process. Just look around, see that all body parts are still attached.(well, one small part now hangs much lower, but the wife doesn't seem to care) Luck has been with me.
Get well and stay that way.

Conchscooter said...

I never did drop any motorcycle ever. That's because I never owned a BMW.
On the other hand when I do drop the bike I do it in front of a better class of person because invariably I get offers of help.
Perhaps my battered baby seal look is actually better than yours, you capitalist running dog lacky of the Imperialist warmongers.
Here's hoping you continue to drip horribly from both ends.
in Brotherhood.
Eugene Debs
Teamsters Local 790, Miami.
(Ps thanks for being so nice about monday's essay).

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Lori:

As I said to Allen Madding, there is no shame i dropping a bike. It is just one of those things. I think the one point we would all agree on, is that in the split second we are totally comfortable in our relaionship with the bike, that is when it will find the oil spot, the wet leaf, the round twig and the handful of gravel.

May all our next drops be in the garage, on expensive carpeting.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Dan:

Im glad you clarified the meet with the minivan, and reclassified it as the serious one. I can't image what a really serious challenge might have been like. But then again, your second wreck was minimally less dramatic. Whether its the pavement or the ditch, neither is to my liking.

Than you for taking the time to read mu blog and for dropping by.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Conchscooter (Michael Beattie):

The one time you dropped youir bike, the nice 80-year-old woman picked it up and bought you a balloon so you'd stop crying. I was mortified. But I thought it was clever that key parts of your machine came apart on impact with your foot.

Your riding blog was great this week. A work of manly art... And then it was back to the flowers, the pottery, and the street ballerinas of Key West.

I still sick but trying to put a good face on it.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

BeemerGirl said...

Or lots and lots of bubble wrap. Makes cool popping sounds as it falls. :)

-Steel Cupcake

Classic Velocity said...

Dear Jack,

I have to agree that the Sprint fairing improves the look of the K bike. Of course, the smarter thing to do is get an R bike.

Dave aka. RedTigre said...

Jack, great blog...

I dropped my K1200LT enough times in the first 2 years of riding it that Mrs. RedTigre requested better warning before she listed like the Yorktown or come up with a better system of fueling up and low speed cornering. With practice, both show now as maneuvering talent although I've learned to disconnect the IC prior to doing this so I don't have to hear the lecture what what caused the drop 3 years ago.

Beemer Nation