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Long term project

Discussion in 'Bike Reviews, Questions and Suggestions' started by Poppy, Dec 26, 2009.

  1. I am thinking of a starting a long term project (not a quick respray and back on the road in 3 weeks). Two bikes have me interested, both very different but by the same maker, either a boxer or a K series BMW. I know the boxer has been around forever and has loyal following. Are there any major advantages of one over the other (reliability, parts, ease of maintenance etc)? I have seen many examples of the boxer as a project bike for personalisation but very few for the K series. In some ways this makes lean towards the K. Any opinions?

  2. K scores on horsepower, handling (if it's got a Koni out the back and 'S' forks up front), brakes and engine durability and low maintenance requirements.

    Boxer (2-valve) scores on mechanical simplicity, traditional frame (which counts if you're going to do something like lug a sidecar or build a hardtail chop), cheaper (but more frequent) rebuilds and probably more potential for the home tuner, unless you tap into the K's huge potential as a basis for turbocharging.

    Either is a good long-term prospect. Both have effectively 100% spares availability via local specialists or Ebay. Both were designed by engineers, not salesmen. Both are made out of proper metal rather than cheese. Neither will bankrupt you, contrary to popular belief. As long as you're smart enough to stay away from official dealers most parts prices are comparable to what you'd pay for the Japanese equivalent. If you make the effort, it's possible to educate yourself about alternatives to the bits you might need that BMW do charge through the nose for. For example, K100 ignition pickups, ~$400 for the factory part; all the bits to replace the dud components, $50 from Jaycar electronics. Similar savings can be had on eg fuel injectors if you can crack the Bosch code, or find the website of someone who already has.

    Personally, I'd go for the K. Well, I already did, and my battlescarred and currently dormant RS is mechanically perfect at 250,000 kms. My older spares bike is undergoing a painfully slow transformation into a track day weapon and possible Rule 20 competitior.

    However, a mate in the UK has a shedful of ex-Police R80s and R100s and loves them to bits as cheap to run, easy to work on workhorses and custom bases.

    I haven't owned an older boxer myself so I'm not really qualified on weaknesses. However, on the K I'd recommend that you ask any seller to prove that the rear driveshaft splines have been lubricated by the book. This might involve actually removing the final drive unit to inspect the state of the splines. If they can't, immediately knock $1000 off your offer because it'll cost you that when a neglected unit lets go. A maintained driveline will last for ever but, for some reason, nobody does.

    When it comes right down to it, the choice between the two depends on what you want to do with the bike. Or, in my case, which one comes along first.
  3. In short, we have one of each.

    The R65 is fun to ride. It makes feeble power, has "gentle" brakes, and until we debugged all the issues brought about by long term storage, every ride was an adventure in the spirit of zen motorcycling - fuel when thirsty, fix when broken, fix when broken, fix when broken. It's now perfectly reliable. It has plenty of character and very neutral handling. Simple to work on. It's damn near the perfect compromise for my needs if I go commuting into Melbourne.

    My K100RS was poor handling boat until I sourced some heavier front springs, changed the fork oil and bought a second hand Koni rear shock. It's still a boat but now handles acceptably for what it is. It's no sport bike, but if I had to choose something for a cheap trip around OZ, I'd grab the keys to the K and go. Its complete lack of character IS its character.

    Trying to personalise a K would be an exercise in futility. Perhaps I could use this analogy: think of a K as a pair of walking boots. Sure, you could cover one in flashy stripes and other blingy crap, but all you'll have is something that is no more useful than before but with more sh!t on it. The best way to personalise them is just to use them. The satisfaction in owning a good pair of boots is found in the places you visit in them and the K series bikes are no different. This is what they do well. Take what you need and go!


    My only other comment would be that if you are small of stature, a K will never be as satisfying to own as an airhead. They are big, top heavy and cumbersome at low speed.

    This gives you some sense of the size difference.

  4. Add a fork brace (which is what the 'S' forks have, in addition to stiffer springs) and the K will run rings round contemporary Jap shafties. It becomes similar in many ways to a contemporary Guzzi Le Mans but more comfortable and reliable.
  5. +1 to the Flying Brick...but I am a little biased.
  6. Thanks for the input. Now it's just a case of seeing what comes up.