Thursday, 2 March 2017


The 1982 BMW R80RT was purchased in Jan '86 with 11600 miles on the clock, for £1800. After seven months mileage has gone up to 22500, the bike used primarily for pleasure and a bit for work.

I ran it up to 14500 before deciding that it could do with a 5000 mile service. Having laid out a fair amount of dosh for it, I was reluctant to start playing around with it, so the bike went to Sawbridgeworth Motorcycles who did a service and put new tyres on. The bill was astronomical, but would have been just as bad at any other authorized Beemer dealer. They also steam cleaned and put protective grease all over it, for a very reasonable £15, considering it ended up looking like new.

It then ran up to 20000 miles with no problems, using about a litre of oil, wearing out the rear tyre and averaging 40mpg. At 20000 miles the bike had its 10000 mile major service and a new rear tyre.

All the tyres I've had with this bike have been Metzelers, and I regard them as being very good. They white-line a bit when worn, but inspire and allow very impressive cornering angles for such a tank. When I bought the bike it had a Michelin on the front and a RoadRunner on the rear. Trying to lean around corners was best left to the very brave or foolhardy.

Metzelers transform the bike from being a complete sonofabitch to being able to provide impressive displays of sparks as the centre stand digs in, as you circulate your favourite roundabout a couple of times, just for the fun of it, officer.

At this stage, it was slowly dawning on me that it would be cheaper to run a small car than the BMW. A proper BMW service every 5000 miles, with tyres, and allowing for other consumables - but not petrol is going to cost £1200 a year, working on an annual mileage of 20000.

So, at 25000 miles I decided to service the bike myself. Both tyres worn through (10 grand front, five rear), new front pads on one side, new rear shoes, rear brake spindle (with two '0' rings instead of the leaky single '0' ring version which renders the back brake completely useless) and a BMW service kit. This increases the cost by £70 more than expected.

BMW parts are very expensive, make no mistake. Any grumbling always evokes the same swift response from any dealer - ah yes, but you won't get quality like this from any other bike manufacturer. My response is sure, the bloody things still wear out at the same rate. Twenty four notes for a pair of brake shoes and fifteen for a pair of pads is excessive.

Especially when OE BMW disc pads don't take too kindly to the ravages of the British winter. They start breaking up, so take the pads out to check them. I had to have a pair replaced that still had 80% of their life left. Where the pad material comes into contact with the metal backing plate of the disc, it had eroded away, presumably leading to a handful of brake having no effect, with all sorts of blood spilling consequences. Nasty!

Girling pads were used, which work very well and last for around ten grand, although careful owners should get better mileages for both pads and tyres.

The service is easy. Put Castrol GTX (20/50) in the engine for the summer (I use the words lightly) months, and Castrol 10/40 for the winter (all eleven of them). Put 80 weight oil in the gearbox, drive shaft and bevel gear at the back wheel. No points to check on post '81 models which includes all civilian R80RTs. A few pre '81 ex-plod BMWs are finding their way onto the dispatch circuits. A pre '81 boxer is easily identified. 1981 saw lots of sensible mods electronic ignition and Brembo brakes being the major changes, before the revolution occurred when they moved the choke lever from the engine to the handlebars. So look for this when you're trying to suss which model you've just been stopped by after doing 90mph down the Mall.

Anyway, back to the service. Check all nuts and bolts - torque settings for pedants can be found in the Haynes manual, although some mechanics tend to regard Haynes BMW manual as a work of fiction. Replace plugs, filters plus '0' rings and after adjusting the tappets make sure the covers are fitted the right way around to avoid wrecking the valves. Replacing air filters on post '81 boxers is straightforward, while older bikes need a bit more effort as the filter is hidden away in the engine.

The battery had to be replaced after failure of the original item. This meant that with no kickstart, the neighbours were treated to the doubtless hilarious sight of this hairy yobbo, wearing a suit and tie, running up and down the road trying to bump start 500 odd pounds of motorcycle. Not easy, particularly with shaft drive which has no slack - the only time I wish I had chain drive. Girlfriend waiting patiently on the corner of the road, trying not to laugh too obviously. Next door's dog thinking I was stealing my own motorcycle and running after me trying to take a chunk out of my leg. A few hints - take the panniers off first, and use second gear.

A new Varta battery with the BMW logo on it costs £62, one without the BMW logo costs a mere fifty five notes. It is a 30 amp hour job, which sounds like overkill, but at least it ensures the beast starts on cold mornings.

Regarding the somewhat scathing comments about this bike in the price guide, I would say that there is no other bike I would like to be on when faced with a 200 mile haul in pissing rain. You get a bit wet if it's really pouring, on the shoulders and the crotch (as the water drops from the peak on my lid). If there‘s a lot of water on the road, you can look down to see water being thrown onto your feet by the wind tunnel designed sail. Still, the pots keep the feet warm. The bike came with heated grips, which was a nice touch except that water dripped around the edge of the screen, soaking through the gloves, where the heat cooks any fingers that happen to be present.

Performance won't set the world alight, but top gear will pull strongly from 25mph (1500rpm) and will just go into the red at 7200rpm, with a somewhat optimistic 115mph on the clock. This equates to just over the ton.

An inbuilt steering damper never needs to be used, but it's there anyway. The three position shocks at the back are pretty good, with position 2 giving a firm and comfortable ride.

The front end dives out of sight if y0u so much as look at the front brake lever. The brakes continually amaze me with their ability to bring an overweight bike (520lbs fully gassed up) with an overweight rider (200lb fully pissed up) to a halt in all conditions in a very short space of time.

They work bloody well, and while giving lots of feedback can lock the wheel if the tyres are a bit worn or the rider isn't concentrating. The back drum is okay as backup, but is nothing special.

While I have heard some nasty stories about handling above 90mph, 1 have never experienced them myself. It's always solid as a rock with me on it, something I may be able to attribute to my not inconsiderable bulk.

In towns, particularly 'Shit City', it's a bit of a handful as you get stuck in the traffic watching all the SuperDreams whizz past. Although, the low centre of gravity and high bars help to make it very manageable at low speeds.

I would like to conclude by saying it's a nice all-rounder if you want to cover all kinds of distances in all manner of conditions. The engine provides lots of low down grunt for overtaking, and will allow you to stick with the suicide squads of Ford Orions on the motorways.

Luggage carrying ability is excellent because it doesn't seem to make any difference to the handling however much junk is strapped to the back, with or without pillion.

There is just one small problem, as I see it, and that is having paid nearly two grand for my Bavarian beauty, I am somewhat loathe to neglect it in the manner described by the editor with his Katana, which therefore means spending vast sums of money on parts and the occasional service, which is why it's got to go.

It's back to buying disposable Jap bikes, which can be neglected with little or no conscience on the part of the owner, run into the ground and another old nail picked up afterwards.

At least I'll sell the Beemer for about what I paid for it, 'cos they hold their value well. I like the thing very much, it's so easy to ride that you would have to be a real spunk trumpet to fall off this one. It's just too bloody expensive for me, I'm afraid. CB250RS or Z200 coming up!

Phillip Blunt

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