Vintage BMW Motorcycle Owners




Knowledge Base




Snowbum's BMW Motorcycle Repair & Information Website

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Thinking about purchasing an old Airhead?
What about getting started on doing your
own motorcycle maintenance?  Gurus?
Copyright 2020, R. Fleischer

Section 1.  Purchasing, an over-view:

Are you thinking of purchasing a BMW Airhead motorcycle??   ... have little or no or experience with them??  Want some straight talk?

Motorcycles, no matter the age, all have a certain and specific feel to them.  For very modern bikes, a description may include high competence, plastic (lots), & electronic marvels, ...but not always having any special 'character'.

Special knowledge, & often special equipment, are often needed to analyze and repair them. It can cost $$$ for a dealership to do analysis & repairs. Those dealerships may be necessary for you when something 'interesting' happens.  On the plus side, the bike may be more reliable over-all, depending on how you describe 'reliability'.   With a BMW Airhead, you can do most repairs yourself.   Normal, necessary, and scheduled simple maintenance, is probably done more often with an Airhead.  It is likely to be much easier to do ...and there are vast amounts of history & knowledge easily available on the Internet, Mailing Lists & Forums, Club documents, etc.  This is not so with the latest and greatest; nor, even many motorcycles that are a dozen or so years old.

Help is always available for Airheads from numerous informed sources. The Airheads were in production for a very long time (1970-1995); the result of which is that there are less than a dozen problem items.  Except for a few, all problems are fixable by YOU!    The Airheads will require modestly more regular maintenance of certain things, but most often these things take little time nor cost.  More modern machines might require less often maintenance, but the maintenance then required can be quite involved and often very expensive. These are all big generalities; but, yes, there is a lot of truth here.

The Airheads will not give you some things the much more modern bikes will, such as very easy starting in any conditions (due to modern bikes having electronic fuel injection with all the sensors).  An Airhead in decent condition does usually start OK.  Superior brakes are available with some modifications.   Fancy automatic electrically controlled suspension and ride controls, and probably more horsepower than you should have ...are not going to be available.  But, there is no other motorcycle, of any brand nor type, that has the over-all character of a BMW Airhead, and most riders fall in love with them.   The reverence with which some have for these bikes is legendary, and good condition examples of any Airhead model are fetching higher and higher prices.  Speaking of prices, while BMW charges a pretty penny for some items, BMW HAS continued to support the Airheads fairly well should not have much trouble getting most parts for an Airhead from even 1970!  It is amazing how many parts are available for BMW bikes built long before the Airheads.

Much of the rest of SECTION 1 was originally written by Greg Feeler on 07/07/2015, & posted to the Airheads LIST. The original Subject Title was "1971 R75 purchase questions".  I obtained Greg's permission to add-to & edit freely, & I have done so.  Because of the editing and additions, I have not put quotation marks in it.

This was sent to a friend who was looking to buy his very first Airhead (a 1972 R75/5), so it is very general in nature. I wanted him to know that there are a lot of things which might be lurking under the covers of even a "clean, low mileage, well cared for" old motorcycle. Fully informed purchases are best.

Let's start with the fact that you are considering an old machine.

Typically, when someone comes to me wanting an evaluation of the "really clean, low miles" BMW (or similar) they just found, they are not prepared to hear that they may have to put two or several thousand dollars into that bike to get it to proper condition. They think because it has "low miles" they can get by with some new tires, a tune up & a bath, & have a fun cool old bike. That's a romantic dream that is seldom the case.

These were wonderful bikes in their day ---- far & away ahead of anything else on the market in terms of build quality, reliability, & longevity. They held their own in overall performance & handling. The motorcycle is now quite old, as vehicles go, and that age is a long time for rubber, paint, grease, oil, & plastic. To have something that is worth having & truly enjoyable to ride, you need to get the motorcycle into proper condition. By that I mean getting it into near factory specifications so that it might run & ride like it was designed to do; &, be as reliable & trouble free as it is capable of.  It's been my experience that despite what they say in the heat of passion for a "barn queen" bike, in the end no one enjoys owing a bike they have to work on all the time, that doesn't run right, & that is not reliable.  BUT......quite a few of these old bikes are pristinely kept up, some are close to like new, and often, if not mostly, they are available at much less than it will cost you to do it for your just purchased barn-find.  If you must have a certain model that is in high demand, you will likely pay dearly for it, particularly if it is truly in showroom condition THROUGHOUT.

Often, the bike you find has been modified, perhaps with farkles, perhaps mechanically or electrically.  Some of these modifications, done correctly, are quite valuable, such as upgraded brakes and alternator.'s the kind of things a person may run into:
1.  The bike is a disaster, birds have been pooping on it for years, corroding things, not to mention the salt air it is 'stored' in.  The price is way high, any needed labor and parts will astound you.  The engine is frozen, transmission needs total overhaul, wiring is chewed-up by rodents.   This bike should only be purchased very cheaply, unless it is a bona-fide rare model, that will have a lot of value, when you have finished pouring money and labor into it.
2.  Much better is the fairly priced purchase of a running bike ...but some things may need attention:
Fitting correctly working cables (which usually means new ones), new rubber parts such as drive shaft rubber boot, fork gaiters, cable covers, connections for the carbs to the cylinder heads, etc.  You will likely have to remove, clean, & grease the wheel(s) bearings & steering head bearings, and adjust the preloads, which is a proper bearings adjustment on these items. You may need new brake shoes or pads, if not from wear at least from age. You may have to repair the gas tank from internal rust or bulging paint at the bottom, signifying rusting-through.  You may need to remove the transmission, clutch, oil pump cover, etc., & replace parts & seals & lubricate the transmission input splines.  You may run into botched workmanship on the electrical system; or, elsewhere's. There is the possibility of Airheads before 1985 needing valve seat work and 1984 and later Airheads needing a specific transmission repair.  If the paint is in good condition, so much the will be astonished at the cost for a really good professional paint job, and if you plan on painting the bike yourself, you are going to be astonished at the cost of quality paint, and the enormous amount of prep-work.

You will be making a fairly lengthy & pricey parts & supplies list for the above items, as well as a major tune up & service. You may find problems with the alternator, have to rebuild the front forks; may need new rear shocks, new tires (and tubes on earlier models), battery (and often battery cables), hand grips, rebuilding of the speedometer & tachometer (combined unit). You may have some fun chasing-down wiring harness & other electrical problems. Plan on a LOT of cleanup of wheel rims, spokes (rust), frame & body paint. The valve seats, valves & valve guides might need work, perhaps piston rings too, all of which means a total top-end job (possibly the cylinder head will need valve seats that will be OK with unleaded fuel, if the motorcycle is prior to 1985 and not previously fixed). You might need new cylinders.   If the transmission sat with moisture in it, you may well need to overhaul the transmission (often $1000 or more); and 1985 and later transmissions may or may not have a missing part called a circlip, for which machining might be needed.  Rubber seals throughout the bike will be questionable.

Remember that for many years this piece of machinery may have been sitting around, possibly un-used or neglected, exposed to the elements, & generally not cared for.  The bike may LOOK beautifully-cared-for, but be a MESS mechanically and electrically.  As a result, many of the Airheads people find are really nothing more than a starting point for a $$$ restoration, & that requires either that the new owner is or will become a pretty good & patient mechanic, ....or the owner will spend very significant dollars for the services of someone who *really* knows these bikes. There are probably less than a dozen of those gurus in the USA.  There are far too many "mechanics" who will take your money but should never be allowed to put a wrench on a vintage BMW.

3.  Do not overlook the possibility of obtaining a truly nicely kept up bike, with no major problems, available at a price that is fair for what you are getting.  You may save a lot of labor and parts costs; and, many months.  You may be able to go reliably riding MUCH sooner.   Of course, you miss more of the repairs fun.

BEFORE you go look at the motorcycle, read up on that model and perhaps that model's history over the years it was produced.    Snowbum's model article is just a starting place.

When you do look at it, go over it very carefully & check and write down the frame and engine serial numbers; and be sure to ask questions about the service history. Is that history documented by actual paperwork & receipts? Were the valve seats upgraded (pre-1985 models)? Have the transmission input splines been lubed? ...when? Last fluids change? Who did the work & when? Transmission ever been opened (1984+ models) for inspection or work?  Circlip?  Does it have the original tool kit & owner's manual?  Forks been serviced?  ...when?  History of damage?

For various reasons the Airheads are growing in popularity & their prices have gone up considerably on some models. It's very easy to put several thousand dollars ...or more ...into an old BMW motorcycle, and that wouldn't be a full frame-up restoration; but, rather, just a decent looking & good running bike. For something "looking like new" or a valid restoration can often cost very considerably more than you may think.   Many frame-up restorations are in museums, and might sometimes be available, if your wallet will take the hit.   It may be worth it to you.

There is the odd situation, where a true bargain becomes available ....even as a gift ...and the bike is very nice and very rideable.  Likely not going to happen, so, back, to reality.....

So, why do people even bother with all this?

Once you have it in good running condition, ...and in the opinion of many experienced riders will give you one of the best pure motorcycle riding experiences you will EVER have. You will have a large smile every time you throw a leg over it & go for a ride.

Snowbum has done more than just editing this article, he has added his own comments, and one, which emphasizes some things, will be added here, because the subject has not yet, IMO, been addressed strongly enough, above:

It is quite possible to purchase a truly good example of a clean, very well-maintained Airhead, in excellent condition.  You may or may not pay a considerable amount of money for this motorcycle.  I am not speaking here of museum-quality restorations, which may fetch (or have asked-for) an enormous sum.   I AM speaking about a motorcycle that may have had a LARGE amount of labor, and parts costs already spent, and that the owner may be willing to sell at a price far below what the owner has actually invested in it, via parts and labor hired-out, etc.    That motorcycle is OFTEN worth its price, and many looky-loos might overlook it, in favor of a much cheaper 'just needs a few things' bike.  If you purchase from a well-known expert or from an owner with skills/ability/workmanship/etc, you will likely be more assured of getting a solid, reliable, good running motorcycle.  It is my belief, that while there are certainly exceptions, many times this better type of motorcycle is very well-worth the cost, and may be the very best buy!   You often save a very large amount of money ....and, especially, time.    Be very careful about what you purchase!  Keep your emotions in check! ...before opening your wallet or 'making a deal'!!   Don't be shy, don't be hesitant, ASK for help from super knowledgeable folks on such as the Airlist or an antique bike Club, etc., to inspect the bike.  More than one such person doing a serious inspection is worth you paying some traveling expenses.  REALLY! 
Please ...No, don't ask me. Even though I have never charged for that sort of thing, I don't travel much anymore...I'm getting very old and have medical problems. Ask on the Airheads List.

END of Section 1.

Link to my article on buying-selling:
Link to my article on models:

Section 2.  Why do your own maintenance (or, at least study such as this website)?

There are many reasons to do your own, or some, 'wrenching'.  Just a few of these are:

1.  You'll feel good. You'll have some quiet, peaceful times for yourself.   Some people get a lot of pleasure by tinkering with things. Some get a lot of pleasure making sure that no speck of dust will be anyplace on that pristine showpiece ...(might even ride it now & then). I know of a few folks who will pay a trusted mechanic to do all the maintenance on their Airheads.   I know someone who does not even do his own cleaning & waxing.  Mostly I know folks that do nearly all their own servicing and maintenance.

2.  You'll save LOTS of $$.  You'll avoid poor dealer work, and poor work in general, by knowing what is good, proper, and correct work,  & you'll know about the consequences of poor or bad work.

3.  You'll know the motorcycle better & feel better when riding the bike, knowing that you can likely competently handle any problems yourself.

4.  You'll have increased safety.

5.  You'll learn new skills that may well be useful in other areas of your life.   You'll begin to covet tools, & your workshop area might take on a more professional look.

6.  You'll tend to be looked-up-to, even admired.  You probably will become more attractive to others in a romantic way.

7. You'll know when to go to an expert.  This is part of being mature & a knowledgeable person.  You will know when to farm out jobs...& to whom....for those things you decide you are not yet qualified or do not want to do.

8.  Your fear of the unknown will diminish.  You will become less shy, you will want to ask questions on the AIRHEADS LIST.  The answers will often educate you on technical details and re-affirm that you ARE gaining knowledge. Soon YOU will be offering advice!

For those who want to learn, even if they tended in the past to be (or THINK they are) ham-fisted & break things, they CAN be taught to be competent wrencher's.  We CAN teach them if they want to learn ...sometimes the transformation is very interesting to behold ...and they become do-it-yourself addicts ...even, well, sort of, like getting, suddenly, '''religion'''.

For ME, the best part is seeing the light turn on in someone's head at a TechDay; or, maybe on the TechLIST (Airheads LIST); .....and, watching that person do a competent job, & understand what he (or "she") is doing ....why ...etc.    Don't let that "she" throw you.  MANY a woman has become a competent wrench ...and, guys, I am sorry to tell you this, but the gals tend to follow instructions more than you do! ......(not to mention that I personally find such competent gals to be very attractive ....).

Section 3. Information Sources ...such as Mailing Lists, Forums, Manuals, Websites, ETC:

Sometimes ...contrary opinions on some topic are expressed by so-called 'guru's' on such as the Airheads internet mailing LIST, or elsewhere's.    If you are trying to decide who is correct, or most correct, politely ask for someone's reasoning behind their statements, explaining your confusion with the differing opinions.  You do not need to question their competence, nor try to make them 'prove' their opinions; but, if they are secure in their reasons, that should be made clear to you.

Probably if all, or nearly all of us "guru's" agree on something, it would be an especially good idea to pay extra attention.  Sometimes we so-called Guru's do disagree, & sometimes we have off-LIST, that is, private discussions between ourselves.  Sometimes we disagree & we never discuss it.   .....Professional courtesy!!  I've even had some real arguments at rare intervals about something that was posted.  In general, you will find us so-called "guru's" in agreement.  Sometimes we differ in our approach.  That can come about due to a racing background; or, perhaps shop work versus home work where labor costs are particularly important in the shop atmosphere. When thinking over what some 'expert' is telling you, you should think about 'where he is coming from' ....& maybe just ask!

There are some good sources for information on the Internet.  The website you are on, is one of these.   Many links to other website articles are on this website, usually scattered in articles; some are below in the article you are reading. Other links are provided in various articles & ESPECIALLY in the following:

You may find this website to be useful:  There are numerous pages/articles of technical information. Some I wrote.   Joining the Club is very worthwhile, and hardly for just the full articles on that .org website.
Join the Airheads Club.

>>>>Join the group.  You'll find a banner for them at the very top of my pages.

For parts information, if you want to identify a part by number or description, and BMW's price:
Each of the above 3 dealer sources uses a different format, and method, and sometimes one has to use all three! I find the last one, from Max BMW, to be the most useful.  is Duane Ausherman's website.  Lots of BMW information here, particularly /5 and prior models.  Duane's website has expanded considerably over the years.  This is also the home to Randy Glass' major illustrated article on /5 and later front fork alignment (Duane's website hosts that article).    Duane often has a 'different' way of looking at things. This is Phil Hawksley's website ...lots of information.  This is the website of Anton Largiader.  Lots of GOOD stuff.  Very trustworthy information, and a nice website!   You can also use  Has some factory bulletins for the pre-/5 bikes.  This URL has a LOT of literature, all sorts of things, definitely worth a long look-see.  NOT just for the pre-/5.  This is Craig Vechorik's website for pre-/5 bikes.   Good stuff & information.  "Vetch" stocks a tremendous amount of parts for the really old BMW's....and quite a few for the later bikes, including manuals and other literature.   Well worth your time to browse that site.  I DO NOT agree with his advice and reasoning to use GL4 gear oil on Airheads.  I have the official AND CORRECT BMW information on MY site, near the bottom of this article, in a boxed area:

There are also model-specific web groups.  Some are good, some are not.   I list a number of them, here:

Arguably, the best source of information (questions/answers) for Airheads is the Airheads mailing LIST:
...a secondary source is, perhaps, my own website you are reading this on.

FACEBOOK, FOR MANY REASONS, IS A POOR SOURCE FOR TECHNICAL INFORMATION, it contains a large amount of worthless commentary (in every Facebook Group I've seen). It is difficult to separate the accurate information from speculation, guesses, and downright incorrect replies.  You will also find that these Facebook Groups often contain way too much inane off-topic and even advertising type commentary in some Groups. There are no good easily usable archives for technical information, even if you could separate it out (which you can't).   THERE IS A GOOD REASON THIS IS IN LARGE FONT AND IN RED!

For those interested, here are some Airheads Facebook groups:

Section 4. Snowbum's RECOMMENDATIONS for do-it-yourselfers:
What follows is not to be taken as absolute, and some things in one section might be better, for you, to be put in another section.

Where to begin?   You've already looked at all the links to websites, etc., earlier in this article, at least briefly, so you already have an idea of what type of information is available ...which is extensive.

You might want to spend a weekend briefly looking through the long list of articles on this website. I HIGHLY SUGGEST you begin by looking at the various linked articles on the HOMEPAGE, as many are NOT in the technical articles listing. is the homepage. From the bottom of that page is a link to all the rest of the technical articles I have written for this website. Take a brief look at all the article titles.  Browse around. Get familiar with this website. Then, perhaps, you might want to more thoroughly read this:

I would like you to read the following article, and immediately become familiar with using the SEARCH function on this website....yes, that means enter a word or two, and search.   You will be glad you did/learned.

I have to make certain assumptions here, so you should know what those are:   You should at least have a reasonable feel for how much force you can turn a screw into metal or fiberglass, before something breaks or the threads strip-out.  If not, approach things with extra caution.   You should have at least some of the tool kit that came with the motorcycle; or equivalent or better;....and, you have thoroughly read this entire article:  Review that article, as it has a section on what tools to actually own, which for keeping on the bike, and which in your workshop area; whether a pro or a beginner or in-between.  It also includes information on tools that you do not need; and should not own.  I am NOT suggesting you go out and purchase a lot of tools immediately, and you probably already own what you need to start with (screwdrivers, multimeter, some metric wrenches, a torque wrench and some metric sockets).

I also assume you have the basic idea of obtaining some literature, such as the owner's manual (get it soon), and possibly the Chitech electricals manual, and even possibly Clymers or Haynes or both (keeping in mind they contain errors), & have some space to work on things, maybe even a workbench in a garage, and are willing to learn without being too shy about it.  You are willing to admit you don't know it all.  It might be helpful if you are not the type that forms strong spoken or otherwise communicated messages, on something you inwardly know you can't back up.  If you have a Clymers or Haynes manual, you might consider reading the section of those books dealing with workshop and general practices.   There are always errors, or things that do not apply, but read those sections anyway.

Factory service manuals are NOT all that helpful for beginners (to even fairly-well-seasoned BMW airhead 'Wrench's) ...due to these manuals ASSUMING that you have been to the factory schools, and much is therefore abbreviated or glossed-over.  On the other hand, the Airhead owner's booklets have a lot of basic and useful information.  Be sure to obtain an owner's booklet. I have as of 01/06/2017, two such on this website, and eventually will have more, all scanned for you, and available for you to read. These are a R45 & R65 Owner's Manual; and, R60/6, R75/6, R90/6, R90S, Owner's Manual. You will find them clickable from a chart on the Technical Articles List page.

Join the Airheads Club & receive the monthly magazine, AIRMAIL.   The magazine has a calendar for TechDays by State and where in that State, date, and details.  There are listings for outings, camping, a technical advice column, etc.

If you are interested in a BMW pre-1970, you will be interested in

BE SURE to attend a TechDay (or several!), as soon as you can; and maybe have one at YOUR house.  Don't put off joining the Club, and definitely do not put off attending some TechDays.  You will be glad you did!   Bring your Airhead (if you own one, and can bring it) to a TechDay, and maybe you will have someone 'help you' fix some problem(s) you have.  You will learn much about Airhead motorcycles, whether or not you bring a motorcycle with you.  Join the Airheads internet-based mailing list.  The Airheads LIST is THE prime source for all immediate Airhead questions, answers, and information.

Section 5.  For beginners (novices, more or less):

a.  Washing, cleaning, waxing.  There is much to learn (or, re-learn).   Re-oiling and/or re-greasing levers, cleaning electrical connections, basic soldering (how to do it correctly) and mechanical attachments of electrical wires.   Checking battery, oil levels, tire pressures, looking about for obvious developing problems.   Quite a few folks have poor ideas about how to properly maintain paintwork, rubberwork, plastics.   Some overfill ...or do not even look batteries and the connections.   Some over-tighten drain and fill plugs and do not change the gasket washers.  You want to avoid stripping things by NOT over-tightening them.   LOTS of things to learn.  What wax? What cleaners? What is the best application method (and WHY).  How to read and understand electrical schematic diagrams, use test instruments.   There are little things, tricks, hints, whatever, to most everything.   Ask questions!  We all started someplace!   BTW:  The website you are reading this on has 100++ articles on most everything ...and, while it covers Airheads extensively, it also covers Oilheads, Classic K bikes, and sidecars!

b.  Changing oils and filter on /5/6 era, with the internal single bolt cap.  You use your torque wrench on the drain plug, and on any plug or filler plug on the motorcycle.  You do not do oil filter changes on bike IF it has an oil cooler or is later model without the internal cap cover.    ...that is in the next section.

c.  Purchase (or, get one free from Harbor Freight Co.) a digital multimeter, and it need NOT be an expensive one.  PLENTY are available at under $30, and MANY good ones at under $10.   The often FREE one from Harbor Freight is decently GOOD.  READ the article on this website on selecting and using multimeters.  Purchase a TEST LAMP from Harbor Freight too.  Both are covered here:  Do a bit of practicing on how to use both of these.

d.   Begin to read all the articles on this website, start with the homepage.

e.   You are reading literature and various types of Internet/LIST traffic ...and participating in that traffic.

f.   You have read the basic electricity article on this website:

g.   Change lamps (including in the instruments ...without damaging the printed flexible material).

h.   You seem to be always reading technical articles on & THIS site, with the idea of getting an   over-all flavor, feel, and absorbing information; even if you do not understand it all.

Section 6. Advanced beginners:

a.   If your bike has an oil cooler (or, you have the type of oil filter canister outer cover of the late type (no internal metal cap cover with the single bolt), read the article on this website detailing the potential problem areas, etc.   Changing the oil filter, shim, O-rings, etc., on these later types REQUIRES GOOD UNDERSTANDING.  You should be able to properly measure filter canister depth, determine shims and gaskets, and do a proper oil filter change job ....perhaps with some questions.

b.   Change tires, tubes, wheel seals, clean and lubricate wheel bearings.  You are not quite competent to do lubrication and re-shimming of /5/6 types that require wheel heating for innards removal, but have a fair idea of what is involved.

c.   You attend, or are planning to, a BMW MOA National Rally.   You've already attended Airhead events, including TWO TechDay's.  You may have hosted one yourself.

d.   Change alternator brushes and service electrical contacts and connections.  You do these things, use the correct tools, and have a happy 'done it right' smile.

e.   You own a torque wrench, and know how  to use it.   You follow directions and competently adjust the valve clearance and check the end play of the rocker arms and torque the head nuts properly.  You can remove and replace points, adjust points gaps, adjust timing, synchronize carburetors by the shorting or gauges method.  You are a bit hesitant, but listen, read, and then do these things competently ...and the bike runs fine afterwards, and you did not ruin anything (like screw or bolt threads).

f.   You properly take apart the throttle grip drive, clean and lubricate it, and get it back together properly. You understand why the design is superior.

g.   You understand 4 stroke cycle engine operation.  You could find top dead center (OT mark) on the compression stroke for either cylinder and know you did this correctly, after all, you did it when adjusting the valves.  You think you could use a degree wheel, but have not yet tried.

h.    You are beginning to participate more in technical discussions, as you are understanding things more clearly now.  You now have better ideas on WHAT to ask, and can assist novices.

i.   You understand how to install a flywheel in the proper position.  You help someone who installed his wrongly.  You are also the type that will never do things half-assedly, so you will NOT let him just remark his flywheel.  You chalk it up to a learning experience for him, and you help him remove the transmission & clutch, block the crankshaft with YOUR tool, as he had not used a crankblocking tool, and had been lucky!  ......& redo the flywheel mounting assembly, instructing him as you and he perform this work together.  You find this all a bit amusing,  some later time, when you relate this story around a campfire.

j.   You have pretty good feelings about your competency and learning abilities.

Section 7.  Moderately advanced:

a.   Basic and even somewhat advanced trouble shooting for slightly complex electrical problems.  Willing to at least read some additional information on electricity and the workings of such in your Airhead, and you are understanding more and more.   You no longer mention being freaked-out by electrical's.

b.   Changing the oil filter on any model Airhead bike is not a problem for you, no matter if the bike has a cooler or is a GS or a non-GS, or has any combination of filter area parts.  You can help others with their oil filter area problems.  You have read and have full understanding about the $2000 O-ring articles.  You've read, and completely understood

c.   You have been reading many more articles on this website, your understanding is going up-up-up.

d.   You helped someone change a RT or RS windshield, and do a nice hollow rivet job.  You have been doing other repairs, installations, etc.   You have been generous in helping others with their Airhead's problems.  Many of those problems have been one's you have never had yourself, and some you have never heard of, but you deal with them competently.

e.   You cleaned & lubed the steering head bearings, swing arm bearings, and the Paralever bearings after removing the Paralever driveshaft; and, thought, 'what's the big deal?'.

f.    You can follow instructions and advice, usually without major questions.  You are beginning to figure things out yourself; understand articles better.  You have a substantially good feel for torque and materials.

g.   Competently repair a simple bad thread.  Can use a drill guide and tapping guide ...but are hesitant about a pulled cylinder stud thread; but willing to tackle it, asking questions.

h.   You clean and lubricate your transmission input splines (often called clutch splines), remove and reinstall the flywheel. You measure the clutch disc thickness and measure the flatness of the associated clutch parts. You update the oil pump cover, renew the oil pump O-ring, change the input shaft seal on the transmission....etc..

i.    You can discuss quite a few technical items on your bike with very knowledgeable folks, and feel confident in your remarks.  You commonly attend Rallies & TechDays, feeling comfortable & helpful.  You host a TechDay in which you are quite helpful to most everyone.  You "hear" that people are beginning to comment favorably on your knowledge and skills. You are getting VERY good, indeed, about most things 'Airhead'.

j.   You have changed the large seal on the left side of a rear drive.  While the cardan gear & cover was off, and just for curiosity, you read-up on how to re-shim a red drive.  You are confident that you understand the process.  Your spouse is going to be gone for an entire weekend, and you decide to go for a ride for a few hours.  After the ride, you are feeling exhilarated, and decide to spend the rest of the day with a pot of strong French Roast coffee (and a dozen donuts), voraciously devouring not only the donuts, but information from a wide variety of sources, on how to overhaul your own transmission, should that ever be necessary.  You almost sure you can disassemble a transmission, repair it, and shim it properly.  You vow to find a way to watch a pro do it.  You soon do so.  You, later, help someone else open a gearbox, just to replace a broken pawl spring, but you and the owner discuss the internals of the gearbox, and you are surprised at how much you know.

k.   You watch a knowledgeable professional as he repairs a pulled cylinder stud, and you decide you would certainly be using a custom made tool for this job if you had to do it all by yourself in the future.  You briefly consider purchasing the best tools for this job, and providing case thread repair service to others, but decide to hold off.

l.   Removing a cylinder and installing new pushrod tube rubbers is nothing new to you now. You've done it for friends and demonstrated the procedure at a two TechDays already.   You've agreed to help a fellow Airhead owner do a cylinder, piston, rings, and rest of top end refresher, but will farm out the valve seat and valve guides work, mainly because you do not have the equipment.

m.   You are capable and willing to do wheel bearing service including shimming.  You KNOW you do it better than most shops.

n.   You are capable of doing quite serious electrical troubleshooting.   You understand how diodes, relays, resistors, etc.,  all work.  You are good with advanced use of a volt-ohm-current meter (multi-meter).  You think you know more than the average moto-mechanic in this area.  You are close to understand everything in these two articles, but you still refer to them now and then.  Your knowledge is becoming very good.

o.   Steering head maintenance, whether cleaning and lubrication, or changing a bearing, is not of any real concern at all.  You saw this done ever so long ago at a TechDay.  You've already done some cleaning and greasing and even have replaced a set of steering bearings for a friend, and were astonished at how much simpler it was than you had imagined.  In fact, you are going to overhaul your own bike's front forks & bearings, including taking the forks completely apart next week, and intend to do a few modifications for better performance.

p.   You think you may turn into a truly competent mechanic; after all, look at what you have already done.  You are not much intimidated about anything, such as changing a rear drive input seal or fixing a plug thread at the rear drive (which involves heating and unfastening the nose parts) ...or most any damaged threads ....after all, you've done it, or can read and understand, or have watched it done, why be intimidated?

q.   Some of your Airhead friends ..and others you have not ever met ...are asking your advice rather regularly.

r.    A yearly TechDay at your place is established.  If not feasible for some reason, you always attend other folks TechDays, and participate and teach.

s.    You analyze symptoms presented by other riders about their Airheads, & quite competently a fair amount of the time have the correct answers without even being there to do testing hands-on.

t.   You are competent to overhaul a Bing CV carb, top to bottom, without consultations nor videos nor anything else ...and to analyze and tune them, even if jetting and other changes might be needed.

u.   For quite some time you have been providing interesting answers, no longer just questions, on the Airheads LIST, and probably on other Internet-based places.  You are becoming fairly well-known.

v.   You contribute your first story to AIRMAIL, and your second technical tips article for publishing at

w.   You are beginning the restoration on your recently purchased R60/2. You are reading /2 literature, learning about oil slingers.  You think you could do a competent job on overhauling and shimming a rear drive on any BMW; maybe even a reasonable job of doing a transmission (you are not really sure about that).   You decide to draw the line at doing transmissions for now, but you ARE or HAVE properly done a timing chain, guides, and sprockets job.  You THINK, rightly so, that it is just a matter of time, not long ahead either, when you will be able to tackle ANY Airhead job, if you had access to the necessary equipment.

x.   You have a good collection of tools, a rollaway cabinet, and dream of getting a lathe.  You are helping neighbors with all sorts of yard equipment, you usually have no problem analyzing electrical problems on many vehicles.   You are constantly being asked technical questions, as folks look up to you as an expert; or at the minimum, someone with considerable competent experience.

Section 8.  Strongly advanced:

a.   Capable of analyzing any electrical problem on your own.  The electrical system, even on later type bikes, cars, etc., is not at all that intimidating.  You can competently read, understand, and use schematic diagrams.  You understand the complexities of later model Airheads including various relays, diodes, etc.    You are fairly decent with computerized engines now too.  You have a substantial library of technical manuals, factory manuals, and others.  You might own an oscilloscope for purposes of analyzing ignitions, diode boards, etc.  You have a variety of jigs for various jobs pertaining to Airheads, including a transmission shimming plate.  Using a degree wheel for various purposes is not in the slightest daunting.  You can write, or talk, on any maintenance or repair subject pertaining to Airheads.   You have done every type of repair imaginable, even removing and replacing and re-shimming a crankshaft.  You finally purchased a lathe and know how to use it, are finding it useful for many things....and are considering purchasing a mill.  You have a substantial history of installations of aftermarket accessories, including alternator, starter, and suspension upgrades.   You have a fine feel for tire pressure variations effects, suspension problems, etc.  You think you can probably do anything regarding an Airhead, perhaps on many other motorcycles too; and only rarely will have a question along the way.   Owners come to you with major problems that other shops had not fixed.  An example might be the recent complaint of an increasingly a grabby clutch over a large number of miles.  You competently analyzed the problem and repaired the bike after determining that crankshaft end play was the problem.  The owner provided breakfast and lunch, in return for being able to watch.  He took you and your spouse out to a nice dinner after the test ride. Life is pretty good.

You feel competent to make suspension modifications, such as to front fork innards & rear shocks, because you UNDERSTAND what the effects REALLY are of such changes.  You have read articles by Tony Foale, and UNDERSTAND them. You can face something totally new, nothing you have seen before, heard about before, or dealt with in any fashion before, and not be overly puzzled.   You've offered your talents to one of the local dealerships.  You have been contacted by both a major bike magazine to write articles and have a monthly technical help column; and, you are talking to a publisher about updating their manuals for them. You have acquired a later model BMW motorcycle to go along with your one or two Airheads and your /2 project, and you are doing servicing on your later model BMW presently. You have done several simple overhauls of Airhead transmissions yourself; but are interested in watching a REAL transmission Guru overhaul one and learning more about all the changes/updates/methods.  You have the same feeling about valves/head work; but, don't have the tools for that ...yet. You attend major BMW rallies, and volunteer to teach technical seminars. You not only have your own TechDays, but you help out at others, and are teaching in specific areas.

You continue, with few problems, to analyze other folks bikes that have problems that stumped some people. You contribute articles regularly to the website and to AIRMAIL. You have been doing paid-for repairs for other Airhead owners for some time now.   You are also doing repairs on a sub-contractor basis for other shops, and keeping this otherwise news very quiet. You think about having your own shop, because wrenching is lots more mentally rewarding than your regular job...but wonder how to make a good living at it....and, so far, prefer being the hired troubleshooter. You feel you likely can do any job on an airhead if you REALLY want to bad enough.  You have a short list of the better shops, all in your head, and have been working for several, part-time, as a roving troubleshooter.  You are thinking of contacting BMWNA to apply for such an official position.  You understand how to degree out a camshaft, and understand the process for any make or type of engine.  You competently can do any type of welding, bodywork or fairing repair, are fair at painting, and are becoming more and more known in the BMW motorcycle community as mr. fixit.   Some of your Airheads-owning friends feel a bit intimidated about asking 'stupid' questions of you; since you ARE A REAL EXPERT, and are looked-up-to.  You try to be 'accessible'.   You have delved into a problem in the depths of your own modern fuel injection car (or bike), and are not overly intimidated.  You are not hesitant in answering, if asked, about Airheads and many other types of bikes, some cars, yard equipment, etc., as you know MOST of what there is to know about the common maintenance items.  You received your 100K or 200K badge some time ago.  You do technical seminars on your own.  You are constantly asked about technical things at TechDays, and otherwise.  You have read every article, in depth on this website; the .org website, Duane's website, Anton's website, and every other airhead-concerned website. You correct other's mistakes, and make cogent replies your motto.   You are even interested in how other models and makes of engines are designed and serviced.  You have been doing repair videos. You are always absorbing knowledge and have extended your work on servicing such as Oilheads and K bikes. You are a well-known contributor to several forums and LISTS.  You can do ANY job on an Airhead; and probably any bike;.....well, if you had a machine shop and every needed special tool you could.  You still might shy away from some things, letting a specialist do them; after all, you don't have certain machine shop equipment; but if you did have access, you could surely do the job. Sometimes you manage to borrow the use of such equipment.  You are passing on your hard-learned knowledge to others.   You have developed a fine feel for engineering, materials, designs, etc., and understand quite a bit about what the factory was up-to in its designs.   For some time you have 'presided' as honored guest at TechDays, and are doing Technical Seminars.    You have become a BMW MOA Ambassador, and Airmarshall for the Airheads Club.   You are, or will be, considered for Keynote speaker at SuperTech.

After being in this Well-Advanced position for quite some years, you are finding that you don't always have as much fun wrenching, as you did quite some time ago.  There are fewer and fewer things you don't know or haven't seen. You would rather ride than wrench, yet seem not to find much riding time, and you have developed other interests; and, besides, with age comes less energy.    You meticulously restore and prepared that older classic model R60/2 that required extensive work, right down to removing the crankshaft; overhauling the transmission, etc.  You have kept it as your Antique Gentleman's Ride.  It attracts a lot of attention.

Folks are always coming up to you with questions, as you have kept yourself approachable.  Some few tend to gather at your feet, well, closeby anyway, awaiting pearls of wisdom ....and this embarrasses you at times.   You are more interested in Teaching.  You wonder about how YOU would run a BMW dealership.  You certainly know lots of Wrenches, lots of dealerships, and surely know who is good, who is mediocre, and who should never touch an Airhead.

You own a number of bikes. You might have a small barn full of old parts, old bikes, and strange bikes.   You can talk about the many bikes you have owned and the many hundreds you have wrenched on; particularly those with interesting problems.   You can talk about almost anything motorcycle, mechanical, or electrically related.  You have scars, burn and skid and other marks, remnants of past and recent fun and games.  You have been on a racetrack more than just a few times, and really love it.

You learned to ride well in soft dirt a large number of years ago (if you were previously only a street rider).  In fact, you LIKE dirt riding.   You no longer have semi-permanent blackened fingers, you wear protective gloves when wrenching.   You worried about your own kids, as they grew up, concerned (and your spouse was probably overly concerned, and let you know it! that the kids might become riders and be injured or killed.   Strangely, neither of them are interested in bikes...and not much interested about cars either.  Somehow, that seems to have relieved a lot of self-imposed pressure you put onto yourself, and you feel more free.

You FINALLY figured out that sidecars can also be fun, but you prefer a solo bike, carving a canyon by yourself .....then camping, where you get lost in the beautiful scenery, and further lost in your own thoughts and memories.  You might put together a sidecar rig, so you can ride on snow next Winter, and carry the spouse and kid or two or family dog.  You are looking forward to your 300K or even much higher mileage badge.   You know you are looked up to, yet try to not take advantage of that.   You sometimes get very grouchy and have a short temper with incompetent wrenchers....and then you remember how things were years ago.....and you shut up.

As time goes on, you are riding less often, but manage to get in the occasional long trip.  You have ridden in a number of foreign countries, and enjoy the traveling. You sometimes do manage to get out for a 50 or 150 mile day ride near your home.  It is rare to do a 1000 mile trip from home.

For a long time now you having been avoiding night riding; you offer excuses, one is that oncoming vehicle headlights get stars around them, and there is a lot of annoying glare...all due to your worsening cataracts. The hard truth is that you are more safety concerned than previously; you don't ride quite as smoothly, your reflexes may be getting slower too.  While you have heated clothing, and can ride in cold weather, you are finding yourself less adventurous, and making more excuses not to go riding.  Old age is coming too fast.

Your favorite saddle no longer fits nor supports very well, so you got a custom saddle made that offers more support.  Bikes feel heavier these days.  Your developing cataracts are going to require the usual surgery that old folks get for that; and have decided to just get it done, very soon.

Awhile back, you and a long time friend opened a part-time repair shop.  A year later he and his son bought you out, and they expanded the shop and may well end up having the Dealership you long ago contemplated having.  Your friend is finding that shop to be more time-wasting for him, and he turns it over to his son; and you and your friend now go riding more often, and you appreciate him more and more, in new ways. Your spouse is happy to see you happy again.

You are finding that your memory of part numbers, and even small things about procedures, have been slipping away, and you are occasionally reading your old articles!

You find yourself putting off some maintenance now and then; then suddenly having some energy, and tackle it straight-on.  You put together a sidecar rig and join the USCA.  You attend some sidecar rallies.  It's fun, but you love riding two wheels too.   You are mentoring one or two young folks these days, hoping to pass on your knowledge.  You are thinking more and more about expanding your Internet blog to an all-out website for technical help.   You are concerned about the lack of shop classes at schools.  You think about offering to teach some.

You have passed the age of being a Senior Citizen, and have reached old age.  You are still active, but less so. Neither you nor your spouse enjoy driving a car in today's smart-phone-texting traffic, and motorcycles are just not feeling as safe.  You are even a bit apprehensive when walking or riding your bicycle.  You still ride a BMW Airhead and the antique BMW /2 now and then. You still ride your old light weight dirt bike off-road, and enjoy that, but not for a full day.  You are thinking of hanging up the keys to the motorcycles, & maybe the sidecar after some more time.   Household repairs and maintenance are becoming more of a bother.  You and your spouse are talking about selling out, and moving to a retirement community.  You hate the idea. You wonder if you will be terribly bored if you do move.

You find yourself invited to attend and speak and participate as an elder, more and more.  You enjoy the interaction and the ego stroking.   Your spouse attends, and has, more than once, told you to stop telling the same old stories, and to work on getting new experiences.

Docendo Discimus
(that means We Learn By Teaching)

06/02/2009:  Update by adding many URL's.
12/26/2009:  Revise.
06/07/2011:  Revise and clean up.
09/30/2012:  Add QR code; add language button; update Google ad-sense code; minor other editing.
07/18/2015:  Add large section #1; divide into 4 sections, revise entire article.
03/05/2016:  Revise slightly for content.  Revise meta-codes, layout, fonts. Add viewport coding for small devices.
07/08/2016:  Revise metacodes, improve layout and explanations, re-order a few things, fix scripts.
01/07/2017:  Complete overhaul of article.  Reduce excessive html, fonts, colors.  Add more links, clarify details, improve layout, add 10pxl margins.
08/28/2010:  Some modest updating.
11/07/2020:  Fix Vetch's website URL.

Copyright 2020, R. Fleischer

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Last check/edit: Wednesday, December 16, 2020