Thursday, July 3, 2008, 11:11 AM - BMW Cafe Racer
In the beginning it was a neglected '71 R60/5. The carbs and exhaust were shot and many little things needed care. I don't have a photo of it in this state but here's a magazine ad showing the model:





The short wheelbase models only appeared for a short time before they were joined and then replaced by a longer wheelbase model with an extra couple inches of spacer welded into the swingarm. This made for better stability which was a real improvement for touring with a luggage or fairing, but the short wheelbase made for a quicker, more nimble ride.


At the time the chrome tank and side panels were disliked, people thought they were gaudy and tasteless. Today of course we love these details, and they add a real beauty to the bike. This particular one was also set up with large front crash bars, a big luggage rack, and it hadn't run in years.


Then I came across parts of a San Jose nationals racer like the one below that had been built in the 70's, at a time when an airhead BMW (an R75/5) was the fastest bike in the world. Most of this vintage race bike was already gone, but I acquired the key parts- the lowered front end, modified subframe, and cafe seat. The rest- engine, etc.- I could build, but an expertly lowered front end was really valuable, and not something I'd want to build myself by trial and error.






I began to disassemble the R60 and installed the front end. The subframe was a stock subframe that had been cut down and braced, and fitted with hardware to mount the cafe seat. Short Koni shocks lowered the rear to match the front, and gave improved handling.











These parts transformed the little short wheelbase R60/5 into a serious cafe racer- low and fast. Most significantly, the San Jose front end lowered it drastically, lowering center of gravity and improving handling. It also made it look really wicked cool.


At first it was very rough, but it began to take shape:








Note the top triple clamp is not the usual stock stamped plate, but a heavy cast unit- actually a lower triple clamp flipped over and machined to fit- a classic period race trick. The next step would be to install an S fairing, and you can see the mounting brackets already installed.





In order to get it to run at all, it would need carburetors. I scored a couple of Mikuni round slide VM's on ebay- not from the same model bike, in fact one was from a two stroke. But Mikunis are tremendously adjustable, and I soon had them jetted, at least for starters.






When it roared to life, and went for its first test ride, it was clear tht this was a good combination- airhead BMW's feel good, but this one felt especially good. Lowering it made it handle better and increased the sensation of speed. I found I could thrill myself as much as I wanted without even going over 45 mph- what a perfect quality!


Looking back, I really prefer the appearance here as a naked bike, without the S fairing, and it was this picture that reminded me to try something different in the next incarnation.


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