R80R Update


Since I last posted about this bike, I’ve added a few tweaks. Because I wanted this to be a working machine as well as a classic, I added a screen – as this gives all the feel of a naked bike, but without the wind pressure. Seventy miles per hour is now a pleasure. Also, panniers. The seller of the bike reckoned he knew where a pair were and managed to locate them. As he left them with a friend in Croydon, this involved a drive across London one Saturday afternoon from the client to his friend. Which would have been fine if they hadn’t turned out to be split. It wasn’t apparent until they were on the bike and under load.  Ah, well, back to my original plan of buying a set from MotoBins.

For purely cosmetic reasons, I replaced the non standard angular rocker covers with a set of rounded ones. These bikes, although the last of the air-cooled twins, had the older style rounded rocker covers fitted to give them a retro look.

I spent much time and effort sorting out the clock/voltmeter set. The bracket that holds them didn’t want to fit. This meant following a little evidence trail that led me to a bodged dashboard. This had been damaged at one point and the original fittings had been removed and replaced with holes through which a set of Allen bolts and spacers held it all in place – at the wrong angle. Which was why  the speedo cable was such a bugger to fit and why it conflicted with the bracket. And, having taken everything off, I discovered that the thread holding the bottom of the headlamp bracket had been stripped and the rubber spacer was held in place with a combination of Hylomar and cable ties.

So, a new dashboard and a helicoil later, I realised that  upon fitting a BMW screen, I didn’t need the bracket after all – the screen has brackets built in. Still, it did mean that I sorted out some bodges along the way.

The wiring loom was pretty straightforward, but I managed to mess up three block connectors before I got it right. Balancing crimping pliers in mid air really isn’t the best way to do this job.

In the meantime, the DVLA sent me a V5. They had no choice, really. I’d managed to obtain tax, insurance and MoT and was openly using  the bike, so they discreetly gave in and sent the document before they looked even more absurd than they already are.

So what’s it like to ride? This bike reminds me of a time long past. It triggers evocative memories in the same way that the smell of engine oil on a spring morning does. It transports me to a summer forty years ago, of a nascent motorcycling career and a tired BSA C15 in my father’s garage, so full of promise, a future before me, rather than a significant part of it behind. It vibrates and emits a crackling bark typical of a large capacity twin. As a CBT training bike, it serves well. Pushing out only 50bhp, the soft tuning makes it docile when training, but spirited when ridden briskly. It is a motorcycle in the old-fashioned sense. Lively and fun, it gives the rider feedback from the road and fills the senses, it is a motorcycle my younger self would recognise and desire. And, it is more than just a motorcycle; it’s a time machine.


  1. “It triggers evocative memories in the same way that the smell of engine oil on a spring morning does.”

    I was out on the (push)bike yesterday and was overtaken by an MGB. The smell, engine oil and unburnt petrol (I think it was running a bit rich) reminded me of my old MG Midget. Happy days, 🙂

  2. Nice machine and well-written piece. Only ever owned a K75 myself. Didn’t like it, but I suppose it wasn’t a real Beemer.
    Health to ride,

  3. Test rode an R80 back in ’01 just before I bought my last Triumph. A little short in the leg and narrow in the handlebars for my liking, but otherwise a respectable piece of kit.

    Well done on finally getting a V5 out of Swansea. An old mate who used to work for IBM often told me that the DVLC computer system would have been better used as coffee machines, but that’s by the by.

    • The R65 was a lovely machine. I had an R45 for a while and loved it. That link is worrying, although in practice for most of us with modern vehicles, moot. I wouldn’t think of going anywhere near my RT with a spanner. The R80 is another matter…

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