The best of the vintage sport tourers. Stone reliable, comfortable, plenty fast enough, sort of sporty handling…actually excellent for its time, and quite good looking, in a Teutonic sort of way. The R90 was the natural outgrowth of the legendary R75 and was a needed upgrade for BMW. The Honda CB750 was faster and stopped better, thanks to the front disc brake, than the R75 and…Kawasaki had just upped the ante big time with the King Kong of them all…the mighty Z1.
The reviews of the R90 were glowing. Cycle World put it this way, “the BMW R90/6 is so exciting, it’s difficult to find a point at which to begin describing it.” Cycle Guide magazine said this, ” a powerful motorcycle designed to compete in the performance conscience market of 1974.” Lets think about performance for just a moment. The Z1 put out a very strong 82 HP, Kawasaki’s H2 750 was rated at 74HP and Honda’s CB750 67 ponies. BMW showed up at the party with…maybe 59? Not what you would call threatening. But, horsepower isn’t everything, there’s this little thing called torque and that is where the boys in Munich beat everybody. The R90 had pulling power all over the place. Yeah the Japanese had the top end and the rush of speed but it was the BMW that would get you from corner to corner quickly with no drama.
I found a nice 1976 R90/6 on ebay today, not too many miles and looks to be in good condition overall. What I really like about this motorcycle is the Hannigan Sport Touring fairing. These fairings have a very distinctive look and feel to them. My friend Bill Stermer, author and journalist ( he wrote the definitive book on these bikes and is a contributing editor to Rider magazine ) has one on his R90 and just loves it. I have ridden the bike and understand why. This bike has the stock BMW saddle bags which are very nice, but I do recommend that you also add a safety strap to the bags as they are known to, at the worst time, pop open and leave your stuff spread across the landscape. I do have one big question about the bike though, it has a new front wheel, why? Was the bike crashed? did it hit a big pothole on the road? if there was some damage, how are the forks? But, maybe it got a new front wheel just because the old one was corroded and looking a bit ugly? Anyway, that is the only question I would ask, otherwise this looks to be a great bike at a good price that will last anyone years and years. Plus, that Hannigan fairing is so cool. The more I look at this bike, I wonder if it might a better bike for me than my R90 with RS fairing? Hmmm. Click on the pics below for more info. And, if you call now, you get a free tank bag!! Don’t wait.
’76 BMW R90/6
Writing about this motorcycle is way too easy. Why? Because I have one! I acquired mine about a year and a half ago and have loved every mile with it. The R90S is a fantastic motorcycle in every way. BMW built a wonderful tourer, the R90/6, then made it a bit sportier, a little faster and quite beautiful. The ‘S’ model is quite comfortable for long distances, right after I got mine I took off on a one week, 2000 mile trip and was comfortable every mile.
The R90S has plenty of power for one or two up touring, it will cruise all day long at speeds that in most states, will land you in jail or at least, with a much thinner wallet. The 898cc motor only put out 67 horsepower but those 67 ponies would gallop up to the bikes 124mph top speed with no effort at all. The 6+ gallon gas tank is good for a range of over 200 miles before needing a fillup. The R90S was very light for the day, just under 500 pounds fully gassed up and ready to go. The Delorto carbs can be a finicky but once you learn them, they are actually quite easy to maintain tune.
The R90S retains BMW’s reputation for reliability , relative ease of maintenance, long distance comfort and then throws in ‘sport’ just to make it interesting. To prove their point, BMW took the ‘S’ model racing and won the first AMA Superbike race at Daytona in 1976 ( got second place too ), then with Reg Pridmore riding, went on to win the Superbike Championship that same year.
Is there anything about the R90S that isn’t perfect? Sure, the clutch pull is a bit heavy as is the throttle, but these little things are so minor that after a short while living with an R90S you don’t even think about them, and…compared to a vintage Ducati (my old Darmah, lets say), the clutch feels silky smooth. The gas cap faces the wrong way, Hans and Frans had a one too many St Pauli Girls’ the day they designed that. And then there is my (and everyone who owns a BMW motorcycle of that generation), biggest gripe of all when it comes to my bike…the sidestand. Who’s brilliant idea was it to have the damn thing automatically retract the second you start to stand the bike up??!! I mean you move 1/16th of an inch off the stand and you better be sure you are balanced, and, if it’s facing the slightest bit downhill your bike will be rolling down that hill without you. Ok, enough griping about the centerstand. Just order up a Brown centerstand from any number of BMW dealers and problem solved.
Can you improve the perfect motorcycle? Yes, and quite easily. First, leave the motor alone, the handling is where you can make the most difference in your R90S. From San Jose BMW you can get a much better, stronger upper triple clamp and a fork brace, you will be amazed at what those two simple things can do for this motorcycle. A set of Koni shocks on the rear and there you have it, Bavarian perfection.
So, now that I have sung the praises of this motorcycle to the heavens and have you ready to trade in your first-born male child for one, where can you get one? Tis easy my friend…ebay! I found this 1975 model today and it looks great. It has been recently serviced, a number of parts have been replaced; bearings, seals and the like. Some new brakes are on there as well new mufflers. All in all, just the things you need to simply buy the bike…the ‘buy it now’ price is really quite reasonable by the way, fly out to pick it up and ride it home…make sure you take the long way home, you’ll be glad you did. Click on the pics below for more pictures and additional information about this fantastic motorcycle. Do you think I’ve gone a bit over the top here? Me neither.
When people build Cafe Racers one of three things happen. The bike is way over done, the bike is way under done or it’s done just right. This bike I found on ebay today is the Goldilocks version, it’s just right. Take the basic BMW chassis, slide a newer bigger motor in, do a couple of nice upgrades (check out the sweet upper triple clamp), add the requisite cafe styling and go ride it.
The owner of this BMW upgraded the ’72 with a ’78 R90/6 motor for a little more oomph, changed the old Bing CV carbs for some nice Mikuni’s, which really help the motor…look good too. Looking at the back end view, the exhaust looks wide open, which, is probably going to be a bit loud…you might want to think about getting some different mufflers ( even though these do look right) or learn to roll off the throttle near your neighbors or the closest police car. The custom tail section and seat work nicely on this BMW. And, check out the cool bar end blinkers, I like ’em.
This is a great way to have a clean Cafe Racer that looks like a comfy ride, it’s going to be reliable, (as in it hasn’t been over built), and it won’t break the bank to get it under your fanny. Nice bike. Click on the pics for a lot more pictures showing the details of this BMW. If I ever get tired of traveling on my R90s a nice Cafe treatment like this would be perfect.