Idle Motorcycles: Waiting To Return to Life on the Road [Commentary]

Idle Motorcycles - BMW
1970 BMW R 60/5

For most of my motorcycling life, I have spent a fair amount of time planning and anticipating what my motorcycle future may hold in store for me. As the years have passed, the enjoyment of riding various motorcycles has resulted in my having many great memories.

Do you still have your first two-wheeled adventure sled? Likely not. No need to despair, though. If you long to hear the sound of the exhaust from your first ride—mine was a 1964 Honda 50—there is a good chance a motorcycle of the same make, model, and year that you once owned is out there, waiting to be found.

Idle Motorcycles

To find one for sale right now will require some investigative work and diligence, but you will find one. By making a few inquiries, as I have done, there’s no telling what you too may discover parked and ready to be resuscitated.

There is another alternative to retrieve happiness past—put one together after searching out and finding all the parts needed to assemble an example. I do not have the patience and long-term drive it takes for this. Hats off and thumbs up to those of you who do. You are a special breed of gearhead.

While visiting a friend who lives on the Oregon coast, I got into a conversation with a neighbor of his who runs an auto repair shop that also rebuilds muscle cars from the 1960s and ’70s. When I asked if he knew anyone in the area that may have any motorcycle of special interest, whether older or just unusual, he replied he knew a fellow just 10 minutes from his shop that may have something I’d be interested in. He gave this chap a call and gave him my phone number to call, if he chose to do so.

It wasn’t until that evening I got the call from Art. He was quite the casual kind and very easy to talk to. I explained I was hoping to find older or unusual motorcycles to get a few quick photos to show how machines that had been stored or retired may look at this time. He said he had a bike or two that may fit the bill.

Over breakfast at his favorite pancake house the next morning, we chatted about the motorcycle industry in general, though mostly about our own personal escapes astride the two-wheeled tremors.

I also learned Art is a Korean “Police Action” veteran, serving as a tank mechanic. Art, your service to our country is greatly appreciated. My understanding is that tanks are usually quite close to heavy action, so I did not press for any further details on that subject. I have known several veterans of foreign U.S. of A. conflicts that either resumed riding motorcycles once they got home, or picked one up for the first time.

We all know that saying that “Music soothes the savage beast.” Music is to each their own. Twist that throttle, and hear the sounds of music. That perceived connection with rhythm and beat I believe we all tend to dance to is evident. To have taken away my son’s 12-inch woofer speakers thumping to the bass in his lifted 4×4 truck when he was 18 would have caused him to pull over and walk home, just as we would if noise silencers were stuffed up our pipes!

Alright, I’m being a little extreme, but we do like the tones that accompany us when we ride. Although I’m drifting here, it is related to the subject of the motorcycle experiences and sounds that punctuate moments in our lives.

Idle Motorcycles - Indian and Harley-Davidson

Pictured at the top is a BMW that Art acquired about 15 years ago. It’s housed with Harley-Davidsons, Indians, and a wide array of dirt bikes. After riding it for some years, it was parked when he purchased a larger touring motorcycle, still in good running condition. Here it is, waiting to be reinstated to road duty when the time is right.

There are oh so many dust-coated (think powdercoat!) motorcycles out there waiting to be found that will rekindle that which once found you first experiencing your own sound of music and thrill of the tremors. Let your search begin.

In the early 1960s, BMW nearly ceased production of their motorcycles to allow concentrated effort on automobile manufacturing. BMW apparently decided to give motorcycle production one more shot by hiring Hans-Gunther Vonder Marwitz, previously with Porsche, to design a needed BMW R makeover. How’d you like to be at that discussion? Phew!

Fortunately for the motorcycle world at large, the R 60/5 was launched in 1970, and BMW has since gone on to be a leader in the industry. The R 60/5, with its 599cc air-cooled, horizontally opposed twin motor revolutionized motorcycle touring thanks to fuel tanks available with 4.7-and 6.3-gallon capacities. The OHV powerplant propelled the 60/5 to nearly 100 mph thanks to 46 horses at 6600 rpm and a four-speed transmission pushing a 463-pound chassis. The price in 1970 was $1550—$13,750 in 2020 dollars. A 2020 BMW F 900 R runs just $8995 and an 2020 BMW R nineT Pure is $9995.

This BMW R 60/5 is one of countless idle motorcycles now, but for how long?