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Oil Spill

Oil Cooler Failure

At the conclusion of this year’s Airtoberfest Otus’ oil cooler failed. Fortunately the failure was very noisy and I was able to shut him down before all the oil sprayed out. Unfortunately I was 125 miles away from home and no way to repair or bypass the oil cooler on the spot. The get home solution was AAA. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere AAA Premier RV service has been a lifesaver more than once and they came to the rescue yet again! The only constraint was that I was not allowed to ride in the cab of the tow truck due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Fortunately a friend was willing to drive me home so all was well and I was home not much later than I would have been had the oil cooler cooperated.

I added the oil cooler at a point in time where I was all about accessorizing Otus. I stumbled upon the oil cooler, thought it would make sense to cool the oil even more and add a little capacity to the oil system. Now that it stranded me I decided to remove it and put Otus’ oil system back to stock. Unfortunately this meant I needed to order a part as the addition of the oil cooler required the replacement of the stock oil filter tube with a much longer tube. This longer oil filter tube prevents the stock oil filter cover from fitting so I once again turned to my friends at Bob’s BMW for the part I needed to get Otus back on the road.

I spent some time reviewing the microfische and decided the part I needed was labeled “pipe” and cost $8.68. Unfortunately I wasn’t 100% certain I had found the correct part due to the vague description so I called Bob’s. They double-checked for me, confirmed it was the correct part, and I added it to my shopping cart. I also bought another oil change kit as I like to have one on-hand for the next oil change. I removed the long pipe, installed the short pipe, buttoned everything up, and Otus started right up with no leaks! While having the oil cooler might have helped in some situations not having it repaired and reinstalled makes Otus less complex and, dare I say – simple by choice.

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TWINMAX

Balancing Otus’ Carburetors

The sun was shining, the temperature was perfect, but Otus’ carburetors needed balancing before taking a ride. Last year I bought a TWINMAX Carburetor Balancer, but ran out of riding season before using it. Now that Winter is giving way to Spring, and it was finally dry on a non-work day, the time for balancing the carburetors seemed right.

There are so many explanations of how to balance carbs with or without a balancing tool I really don’t have a lot to add to the discussion. That said, the first thing you should do is familiarize yourself with the tool you’re going to use, so read the instructions! I also recommend that the process be performed after the machine is warmed up and has been put through its paces. Oh, and you should also wear gloves because the exhaust gets hot!

So, warm up the motorcycle, read the manual, and wear your gloves! With the carburetors balanced Otus was a happy Airhead. He ran great and that made me happy too!

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Hella Lights on the GS

Hella Lights for the GS

See Me!

You can go a couple of ways with "hella." You could go the way the young people use the word or you could simply accept this as the brand name. I think I'm going to ride the fence on this one and say that the Hella lights on the GS are hella cool and hella bright. And to be clear, these lights aren't just for me to see better but also for me to be seen better. The number of people turning left in front of me has gone down since adding these lights to Otus so the GS needed a set as well. I attempted to install these lights as I did on Otus but there are a few significant differences - I don't have crash bars on the GS and the wiring is quite a bit different. I was, however, able to put together a gadget bar much like the one on Otus, but with one difference.

Here's how this went down. The GS has a bar under the headlight that is threaded on the ends. Amazingly enough the bolts for the Hella light mounts were threaded the same as that bar. Good planning by the BMW Engineers? Good planning by the Hella Engineers? Blind shit-house luck? Hard to say but mounting the lights was a snap. Next was the wiring. I'd done this before on Otus so the installation of the relay and wiring was similarly easy. The instructions provided with the kit are OK but I'm not an electrical engineer so they could have been a bit more explicit. Having installed this kit before on another bike made this a straight-forward process.

The only challenge with this installation was coming up with power behind the ignition. Fortunately there are two fuses inline and the local auto parts store had spare fuses in stock! This part of the installation was different, and honestly I'm still not sure why. I'm sure someone out there will read this and know why right off the bat but again, I'm not an electrical engineer so I'm figuring this out as I go.

The relay in the kit comes with a wiring loom and simple instructions - connect the red lead to the battery and the ground goes to the frame (and there are plenty of places on the frame where the paint is scratched off so the frame ground is solid). Send power to the lights and ground the lights to the frame also (same comment on this frame ground as well). The tricky part here turned out to be the power and ground behind the ignition. I grabbed power from the marker light in the headlight bucket and ran that ground to frame also (just like I did on Otus) but when I turned on the bike the light fuse popped. I then moved the ground to the ground tab on the marker light, replaced the fuse, and there was light. The lesson for me is that, on the GS anyway, grounding the switch to the frame is a no-no.

I now have some spare fuses in my tool kit and really, really bright lights! I've started a mental count of left-turners that don't turn left in front of me. The current count is 3.

Pictures or it Didn't Happen

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Givi, not Luftmeister, Top Case

Something unexpected happened today. I got an email from the seller of the Luftmeister top case. He told me the hasp on the case was broken and asked if I still wanted it. I asked for a refund and he gave me a refund. I knew he didn't have a key for the lock but I don't think he knew the hasp was broken. Honestly prevailed and he told me about it BEFORE he shipped it. That's just awesome and very much appreciated.

But I Still Need a Top Case

Need might be a little strong but having a top case makes it easier to get where I'm going with my stuff. When I got the R1150R it didn't have a top case so I ordered up a Givi top case. I also got a universal mounting bracket to install on Otus but decided I liked the vintage look of the Luftmeister top case. The Givi case went with the R1150R when I traded for the GS. My Luftmeister case didn't survive my accident. I've wanted to replace it for some time, and hoped this was going to work out, but it was not to be. Because I still have the universal mounting plate I decided to give up on the quest for a replacement Luftmeister top case and I ordered up a new Givi top case. The last one I had was an enormous 57 liter case. This time I decided to go with a slightly smaller 47 liter case. This should keep my stuff from being scattered when I head to the upcoming rally.

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Luftmeister Top Case

I finally committed to a replacement Luftmeister case for Otus. My Luftmeister case was a casualty of my accident and was replaced with a Givi top case. While the Givi case was really nice, it was also the top case for my R1150R. When the R1150R was traded for the GS, the Givi top case went along with the R1150R. Since that time Otus has been without a top case. He looks good without it, but with rally season upon us a top case would be a nice-to-have. My friends at eBay facilitated the transaction and a new-to-me Luftmeister top case will be here in about a week.

It's Old

Part of the joy and challenge of a 1977 motorcycle is being period-correct yet functional. I never had a problem with the Luftmeister top case (until it exploded on impact). It looked correct on Otus and was just roomy enough to hold some light weight gear for making camping more comfortable. I have a bag of things I consider essential for life on the road and they fit well in a Luftmeister top case. I'm happy to have a replacement Luftmeister top case on the way. This is the final piece to restore Otus to rally configuration.

I'll add pictures during and after the installation.

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Airhead Revival

Airhead Revival

Slowly but surely I'm making progress on the Project Bike - the 1982 R100 RT. I decided to start from the back of the bike and work my way forward. I started by removing and disposing of the Luftmeister top case. The previous owner had a motorcycle riding friend get rear-ended once upon a time. As he didn't want to get rear ended either he decided to install lights in the top case. The cuts were too large to patch so the top case went into the bin. I am hoping to find a more usable Luftmeister top case of the appropriate vintage to install on this bike (or, possibly, install on Otus?).

With the top case out of the way, and because the back-to-front work requires I make some room, I decided the next course of action was removing the tractor battery. The problem with the tractor battery was that I couldn't get it out without removing the air box. With the air box out of the way the battery finally came out (thanks Garrett!). I also drained and removed the fuel tank so I could get a better look at what lies ahead.

The next step is going to be to drain the final drive and drive shaft so I can replace the shaft boot and check the final drive for wear. I'll also give the bike a good spline lube while I'm in there. We'll see where this all takes me.

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The RT - Featured

BMW R100 RT – Reise-Tourer

Not As Vintage as Otus Airhead

I love my Airhead. People who know me know this. I try not to talk too much about Otus but sometimes I can't help myself. I've also come to understand that a 42 year old motorcycle, like a veteran ball player, needs some time off during the season. With these thoughts rolling around in my head I stumbled upon a 1982 R100 RT - Reise-Tourer - hiding in a garage in Manhattan, KS. The seller had retired from riding in 2016 but made it official when I bought this machine.

The motorcycle has been sitting since at least 2016 as that's the most recent renewal sticker on the license plate. It appears this was a soft retirement as the fuel tank is nearly full of vintage gasoline and the top case and panniers are also full of the bits and pieces a rider collects over years of riding. The bike is rough around the edges and needs a bit of love, but the bones are good.

There are, at least right now, two possible outcomes for this machine:

  1. clean it up, catch it up on all service and fluids, makes sure it runs right, and I re-sell it.
  2. do everything in #1 but I replace the BMW RT fairing with my Don Vesco Rabid Transit fairing and keep the bike as Otus' understudy

There's also the crazy notion of making this a sidecar rig. Regardless of the final outcome I'm focused on #1 right now.

P.S. - the helmet came home with me too!

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Jesse Top Case - Featured

Installing a Jesse Top Case

Getting Started

Installing a Jesse Top Case isn't difficult, but the complete lack of instructions means you have to think about how you're going to make it happen. There were a couple of challenges for me with this installation. The first issue is the baggage porter (the official term for the luggage rack according to the BMW microfiche) on the GS. It appears the baggage porter is a stock BMW part but it had several cracks. A quick trip to Bob's BMW revealed a price tag I didn't like ($326.28) so I found a local welder to make repairs. Dave's Welding & Restoration repaired the cracks for a fraction of the cost of the new part. YaY! Dave!

Top Case Mounting Plate

Vintage Bits

The second issue is the plate that was the top case mounting bits already installed on the GS. As far as I can tell these are "vintage" Jesse Luggage bits but neither the compartment nor the plate had any markings to help me be sure. Anyway, I like the lockable compartment - and it was keyed to the side cases - but the plate itself has been cut to fit in spite of the handle bolted to the baggage porter. I sat the top case on the plate and saw that the turned up edges would prevent the top case from mounting flush to the lockable compartment, so the plate would have to go, but it definitely had a role to play in completing the installation.

Measure Lots, Drill Once

I drilled holes in my brand new $340 top case. I hate drilling holes in stuff - especially new, expensive stuff. I knew that I needed to install the top case directly on the locking compartment so I had to figure out how to transfer the mounting hole dimensions to the bottom of the top case. Then it hit me - I could use the legacy mounting plate as a template. I grabbed a roll of one of my favorite substances - double-faced foam tape - to help me in this quest. I put a couple of small pieces of tape on the locking compartment to hold the plate in place - curved edges pointed down. I then used several pieces of tape to keep it stuck to the top case when I had it in the position I wanted. Being able to easily remove the plate from the locking compartment was what was going to make or break this approach. The plate remained stuck to the bottom of the top case without a big fight removing it from the locking compartment. A red sharpie and a sharp twist drill is all I needed to drill the holes. A quick eyeball check showed that my plan had worked!

When I originally separated the plate from the locking compartment there was a foam tape sandwiched between. I wandered the aisles of my local hardware store and settled on the Loctite mounting tape for my top case installation. I wasn't sure about the foam tape I found and thought the Loctite product would be more durable. Only time will tell.

Wrapping Up

After getting everything installed and the workbench cleaned up I cracked a beer and reflected on the installation. I was pretty happy with how things turned out but when I looked at the mounting job I decided that I needed to do a couple of final things to be really satisfied with the project. I decided that I needed to add fender washers and blue Loctite to the bolts. The only challenge was the placement of the bolts at the front of the top case base. I wouldn't be able to use a full-size fender washer so, rather than using a smaller washer I decided to square off one side of the front fender washers using my Dremel tool. While I'm not sure any of this actually matters in a practical sense this did make me feel better about the installation so there's that...

This is not a hard project but I was hesitant to get started because I had a blank of a top case and no instructions from the manufacturer. Once I got over having to improvise the installation it was fine but I had to jump over that issue to get this done. My issues getting this done have to do with the motorcycle being 20+ years old and the existing hardware being a mix of BMW and what appears to be vintage Jesse bits. The saving grace was the plate installed on the locking compartment. That ended up being the template I needed so I could drill holes. I really like the way the kit looks and am happy with where I ended up!

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Hella 500 Fog Light Kit on R100/7

Hella 500 Fog Light Kit on R100/7

I love the look of the Airhead GS. I’ve seen pictures of the these Airheads with Hella lights on them and finally decided that Otus needed a pair mounted on his crash bars. As usual, my friends at Amazon were all too happy to sell me a set of lights, some bar mounts, and to keep from putting too much load on Otus’ stock charging system, I also ordered a pair of LED bulbs to replace the provided halogen bulbs. I’m really happy with the results!

The installation was surprisingly easy in spite of the car-focused wiring instructions. There were – at least in my head – three challenges:

  1. Where to mount the relay as my headlight bucket is pretty crowded with the Cyclops LED headlight bulb.
  2. Where to get switched power.
  3. What is #31?

I thought long and hard about all three of these and brought it all to a successful and shiny solution. Details, pictures, a blow-by-blow description of the work, along with a parts list, follow:

Buying the Stuff

The Hella 500 light kit was reasonably priced and available through Prime so that was a no-brainer. I knew I wanted to mount the lights on the crash bars so I spent quite a bit of time looking for a round clamp to fit the 1″ round crash bars. I landed on the GS Power Tube Clamp Brackets. They come in several sizes and I ordered the 1″ kit. The “sleeve” you see in the picture is actually a piece of vinyl that helps clamp the bracket tightly without scratching the bars. These are cast aluminum and I did have to drill larger holes for the light brackets the that was no big deal.

I could not find a Hella 500 kit that included LED bulbs. Another quick search of Amazon yielded this pair of H3 LED bulbs.

Installing the Lights & Wiring

Installing the brackets, the lights, and roughing in all the wiring went pretty well. I was more than a little confused about the blue wire being ground (isn’t brown the universal color for ground wire?). The other part that confused me was a portion of the wiring diagram. It listed all the relay and harness wiring clearly except for #31. There were several #31s in the diagram but that number was not in the installation key. After roughing in everything else I assumed #31 was ground so I grounded all the #31s. With everything roughed in (and a fire extinguisher at the ready!) I tested my work. My garage was awash in glorious LED goodness! Pretty sure that these lights, along with the Cyclops LED headlight, could give the sun a run for its money. I think Otus is pretty darned visible now!

The Relay

I agonized about where to put the relay. All of Otus’s wiring lives in the headlight bucket and the Cyclops bulb with its cooling fan and connector make things pretty full. The steering damper mounting brackets on Otus’ frame were another possibility but the relay and the harness were pretty crowded so I kept thinking, and thinking, and re-thinking. After a few days of thinking I landed on attaching the relay to the bottom of the right-side fuel tank stud. It pokes through the rear fuel tank mount insulator just enough to attach the relay. It also sits far enough forward that the relay fits pretty nicely. And the harness doesn’t interfere with the tool tray so that became the winner!

Dressing Down the Wires

There was PLENTY of wire attached to the harness (except for the that darned blue ground) so once I have tested the roughed-in wiring I got out the wire cutters, butt connectors, and heat-shrink tubing to dress everything down. I cut out several feet of wiring, got everything tucked, wrapped, and routed, and then butt connected and heat-shrink covered all the cuts. And, because I didn’t want to have to take it all apart again, I tested one final time before putting everything back together. The lights still worked so I was quite relieved and very happy with the results.

Collateral Enhancements

I did not anticipate the size of the switch provided with the kit. It is a round rocker switch .75″ in diameter. While the size itself isn’t a big problem, the fact that my gadget bar is constructed of .75″ square aluminum tube meant I had a size conflict. To resolve this problem I made another trip to the hardware store and picked up a length of 1″ square aluminum tube. I cut it to length (and made this one a big longer than the current one), drilled a .75″ hole using a “step” drill, and re-mounted my phone, USB power, and garage door opener to the new, thicker, and wider gadget bar.

Summary

This project turned out really well. The lights really light up the road at night and make me hella visible during the day (yeah, I did that). Oh, and they also look hella cool (since I’ve already gone there I figured why not do it again…). Your mileage may vary but if you’re thinking about adding auxiliary lights on your machine, this was a fun and relatively inexpensive way to do it!

Parts List

Pictures or it Didn’t Happen

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