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BMW R65 + VW Kombi

It's easy

(Travels with Guido series #365, by Guy ‘Guido’ Allen, May 2021)

Pics by Ben Galli

bmw r65


Old bikes and easy tasks – they have absolutely nothing in common


If you’ve been a life support system for an old motorcycle for any length of time, you should be familiar with this concept. That’s the one where you stroll outside to do an allegedly simple task and end up spending the rest of the day swearing, throwing tools and (if you’re particularly unfortunate) putting out small fires.

This is why jobs mount up in my shed. Yes, I know changing the oil should only take 10 minutes, but somehow it never does. And so, when you put off this stuff, the list of little nagging jobs grows longer.

Then there are the parts. Often what happens is muggins will get all enthusiastic, order the required filter/oil/spark plug or whatever, and all’s right with the world, yes? No. What happens is the required component turns up promptly in the post, and is carefully added to the others awaiting their turn.

Some of you will have spotted the flaw in this plan, which is nothing is actually fixed. Yet. But somehow it feels like progress.

So the other day I made some sort of pledge to at least tackle the minor jobs, and ended up marching out to the shed to pull out the Eccomobile, the Bimmer R65. This is actually a pretty nice thing to work on. It shares the slightly weird architecture of any air-cooled boxer and is as analogue as it gets.

bmw r65

Not so long ago I checked the tappets, then changed over the points and condenser for the first time in 15 years of ownership, which was remarkably simple. Setting the points gap was straightforward, while you could pretty well do the timing by ear. I very much doubt a degree either way is likely to upset it. It was one of those jobs that took a little time, presented no great mystery if you’d worked on machinery of that era before, and was fairly satisfying when it all worked

Today our challenge was to nut out why the headlight wasn’t working. You could get the high beam to flash with the pass switch, but no constant lamp when you turned the ignition switch all the way. Our best semi-educated guess was a suspect relay, which you could just hear clicking away somewhere under the fuel tank.

That was another exercise in simplicity: unhook the fuel line, raise the hinged seat, then roll the loop that holds down the tank off the main frame rail. Less than five minutes. All very simple and logical and German, yes? It wasn’t to last.

There are two identical relays, and from what I could tell it was the rear which controlled the headlamp. Remove it, clean up the terminals and replace. Nothing. Okay, let’s swap them over. Bingo! Everything works.

That’s a nice if mildly disturbing result. If there was an issue with one of the relays, surely swapping them would bring down some other electrical circuit. Well, that doesn’t seem to be the case. No matter, just be happy and ride it.

And that’s when old bike syndrome kicked in. Because I’d had the temerity to disturb its universe, it had a little surprise in store. Go for a ride and suddenly it’s leaking fuel from not one but both carburettors. We’re talking a torrent. What the hell?

It seemed like a good idea to pull up and switch off. In part to stop fuel pouring over the headers and setting fire to the whole enterprise. Now this thing has never leaked fuel before, so clearly fixing the headlamp did something to upset the carburettors. Not bad in an analogue machine where the two systems have no possible connection. Again, what the hell?

bmw r65

Theory number one was that, when moving the fuel tank, some crap or sediment in the bottom had been disturbed and was now working its way through the fuel lines. That in turn was sticking in the float needles and flooding the carburettors.

Fortunately dropping the fuel bowls on the carbs can be done quickly and without tools. So off they came, flush through some fuel and reassemble. It took a few goes, but we eventually got back to normal transmission.

For the time being, the old twin is happy again. But did we really have to go through all that trauma? I can’t wait to see what the next easy task is...

bmw r65

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