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Ecco BMW R65 – final debrief

(by Guy ‘Guido’ Allen, ride pic by Ben Galli, August 2021)


After 16 years, Ecco the 1979 BMW R65 has finally left the shed


It was getting to the point where I thought it would never happen – actually selling the Ecco R65, that is. In the 16 years I've owned it, I've had it on the market a couple of times but, usually, I was the problem and decided to hang on to the thing.

Then finally, I decided it really had to go. It wasn't being used, other than to keep it running, and we'd reached the point where I was no longer likely to greatly miss it once it was gone. That's when I discovered it was going to be slow to sell. You needed just the right buyer to stroll along.

First a quick backgrounder. I bought this from a friend – young Janette – in 2005, in part because I liked the history behind it. The 'Ecco' badging on the tank and the garish wheels are the give-away. At some stage it belonged to famous Melbourne tuner Graeme 'Gyro' Carless of Ecco Engineering. (See this profile at Shannons.) He's built some remarkable boxer race bikes over time and for a while was selling aftermarket motorcycle wheels.

The story goes that he used the R65 as a runabout for a while, hence the badging and lairy colour chosen for the rims.


It was the latter which caused all the grief when it came to selling on the bike all those years later. People obsessed over the colour and many would-be buyers simply couldn't cope with it. An experienced mate of mine in the trade said it would be smart to pull off the rims, repaint them black or silver, and then the R65 would sell instantly. He was probably right, though I felt this would be denying the machine's history.

Just as I was about to crack and follow the advice, I got a call from someone who understood the history of the bike, knew who Gyro was, and was quite happy to take it off my hands. So, that was the end of a long relationship. What was it like?


When I think of the bike, without question its stand-out feature was reliability. More than old enough to be on classic or club plates in all states, it was an easy stress-free thing to live with. It had around 70,000km on it when we bought it and closer to 90,000 when sold. The only breakdown in that time was when it backfired and blew a carburettor off the manifold. That was a five-minute fix with a screwdriver.

Even by that stage, oil consumption was negligible.

The one modification was the two-ino-one exhaust, presumably done by Gyro back in the eighties. It's difficult to say whether there was any great performance benefit, but it did sound good. No idea what the brand was, and it was starting to get rusty. Though still fully functional, it was getting to a point where refurbishing and rechroming would be needed before too much longer.


Maintenance was straight-forward. Tappet-clearance checks are simple and the adjustment is screw and locknut. Change the oils and check the filters and plugs – that was about it. This was old enough to still be running the original mechanical points ignition, and I really can't see any need to update to a solid state alternative. New points and condensor went in a little before I sold it, more as a precaution than necessity. It was the first time they'd been changed over our entire ownership.

The last item to be replaced was the front disc, which was the original. It had just reached the minimum acceptable thickness, so a fresh disc went with the bike to the new owner.

Perhaps the one thing owners of these twins dread is having to replace the clutch and/or rear main seal. The clutch on ours was still fine and there were no signs of a leak, so we dodged that bullet. It's a transmission-out job and can get a little expensive.


As a ride, it has a fair bit going for it but takes a while to learn to get the most out of it. The ride position is typical BMW twin of the period, where you're kind of sitting on a fence rail – albeit a well-padded one – with this narrow little set of handlebars. The latter can be a little disconcerting at first.

You also get some torque reaction out of the engine and shaft, plus the brakes are rather seventies in their performance. While the front actually works in the wet (many seventies discs didn't) you need to give yourself a little extra room to pull up, and use a bit of muscle to get maximum retardation. Compared to other bikes of the era, it's actually okay. However anyone used to modern brakes, y'know the ones that actually do what you tell them to, will need to acclimatise.

Steering is medium and it is willing enough to have a crack at a corner. The relatively short wheelbase plays a role there. Meanwhile the suspension has reasonable travel and control, so once you get your head around it, this is actually a decent-handling motorcycle. I can't see you winning any races, but you can have fun with it.

The rear end has preload adjustment, which does actually make a meaningful difference to the ride height – useful if, as we did, you have riders of very different physical stature using the thing.


Engine performance is good, without being eyeball-flattening. It has no trouble dealing with modern traffic and will hold decent touring speeds without fuss. The various spec sheets suggest a top speed of 180km/h which might be right with a smallish rider and perfect conditions. In reality anything over the old 100 miles an hour (160km/h) is going to be a struggle. Get a Hayabusa if you really want to go fast...

Fuel consumption? About 16km/lt.

Overall, once you get your head around how to get the best out of the bike – and there is a technique to it – you get a real sense of achievement. And it's a satisfying ride.

I have to admit that, if I was looking for another old Boxer, an R80 of similar vintage would be a better package. They do everything a little easier and, in my case at least, the extra size would not be an issue. One thing that is distinctive about these early R65s is they were the same platform as the R45 (which was also available in 1979 in Australia) and substantially more compact than their bigger brethren.

In any case, owning the R65 for a little over a decade and a half was a good experience.



Stress-free classic
Handles acceptably

Not so good
Not particularly quick
A little gothic as a ride


BMW R65 1979 (first model)


TYPE: Air-cooled, two-valves-per-cylinder, boxer twin

BORE & STROKE: 82 x 61.5mm


FUEL SYSTEM: 2 x Bing CV carburettors


TYPE: Five-speed, constant-mesh, 



FRAME TYPE: Steel twin-loop

FRONT SUSPENSION: Telescopic fork, 175mm travel, nil adjustment
REAR SUSPENSION: Twin shock, 110mm travel, preload adjustment 

FRONT BRAKE: 260mm single disc





FRONT: 3.25-18
REAR: 4.00-18


POWER: 45hp (33kW) @ 7250rpm

TORQUE: 45Nm @ 6000rpm

PRICE WHEN NEW $3800 plus on road costs

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