Voni and I have spent the summer, April through September, traveling on motorcycles. The bikes, her K75S now at 90,000 miles and my R1150R now at 123,000 miles have accumulated together just over 46,000 bike miles since we left home. While they performed well, they were not flawless. Some maintenance needs were expected. Some were not. Both bikes had fresh major services shortly before we left home. I also anticipated a summer of travel away from home, so I did a few items of non scheduled maintenance before we left, too, like a new clutch cable on the K75 and a new rear shock on the R1150. The tires were what were on the bikes, but I had a tire change planned.
We rode from Texas to the Blitz to Branson, to Hyder, Alaska and then to Minneapolis for a nephew's wedding. At a stop in Kansas in June, I mounted four new tires and changed oil and filters in both bikes. This hardly counts as on-the-road maintenance though, since I did it at our old house in my old shop. After a quick trip to Bismarck, North Dakota and a weekend at the BMW Bash just south of Harrison, Arkansas, we set out to explore Arkansas and Tennessee on the way to the BMW MOA rally at Johnson City. And here the first unexpected problem arose.
We were riding up the 10 mph switchbacks to Mount Nebo State Park southwest of Russellville. About two-thirds of the way up, Voni pulled off into a turnout. She told me the engine temperature light had come on but the fan was not running. OK, one of the only two or three problems with classic K bikes had just occurred. Especially on K75s, the fans run so seldom that the nose bearing gets stuck with grime over time, and when the fan tries to run it gets hot and melts the brush holders. Incidentally, it blows the horn fuse. We let it cool down a bit and rode to the top where we let it really cool down.
We rode back down and on our way. Absent the stress of climbing the switchbacks at slow speed the engine temperature would not be an issue. I ordered a replacement fan assembly from Euromotoelectrics to be shipped to me at the rally in Johnson City. It arrived on time, but between Camp Gears, presenting four seminars, shopping at the vendors, and other typical rally activities I didn't bother to put it in at the rally. With a week to ride all the way to West Virginia I figured I'd find a quiet evening for some quality time with the K75.
I did find time and a good campsite for maintenance at Hungry Mother State Park just north of Marion, Virginia. As will become obvious as this narrative continues, I do carry a substantial number of tools when I travel by motorcycle. Photo 1 shows the contents of the tool bag I carry when we travel. I also carry a bead breaker, tire irons, tire pressure gauge and Cycle Pump for tires, not shown in the picture.
Removing the old fan and installing the new fan was straightforward if a bit fumbly. It was obvious that the hose clamps had all been installed with the fairing off the bike. Several were aimed the wrong way to loosen with a screw driver or nut driver. A small ratchet and socket, or small box end wrench did work. On my K75T absent a fairing it was easy. On this K75S the fairing made removing the radiator somewhat difficult, and once loose, it needed to be twisted and turned a bit to clear the fairing lowers. Nonetheless, it came out and replacing the fan once the radiator was on the picnic table was not difficult. I had captured the coolant in a two quart plastic box in which I carry miscellaneous supplies, so refilling the bike with coolant was easy. I would have simply purchased new coolant but proper disposal of the old coolant was the issue, so I opted to simply put it back in the bike.
Everything was fine for a day or so. Then the fuel line on my R1150 started seeping near a connection. Not at the connection-through the outer rubber sheath near the connection. The hose felt spongy near the end. I cut about one inch off the end of the hose and re-clamped it at the connection. I made a note that the hose needed to be replaced but didn't want to pull the fuel tank to do it in the grocery store parking lot.
I've forgotten exactly where we were in West Virginia, but after a day of riding up and down and around in the twisties Voni announced that she thought the clutch hub splines in her K75 needed to be lubricated because she was having difficulty downshifting. Classic K bike problem number two! Since we were headed to the BMW RA rally I decided I could do that at the rally site, or better yet, at Million and a Half Mile Dave Swisher's home in Virginia. About the second person I saw at the rally was Dave, so we made arrangements to head to his house after the rally was over.
I checked my records and the clutch hub/transmission splines had been lubricated 17,000 miles previously when I replaced a crankshaft rear main seal. This service is usually is good for 40,000 miles on a K75, so I was perplexed. I concluded the problem might be in the transmission, might be a worn and roughened input shaft, or might just be dry dirty splines. In any case the transmission needed to be removed to find out.
At Dave's, on a lift in his shop, removing the transmission was straightforward. I was pleased to find the splines dry, dirty, and covered with red rusty dust. I wasn't pleased that the prior lubrication had failed to last, but pleased that the condition of the splines explained the problem. The input shaft and clutch hub looked very good except for that dry condition and red dust.
I have since remembered that I used straight Honda Moly 60 when I last lubricated those splines. I have been dissatisfied with it before because it seems too dry and not tacky enough. I have mixed it 50/50 with Wurth 3000 (green goo) grease with good results, but my "blend" was in Kansas and I was in Texas with a tube of Honda Moly 60 when I last worked on this bike.
With help from Dave, we spent a day in his shop doing this work and a few other odds and ends. Dave had noticed some road tar and other grime on the front of the K75's engine case, so dug out a fender extender he didn't have a current use for, and we installed it on the fender. We hit the road again. Two days later my fuel line started seeping through the rubber again. So a quick trip on Voni's bike to an auto parts store resulted in new fuel line and new clamps to finish doing that job the right way.
We rode to the Canadian Maritime Provinces and spent a couple of weeks in Newfoundland and Labrador. In checking the condition of the bikes from time to time, I noticed that I would soon need rear brake shoes on my R1150R. The rear tire on my bike was also going to need to be replaced a bit sooner than I had intended. After touring the Maritimes, we stopped at Frank's Motorcycle Sales and Service near Essex Junction Vermont. I do carry tire equipment but since they could do it right away I opted to have Frank's mount a new rear tire and install new brake pads while the caliper was loose anyway. We received superb, fast service and were quickly back on the road.
We were headed to St. Charles, Illinois for Checkpoint Number One of the 2009 Iron Butt Rally. I was scheduled to work as a scorer at this checkpoint and later in Spokane at the Finish. As we pulled out of the motel parking lot in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan I discovered I had a serious problem with my motorcycle. When I pulled the clutch lever I felt the clutch release point change suddenly. The lever felt "mushy." I concluded immediately that the hydraulic clutch slave cylinder was failing. Pumping it restored clutch function somewhat but it was only a matter of time before it was going to fail completely and possibly dump DOT 4 hydraulic fluid where it would soon contaminate the clutch disk surface.
With about 5 shifts we rode 100 or so miles down the road to Manistique, Michigan-100 miles closer to a dealership-with time for Voni to go get the parts if they had them in stock. It was Saturday. Nick's near Appleton, Wisconsin did not have the slave cylinder in stock, but would come in Monday (though closed) to order it to have Tuesday. Engles in Kansas City could have one to me Tuesday. I wanted it Monday. I was determined not to add to the lore of BMW mechanical problems associated with the Iron Butt Rally-even just as a scorer. Mischler's in Beaver Dam did have the parts in stock: the slave cylinder, the sealing washers, and the gasket. Mischler's is open Monday. Brian and Sue Rihn Manke live nearby.
I flushed the (by now) black gunky fluid from the system and installed new fluid. I also removed the wheel and shock and loosened and pulled back the slave cylinder. No fluid gushed out. The clutch seemed to be working so I chose to closely watch the fluid level in the reservoir and head to Beaver Dam to pick the parts up first thing Monday morning. I changed the fluid again on Sunday night and found that the new fluid had begun to darken too-meaning the deteriorating rubber parts were contaminating the fluid.
Mischler's had the parts waiting at the front counter when we arrived as they unlocked the doors first thing Monday morning. We had already called Brian and Sue and made arrangements for garage space and sleeping quarters. Brian had the shop space cleared and was waiting for us. I had the BMW Repair Manual CD copied to my computer, so I had already read what it had to say about changing clutch slave cylinders. I chose to not believe it completely. There is a metal cross tube that is in the way. The manual advises to remove the cross tube by removing the air box and swinging the rear frame up slightly to provide clearance to remove the tube. I thought loosening and dropping one end of the swing arm would be easier. After I removed the rear wheel and the rear strut (shock absorber) I took the new part and fiddly fingered it between the cross tube and swingarm without removing either. I concluded that if I could get the new part in I could get the old one out. That is exactly what I did.
I had to rotate the slave cylinder 90 degrees to reach the hydraulic supply line banjo fitting with a long ball-end Allen wrench from the side instead of the top but was able to do so even with the air box in the way-both removing the old part and installing the new part. I was sure I would drop one of the bolts or sealing washers, but managed not to do so. From start to finish the job took a couple of hours.
Examining the old slave cylinder it was clear that the throwout bearing built into the assembly had failed. It had collapsed and was very rough and hard to turn. The new one protruded and turned smoothly and easily. This collapse is what I felt when the clutch release point changed suddenly. Pressure on the clutch would spin the whole piston in the cylinder, causing the seals to soon fail. Be attentive to how the clutch feels, and certainly the color and level of the fluid in the reservoir.
As we headed west towards Spokane, I decided that Voni's K75 was going to need a new rear tire. It wasn't down to the wear bars but soon would be. Looking at the dealership listings in the 2009 Anonymous Book I decided that Mac's Cycles in Clarkston, Washington would be a good place to stop. We have previously camped at Hell's Gate State Park across the river in Lewiston, Idaho so decided to head there. We needed to be in Spokane Thursday night and it was Wednesday morning when we got to Clarkston. We went to Mac's and they didn't have any tires to fit a K75 rear wheel. I asked if they could get one by Saturday since we could be heading back that way after the IBR Finish. Nope. They couldn't get a tire by Saturday. No way. They showed complete unconcern. They carry five brands of ATVs, and two or three brands of motorcycles including BMW. They had no tires for K75s or other classic K bikes.
I know I could have called ahead earlier but was sure that on a Wednesday they could get a tire by Saturday. I was wrong, even though if I have an address to provide, I can get a tire shipped to me in three days virtually anywhere in the contiguous 48 states. That was becoming plan B, to the hotel in Spokane if need be.
We headed north to Beaudry Motorsports in Post Falls, Idaho, between Coeur D'Alene and Spokane. At first they thought they didn't have a tire to fit-the computer said they didn't-but one of the employees insisted on going back upstairs and looking again, and again. He found an ME88 that fit the bike as when new. It was older than I liked-more than five years old-but still a sound tire. I bought it. Since we were on the road I pulled the wheel and they mounted and balanced the tire immediately. Great service for travelers!
We are now headed to the Bavarian Mountain Weekend Rally in New Mexico, and winding down our travels for the summer. I have no more maintenance in mind until we get home ... unless.