Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Not sure what made me think of this—

The sky was lost and day-dreamy on the way in to work this morning. Vaguely defined clouds, vaguely defined horizons made for a soothing and relaxing trip. Stripped-down Beast, aka the 'R1100-less' seems like a different bike without all the plastic that usually encases it.

Today I added the hardcases back on, because I get nervous riding without all the crap and clutter the cases store—probably about forty pounds of extraneous junk that I rarely touch or use (tools, first aid kit, bungee net...) plus of course the extra drag the cases create. But I feel better having it all along for the ride.

So I guess it was the modest profile and the presence of the cases that reminded me of the 1979 R65 standard with Krauser cases we owned for a brief period back in the day. Brown bodywork and tank, snowflake mag wheels.

The R65 was the older cousin of Campaigner. The later R80st was built using many of the components of the R65; much of the front end, the instrument cluster and control assemblies, the headlamp shell, brackets and turn signals, and some other odds and ends. The R65 engine was a 248 series, smaller and using different carburetors, while the R80st used a standard 800cc type 247 engine.

For a brief run, the monolever suspension of the G/S and ST even made its way back to the R65 (about 1,700 units were built with that configuration) but they all came at the end of the sixty-year run of the air-cooled boxers, and were pushed aside to make room for the K-bikes in the mid 1980s.

The R65 had some issues, for sure. Standard criticism was that it was underpowered and underbraked, and that it was an answer to a question that few people were asking. But a lot of folks thought the R65 was an ideal urban bike, and I'd have to agree with that analysis. It shared many of the strengths of the R80st—short wheelbase, tight turning radius, light weight, supple and responsive handling.

It also had a classic two-into-two boxer exhaust system, and sounded pretty much like any airhead /2 or /5 from anytime. The modest power output of the 248 series was kind of fun in a way. You really had to think about where you wanted to go and how you wanted to get there (I'm not talking about road trips; I'm talking about lane changes).

The R65 demanded that you be working the gearbox pretty regularly, and a lot of riding it consisted of cranking the throttle open and listening to the throaty twin exhausts as those cute little cylinders spooled up and the bike slowly accelerated. It required a great deal of patience sometimes, and was no match for its contemporaries in terms of either speed or quickness. But the R65 was reliable, it was comfortable, and it was more than competent. The R65 is also one of the classic airheads that still looks good today, thirty years since the last one rolled off the line. On the rare occasion I spot one, it never fails to turn my head...and if I happen to spot an R65LS, that warrants a full stop-and-admire. I believe our R65 was the last motorcycle Mary rode while pregnant with Philip, on a very chilly group ride through a May snow squall in Virginia.

There's a lot to be said for the technology of the oilheads (ABS, anyone?) and I have no illusions about the pluses-and-minuses of new technologies versus old technologies. I wouldn't mind having a 247 or a 248 to putt around on, probably wearing a Belstaff jacket with tweed patches on the elbows. Beast is still my go-to bike, and for now I'll just lose myself in imagining it's an R65 from time to time...that's the best of both worlds.

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