Dr. Frazier: 1995 BMW R100 GSPD Classic Adventure

MotorcycleUSA Staff | July 2, 2015

“I want to buy my husband a motorcycle like yours for his birthday so he can go adventuring like you,” said my pal’s wife.

My R80 G/S had inspired my pal to want to do more than he had done on his touring BMW, a 1977 R100. He had borrowed my motorcycle and done some off-pavement riding and was enamored with the broader habitat available to my enduro motorcycle compared to that of his road bike.

“BMW does not make motorcycles like my 1981 model anymore,” I explained. “What they offer now is bigger, heavier and more expensive. Maybe you should look at something made by the Japanese like the Kawasaki KLR 650.”

“No!” she said, “he likes the BMW so that’s what I want for him.”

Dr. Frazier: 1995 BMW R100 GSPD Classic Adventure
September, 1995, I break-in the R100 GSPD Classic for the new owner by driving it from Denver, Colorado to his birthday party in Washington, with an oil change and general check along the way.

We worked out a deal with my local dealer and she purchased a 1995 R100 GSPD Classic. My part of the deal was to ride it from Denver to his birthday party in Washington, doing the initial break-in and maintenance to hand it over to him ready for his new adventure riding style.

Over the next 10 years we would do routine maintenance like tires, batteries, oil changes, air filters and once in a while I would check or adjust his valves and carburetor cables. While he was no motorhead, and often looked at a screw driver as if it was an ice pick, once he was taught the basics, like how to remove the wheels for new tires or change the oil, he could do most by himself.

When he reached the 20,000 mile mark I told him he should start thinking about a new drive shaft, to which he replied, “Why pay that big money for something that is working perfectly fine?”

He had a point, but my experience and education with the BMW GS models, as well as that of acquaintances in the BMW “airhead” world of the BMW Airheads Beemer Club had suggested that after 20,000 miles the drive shaft on his motorcycle was on borrowed time. Ignoring the research could lead to catastrophic mechanical failure as well as being stranded somewhere far away from home.

He finally bowed to my suggestion, dug into his tight wallet and we purchased an aftermarket drive shaft that I installed. When I removed the original drive shaft I let him feel the notches of the failing U-joint and tried to explain how few miles he had left. He nodded and acknowledged what was mechanically mystical to him by saying, “Maybe you were right…Yoda.”

When I later showed him a grenaded OEM drive shaft he saw the broken U-joint and could only squint his eyes and scrunch up his non-mechanically trained brain to conjure the picture I tried to paint for him of how that broken part had trashed the rear of the expensive transmission as well as caused the rider to fall down. “Yes, Yoda,” was his reply.

As his BMW approached the 50,000 mile mark I suggested he might want to step-up to a newer BMW model. His reply was a strong “No, thank you. I love this BMW and it was a gift from my wife.” I thought I also heard the frugal springs on his wallet slamming it shut when I told him how much a new BMW GS would cost over what was invested in his Classic GSPD.

“Then it’s time for us to do some major preventative maintenance on your 20-year-old motorcycle, like a new starter and some electrical upgrades.”

This brought an expected response, that being, “Why replace the starter for $350 when the one in the motorcycle is working?”

“Trust me on this, your French-made starter has been blessed to make it this far. We should have replaced it 10 years ago. And as for the electrics, the things I am worried about just get old from heat and time.”

Dr. Frazier: 1995 BMW R100 GSPD Classic Adventure
The failed OEM BMW starter motor, the magnets inside having come unglued, a common failure of the BMW starter motors during the era of the R100 GSPD Classic.

“OK, Yoda,” he said, “You order what you think needs to be replaced and I can meet you in Montana and you can replace them.”

“Errrr, ahhh, let me get with my BMW electrical and mechanical gurus and see what they say, and I’ll have the parts shipped to the mechanic for him to install while he does some other overdue work on your motorcycle.”

I first called Rick Jones, owner of Motorrad Elektrik. For older, air-cooled BMW motorcycles Jones has been called “the patron saint of BMW motorcycle electrical systems,” and “the guru of the mysterious world of electro mojo.”

After Jones listened to my description of the 1995 R100 GSPD Classic and its life to the 50,000 mile mark, he concluded that since my pal used no add-on electrical accessories there was no need to step up the amperage beyond what the OEM system put out and that an upgraded diode board and new rotor would keep the system from failing. The discussion about the original starter versus installing a new one was short, Jones saying something like, “Pull it out, and throw it away. Either buy a new manufactured OEM one or upgrade to the Japanese one we have made that weighs half of the OEM and draws about two-thirds the juice to do twice the work.”

My next phone call was to legendary BMW airhead mechanic Bob Clement, owner of Bob’s Motorwerks in Roberts, Montana. Clement has known me long enough to know my shade tree mechanic limitations and knew the R100 GSPD Classic my pal owned from a previous meeting during an unscheduled tire change on a Sunday afternoon.

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