Biker by chance – October 2011
It had been a dream of mine for a very long time to own a BMW bike, and to ride it in Europe.
It had to be a road bike as I’ve never had much appetite for Off-Road and the thrill of getting all muddy while carving up dirt roads and digging out cow shit in the process, but it may just be because I have never tried it. I can clearly remember having a very cool 3D poster of a R100RT hanging out of my bedroom wall at the boarding house where I lived in the early eighties, back in high school when I was riding a very modest (and at the time embarrassing) Vespa Ciao, but during the week I paraded myself on a borrowed Honda CB900 Custom that a cousin let me use as long as I cleaned it and topped up the gas so he could trash it all over again during the weekend. Riding that beast was hard as my feet could barely reach the floor and I needed a kerb to stop, so the solution was to just run the red lights, albeit carefully. One day a traffic cop on bike flagged me to stop and got really pissed off when I didn’t, only to laugh his ass off when he realized I could not do it until the kerb. He then escorted me through the next 5 intersections, turret lights and all… aaah Mexico!
Owning my own bike was delayed by the usual stages of life, such as being a broke student, struggling to build a career, taking on a very expensive girlfriend, etc. but in retrospect I guess buying a bike just wasn’t much of a priority, perhaps trying to get a job flying airplanes and living up to someone else’s needs and expectations kept me entertained enough.
In hindsight, it’s very likely that if I had bought one maybe I would have not ended up marrying young and spending the next decade in a perennial state of bankruptcy by fulfilling the American Dream. It is also possible that I could have ended up selling insurance in Alaska or underwear in Thailand… you never know, but it’s a waste of time to think of “what if’s”.
Zoom forward thirty years, a second marriage and two kids, and just by chance I heard that a colleague at work at was selling his bike, none other than a BMW R1150 RT and exactly what I always wanted. It was a 2001 model with less than 5,000 miles on it, the odometer being in miles as it was originally bought in Britain.
Well, I had no other choice but to give the guy a call and see what it was all about and I could not believe my ears when I heard the price, which reminded me of that famous line from “The Godfather” that talks about “an offer I cannot refuse” , so after seeing it for one second I decided to buy it even though I had no idea what I would actually do with it.
I then somehow managed to obtain a nod from my beautiful and wise wife, which was surprisingly accommodating and tolerant to my new toy as long as I did not ride in Dubai (which honestly had been my plan all along anyway) as the idea of me ending up encrusted in the windshield of a massive SUV traveling at the speed of sound was kind of a turn-off. That is what we see every day over here and it’s no joke when I say it is very scary.
So there I was, the proud owner of a neglected but otherwise healthy-looking 2001 Silbergrau BMW 1150RT just as I had always dreamed of. Now, to restore it (and pay. A lot.)
The purchase price of around $2,500 was practically a gift as it was well below the market price for this bike. I had no idea of its real condition but it seemed fine for its age with a few scratches here and there plus some rusty parts that seemed easy enough to replace, all under the untrained eye of an excited buyer. The bike had been stored for a couple of years and was now it at a friend’s garage undergoing restoration. He happens to be a trained mechanical engineer, and had slowly brought it out of a true state of neglect (“just like the phoenix being re-born from its ashes”). A dead battery did not seem too unusual under the circumstances so I quickly ran out to the BMW dealer and paid a hefty price for a new one (couldn’t possibly had waited to have the original charged) and so i got acquainted with the BMW prices. It got installed in a jiffy and…surprise! – the bike wouldn’t start!. We immediately suspected lack of fuel, but after further diagnostic from it ended up needing a new fuel pump, along with some of its lines, so back to the garage it went.
Original parts for BMW bikes are not abundant in the UAE and when they are, the dealer bleeds you dry with a ridiculous markup, therefore the solution was to bring them myself from my trips abroad, preferably New York, and thus became familiar with BMW of Manhattan who were very helpful fulfilling the shopping lists. Over the course of three or four trips I managed to get all the parts and finish the repairs, plus all my riding gear, which included a hi-vis yellow BMW AirShell jacket, BMW Airflow pants and boots, a Schuberth C3 hi-vis yellow helmet, plus a pair of BMW socks of course in the hope that they would contribute to improve my riding skills by art of magic and good looks. All this took the best part of three months and a chunk of my savings, the bill kept growing albeit not at a painful rate (yet).
Finally the day came to go pick up the bike and I was as happy as a pig in crap, got to Alf’s place and met with the tow truck guy, Abit, a very nice Pakistani recommended by the dealer who is well experienced in hauling bikes all over the place. Alf (“the meister”) got the bike running and swiftly rode up the loading ramp but the second he got to the top a squirt of brake fluid started pissing out of the front line, with a stream like blood flowing out of a severed jugular on a horror movie. That caused the smile of excitement on my face to vaporize in no time and a series of expletives followed, I decided to take the bike home anyway and try to get it fixed there so as to not depend so much on Alf’s busy roster at work, so the poor thing ended up in the garage again, but at least it was my own.
Now I had to figure out where to get the spare lines, and after some research I chose a full set of braided stainless lines from Spiegler and it took a week to get them, plus another two before I could get Alf to install them as my mechanical skills are as good as my cat solving algebraic equations. He did it swiftly and I was surprised to see it was not as hard as I expected, not to say that I could do it without supervision though.
So Whoooa! the repair was completed, and here I was with a perfectly fit bike parked in my garage eager to roar away, but without registration, insurance or a biker’s license all I could do was steer at my precious jewel in the garage, except for the times when I got it started just to hear the engine purr away and let my imagination fly while recharging the battery, but that is another story…