Until february I also had a motorcycle. It was this 1986 BMW R65 Monolever, which compared to my diminutive Vespas felt like sitting astride a Clydesdale. I nicknamed the bike Wolfram, after a bloke I knew when I lived in Munich – also home of course, to Bayerische Motoren Werke AG. Earlier R65 models had much smaller geometry, and they are derided by bikers for being the runt of the family, along with the (admittedly underpowered R45). From ’86, the bike shared the same frame as the legendary R80. The R65 was always overshadowed by its big brother, though with 650cc, the R65 is hardly a small-capacity putt-putt. In fact, Wolfram could be quite terrifying – traffic that had been miles up ahead of you quickly became very close indeed. It sounded great too. I recall one fat-necked Cityboy clown in a TVR trying to out-rev me at the traffic lights on Bow Road. I let him zoom off to be flashed by the Gatso. Oddly, drivers of old Beetles often used to wave. Riders of modern bikes were amazed to find that my steed wasn’t from the 60s.
The previous owners were two Californians who’d ridden it and an R65LS (The R65’s space-age cousin which could only have been designed by a German) around France and Spain for several months. When they dropped it off they didn’t tell me that the battery was knackered. The replacement cost me £100. So did the two fork seals it later needed, three months apart. Each service was £100. Everything seemed to cost £100.
I’d originally bought the bike as my commuter when the PX was off the road after my disastrous attempt to fit a Malossi cylinder to it. It did the job admirably, if slightly impractically. It took longer to get ready to ride the thing than it did to actually ride to work. But what a great ride it was, cornering like a Pendolino, and as comfortable as an armchair.
The picture above was taken on the longest trip we made on the bike – Aldeburgh. It took us both there and back, with all our luggage without a hiccup. On the return journey we rode though rain so horrible that at a fuel stop a couple in a Ford that had been following us ran over to ask if we were OK.
Reliable as it was, it just wasn’t as practical or as cheap to run as a scooter so the bike had to go. It was bought by another American, who was the tallest man I’ve ever met. He’s given me first refusal if he ever sells.