The R90S, perhaps the most esteemed model ever produced in BMW’s long, distinguished history, remains today as beautiful, timeless, and desirable as ever. But finding one in any condition, let alone one in original “Silver Smoke” paint like this one, is getting harder every day. This R90S, which we’re offering as a PROJECT BIKE, is missing a few parts, but all else is here and in satisfactory condition, especially considering that it’s been off the road, in dry storage, without fuel in the tank (a good thing) for about 20 years.
To anyone familiar with this famous R90S model, the absence of its iconic café fairing is the most obvious clue that, “something’s missing.” The fairing was, unfortunately, damaged beyond repair during shipping when the prior owner of almost 25 years had it moved cross country. Thankfully, all else was, for the most part, undamaged. Thus, this PROJECT BIKE offers its next owner a clean slate, an unmolested machine as an excellent starting point toward whichever outcome might be desired. One could, for instance, easily turn it into a daily rider without replacing the “S” fairing, just by doing the services required to bring it back to safe and roadworthy condition. Or, for the more ambitious, tackle a full restoration, replace the missing bits as well as doing the mechanical refurbishing, potentially ending up with a showpiece worthy of great pride!
In either case, knowing that this PROJECT BIKE has been stored for over two decades, you will need to address all the standard maintenance items – things like rebuilding the carbs which, while pretty clean, would still require rebuilding simply due to the years the bike has been sitting. Cleaning and re-packing wheel bearings, steering head and swingarm bearings should be included in any refurbishing, as would changing all the fluids and filters including the fork oil, gearbox, motor, final drive, and driveshaft oils plus the front brake fluid. A full tune-up, fresh battery, new tires and tubes, a plug wire set and control cables (one is fraying), plus assorted rubber bits should bring this machine back to life and make it safe and roadworthy.
We did not perform a compression or leak down test, but considering the bike’s moderately low mileage and the fact that it was evidently stored properly, we would be optimistic that compression is still within spec. The indicated mileage, (22,824 on the odometer) is, as best we can determine from our evaluation, and confirmed by the last owner on a legal document, the correct original mileage on this PROJECT BIKE. This factor should instill a measure of confidence that when bike is offered in “AS IS” condition, there is far less likelihood of it having been cobbled up by multiple prior owners over time.
As we said, this PROJECT BIKE is missing some of its original parts. In addition to the “S” fairing and mounting brackets, its mirrors, side covers, tool kit, shop rag, tire repair kit and owner’s manual are also absent. It does, however, come with the original and hard to come by white-face Motometer clock and voltmeter. We connected both these gauges to a battery during our evaluation and they worked during a two-minute test. We noticed, though, that the minute hand on the clock is loose so we would recommend having this instrument serviced so it will last another 48 years.
Other points of note on this PROJECT BIKE: the inside of the tank is exceptionally clean. The wheels are average and show some light to medium rust on the spokes and nipples. Gauges look OK but as we’ve not ridden the bike, we don’t know how accurate they are at speed, but the faces and needles look very clean except the tach side glass has a crack in it. Both the side stand and center stand are in good working order. The seat and seat pan are far better than most examples and are original and correct for this year. There are a few scratches and a small nick on the front fender. The control switches move freely and smoothly, and we’d expect that with a basic cleaning and lubrication they’d be good for many more years and miles when bringing this PROJECT BIKE back into service. The mufflers are solid but have some minor surface deterioration – extra cleaning and polishing attention might offer good improvement, but they should be useable for a long time yet.
The PROJECT BIKE is equipped with the stock and correct 33/11 final drive unit plus the five-speed gearbox with the optional but correct for 1974 kick starter mechanism that feels like it is in good condition. We tested the gearbox on the lift (while in the bike) and it goes through all gears easily. The rear shocks have light rust on the springs and despite their age seem to have life left in them; there are no visible leaks showing. This machine, unlike the 1975 and later versions came with four aluminum turn signals vs. the later plastic ones, and these are in good condition.
The last item connected with this PROJECT BIKE that we’d like to bring to any prospective buyer’s attention is that there are extra numbers stamped or etched into the engine block and main frame. We don’t see this often, but it is a known fact that a small number of dealers added their own identifiers for reference that they sold a bike and or regularly serviced it. We don’t know if this was done with the customers’ permission or simply done on every bike sold. We do know it was more common in California and the numbers on this machine seem to indicate that it started life in California – see the ‘CA’ at the end of these numbers which we’ve clearly shown in two separate images.
To wrap this up, we think there is a great opportunity for someone with this PROJECT BIKE no matter what they do with it and we’d love to see it purchased locally so we can offer assistance if needed, help the new owner select what parts to purchase from Bob’s with the discount that applies to all PROJECT BIKES, and one day watch it ride back to Bob’s for an event or just a casual cup of hot, fresh coffee to re-introduce us to the PROJECT BIKE that left weeks, months or even a year earlier.