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Bike Profile - Posted 8th June 2009

1977 BMW R80/7 - Part 6: Round the Clock
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Roxanne the 1977 BMW R80/7 clocks up 100,000 miles riding to Cardiff and back. Martin Gelder must have got very, very lost in the Cotswolds...

One hundred thousand miles. Four laps of the equator. Half way to the moon (almost). 100,000 miles is a long distance, which ever way you look at it. And passing the 99999 mark on the odometer is a milestone in the life of any vehicle, particularly for a motorcycle that's made it that far with no more than scheduled maintenance. It's an event with deserves some sort of recognition; you wouldn't want to pop to the shops for a pound of carrots and a packet of cat biscuits only to realise that you'd missed seeing those five little tumblers ticking back to zero while you rode past the public conveniences on the high street.

No, if your bike is going to clock up the big 00000, it needs to be celebrated. It needs to happen on a proper ride, on a journey. A trip.

Roxanne the thirty two year old BMW R80/7 had ticked past the 99,500 miles mark in early spring, and a looming weekend break in Cardiff over Easter looked like it would provide the perfect opportunity to click the odometer back to zero. I worked out a route across the country from Cambridge to Cardiff that would avoid motorways and dual carriageways, and set off on a very inauspicious, grey and wet Saturday morning, heading west into what the weather man had promised would be improving conditions.

Somewhere round Gloucester, it finally stopped raining... 1977 BMW R80/7

My route meandered across the Chilterns and the weather finally cleared as I stopped for fuel just outside Gloucester. It suddenly struck me that the next time I filled up, the trip meter would be reading more than the mileometer, but the run down the A48 towards Chepstow soon took my mind off the mathematical calculations of where exactly on the return journey I'd hit the zero point. What a great road.

Through Newport and into Cardiff I found myself listening to every rattle and clack from the engine (and believe me, there are plenty), convinced that some mechanical mayhem was about to occur, that somehow the bike knew it was approaching a significant threshold and that its pushrods would suddenly reach the end of their service life or that the last grain of metal in the big end bearings would wash into the lubrication system, leaving me stranded in Wales with a broken BMW that had only managed a pitiful 99,965 miles. Were the tappets that loud when I set off? Is the clutch squeaking more than normal? Should I stop and check the oil? Was that the normal gearbox clunk, or a different one? Was there the slightest hesitation when I opened the throttle? The bike was running as well as ever when I finally reached Cardiff, but I was a nervous wreck.

Cardiff. No sign of Gwen Cooper...

Early on Easter Monday, in blazing sunshine, under crisp blue skies and with a slight early morning mist little more than a memory, I was back on the A48. Across the bridge that marks the border between Wales and England, through Tutshill, onto the open road, and... 99,999. Find somewhere to stop, quick.

Nice steady 1,000 rpm tickover, too... 1977 BMW R80/7 - 99,999 miles

1.1 miles later, and disappointment. The anticipated click over of numerals didn't happen as tidily as I'd expected, the tumblers instead shuffling half-heartedly round so that most of a zero now showed on the right of the display, with most of a nine still showing on the left. Ah well.

Engine off for this special occasion... 1977 BMW R80/7 - 100,000 miles

I couldn't have picked a better trip to mark the bike's coming of age. The British B-road is a thing of beauty, and from west to east the BMW and I rode across rolling estuary edges, over windswept Gloucestershire moorland, through chocolate box Cotswold villages and out onto the flatlands that mark the edge of the fens. The sun shone, the bike thrummed and bounced along, other bikers waved and nodded back; wonderful. I got lost twice, and twice I forgot to stop in Chipping Norton to take a Norton Challenge photo. Never mind.

By the time I reached home, a hundred and sixty something miles later, the odometer numbers had shuffled themselves almost into line and the bike was ticking over with the same loose thudding it had before I left.

Not bad for her age... 1977 BMW R80/7: Ready for the next 100,000?

It sweats oil from every pore, it dribbles petrol from one carb, it rattles all the time, it crunches when you change gear, it squeaks if you let the clutch out too quickly, it wobbles and weaves whenever it feels like it, and the timing drifts from spot on to miles out worryingly quickly.

But it still eats the miles like a good BMW should. It'll cruise at 80 on the motorway or bimble at 50 down quiet back roads. When it needs servicing it comes apart like lego; externally it's a heap but internally it's pretty sound.

I'm searching for a conclusion to this story, but I don't think there is one. 100,000 is just a number on a dial, not a destination, and it's certainly not the end of the story for Roxanne the BMW.

The A48 beckons...

BMW R80/7 - 100,000 Mile Report


  • Very rattly at tickover and clattery at cruising speed
  • Top speed close to what it would have been when new
  • Fuel consumption around 45-50mpg in general use
  • Oil consumption not bad
  • Various oil weeps round base gaskets and pushrod seals


  • No more grabby than you'd expect
  • No sign of clutch slip, but squeaks occasionally


  • Quite clunky. So as good as new, then :o)
  • Changes up cleanly and quietly
  • Down-changes can be very noisy
  • Never hits false neutrals
  • Proper neutral easy to find
  • Lots of driveline slack between crank and rear wheel


  • Carburetion smooth and responsive at all revs
  • Full choke only needed on very cold days
  • Float-bowl fuel leak cured with new float needle
  • Leaky braided fuel line replaced with new plain rubber item


  • Points wear rapidly despite new condensor, etc.
  • Rooster-Booster waiting to be fitted to cure above
  • Auto advance fine
  • Charging system fine now solid state unit fitted
  • Electric starter fine
  • Indicator relay intermittently failing
  • Diode on fuse board failed neutral light on when clutch in
  • Aftermarket horns falling apart
  • Loom protected from chaffing in various places
  • Electric clock sometimes sticks and flattens battery


  • Front and rear alloy rims fine
  • Front and rear spokes fine
  • Front and rear bearings showing very slight play
  • Front and rear tyres hard and at end of life


  • Front brake now acceptable after rebuild
  • Rear brake unobtrusive


  • Front fork oil needs replacing
  • Front springs slightly saggy
  • Head bearings and swinging arm bearings okay.
  • Ikons fitted at rear; perfect

    Chassis / Other Stuff

  • Scruffy but solid
  • Minimal corrosion, considering
  • Speedo needle wavers likes it's made by Veglia
  • Pannier locks and catches not confidence inspiring


  • Fit Rooster Booster to prevent premature contact breaker points wear
  • Overhaul wheel and chassis bearings and forks, fit new tyres

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