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30th May 2014

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Famous Last Words 23: This Is How It Starts

How do you turn a used bike into a classic bike, asks Frank Westworth? It's easy. Decide that you want to buy one...

It's possibly an unhealthy thing to admit in polite classic company, but I'm suffering something of a BMW aberration. I blame the Better Third for this. She rides one, an angular twin which has less appeal to me than a Triumph Bonneville. But that is not why she is to blame. Oh no. She sent me an email (What do you mean? Don't all couples communicate in writing?) complete with an image of a K100. In orange. Not usually a favourite colour, but this was a sort-of burnt orange metallic and caught the eye.

How Used Bikes Become Classic Bikes

The K100 was unfaired, which is what - quite suddenly and out of the blue - grabbed my attention and made my wallet twitch in an unseemly way. Unfaired? A naked brick? Hmmm…

'They're cheap,' she announced. 'You'd like one of those.'

Women are of course never wrong.

I don't think I've ever ridden an unfaired K100. I have ridden several RS models - I was at a launch of the K100RS, back in 19-wheneveritwas, and remember having a rare old time aboard several of them, including a dealer-offered cheaper alternative with a Pichler fairing instead of BMW's own heroic Tupperware. They were both great. I couldn't afford one. Times were hard.

How Used Bikes Become Classic Bikes

As well as the RS in 1000 and 1100 forms, I rode a few RT models, and even an LT or two (LT for two? Sounds like a song) but never owned one, not least because I ride Nortons with big fairings of their own. And oddly, at around the time of the K100 launch, I once rode a rotary Norton fitted with a BMW RS fairing … but that was an R100 fairing, not a K. I digress.

And there are loads of them about. Bricks and brickettes (the K75 triple) galore. But where are the naked models? There's an uncountable number of RTs and LTs, and I truly do believe that not all of them are disguised ex-polis bikes, and there are some truly handsome RS models too. But naked bricks? I've not found a decent one for sale yet.

How Used Bikes Become Classic Bikes
K-Series BMWs on ...

This is how it starts. Classicness. Some idiot (I'll raise my hand in a sort-of cautious way; I own up) decides that they simply must have a BMW K100, a naked one of course, the one true classic, and that they'll pay a good price for one. Snag is, none are to be found for sale. Weeping would-be owner infests the world of digital social media, bewailing the fact that there are no naked K100s anywhere and that suicide will follow if he can't find one. Or worse, he might kick a cat. Cruelty to cats is, so I believe, the most heinous online crime of them all. Everyone proclaims universal brotherhood and sympathy. No-one knows anyone who has the elusive - and desperately desirable - naked K100 for sale.

Except… silently in sheds across the land, hairy-palmed lurkers contemplate the rusting remains of an ex-polis K1100RT they bought at a car-boot for a tenner and which has sat, growing mysteriously fungoid corrosions ever since. They scheme and they dream, and then they scheme again…

Then they break out the spanners and strip the cracked fibreglassware from the defunct K. They surf deep through the night, accessing faraway websites where only trolls are welcome, and they find odd near-BMW bits of plastic which somehow, vaguely and only at a distance on a dark and rainy night, could pass for the headlight and radiator cowl for a naked K100. These they acquire in return for dark favours, and a great work of bodgery commences. Along with a lot of effort with aerosol paint, Smoothrite and a polishing mop on a drill.

How Used Bikes Become Classic Bikes

In a stunningly short length of time, their task is complete. They have a running (in a sense) naked K100 which they happily describe as 'scruffy but original, needs V5 and minor attention; future classic, the rare and special K' in the shadowy world of online adverts. They post under bogus names on sundry websites, revealing that they've located this rara avis, this potential delight, and they stick the thing on eBay, using a strange identity, an identity which bears no relationship to their own. And they wait…

Fifty friends message me on Facebook to tell me of this great find. I rush off to eBay and begin the long wait until the last minute, which is the only time to bid on a RealRarity like a naked K. And so do all my friends. The naked K sits at a bid price of £100 for a week. And then, as if by magic, pseudonymous folk bid it up to £5000 and a classic is born. Features appear in the classic press revealing that a naked K was bid up to £5000, and international auction houses find their catalogues bulging with unheard-of dozens of naked Ks. Classic dealers throughout the land tear their hair, attempting to buy a couple for stock…

This is how it happens, how a pile of unlovely unloved junk becomes transformed into the bright butterfly of a classic bike. You read it here first. Start hunting that rare naked K now…

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