Classic Motorcycle Build

BMW R1100R Review

After owning Harleys, Triumphs, Yamahas, and Kawasaki's, I decided to try something different for my next motorcycle. Aside from budget restraints, my only criteria was that it weighs no more than 500 pounds.

BMW Oilhead Review

BMW Airheads

From 1923 to 1995, BMW produced motorcycles powered by their air-cooled, horizontally-opposed boxer engine. These older two-valve per cylinder flat-twins are known as Airheads, for their air-cooled-only cylinders.

BMW Oilheads

in 1993, BMW introduced a new four-valve, oil/air cooled boxer engine. Two years later, Airhead engines were superseded to the new four-valve air and oil cooled engines. These bikes are known as Oilheads. The opposed cylinders are still air-cooled, and the heads are oil-cooled.

The Purchase

The seller was an older rider who was obsessive about motorcycles and their maintenance. He owned seven bikes, including two of the same R1100R models; one was yellow, one was black. He was selling the black one.

BMW Oilhead Review

In addition to the two R11's, he had several other BMW's as well, along with a Ducati Monster and a Honda Ruckas. They were all neatly arraigned in a three-car-garage filled completely with motorcycles. Each of them were covered with trickle chargers attached to the batteries.

After a quick review of the R1100R controls and starting/stopping procedure, he allowed me to road test the R for as long as I liked. Although I had never ridden a BMW motorcycle, I found the controls intuitive and the seating position comfortable.

After a 20 minute ride, I was ready to drive it home, until my wife pointed out I had no insurance or tag. And, no, the owner wasn't going to let me drive it home on his tag and insurance. Oh, well, onto the trailer it went.

Buying a used BMW Oilhead

Included with the sale was a Givi cargo box and a nearly new indoor motorcycle cover. A folder of past receipts showed the engine oil and filter, transmission oil, and rear end fluid were changed just 500 miles ago.

R1100R - the Roadster Model

The R-series fits my six-foot-tall frame well with the seat/pegs/handlebars all comfortably within reach. The seat has a three-position adjustment, which I keep on the middle setting. The motor has plenty of power and it's as smooth as can be. The more I ride it, the longer I want to stay out riding.

Clunky Transmission

Yes, the transmission is a little clunky when shifting gears. And sometimes neutral is a little tricky when cold.

BMW changed the R1100 transmission in 1997, so 97 and up models are a bit quieter. The clunking doesn't bother me at all, as I've ridden mostly Harleys over the last 30 years.

BMW R1100R review

The bike came with a clear aftermarket fairing, which didn't exactly fit this year and model. To fit on this bike, the gauges had to be scrunched in. The plexiglass was pretty scratched and cloudy, so I painted the inside of it black.

BMW Oilhead Review

Aftermarket Exhaust

Finding a good performance exhaust for early Oilheads is getting harder with each passing year. I was lucky this bike was already equipped with a Remus Gran Prix system. It adds a nice pleasing tone; a deep rumbly sound that's not overly loud. At highway speed you can barely hear it as the wind noise blocks the exhaust note.

With a stock R1100R tipping the scales at 515 pounds, removing the stock BMW exhaust and replacing with an aftermarket one saves about 40-45 pounds. I figure that brings my total motorcycle weight down to about 480 pounds.

BMW Oilhead Review

Oilhead Maintenance

I've found my R-series Oilhead easy to maintain. So far, I've performed oil change and filter, spark plugs and wires, fuel filter, and battery replacement. At 60K plus miles, the motor is just breaking in. All R-series bikes are shaft-drive, which require less maintenance than most other types of motorcycle engines.

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Cupping Tires

When I originally bought the bike, both tires were a little cupped, and the rear tire was nearly bald. I replaced it with the same tire that was on it, a Michelin Pilot, size 160/60ZR18. The importance of motorcycle tires can never be over-stressed.

Michelin Pilot 160/60ZR18

Going Forward

With it's mechanical simplicity and an engine that can trace its roots back to the 1920s, the boxer-twin engine has a lot of character. As I write this article, it's 2019, and the R is 24 years old. Next year it will qualify as a classic bike.

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