The BMW K-Bike of the 80s and 90s, aka the Flying Brick is a classic. Developed in desperation by BMW to keep up with an industry moving to liquid cooled, fuel injected bikes with anti-lock braking systems. BMW’s Boxer motor, still air-cooled (and would remain air-cooled OR oil-cooled until 2013) was not keeping up with the industry. The K100 and K75 had 4 and 3 cylinders respectively. The K75 only having 740CC motor with around 75 horsepower was known as far less vibration-happy than the big K100 and it could sit vibration free at 90 miles an hour all day long drinking less fuel and having a similar low end torque. 90% of the parts on the K100 and K75 were identical so pick which displacement made you happy and throw your leg over.
1995 was the last year of the K75 selling around 18,000 units through its lifespan. Later model years received a rear disk brake from drum, ABS (as an option) and various trims such as the C, S and RT each pricier with a different riding position and fairing / luggage options. K75 motors are known to be indestructible with the only extra step owners having to take is to keep the rear splines lubed on the final drive that connects with the drive shaft. Lubricate the splines every 12 months or 3,000 miles and change the oil and you’ll get 150,000 miles out of the bike without any issues. There’s the issue of it being a dry clutch and a small breather hose that should be checked from time to time but a clutch at 80,000 miles and a breather hose every 30K. Then again, clutch jobs and final drive issues is where most people drop the bikes off at the dealer and just buy a new one.
Why the history lesson on a bike retired since 1995 (24 years ago)? Well, I bought one. A 1995 K75 RT (Road Touring) with 38,000 miles on the odometer which is a tiny amount of miles for BMW’s flying brick in the under stressed 740CC flavor. The motorcycle in my garage has all original OEM BMW parts, hasn’t been chopped up with the Brooklyn Special and has seen only 3 previous owners.
The first 10 years of its life through 2005 were about 3,000 miles a year around upstate New York with the first owner trading it in to MaxBMW in 2010 having not ridden it for a while. I know this because New York keeps odometer records during annual registration/inspection cycles. In 2011, Dave in North Carolina bought the bike, brought it home on his trailer and road it about 7K miles from 2011 – 2018 when at 70, he decided to start selling off the bikes that were not being ridden anymore (he has a lot of bikes). He sold the bike to Eddy in Virginia in September of 2018. Eddy’s garage collapsed due to a dead tree and high winds on all of his bikes and this one survived without being impacted with any damage “the roof just missed it”.
It was November of 2018, he had ridden the bike a couple of times and to pay for the garage repairs and fund a new to him 1150RS he had to own, he listed the bike for sale on ADVRider for $1500.
2 hours later, I had sent $300 in good faith, booked a one-way plane ticket and bought a bus pass down to Boston.
My all-in price for this vintage K75:
- $140 for plane
- $36 for bus
- $31 for Taxi to Eddie’s house
- $59 for a Days Inn outside of Elkton Deleware
- $40 in fuel
- $50 for insurance
$1,816. I didn’t haggle the owner at all. I knew the bike was worth $3,000 once I’ve done all of the maintenance work so even if I hate it, I can still sell it but I don’t want to sell it. I want to make it work.
Once my garage is cleared up, the plan is to get all maintenance up to date including:
- New Battery
- Oil Filter
- Air Filter
- Fuel Filter
- Fuel Pump
- Spline Lube
- Final Drive / Shaft (if splines are bad)
- Coolant flush
- New Injectors & Bosch coils
- Spark plugs x3
- Headlight, Tail light, Turn Signals, console lights
- Brake Rotors + Pads
- ABS Service
- Brake Fluid Flush
- New Footpeg pads
- New Grips (while preserving OEM heated grips)
- Headlight Restoration
- Touch up paint where metal is exposed
- New BMW Roundel on Tank + Panniers
- Repaint cylinder covers maintaining silver BMW logo
- Cylinder Valve Gasket Replacement
- New rear progressive rear shock with reservoir
- New front springs with fork oil
- Touring tires with better wet traction (current ones are very cheap tires and not confidence inspiring)
- Stainless steel brake lines
- New hoses (breather, coolant lines)
All in, I plan on spending $1500 – $2000 on bringing this bike completely up to date on everything its going to need so that I can confidently sell it to the next person if that’s what I decide to do effectively breaking even on the whole thing but knowing more about the K bike in general and knowing the next owner is going to have a bike that will last another decade needing only spline lube and oil changes.
What will it take for me to keep it? I’ll need to buy the S-model’s fairing and do a conversion at the very least. The S-model has less wind protection but will fit my longer legs. The 650 mile ride home from Richmond Virginia to Central New Hampshire was painful. The way to ride a bike is keeping your knees against the bike’s frame or fuel tank. This is not possible for me who is 6’4” with my riding boots on with 33” long legs (inseam). The fairing that you put your legs into doesn’t fit me. I am pushing the fairing off the bike when I attempt this. When I did this, it was awesome, very comfortable except for the discomfort in my knees on the plastic and the fact that I was bending the plastic off the bike every time I wasn’t completely pulling my legs backwards.
I’ll need to remove the RT fairing if I am going to keep the bike. This reduces the value of the bike being an RT. A conversion to S will not be appealing to most people.
What about a hipster cafe racer build?
Sure. I could do that but that would be on top of all of the maintenance items I listed plus an additional $1,000 in parts for the rear cowl delete, flat-bench seat, relocation of the handlebars and fitting a new headlight and console along with turn signals and finding an appropriate radiator cover that goes away when I remove the RT fairing (which contains headlight, turn signals, accessory controls and radiator cover).
Is there value in spending a total of $4,000 to convert an RT into a cafe racer? Does the value suddenly go up by doing this? If so, I could then ride the bike as a commuter and make more money when I sell it…more research is needed.
For now, I just have to wait one more year and I can apply for a vintage license plate in the state of New Hampshire, ride it to vintage bike meetups and have a second touring bike when he GS is broken and right now, I can just do oil & spline lube and sell it for a pretty massive profit whenever I’m ready.
We’ll see what the future holds. It is a beautiful bike.