I regularly buy OBA, and bought a copy of your latest Continental Classics issue a few days ago as I have an abiding appreciation for BMW airheads and a particular fondness for the /5 and /6 models. While reading the article about the R90S, I was pleasantly surprised to see that you had used a photo on page 80 which was taken of my own R90S while at the Pukekohe Classic Festival in 2007. The red pinstripes are fairly distinctive! I then figured that you may appreciate some background on the bike. It was purchased as a worn out basket case in 2003, and I got serious about completing the restoration in 2006. The bike had been back on the road just over 6 months before you took the photo, and it had only covered a few thousand kilometers by then. With a well equipped home workshop and a trade background, the restoration was a complete nut, bolt and rivet affair. I did the engine machining, gearbox and bevel overhaul, carb rebuild, wiring, frame painting etc myself, with only the bodywork, chroming and wheel truing contracted out. The bike has now clocked up about 30,000km and has proved to be very reliable. I completely agree with your comments about the heavy clutch, soggy front suspension and the average brakes. You could also add the clunky gearbox to the list. It is possible however to eliminate, or at least mitigate these characteristics by using selected components from the later airheads, since much of the later drivetrain can be retro-fitted if one does some research. Items such as the later flywheel, clutch, gearbox internals and driveshaft can transform the clutch action, lever effort and gearchange quality. Likewise, a later swingarm, good quality shocks, heavy duty fork springs and good quality fork oil can improve handling. For the brakes, the use of a smaller diameter master cylinder, braided lines, good quality pads and cast iron discs will make a dramatic difference to the ATE setup. All of the above are improvements which have been made to my bike, and most are quite discreet. The result is a bike which handles, stops and rides like a much more modern machine while retaining the visual appearance, character and performance of an R90S. It is much more pleasant to ride in traffic too. So far, three guys who have ridden it have subsequently bought an R90S each, and a fourth guy has bought an R100CS! I’ve also taken the liberty of attaching a more recent photo (above).
Nick Ploeg New Zealand