Airhead Buying Guide

Thinking About Buying An Airhead That Is Not Currently Running?

While I’m hardly an expert in all things airhead, I do have a /5 and a /6 in my garage. I bought both bikes when they were in somewhat less than showroom condition (the /5 was seriously misrepresented and the /6 was my brother-in-law’s and I put more miles on it than he did so I knew what I was getting into), and I have spent the last couple of years learning what I should have learned before buying either bike.

Unless you really enjoy working on motorcycles, DO NOT purchase a non running airhead. Any airhead that has been sitting for more than a year or two is going to need:

* Tires and tubes ~$200
* Carb rebuild ~$100
* Full tuneup ~$50
* All fluids changed ~$50
* All bearings greased ~$25
* A battery ~$100

These prices assume that you do all of the work yourself. Figure on double this if you go to an independent shop, and triple this if you go to a dealer. This also assumes that the bike was in running condition when it was parked, and it was under cover while it sat. Even after doing all of the aforementioned tasks, you’ll probably have to deal with rust in the gas tank, electrical gremlins, dead foam in the seat, rust on the brake drums and/or rotors, trashed brake shoes and/or pads, and forks and shocks that die shortly after you start riding the bike again. Oh, and rotted mufflers. And all of this assumes that the cylinder walls didn’t rust while the bike sat, and that the bottom end, gearbox, and final drive were in decent condition when the bike was parked.

Given that running, rideable, need little-to-nothing airheads are available for $1500 – $2000, it doesn’t take a math whiz to figure out that you have to get the non-running bike you start with for almost nothing to have any chance of not losing money on the transaction.

If you just want an airhead to ride – just go buy one that is in ready-to-ride condition.

This advice applies to 1969 /5s and newer. The rules change when you start to talk about /2s and older – the prices escalate seriously – both the purchase price and the money you have to spend to get the bike back on the road. If you don’t believe me – ask someone that is knowledgeable about /2s to explain what you have to do to clean the slingers – the equivalent of an oil filter on a /2.

Finally – my experience is that sellers of old BMWs and old BMW parts are (to be kind) quite optimistic about the condition of what they are selling. Caveat emptor – I would recommend that you start by researching what you want to buy so you make the right purchase decision(s), rather than doing what I did – buying bikes and parts and only then learning what you should have asked before making the purchase ☺ .