1965 BMW R69S

Reliability, Versatility, and Vintage Coolness

Cool vintage 1965 BMW R69S
"I told my wife that if she ever demanded I get rid of all my bikes but one, I’d keep this one."©Motorcyclist

NAME: Carl Best
AGE: 66
HOME: Eugene, Oregon
OCCUPATION: Retired Field Service Engineer

I bought my 1965 BMW R69S in 1990 as a collection of parts from two bikes, one with a missing engine and the other with a badly damaged frame. To be honest, as a longtime owner of British motorcycles, I didn't really care for the Earles fork-era BMWs . I'd ridden an R60/2 and wasn't impressed with the performance or the handling. Once home with the parts, they went into the back of the garage and were ignored until late 1995, when my buddies Steve Caffey and Ken Froebig began pushing me to build a bike out of my collection of R69S parts.

I finally gave in to their nagging, and with the help of Steve Procop (one of the best “slash-two” wrenches on the West Coast) I got to work, handing the engine and transmission over to Procop while I began cleaning, polishing, plating, and painting the rest of the parts. This process began in February of 1996, and the bike was completed by May of the same year, just in time to enter it in the Oregon Vintage Motorcyclists May Show in Corvallis, Oregon.

It didn’t take long after I restored it to appreciate how good these bikes are. Even the styling began to appeal to me. In the ensuing 20 years, I’ve put a lot of miles on the bike, commuting to work, vintage club events, and occasional trips, with nothing more than routine maintenance.

Old BMW motorcycles
"With real off-road tires installed, our old BMWs have turned out to be more fun than the modern ADV bikes we usually ride."©Motorcyclist

In 2003, I bought a new Aprilia Caponord to serve as my primary bike, which caused the R69S to be pushed to the back of the garage with my British bikes, but during the past eight years, I've been taking an annual three- or four-day trip with Caffey and Froebig on their own vintage Beemers, the last four of which have included some pretty gnarly off-pavement sections in eastern Oregon (see photo above). With real off-road tires installed, our old BMWs have turned out to be more fun than the modern ADV bikes we usually ride.

After one recent trip, I told my wife that if she ever demanded I get rid of all my bikes but one, I'd keep this one—sacrificing my modern Aprilia and the Royal Enfield Interceptor I've owned since 1972—for the reliability, versatility, and the vintage coolness of my R69S.