One Step at a Time

Big update, here!

Everything is at Alan’s. Almost. I have the cylinder head caps, so I can pull the last traces of paint off of them before they get bead blasted. Also I have a box full of plastic bits—turn signal housings and the like—which need to be cleaned up and restored. I also have the instrument cluster, headlamp lens and a few odds and ends which I don’t see any point in adding to the clutter in Alan’s shop when I know where they are here. We’ve got a few working sessions to go before any of it is needed, so no worries.
The engine is finished and we’re ready to make a rolling frame (which has to happen before the engine is mounted into the frame). Our setback there is that Orion’s has, once more, let me down.
I dropped the wheels and the front tyre I had with them asking them to give me tubes, a rear tyre, mount it all and true the wheels. After three weeks of waiting I finally stopped by to see my stuff hadn’t moved from where I’d set it. I canceled the trueing and asked for the tyres and tubes mounted by the weekend. I picked it up and a few days later got it to Alan’s and finally took a closer look to find they mounted a too-narrow front tyre on my rear wheel. So I returned the tyre and ordered one online. No more Orion’s.

Keith, the guy who is doing the painting, called last Friday to say that everything is done and ready for me to pick up. The only catch is that I get paid on the first and won’t have enough money for him until then. He has no problem holding the pieces until then. He had some trouble tracking down the color at first, but managed to get in touch with another local BMW rider who had a factory-original Nüburg Green tank he could hit with a spectrophotometer.
When I removed the knee pads and emblems, I found a dark BMW blue underneath the current layer of brown. I knew the brown was painted after the factory, but had no idea what the original color of the bike was. Keith called after he had the pieces for a few days and told me he found Nüburg Green underneath the blue. Looks like the original color was the same green I picked. What a strange coincidence. The whole thing makes me want to talk to all the previous owners, see who painted it, when, and why.

I sanded the chrome (what was left of it) off all of my exhaust pieces, smoothed it all out, polished the fragments of rust from the divots in the welding and painted them with a rattle-can ceramic coating by VHT. I read a lot of mixed reviews of the stuff online, but wanted to get away from the chrome/silver look. I picked a matte black. I’m not entirely sure how it’s going to last, but worst case scenario I can pull the pieces off and sand the paint off later.

It shouldn’t be too much longer, now. Alan seems to think that things will move quickly once we get the engine mounted. There are still a few more things I need to buy, like a battery, but for the most part it seems like it should only be a month or so before I crank it up again.
The key, here, is to not get behind in what I have to do here at home. I need to restore those plastic bits, order my battery, and keep my weekends open so I can work whenever Alan is okay with me coming over.

More updates coming soon!

It’s Been A While

It’s been a while since I started this blog.

It’s been a while since I went dark on this blog.

It’s been a while since I started tearing that damn 1976 BMW apart.

It’s been a while since I felt this good about the whole rebuild.

I’m not quite there yet. But the final vision is becoming clearer. Parts are coming in left and right. The last chunk of stuff is at the powder coaters and will be back in my hands next week. I’m a couple weeks away from the body paint being done. I have one last order to place with MAX BMW (the dealership I’ve been ordering all my new parts through).

Autumn and I have moved into a great new house and, like I feared so many months ago, I had to move the motorcycle in pieces. There’s a little corner of the dining room where my new parts boxes are collecting; an ever growing pile of white USPS shipping boxes.

The engine is still with Alan, where it will wait for the rest of the electrics to come in and the body pieces to be painted. I’ll be bringing the entire thing to him, where all of the separate bits will come together to form a whole, [hopefully] working motorcycle.

Today’s is just a short post. Just a little blip on the radar saying, “I’m still here, still working!”

I’ll fill in all the details later. For now it’s just nice to be back on WordPress. I have lots of reading to catch up on.

Time Spent Doing…

Pretty much nothing related to the bike.

I’ve been waiting for my tax return to come in, so I’ve left the BMW bits just sitting around my house collecting dust (and dog hair) since my last post. My return still has not arrived, but I’ve decided to stop waiting and start being proactive about things instead.

Over this past weekend I gathered up all of the bit going to get powder coated and cleaned and loaded them all into the back of my car. This morning I drove everything down to the coater’s to get an estimate.

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A Leap Forward

Okay, so, you know how I’ve been saying that I need to clean everything in order to prepare for the next stages, painting and tuning?

Good news! I don’t have to spend this month scrubbing all the paint from the frame and oil from the engine!

I stopped by Tallahassee Powder Coating and got some general info, including what sort of prep I needed to do to any pieces before bringing them in for coating. The short answer: nothing.

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Work Day

Joel ComradeSaturday Joel and I set about ripping the cylinder heads from the BMW. A quick trip to Lowe’s to buy a 27mm socket in the morning and we dove in. As you can see from the picture, we have a new, very threatening inspiring, motivational poster now hanging in our work area, thanks to my dad.

[The photos in this post were taken by Autumn.]

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Long Overdue

[I began this post some time ago, and lost focus on the original intent. Since I hate seeing Draft sitting in my posts list, as well as my email inbox, I decided to pick this back up, edit it and write it for something I’m more focused on now.]


There’s this feeling I have almost every Monday as I get ready for work. This feeling that I’m leaving some sort of alternative life behind. Like the person I am, the things I do, the things I’m capable of doing are different from Saturday to Sunday.

I think this may be somewhat true.

If I’m good, I’ll wake up around 9am during the week. I have to leave for work around 2:30pm, so that gives me until 1pm before I have to pack dinner, shower, get dressed, etc. That makes for a good four hours to do whatever I see fit. Lately I’ve been having trouble motivating myself to get out of bed before 11. Two hours is hard to get things done in. I have to get up, get dressed, take the dog out, feed myself, start something, make progress on it, then wrap it up before 1.

Welcome to life, I know.

On the weekends I’ll sleep in an extra hour or so, because I know I have all day to do what I want. In fact, I can take on multiple projects in a day. This was my original plan in tackling repairs on the motorcycle. Take it on one weekend at a time. Pick a part, spend as much of the weekend as was needed on it and don’t start another repair in the same weekend (a great plan of action when the idea is to have the bike available for riding during the week. Now that it’s inside the game has changed). I can spend the rest of my time cleaning, playing video games, watching Netflix, or doing whatever I feel like.

During the week I have to be more careful with my time. If I want to accomplish something, it pretty much has to occupy all of my time before work.

This makes complete sense, of course.

Time management is something I need to get better at, in general, but if I’m going to get this bike rebuilt, not suck at work and do well in school I need to have no mercy for myself when it comes to meeting my own deadlines and focusing on the task at hand. Part of this task is getting better at writing and reading on a consistent basis. As my readers [Joel & Autumn] have reminded me repeatedly the past couple of weeks, I’ve let my hugely vast network of readers down by not posting my regular and reliable Friday updates on time for the past two weeks.

In order to keep myself honest, and to grant permission to the two people I spend the most time with, I’m crafting a schedule I’d like to keep—consistently—which I’ll post immediately after this post.

Important in this schedule will be the gaps. The time I allow myself to relax and to do things just for fun. Yes, there will be relaxation or fun things built into the schedule, but I will also give myself gaps between tasks. These gaps are built-in flexibility. The ability to to say, “I’m at a stopping point 10 minutes early, I think I’ll go ahead and shower so I can just lounge for a little bit before work.”

They’ll also give me time to work in thing which inevitably come up unexpectedly. An email I feel compelled to respond to, a phone call, an impromptu trip to get lunch.

Just organizing all of the moving parts of the motorcycle rebuild will be an exercise in time management, as well. More on that below.


As I said just above, the original plan was to pick a repair each weekend and fix this or that, but only work on one thing in a weekend and, essentially, make sure it was something I could actually complete in a single weekend. That’s quite out the window, at this point.

Today (Sunday) Autumn and I broke down the wiring inside the headlamp bucket, meaning there’s no turning back from this point in terms of replacing the electrical system. There are still questions which I haven’t fully answered, like whether or not I want to replace every electrical item on the bike (relays, switches, lamps, et al) or just the wires and then call the rest on a case-by-case basis.

There’s another question, of how I want to replace the wiring itself. I have, essentially, two options. The first option is to buy the wiring harness kits—three, in total (four, if I replace the relay, etc. right out)—from an authorized BMW re-manufacturer. The second option is to replace the wires piecemeal, buying spools of wires and doing the entire thing pretty much from scratch.

Manufactured Harnesses

If you’re not Joel, or Autumn, you’ve probably just read the previous paragraph and thought to yourself, why the fuck would not just buy the harnesses, save yourself time and hassle?!

First, let me say thanks for reading!

Second, let me explain this thinking:

I’m sort of a glutton for doing things the most complex, hassled, from-scratch way possible. Usually. I built a computer, rather than buying a higher-performance machine. I took my bicycle apart, cleaned it and rebuilt it, rather than taking it to a shop for a tune-up and re-gearing. This has little to do with money. In some cases, such as building the computer, I wound up saving money. In others, such as the bicycle, it cost me money in having to replace parts I broke in my ignorant attempts to fix them. It’s also a huge time sink. Doing things from scratch (or close to it) costs a lot of time, both in learning the ins and outs of what I’m trying to do and in my poor time management and the extended times it takes me to complete projects.

Why am I like this? Hell if I know.

That’s part of the reason I looked into other options than just buying the pre-made harnesses. Another part is money. The main chassis electrical harness is something like $550. If I want to buy each handlebar cluster they’re going to be about $170 a piece. There’s the engine electrical components, ranging from the various relays ($20-$60) to the starter motors ($130 per—two per bike). The alternator could go, though may not need to. The electric start system needs to be replaced by a less taxing piece of hardware, that’s going to be about $200. A new battery will be the final piece, probably close to $120. Not everything in that list is exclusive to the manufactured harness and, to be fair, I could source wiring from scratch and still replace all of the relays, hardware pieces, etc. $550 is a steep place to start, though.

There are benefits, of course. Like not having to worry about sourcing matching colors or converting metric (German DIN standard) wire gauges to imperial. Or not accidentally buying 20ft more wire than I needed in a particular color. Or not worrying about the weather resistant capabilities of either the wiring itself or my methods of sealing connections. Or not having to purchase and affix all of the properly sized connectors and crimps. Or not stabbing myself repeatedly in the fingertips with freshly stripped wiring. The ease of installation, because it’s essentially just color-by-numbers, thanks to wiring charts I found (here [this one is coming soon] and here) and Autumn’s diligent record keeping.

Sourcing Wires from Scratch

You’d think that I would have investigated where I could get motorcycle wires in 10-25ft spools by now. I still don’t know if my best bet is to go to Lowe’s and buy spools there or if I should look into wires made specifically for motorcycles. Now that all the wires on the lighting system and inside the headlamp bucket have been snipped and yanked from their homes it seems like a bit late to still be asking such basic questions.

The downside to doing things this way is, in large part, the amount of time it will take me to investigate, order, receive, prepare and install every single wire segment. I’ll have to strip each end, fasten the clip or crimp and them install it to the bike. There are several areas where the wiring travels through rubber sleeves, weather and general wear protection, I’m sure. Where do I source those sleeves, I don’t even know!

In the original wiring (maintained by the manufactured harness), the color coding of the wires maintains a certain logic. Red wires always carry power directly from the positive terminal of the battery regardless of ignition switch status. Brown wires are always grounds. Wires with blue coloring are running to and from turn signals. Green wiring is general lighting systems. Makes some sense. Maintaining a color coding system which makes sense and fits all of the varied applications (having a series of Green/x wires, all of which connect to various points on the lighting system, et al) will be intensely important if I source my own wires and select my own color codes.

Then there’s the process of converting the metric gauges of the German DIN standards to the imperial gauges available in stores like Lowe’s and CarQuest. There are, if memory serves me well, three different gauges in the BMW, and gauge is pretty damn important. Matching them isn’t just a matter of finding one that’s pretty close. I have to find exact matches.

The Engine

The engine and transmission are still sitting comfortably inside the bike’s frame, waiting on me to call Alan with two questions. I’ve been saying to Joel for maybe three weeks now that I was going to call Alan “today.” I never do.

Part of it is that I’m fairly intimidated by him. He’s the guru and I’m the small village boy trying to scale the mountain. I don’t want to be laughed at, shot down, told I’m taking on too much, or, worse, told the project is going to be more expensive than I’m willing to spend.

The Fin-nut Wrench

The nuts which hold the exhaust pipes to the engine are finned, to disperse heat, and require a special tool to remove. I could buy this tool, of course, for $70. Or I could call around to Alan or other BMW enthusiasts I know and see if anyone has one I could borrow. I’m fairly sure Alan would have one, since he’s done a few rebuilds himself.

Engine Inspection

My original plan called for me to disassemble, inspect, polish and replace any worn engine parts. From the onset I was going to hand the transmission over to someone else to do that whole process. The transmission is much more precise in it’s allowances than the engine. I don’t have the confidence in my abilities or patience to maintain that precision. I’ve decided in the past couple weeks that I should pass the engine tune-up on to someone else, as well.

Hopefully Alan will be willing to take on this project, and willing to take it on with me watching over his shoulder, learning so in the future I can crack it open and make any repairs to the inner workings that I need to. He’s expessed a willingness to be a mentor in this way before, I don’t know why he would be opposed–especially if he’s getting paid.

Which brings up another issue. Does he want to get paid? How do I approach that? Sure, I could just ask him–or offer to pay him and ask how much he’d like–but I always feel weird about it.


I bought a bunch of different scrub pads (steel wool, scour pads, etc.) and will be borrowing my dad’s dremel. I’ve got Bon-Ami, CLR, Grease Lightning and some other terribly toxic chemicals I can’t remember.

At this point, with everything except the engine and transmission out or off of the frame, I think the most time-consuming and physically laborious aspect of the rebuild will be the entire process of cleaning, stripping off paint and polishing. Repainting the frame, fork arms, luggage racks, fenders and tank will be a chore, but I’m a ways away from that. I still need to research the best paint to use for the frame. It needs to be significantly heat resistant, able to withstand hours of exposure to and engine running at a few hundred degrees. It needs to keep from scratching off while being blasted by dust and dirt at 80 or 90 mph.

There are lots of automotive paints available, and I’m positive there are some geared to motorcycle frames and body parts, it’s just a matter or tracking them down.

The fenders and tank are getting repainted, too, despite the fact that the current paint is in really, really good shape. I don’t mind the color, which was added at some later point by a previous owner, except that one of my coworkers pointed out that the brown paint with the gold striping makes it look like it’s FSU-themed. I happen to hate Florida State University’s main athletic programs–namely the football program–so that has soured the color in my mind.

I’ve picked a color I think will be good, though I want to give it some time to roll around in my head before I commit to it here or on the bike.


As promised earlier, I need to talk about the task of organizing all of the moving parts of the rebuild project. I’ve been looking at task management visualization software and have come up with only a few promising programs. I may just have to resort to mind mapping software.

The goal here is to break down the things which need to get done to each part into a short list of generic tasks:

  • Remove
  • Clean
  • Order
  • Install

Then to assign each part to a position relative to those tasks, ie.:

  • Engine  – Needs to remove
  • Wiring Harness – Waiting to order
  • Frame – Waiting to clean
  • Speedometer Cable – Needs to order
  • Rear Wheel – Waiting to remove

The parts list can (and should) be incredibly detailed. Ideally each nut and washer would be on it. Connecting it to a microfiche of the bike’s sections wouldn’t be a bad idea. This way as I’m preparing for installation of parts, I can check ahead of time that I have the right bits. Any bits I haven’t confirmed I have can be moved into the “Order” sections of the task chart, this would mean that anything that’s otherwise ready to install wouldn’t move into the “Install” section of the chart until I moved the required bits from “Order” to “Install”.

So really, if we imagine the task chart as a circular graph, divided into 4 sections, the dividing lines would continue out of the circle, into the white space beyond. These white spaces would be the tasks’ queues, so to speak. For example, the rear wheel is counterbalancing the frame of the bike while the engine is still inside it. The rear wheel needs to be removed, but it’s removal is contingent upon the removal of the engine. It’s therefore waiting to be removed, not because it isn’t a priority or because I’ve been too lazy to do it thus far, but because it can’t move until something else does.

What would be great is a program which would allow me to draw these relationships as I add the parts to the master list. The difficulty comes in that some parts have one relationship in one task, but no relationship or the converse relationship in another task. To use the engine and the rear wheel again, once both are removed and cleaned, the wheel must be installed before the engine, again for counterbalancing purposes.

So it looks like I’ll play around with the programs I found, but will likely be resulting to FreeMind, Vue or a similar mind mapping software.