Tanshanomi's Snap Judgments


Wed, May 25th, 2011

1982-84 BMW R65LS
It's really slow, even for a BMW airhead, and unlike other lower-power motors I've cataloged here, it's not even very entertaining. It doesn't feel week, it just never quite provides the woosh of power you're waiting for, or displays memorable charisma of any sort.
Other than the typical BMW shaft-jacking, the R65 was a nimble, steady, willing dance partner. The LS added upgraded twin Brembo brakes on the front, but was otherwise identical. The small nacelle fairing supposedly increased downforce on the front end, but that's doubtful. The very stubby bars moved the rider's weight forward, which was probably changed the LS version's feel more significantly. (The US model could be spec'd with higher bars that looked positively silly with the sporty fairing.)
The LS version's visual changes (fairing, tailpiece, black exhaust, unique cast wheels) were minor but really help the overall clean lines of the basic R65 shine. The look of the red version with white wheels was pitch-perfect.
Mechanical trouble will be about average for a bike of its age, but the good news is that parts (except the LS exclusives) are plentiful and the core of the bike wears slowly and can be refurbished a nearly infinite number of times.
Despite being a workhorse design, the R65 gets marked down for having no real benefits over its larger airhead brethren other than a fairly insignificant cost and weight advantage. Despite boxers' reputation for smoothness, the R65 vibrates with an annoying and pronounced high-frequency buzz in the midrange. The LS was all this, plus bodywork that complicated the addition of saddlebags or a windshield. Taller riders loved the ergonomics of the low handlebars; shorter riders found them painful.
Performance-wise, the R65 doesn't turn anybody's crank, but the elegantly dramatic shape of the LS version makes it a benchmark design.
Like many a B-movie actresses of its era, the R65LS was mediocre talent housed within a captivating visage.