BMW R65 (1979 - 1984) FAQ

by Noemi Berry (
Last update: July 14, 1994

This is a compendium of information I've collected that is unique to R65s, and comes largely from my experience with my own. This does not address common boxer things, like the charging system, paint fade, high-speed weave, spline lubes etc. Also, specs and other information easily available in manuals, and tedious to type in, is not included.

Much may be missing, particularly quirks of '79 and '80 R65s, so please mail me ( with comments and corrections!

Frequently Asked Questions Index:





The R65 was imported into the US from '79 - '87. The '79-'84 R65s are the ones that most people think of when they refer to R65s, with the smaller, dual-shock frame. In 1985, the R65 got the same monoshock suspension & frame as the other boxers, making it the same as the R80s and R100s but with a wimpier engine. Most of what is said below applies to the '79 - '84 R65s.

The R65 engine was designed from scratch and introduced in the USA in 1979. It has a shorter stroke than the other boxers, and though the basic desing is the same, some parts are different.

The R65's chief advantage is its light weight and short wheelbase, resulting in quick handling. Its top speed is reported to be about 105mph, though I've never seen more than 100. In my experience the chassis gives out in a top-speed run before the engine does. It's geared shorter than other boxers, so cruising RPMs are higher and you have to shift a little more often. It revs easier than other boxers too, so while it doesn't have as much to give as the 1000cc twins, it gives what it has more willingly.

High speed is not the R65's strength, neither in engine power nor handling. One would be hard-pressed to think of a 600cc, or even 500cc bike that is slower off the line than an R65 or wobblier in a 90mph sweeper. But it's also lighter than most of the mid-80's 500cc-600cc bikes.

On a tight twisty mountain road, its low COG, easy handling and boxer-typical powerband make a good rider on an R65 competitive with any sportbike. It's a simple, versatile design with little bodywork, and so is easy to work on, is very droppable, and is decent on unpaved surfaces. Most people in the BMW community don't consider it suitable for long-distance touring, but if that touring involves lots of twisties, it's great.




Detuning (leaned) carburetion changes for emissions, with no other changes to make up for it, resulting in a slight performance loss. BMW RA calls the 1980 R65 "the worst BMW ever made."





Last year of R65LS and dual-shock R65 model.




Non-LS R65s have cast "snowflake" wheels. Most people run tubed tires, though some wheels will hold a tubeless tire. They were designed for tubed tires in pre-tubeless days, but some in the BMW community say you can run tubeless tires.

Less than 40mpg is poor; 40 mpg is OK; 45 mpg is good. I've gotten as low as 37 and as high as 51! Usually I get 42-44. YMMV.

Sidecovers always fall off. Cable-tie them on for safety. They cost over $70 EACH (painted) to replace.

Stock rear tire size is absurdly narrow. Most R65 owners run 120s on the rear, which will just barely clear the swingarm. I'm told you need a spacer to get the tire to fit in the right place, but mine doesn't have it (Ed?).

The '79 and '80 R65 seat is a hideous brown ribbed vinyl, but is surprisingly comfortable and fine for two-up.

The R65 has one thick metal exhaust gasket on the header pipe (under the exhaust nut). All other boxers have a gasket and a ring. This can confuse boxer knowledgeables not familiar with R65s. The exhaust nuts are R65-unique as well.

I had a hard time replacing the throttle cam. The stock cam that fits the R65 throttle housing had a cable-end holder for a dual-cable setup, but 1981-on R65s have a single cable. Fortunately I had Kevin Caselli at Cal BMW on my side, and he put a chain and cable-end holder for a single cable onto a cam that fit in the R65 throttle housing. The cam should be the same as for R80ST and GSs.

R65s are still made in Germany, though they have the same monoshock chassis as the old twins, but with the 650cc engine.

There was indeed an R65 G/S sold in Germany, and has never been imported into the USA (or even exported from Germany as far as I know).

Generally my R65 works best stock; most, but not all, other R65 owners I've talked to (and other boxer owners for that matter) agree. Universally agreed-upon modifications are sidestands and front & rear suspension.


R65 forks are unique to R65s, and are most similar to R80ST forks, with the same suspension travel and fork oil capacity. Many parts are the same, but the R80ST has a rebound spring inside that the R65 doesn't. Also, the R65 has a circlip holding in the fork top caps (instead of the R80ST's hex caps). Removing those fork top caps is the only true two-person job I've found on the bike (one pushes down on the cap, the other pries out the circlip).

The R65 also has the excellent thick upper triple clamp that later appeared on K-bikes. No other boxer of this vintage has this; and many suffer fork alignment problems as a result.

The Clymers and Haynes manuals give all sorts of warnings on taking apart R65 forks but neglect to offer solutions for putting them back together, as they do for other forks.

To torque the Allen screw in the bottom of the damper rod (without using an air wrench) to put sliders back on (say, after a changing fork seals), you'll need to take off the top caps (a la circlip), remove the fork springs, and reach an extender with a 13mm hex socket to hold the top end of the damper rod. The Haynes describes this procedure for the R80ST but not the R65, and it turns out to be the same.

Like most BMW boxers, common front suspension upgrades are Progressive springs and 10wt oil. One of my R65s had BMW heavy-duty progressive fork springs, and was too stiff for me, but others have had great success with them and the Progressives.


The stock shocks suck (say that three times fast!) The shock length is unique to R65s, so make sure you buy R65 shocks and not R80 shocks. Konis are a popular replacement and have preload and rebound damping adjustments, as well as a lifetime guarantee.

My Konis turned my R65 into a new bike. One of my R65LSs had Works shocks on them made for a heavier rider. It handled nicely, but was too stiff for me, and I prefer the adjustability of the Konis.


The famous R65 engine vibration peaks at about 4500rpm.
The solutions are:

  1. Replace forward engine mount spacers (between engine and frame) with rubber spacers. These can be had for $1.50 from a BMW dealer who carries /2 parts (bore out the hole though); or $60 from Luftmeiser with some metal reinforcement. This last is known as the "Luftmeiser vibration fix." When using the rubber spacers, you can no longer torque down the engine mount nuts, so instead you need to double-nut them so they won't vibrate loose.

    Advantages: Some say the rubber spacers (/2 or Luftmeiser) absorb vibration and makes a significant difference in the bike's smoothness.

    Disadvantages: Some say handling under hard riding is compromised; the already flexy frame flexes more (after all, you can't torque the nut on the engine mount stud!). I've heard several accounts of frames cracking, possibly from not having the support it needs.

    DO NOT LOSE your stock metal spacers; not all dealers stock them and they seem to be hard to get. If your dealer can't find them on the microfiche, tell them to look under "footpeg."

  2. Get used to it. Many people eventually don't even notice it (I don't at all anymore). I noticed little vibration reduction with rubber spacers, but noticed a fairly substantial negative impact on handling. "Boxer wobble" when the bike was loaded happened sooner and annoyed me far more than the vibration.

Personally I prefer the stock metal spacers, after a trip where the (loaded) bike wobbled so badly I couldn't go faster than 70mph.


The tang on the sidestand is under the footpeg, and unless your foot is shaped like a U, or you have very long legs, it's difficult to impossible to reach the sidestand from the bike. Then, since the R65 is lower than other boxers but uses the same sidestand, the bike needs to lean several harrowing degrees to the right for the sidestand to clear the ground. Finally, it's the spring-loaded self-retracting type that is just not meant to be deployed from the bike.

As a 5'1" R65 owner, I recommend getting an aftermarket sidestand or get good at getting off without the sidestand. I did both: I have an excellent Brown sidestand, but never use it to get or off the bike, since getting on and off while balancing the bike is an important skill for someone my size (some bikes are too heavy for me to push vertical after mounting it with its sidestand down). Also, as a matter of sidestand safety I make it a rule not to be on the bike with the sidestand down.

But for quick stops, the Brown stand is great. I found with my R65LS with the stock stand that when the bike was loaded it was risky to lean it far enough to the right for the sidestand to clear the ground, and as a result always used the centerstand.


The R65 centerstand is another piece unique to R65s and can't be swapped from other bikes. The R65 centerstand is a two-step process. First find the tang to push the centerstand down to the ground; then move your foot to the end of the left centerstand tube to push on it for centerstanding.

Somewhere between 1981 and 1983 BMW changed the centerstand to add a pedal to the end of the left centerstand tube. Older centerstands don't have this pedal, but you should still step on the end of the centerstand tube, not the tang, to hoist the bike up onto the centerstand. It is still a two-step centerstand.

Watch unfamiliar riders with your bike so they don't step on the tang and break it off.

I find it is easier to put my R65 on the centerstand than to take it off. When it's fully loaded and I'm tired, I sometimes need someone to push to get it off the centerstand, though I was able to put it up. I routinely pivot my R65 180 degrees when it is on the centerstand, and Kari Prager from Cal BMW says this won't hurt it.

R65 centerstands are reported to be prone to progressive overextension. That is, the centerstand starts out nearly vertical, and over time, changes angle until ultimately the wheels are on the ground, making it harder to push off the stand. This is partly from the centerstand stops on the frame wearing down (easily fixed with some weld) and partly from the centerstand bending.

Some people fix this with a Reynolds ride-off stand. I don't like them because they hold the bike lower and complicate rear-wheel removals, and also you can't pivot the bike 180 on the Reynolds stand. However, I can't ride off my BMW stand, though a heavier, longer rider might be able to. Purely a matter of preference.


Some people love the handling but want more engine power. There is an 850cc kit available from CC products to beef up the HP. Most accounts I've heard of this kit says that the result is a killer bike, but reliability and longevity are seriously compromised. Most people who've fiddled with their R65s end up settling on stock configuration. Some are happy with their beefups, but I'm inclined to agree with the statement, "if you want a faster bike, buy a faster bike." Or take C.L.A.S.S. (California's Leading Advanced Safety School).

See r65.beefup for comments from other owners about increasing power on their R65s.


I'm Noemi Berry, and as of this writing I've owned my R65 for a year and a half and have ridden it approximately 35K miles.

After months and months of longing for my Next Motorcycle (NM) when I had my first bike, a Kawasaki CSR 305, I flew to Tucson Arizona to buy my '83 R65LS in November 1992.

After four months and 9000 miles, I wrecked it in a crash that left me uninjured, but bent the frame, front end, front wheel, gas tank, fairing and countless other pieces. Heartbroken, I bought my second R65LS (NM 2), a gorgeous red R65LS a week later. Three weeks after that, I bought a third R65LS (NM 3) for parts, for $700 from Eurotech Motorsports. NM 3 was a complete, running motorcycle with 170K miles on a tired engine and in need of much repair, but with the straight chassis I needed. I now had three R65LSs in my garage!

The summer of 1993 was spent rebuilding the bike I'd destroyed. I first stripped NM 3 down to the frame and wiring harness, leaving the front end on. Then the original NM's engine, transmission, swingarm, rear wheel, carburetors, brakes, exhaust system, controls, instruments, electrical components and even its locks went into the good chassis. I put on a '79 R65 seat and tailsection that matched the champagne-colored gas tank; and the parts bike provided a silver LS fender and a painted-gray LS fairing.

The result of this project was re-registered with a new frame number on July 10, 1993, and is what I ride today. As of this writing, I have yet to paint my bike a singular color and it remains gold-silver-gray with no battery covers. A few months later, I sold NM 2, the lovely red R65LS I'd been riding all summer during the NM rebuild project, and am down to one R65. In the process of the rebuild, I un-LS'd it somewhat.

NM is a full-service BMW, not an around-town fun bike like many R65s are. It's my daily commuter, my weekend sport bike, my touring bike, my grocery shopper. I take it on dirt roads and long trips frequently. Recently I took it on a trip to Baja, where we did rough dirt roads and a 1100 mile day home. Jeff Brody, a well-known BMW MOA member, has over 340K miles on his R65! Most R65s don't see this kind of use.

In the year NM has been back on the road, I've ridden it 25K miles in many, many different conditions and for the most part haven't had any serious problems. I service it religiously and by the book. I'm not going to say it's had Honda reliability, but with 62K miles on it, it feels as solid as the day I got it. Despite all this, the R65 is not my ultimate bike, that honor belongs to an eventual R80GS. Until I can afford my GS comfortably, NM more than serves my needs and I'm quite happy with it.

The things I have encountered in my time with it so far, including my "crash" course in mechanics, are what comprises the bulk of this FAQ. I'm no expert! But I've been through a lot with it and it was worth writing down.


....from other R65 owners:

My first beemer was a henna red 1984 r65LS.
Excellent handling.
...a little slow when loaded or w/ passanger.
But It is just as quick off the line,to about 50-60 mph as an r80.
(they don't lend themselves well to performance mods.
if you want a faster bike,buy one.
I went the whole 9 yards.Lightened fly,lightweight wrist pins,Lufty pipes,
Twin sparked,etc,etc,all for a gain of about 10 hp..Then it was nothing but
trouble after that.)Had about 70k when I finally got rid of it.
In stock form it is an excellent bike.

I had an 82 R65.  On the plus side, the bike is light, nimble, handles well,
rides well and is comfortable.  Only down side is that it doesn't have
tons of power.  Still, it'll cruise way faster than any legal speed limit.
Good bike for smaller people.  Easy to work on and tune.  

francis ferguson

From:! (Don Eilenberger)


Smaller, lighter, easier to handle than most of the other boxer
twins of the era. Has a lower saddle height also, which if your
SO is height disadvantaged will be a plus!  As with all boxers -
it is fairly easy to work on, and a decent home mechanic can do
at least 90% of the maintanance. Parts - while many are unique
to this model - are easy to come by - supposedly the bike is
still in production in Germany (at least I was told this by
Bob's BMW in Jessup MD recently..).  Handling is good - and
better for around town use than the larger twins.


Has a reputation for vibration - more than other boxers. It
is a short stroke engine - with a higher red line than most
boxers.  Mine cruises nicely at about 4,000rpm - which equates
to about 65mph in 5th gear. Mirrors smooth out at about 75-85mph,
but this speed is not really comfortable on this bike (I don't
have a fairing - and it requires a firm grip to hang on).  Many
parts for this bike are "unique" to it - making interchangability
with other models more difficult. Stock seat had a reputation as
a buns buster (mine has a "Ride-all-day" on it - the most
comfortable moto seat I've ever sat on!)

One comment I saw recently in the BMWMOA news - was about
the R65 - "as one of the worst BMW's ever made - and still
a damn good bike" - I would tend to agree with the damn good!
Since I haven't owned another, I can't speak about comparing
it to other Beemers - but so far it sure beats the other 6 or
7 brands I've owned!

Don Eilenberger (
  '79 R65 FrankenCycle - der Beemer
  '87 535i BOHICA      - der Bimmer
DOD#1177, BMW-CCA#104316, BMW-MOA#64000