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Rebuilding an ’83 R 80 ST for charity

This 1983 R 80 ST is my fifth airhead rebuild/restoration project. I began doing this work back in 2009 and have published documentation on how I do the work on my website, which includes links to almost 50 summary videos on my YouTube channel (Brook’s Airhead Garage).

I decided that I would not keep this project bike, but instead I would auction it off and donate the proceeds to a local charity that supports military and first responders who are battling PTSD, the Motorcycle Relief Project.

I wanted to rebuild an R 80 G/S but the price for them has gone way up, so that wasn't a feasible choice for this project. I have a friend who picked up an R 80 ST, which is a street-oriented version of the G/S. BMW introduced the ST in October 1982 for the 1983 model year and discontinued after the 1984 model year. Consequently, there weren't many of them built and only approximately 1,000 were imported into the U.S. Nonetheless, they have not skyrocketed in price, so rebuilding an R 80 ST for a charity provides me some experience working on a G/S-like at a cost I can afford.

A Brief History of the Genesis of the R 80 ST
The genesis of the ST model was influenced by Tom Cutter at Rubber Chicken Racing. Back in the early 1980s, Tom had a dealership in Staten Island, New York, and the R 80 G/S sold well in large part due to the rough condition of the streets in New York City. Tom built a lightly modified R 80 G/S with street tires, handlebars and an R 65 front fender, then had the body shop at BMW of Staten Island paint the bodywork in whatever BMW car color the customer requested. Tom met with BMW marketing and engineering people who had a similar model in mind, the soon-to-be R 80 ST.

The R 80 ST was initially available in only two colors: red metallic and silver metallic. The bike for this project was originally silver metallic. BMW imported almost 1,000 ST models to the United States, so it wasn’t a big selling model. Tom received the first U.S. bike at his dealership, and he kept it for some time.

The press reviews of the R 80 ST were positive. The ST used the original G/S chassis including the rear mono-shock, but with a shorter shock than the G/S and had wider rims for street tires. The front fork is from the R 65, while the engine and transmission came from the R 80 RT. Reviewers found it handled very well, the transmission had very smooth shifting and it was a fun bike to ride.

Serendipity Strikes, and the Universe Whispers to Me
I bought my first BMW, a new 1975 R 75/6 from Clem Cykowski at BMW of Denver. When I went road racing in summer 1976 on my R 75/6, Clem gave me advice and offered the use of a service bay when I needed to change tires and prep my bike before Sunday races. He was generous with his time and knowledge. We continued to be friends over the years, and when I started rebuilding airheads, Clem provided me with knowledge, advice and used parts and loaned me specialty tools. Sadly, Clem died in 2021.

In early November I posted a note to the Colorado Airheads Beemer Club asking if anyone knew of an ST I could get for this project. Almost immediately Matt Iles, owner of Iles Motosports, an independent BMW service shop in Denver and who also worked with Clem for several years, sent me a note that Clem's estate included an ST project bike. Generally, project bike means a non-running bike with parts missing. I contacted Clem's son-in-law and his daughter, and we struck a deal.

Getting to rebuild a bike Clem acquired in 1997 and stashed away for a future rebuild project struck me as the universe whispering to me that this was meant to be. Using the completed R 80 ST build as a charitable contribution to the Motorcycle Relief Project seems in keeping with Clem's generous nature and is therefore a fitting tribute to his memory. Clem’s R 80 ST was the 317th built for the U.S. market.

R 80 ST Raffle by the BMW MOA Foundation
When I finished the project, Daren Dortin, who puts out the Type 247 podcast, contacted me to do a podcast about the finished project. This podcast came to the attention of Ted Moyer, Executive Director of the BMW MOA. Ted told me that the BMW Foundation supports the Motorcycle Relief Project and asked if I would be interested in having the MOA Foundation hold a raffle for the bike with all proceeds going to the MRP. I agreed. The bike will be raffled off in early 2024 with tickets available January 2024. You can visit the BMW MOA Foundation website then and purchase raffle tickets.

[You do not have to be an MOA member to enter the MOA Foundation's raffle. --Ed.]

Original Owners of this Bike
After I started work, I got an email from Dave Lister. His brother, Mike, was the original owner. Dave bought the bike from Mike and later sold it. Mike put 15,000 miles on the bike and Dave added another 25,000 miles, so the third owner added about 24,000 miles before selling it back to Clem with 64,137 miles on it in 1997.

What I Started With
The bike was missing some parts when I received it. With the help of Matt Iles and Clem's son-in-law, Michael, we combed through several storage rooms Clem had to try and locate as many of the missing parts as we could. Eventually, we found a number of pieces, though there may be more which will turn up as I help Matt and Michael inventory what's in Clem's storage facilities. What we found included the seat, gas tank, carburetors and more.

Contributors to this Charity Rebuild Project
To support my goal, Euro MotoElectrics, graciously agreed to provide parts at no cost, as they also support the mission of the Motorcycle Relief Project. Also contributing parts and/or services to help complete this charity build project were Norman Schwab of Euro MotoElectrics, Eron Turnipseed, Stephan Gaulin, Bud Provin, Bryan Flanagan, David Phillips, Matt Iles, Howard Etkind and Jill McCarley.

What I did to Restore this Bike
Over the course of the restoration, which took about 18 months, I replaced the entire electrical system so it would be reliable. I also rebuilt the transmission, forks and carburetors and had the heads and rear drive rebuilt by Randy Long and Matt Iles, respectively. I had various parts vapor honed, powder coated, painted and pinstriped as well as having the seat recovered. The wheels got laced with new stainless-steel spokes, and I rebuilt the brakes and installed a new rear mono-shock.

One thought on “Rebuilding an ’83 R 80 ST for charity

  • Beautiful motorcycle and a top notch restoration !!

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