BMW R60/2 Motorcycle

by Jeff Dean
Tucson, Arizona, and Madison, Wisconsin

Last Updated:

My Traffic Estimate

A 1968 BMW R60/2 is shown below framed by saguaro cacti in Tucson, Arizona. Minus the Craven saddlebags and solo saddles (they would have come with a dual saddle), this is how most slash-2 BMWs looked in the 1960s. They were black with white pinstriping and came with a 6½-gallon (17 liter) gasoline tank, though many came with a 4½-gallon (12 liter) tank. They would have had a left-side rear-view mirror screwed into the clutch perch with reverse threads, so the wind would not loosen them. The most common turn signals then used were bar-end signals made by Hella, as seen on the motorcycle below.

The photo of the R60/2 below shows how one would have looked in stock condition when sold new originally by a BMW dealer in the United States. Note the wide dual saddle and the “U.S.” handlebars, with the central cross-piece. Note the 4½-gallon gas tank with a key slot in the knee pad, which opens a tool box. The greenish battery is a modern addition. Otherwise this a pretty stock slash-2. My first motorcycle was a 1966 R60/2 much like the photo shown below.

In 1986 in Council Bluffs, Iowa, Jill and I bought from its first owner “Iowa,” a 1967 BMW R60/2, seen below. It was manufactured by BMW in its Munich factory on September 20, 1966, and sold originally in September 1967 by Paul's Motorcycle in Council Bluffs, which closed in 2013. Since then, I have ridden it some, and stored it for about 15 years in our sun room. After storing it, I rolled her out one day, changed the fuel and oil, and she started on the second kick. The old BMWs never cease to amaze me.

Here, below, is a photo of “Iowa,” taken shortly after I brought her to Madison, Wisconsin, in 1986. Note the optional wide dual saddle, which would have come with the motorcycle originally. The chrome quarter handles on the rear of the saddle denote the wide saddle.

In 1993, I took Iowa to Pickerington, Ohio, to be included in the two-year-long "My First Bike" exhibit at the AMA's Motorcycle Heritage Museum. The photos below were taken by an AMA studio photographer and sent to me after the display was over..

Iowa has lost her original wide dual saddle for solo saddles. She is still running well and looks pretty good for an R60/2 that is over 50 years old. She has stainless exhaust pipes and mufflers I installed in the '80s.

Below: Here is Apple's Steve Jobs riding his 1966 BMW R60/2 two years before the Apple Macintosh was introduced. His bike is very similar to my one year newer black R60/2, shown above, which has the same larger 6½-gallon gas tank, Hella bar-end turn signals, and a BMW safety bar (see page 6). My bike originally had a dual saddle (two photos above), which I replaced with solo saddles.

On February 19, 2012, my mechanic friend, Norm, and I converted Iowa from 6-volt electrics to 12 volts. We used the Bench Mark Works “Slap-On” conversion kit. It took us (mostly Norm) 90 minutes to install the components under the front cover. It took more time to replace all the 6-volt bulbs with 12-volt versions and to install the battery. Now Iowa has 200 watts of power, not just 60. Now all of my R60/2 BMWs have 12 volts.

Over the years I did routine work on my bike. Left, below, in 2007 my friend Norm helped me replace the head bearings with tapered bearings. To the right, “Iowa” is on my lift for some routine maintenance.

After riding her off and on for 23 years, I decided it was time for my faithful R60/2 to get a makeover. Below you see her in my garage in Tucson, waiting for the arrival on March 10, 2009, from San Diego, of master BMW restorationist Tim Stafford, who was picking her up. At that time she bore Craven Golden Arrow Saddlebags

Tim had restored other vintage BMWs for me before, so I knew he was the one for the job. It was to be a "rider," not a concours restoration. So we decided on some trade-offs, such as using powder coating on the frame instead of wet paint. We also decided to leave my chromed air cleaner cover as it was in spite of its inauthenticity. Similarly, we decided to leave the stainless exhaust system intact.

Photos below show the two size gas tank for slash/2s offered in the 1960s that still have their original paint and pinstriping. Note how gentle and rounded the curves are on the front of the tanks. I have seen many tanks after "restoration" where the pinstriping in the fronts are not gently and fully curved. Three poorly painted tanks are shown in the three photos below these two stock tanks.

Below left, Tim and Jill hold up a 6-foot-4-inch poster I gave Tim to hang in his San Diego shop. Below right, Tim drives up the intimidatingly steep road out of our valley. Some people are not willing to brave our road.

Tim starts by stripping any BMW on which he is working down to its basic parts. He then paints all the painted parts if it is a concours retoration — which this bike was not. For a concours restoration, Tim insists that every tiny detail be correct, even down to the bolts, nuts, and ties. In the photo below, left, my bike is in the early stages of reassembly.

Below, right, the repainted rear fender and fuel tank await assembly.

By September, “Iowa” is nearing completion. Missing are carburetors, heads, exhaust system, Craven saddle bags, front cover, turn signals, and other details. But she does look beautiful.

Below: I had not intended for Tim to restore the Craven Golden Arrow saddlebags, but he is not stoppable when he gets an idea in his head. He removed all the aluminum strips from the bags and polished them. He then had to re-rivet the strips back on with matching rivets. He got rid of the yellow color on the rubber gaskets. Then he modified the original Craven racks with new lower parts to hold the bottom of the bags. Of course, he polished all the bare hardware.

Below is my R60/2 near La Jolla, California, with the Pacific Ocean in the background. A beautiful motorcycle with a beautiful background. All that remained was to replace the Craven roundels on the saddlebag lids. The rubber gaskets on the saddlebags, which were yellow in the second photo from the top, have been cleaned up. A beautiful motorcycle with a beautiful background.

Here, below, is my R60/2 parked by Lake Monona in Madison, Wisconsin, with the with the white dome of the Wisconsin State Capitol in the distance.

My last work on Iowa was to install, with Norm's help the 12-Volt system from Bench Mark Works and the correct period oval-shaped crash bar (see the top photo on this page).

Below: The Arizona license plates for historic motorcycles (HM) over 25 years old are made out of solid copper. Arizona's mines produce the most copper in the United States. The blue-and-red Wisconsin "collector" plates are non-expiring and for motorcycles at least 20 years old.

One of the most amazing motorcycle adventures of all time occured from 1959 to 1961 when Danny Liska rode his BMW R60 over 95,000 miles from the Arctic Circle to the southern tip of South America, including through the infamous Darien Gap. "Danny was different," said Charles Mulhair, a longtime friend of Danny. "The guy traveled all over the world. He took a motorcycle from the Arctic Circle to Tierra del Fuedo. Not everybody does that." Later he rode from North Cape Norway to Cape Town, South Africa.

Click here to see a Cycle World road test of the 1967 R60/2

Click here to see a Cycle road test of the 1965 R60/2

Click here to read English R60/2 specifications from BMW A.G., Munich, Germany.

Click here for the complete 50-page 1966 slash-2 motorcycle owner's manual

Click here to see pages from the 1965 BMW motorcycle brochure

Click here to see original 1968 photos of 1968 BMWs