BMW R65 (1979 - 1984) FAQ

by Noemi Berry (
Last update: August 9, 1995

Webwork: Dave Thompson

This is a compendium of information I've collected that is unique to R65s. It comes largely from my experience with my own, the many questions I've asked others and information I've come across. This does not address things common to all BMW boxers, like the charging system woes, paint fade, high-speed weave, or spline lubes. This is just for R65-specific information. Also, specs and other information easily available in manuals, and tedious to type in, is not included. Also see the R65LS FAQ.

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.




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.

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 G/Ss.

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

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, fork springs and rear suspension.



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). Some info on the R65GS:
(Markus Grave) My BMW-Boxer Book says:

"R 65 GS: Start of production in September 1987. Same technical features as the old R 80 G/S: Monolever, small tank with 19.5 liters. Engine was taken from the R 65 (Torque 43 Nm at 3.500 1/min) 198 kg dry weight. Total amount of 1.334 bikes was built until the end of 1990."

Reason for this bike was the limit of 27 hp for insurance in Germany at that time. Bikes with less than 27 hp were much cheaper at insurance costs than bigger bikes. Second, there was a limit for "newbies" who just got there bike licence: During the first two years you were not allowed to ride bikes with more than 27 hp (now: 34 hp). After that period you could qualify for a "unlimited licence".



Non-LS R65s have cast "snowflake" wheels; R65LSs have a cast alloy wheel. Most people run tubed tires, though there are some in the BMW community who say you can run tubeless tires without tubes. This was a subject of much debate in the BMW MOA News in 1995, so even the experts disagree. However, R65 and R65LS wheels are designed for tubed tires in pre-tubeless days, and I and most BMW dealers HIGHLY recommend sticking with tubed tires. Modern Metzeler tires typically come only in tubeless, so don't be surprised if a tire says tubeless on it. But make sure your new tires are installed with tubes.

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 my 1983 R65 doesn't have or need it. It's possible this applies only to '79 and '80 R65s.

The Metzeler Laser ME33 100/90 front and Metzeler Marathon ME88 120/90 rear is a popular and time-tested tire combination.



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.



Someone help me out here. I am windscreen-clueless!



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). R65s were never meant to be fast bikes.

Here are some comments from those who have tried to increase power on their R65s (more welcome!)

Mail to euro-moto:

Has anyone had any experience with the CC big bore kit for the R65? I have a monoshock model with 12k, ported and polished heads, dual plugged, Brown Ign., SuperTrapp, and a spare set of jugs that I am thinking about sending in for the 825 short stroke conversion. Any direct experience advice welcomed.

Pete Martin:

I agree with the statements about the r65 not taking too well to performance increases. I had a '84 r65ls that I modified/rebuilt.-Twin plugged,lightened flywheel,lightwieght wrist pins,Titanium (sp?)seats,all the bullshit. San Jose fork brace,Dive kit. koni shocks ,the works.

Nothing but trouble. If you want reliability-do not modify it. If you do modify it.I hope you like to tinker,and are very patient.

After all this I only gained about 10-12 hp. I was warned by my dealer ,and friends,that if you want the r65 to go faster get a bigger bike. So that is my advise to you.Its a lot of money for a minimal gain in performance.My stock 88 r100rs was quicker,but the kicker is tourque.those small motors just dont generate it the way the R100 can.

....On the other hand,it was quite fun to to blow the doors off a stock r80,with a smaller bike. :-)

in my opinion it greatly reduced the reliability of the bike and was not worth the investment.

Ed Hackett:

My roommate tried this conversion. It blew up twice within about 5000 miles. Main bearings went out both times. He went back to stock.

The only other person that I know personally is Dave McQueeny. He managed to get 30K before total disaster, and this was replacing the bearings every 10K.

If you want a 900cc BMW buy an R90. The R65 was designed as a 650cc engine at a certain power level. It doesn't seem to take to well to any increase in stress.


I have a 1980 R65 for my daily driver....It has over 115,000 miles on it.

Around 55,000 miles the cylinder heads went to CC Products in California for lead-free valve seats, bigger valves, port work, rocker arm modifications (to increase the lift), dual plugs, and lightweight wrist pins. Some time before this I had had the flywheel lightened as well. All of this stuff cured the 4500 RPM buzz, and gives excellent rideability. Here in New Mexico I only need the choke in the winter to start it, and I can ride it away in about 15 seconds. Not at full throttle, of course. I would say CC Products has served me very well.

Kari Prager:

There is nothing wrong with putting an R 100 motor in an R 65 except that the header pipes and mufflers will not fit. Different diameter, different pipe-to-pipe distance since the heads are closer together. Then, when you get the R 100 headers to fit, you discover that they get in the way of the R 65 brake linkage, and the mufflers need special hangers, etc., and then you discover that you have less cornering clearance because the cylinders stick out farther, then you ask yourself why you bothered when you could have used the money on the R 80 turning it into an R 100 which is much easier and much more fun. Cheers!

Alejandro Moreno:

Apparently, you can drop any engine into an R65. BUT, the catch is: if your bike is a '79 or '80, it'll be tough. '79/'80 bikes need to have the gearbox slapped on from whatever bike you're taking the engine from. Addtitionally, you need to alter the exhaust system, possibly replace the entire thing. Then, it's likely that you'll need to change the bolts on the flywheel, 'cause they went from 10 mil bolts to 11, so this will require bolts to be machined. Basically, it's not worth dropping a bigger engine into a '70/'80 R65. Anything after '81 works fine. They have the new gearbox/clutch/head exhaust etc. This is the way to go if you really want to make your engine bigger, and avoid the "conversion kits" problems. Don't convert, just change the whole thing. Still, there is one problem that all R65s will have regardless of the year, ground clearance! The cylinders on bigger engines will stick out farther, 'cause you know R65s have a short stroke. So you'll be scraping when you wouldn't expect to.


THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT 1979 and 1980 R65s

These bikes were even uniquer than 1981-on R65s. See the chronology above for a list of improvements BMW made to all boxers in 1981.

Unfortunately, these bikes are reported to have had some problems with blowing connecting rods. I've heard of three or four R65s this has happened to, just enough to make it worth mentioning. The vast majority of 1970-80 R65s don't blow connecting rods, so there may be some weakness that some lack of attention aggravates. (Anyone know?)

Data point: (email from euro-moto, June 1995, author unknown)

Hello All. I just met someone willing to sell me a 1979 R65 w/ a '80 engine for a couple hundred bucks. The left side rod blew destroying the rod, piston and barrel. Put a small crack in the block also.



I'm Noemi Berry, and as of this writing (July 1994) 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 a '83 R65LS, my first BMW, in November 1992.

Four months and 9000 miles later, 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 crashed 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 with the '79 R65 tailsection, BMw luggage rack and K75C handlebars.

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, long trips and sport rides. In May 1994, 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 R80G/S. Until I can afford my G/S 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.

Postscript: I have the R80 G/S now, and while it's better suited to the sort of riding I do, owning it has only cemented my affection for my R65, a solid and unique bike with a marvelous, unmatched quality all its own.



Pete Martin:

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.

Francis Ferguson:

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.

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!


I have a 1980 R65 for my daily driver. I am the original owner and we are almost half way to the moon. It has over 115,000 miles on it.

Around 55,000 miles the cylinder heads went to CC Products in California for lead-free valve seats, bigger valves, port work, rocker arm modifications (to increase the lift), dual plugs, and lightweight wrist pins. Some time before this I had had the flywheel lightened as well. All of this stuff cured the 4500 RPM buzz, and gives excellent rideability. Here in New Mexico I only need the choke in the winter to start it, and I can ride it away in about 15 seconds. Not at full throttle, of course. I would say CC Products has served me very well.

At 90,000 miles the cylinders (iron lined) were out of round but boring to the first oversize took care of that. I am going to have to have the left side intake valve looked at. At a precautionary leak-down check last week, the valve passed some air, but the right side was holding over 90% of what we fed it.

All I seem to have to do is keep adjusting the valves and the carburetors, and rebuilding the accursed Bings regularly. Like some body said, if you want to ride it fast, it helps not to slow down. It suits me well enough for touring that I rode it to the Oshkosh rally a couple of years ago and covered 1500 miles on the freeway in two days to get home on time.

I seem to have heard that BMW used for all the recent airhead motors the balance factors for the 800cc versions, with the result that the R80s are the nicest running ones in the family. They must have recruited powertrain engineers from Scotland at one time.


End of R65 FAQ

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