Ridin’ For Harambe, Part 27

Today’s rider is forum favorite and long-time commenter Nate, showing off his new (to him) Beemer.

“Here are two pix of my new 1975 BMW R60/6, a true barn find from Ventura, Ca. it has 8,000 original miles and I rode it home, it’s all turned up now, I still have some little things to address but it’s safely rideable and fun.” However, this ain’t Nate’s first aircooled-twin rodeo… and the crash pictures after the jump are not for the faint of heart.


For a few years, Nate was riding the relatively rare Ural Solo. Most of us have seen the sidecar-equipped, Urals, and you may have read the amazing nonstop adventure that Sam Smith and Zach Bowman endured a few years ago in a brand-new Ural. (Is it really an “adventure” if another man is watching your dick on the freeway? It’s a question without a ready answer.) The prevalence of Ural sidehack bikes has convinced many casual motorcyclists that the company doesn’t make “singles” — but they do, and Nate was the owner of one. Note the custom cane holder; Nate was badly injured in a previous crash (a gypsy cab ran him down at a stoplight) and he continues to need some assistance in that regard.

Unfortunately, he was badly injured again. “I’m sitting in my wheelchair because I also broke both knees… Notice the left fork is _BROKEN_ ~ I’ve been riding for decades and have never seen an impact so hard it broke a fork . the frame occasionally but never a broken fork and these are Ceriani forks.”

They sewed him up…

…and sent him home. So what is it about motorcycling that causes men (and yeah, it’s almost always men) to keep riding after multiple injuries and terrifying near-misses? Why can’t all of us, including Nate and your humble author, just give up and buy an SUV or a Tesla or something decent like a Nissan Note? Why would two young fathers like Sam and Zach risk leaving a pair of widows and a trio of fatherless children, just to ride some yester-tech sidehack along the California coastline?

I know the answer to that question, but I can’t tell you. It’s something you will have to learn for yourself, somewhere out there between the rush-hour traffic and the open roads of Montana. Here’s the tough part: once you learn it, you’ll never forget. Even if you’d like to.

29 Replies to “Ridin’ For Harambe, Part 27”

  1. Thomas KreutzerThomas Kreutzer

    What a great looking BMW. God, they don’t make them like that anymore, do they?

    Glad you.re on the mend, Nate, looks like you have some terrible scars to show for it, though.

    Reply
  2. Dirt Roads

    Nate! You really ARE an old fart like me. When I was a kid, I drooled over the BMW R series bikes. I still remember the Cycle magazine review of the 75, and then the 90 came out, WOAH!
    Crashing is rare, but it’s almost always bad on a bike. Glad you are still vertical and keeping it real. My latest wife told me I had to give up biking, and I almost gave her up over that, but then she said a Corvette convertible was an acceptable alternative, so… And I am the sole provider so I do some top down cruising but I gave my Sabre 65 to a good friend who still rides and loves it. And that bugger is older than me.
    Thanks for the pics and the story. I always like seeing your comments on this site.

    Reply
  3. ScottS

    A salute to Nate for not giving in!

    After a hiatus of, let’s just say way too many years, I got back to riding this year and picked up a couple of new-to-me rides. My life has been trending toward risk reduction for a long time, but some events this year gave me pause to consider the trades I’ve been making. In almost the same instant that I slipped the dry clutch and the big Guzzi surged forward I remembered why.

    Reply
  4. John C.

    Reading the story of Ural motorcycles is interesting. The early resources being tight they just reverse engineer a BMW, yet a year later they have the resources to so quickly move to the Urals. Shows even if the Germans had taken Moscow, the war wouldn’t have been over.

    Hope your full recovery is quick Nate.

    Reply
    • Panzer

      Yeah, but it would have been, because then the Germans would have had the best parts of the Soviet Union and would have been able to easily defend them. Maybe there would have been some sort of continuation war later on, but that would’ve been it.

      Reply
      • John C.

        Don’t think it would have ended. Remember the Germans would have still waited to grab the Caucus mountain oil in 1942 and still had to finish off Leningrad. The Soviets still had Murmansk for aid, and plenty of Asiatic Soviets to recruit for their army.

        Reply
        • Panzer

          But capturing Moscow would’ve cut the head off the snake. Also, it would’ve freed up the divisions to properly conquer the Caucasus and Leningrad. I remember reading (this was a long time ago, I might have gotten this wrong) that only 5 or so of the few hundred divisions of the Red Army was recruited from Central Asia, so they wouldn’t have been decisive.

          Reply
        • gtem

          It wasn’t just “Asiatic” Soviets in reserve, but mostly ethnic Russians from Siberia and the Far East. My great grandfather was part of the forces held in reserve to fight a war against Japan that got transferred over right in the toughest part of the defense (and then counterattack) near Moscow. His last known whereabouts where holding defense near the Volokolamsk highway (MIA). I’ve read memoirs from field commanders on both sides, the Siberian divisions were spared the worst of the officer purges of ’37-’38 and the men showed up to the front well trained, well led, and well equipped for the freakishly cold winter that year. Many were excellent marksmen, having grown up hunting. The Germans on the other side remembered them as ferocious and well motivated fighters that were damn near impossible to knock out of wooded areas.

          Reply
  5. jz78817

    so far I’ve only had one incident where a phone-focused cager jumped into my lane and introduced his door to my right knee. nothing but a bit of soreness and a bent footboard. It’ll take more than that to get me off two wheels.

    Don’t know how much more; hope I never find out.

    Reply
  6. Dirty Dingus McGee

    When Nate mentioned in a previous thread he had picked up an old R60, I had a picture in my head of a neglected, kind of tattered, old /5. That bike looks like it was stored in someone’s living room, and polished regularly. Excellent score, and hope nobody tries to squash you again.

    “So what is it about motorcycling that causes men (and yeah, it’s almost always men) to keep riding after multiple injuries and terrifying near-misses?”

    Only someone who rides motorcycles, understands why a dog wants to put his head out the window.

    I have had some type of powered 2 wheeler since age 8(Sears minibike). 52 years later I’m still rolling. Only had 2 moderate to bad wrecks on the road, the rest have been off road. I just enjoy riding too much to quit. I typically put on about 20K miles a year, although this year I’m only at about 12K. I have also thinned out my collection some(I didn’t NEED 7 motorcycles) but did recently go back up to 4 with the purchase of a 1975 Yamaha TY250. I needed it about as much as I need a hand growing out of my forehead, but I liked trials bikes after owning a Cotton(google them) and a 77 TY250 during the 70’s.

    Reply
  7. gtem

    Glad you’re alright Nate. Didn’t realize you were an Ural guy. They’re still around in the more remote and very rural parts of Russia’s interior, still hauling bags of potatoes in the sidecar and in general being used as everyday tools. Several friends and relatives had them before finally getting their hands on Ladas and Moskvitches. My cousin had one in the village after a series of 2 stroke Izh “Jupiter” street bikes, this was back in 2004-2006, he took the sidecar off of his as well.

    Reply
  8. Economist

    Nate somehow earns even more respect from me than he had previously! Foster father, self-made man, genial commentator, and now the owner of a pristine old BMW ( from before the ugly uneven headlights). The world could use more Nates.

    Reply
      • Jeff Zekas

        Yep, I always enjoy comments made by Nate… hey, Nate, if you ever want to sell that Beemer, let me know, okay? My dream bike back in high school was the 1972 R/75/5… but ALL the old Beemers, especially the toaster tanks and Earle’s forks bikes, are awesome.

        Reply
        • -Nate

          @Jeff ;

          I hope to be able yo ride into my 80’s, the Social Secretary of the V.J.L.A. rode until he was….84 IIRC, he rode a clean old Yamaha DR400 righ to the end then faded away .

          Ask my Son for whatever junk I leave behind .

          -Nate

          Reply
      • -Nate

        “I know, right? We are lucky to have him.”
        Oh, puh-LEASE ! .

        Now I have to go buy a new helmet, you’ve swelled my fat head so much .

        -Nate

        Reply
  9. JustPassinThru

    Excellent choice. In the day, BMWs were the gold-standard for trouble-free, high-speed motorcycling.

    I had, briefly (two seasons) a newer one, an ’09 R1200GS – my employment situation washed up on shoals, and I discovered, among its other attributes, a BMW – at least in 2011 – holds its value more than most brands.

    I cannot comment on the Ural. I have never seen one, outside of photo-shoots of riders at the Adventure Rider website; and frankly, I don’t see the appeal. But the same can be said of others, to my attraction to Jeep CJs. It’s an emotional thing; and you’re there or you’re not.

    Glad you healed up. More glad that you’re feeling brave enough to take on the mechanical requirements of a 40-year-old machine…I don’t care HOW well it’s made, seals and closed spaces corrupt with the years.

    But enthusiasts do it; and we all need something to get the blood pumping – even into the later years.

    Reply
  10. DougD

    Well done Nate. I’m lucky to never have had a major incident in 27 years of riding, but I’ve seen guys crash and I’ve seen a guy die. Doesn’t look like fun.

    Middle aged and old guys take note of Nate’s bikes. Upright riding position FTW.

    Reply
  11. hank chinaski

    I can only imagine the force absorbed by that fork that might have otherwise been transferred to you.
    Stay vertical!

    Reply
  12. -Nate

    Thanx All ! .

    The odd part is : I was run over by the gypsy cab in 2008 whilst waiting for a stop light on my Kawasaki W650 , he hit me going in excess of 50 MPH and I went through the windshield, landing in the cab’s (old ex L.A.P.D. Panther, what else ?) before the first responders got there the cabbie pulled my out and over to the sidewalk, laid me nice and straight and removed my helmet – this is a step by step primer of how to paralyze/kill a crashed Motocyclist….

    Anyway, as I was sitting recuperating Ural decided to offer Solos again (they do it periodically, no one buys them….) the deal this time being : we’ll make you a Solo if you pay for it in full first, to sweeten the pot we’ll let you cherry pick from all the various & sundry things we use to build our bikes .

    I looked at it OnLine for three days, SWMBO asked ‘? are you going to buy another Moto ?’ .

    “No, I have plenty of old Motos under a tarp in the back yard, I’ll up fix one when I’m ready to ride again” .

    SWMBO ‘well, after all you’ve been through riding Motos I think if you want to buy another new one you should’.

    I pondered that for three days and sent in my order, I couldn’t even walk at that time, I had the dealer (in Wa. State, Raceway Motors) hold it for 13 months whilst I has surgeries and learned to walk again then I bought and rebuilt a 1975 GMC long bed 2500 pickup truck to go fetch it in, the Dealer said my red Solo sT sitting in front helped him sell a _lot_ of other Motos) .

    So, I was riding the 2010 Ural Solo sT I bought whilst recuperating from my 2008 crash . life is weird .

    I actually have three Ural Solos, I’d wanted a BMW /2 since the 1960’s when the messenger service in Cambridge, Mass. used them, my first BMW was William Shatner’s 1973 R75/5 LWB, I’ve had I think 6 /5’s and 4 /2’s including two R69/2’s, all very good bikes indeed .

    /2’s are good mileage makers but don’t really go fast in the twisties, /5’s were my favorites in spite of the rather flexible frames, my all time fave was a raggedy 1972 SWB (“killer /5”) ‘Toaster Tank’ I paid $500 for and rode the wheels off .

    I like old tech machines and so thought a Ural would be neat ~ it is, my first one was a first year of import 1994 Tourist 650, the P.O. took the hack off and bought a Harley because his idiot buddies told him “only !FAGS! ride anything but Harleys !” where he worked at the Boeing plant in Seattle . so I got it for $700 .

    As mentioned, “if I have to explain you wouldn’t understand” isn’t macho bullshit, it’s one of those things you have to experience ~ many try riding and let it go after a few years, I cannot .

    This 1975 BMW R60/6 is the very last year of drum brakes and they’re better than the single disc brakes that replaced them .

    The picture was taken the day I bought it, not yet waxed / polished etc…..

    A nice old un molested Moto to be sure, I’m amazed it was still sitting there on flat tires TWO WEEKS after I first saw the advert .

    I still have lots of old Honda Tiddlers from the 1960’s and 1970’s to tinker with, I plan to resurrect them one by one and sell off, i don’t need 30 + motos but will keep at least one and the W560 I’ve been occasionally fooling with, I have 98 % of the parts it needs to come back on the road .

    Ride on those who do, others please SHARE THE ROAD with us, even the pinheads on Harleys with no mufflers .

    -Nate
    BTW : Jack has other, stupider photos on me on Motocycles, I don’t know how to include them, ask and he’ll maybe post some up .

    Reply
    • Jeff Zekas

      Nate, for some reason, I thought you were 40 years old… dunno… maybe it’s the way you write stuff… anyway, your comments always seem on point. Best wishes from a SoCal refugee, now living in rainy Oregon… PS love Beemers, almost bought an R27 back in school, but got a Kawasaki Bighorn instead… drive a ’95 GMC Pickup truck these days.

      Reply
      • -Nate

        @Jeff ;

        When I was living in Guatemala City in 1976 I was offered a nice BMW R27/2 for $250, I passed as I was still into Harley’s back then, bought a 1937 Harley 61″ EL Knucklehead , the frame was broken on three places, I took it apart, found another frame and rebuilt it from the ground up and rode it all over that Centro American Country fro border to border, I also passed on a pristine 195? Sunbeam inline four cylinder Moto for $500, I had a lot of fun but bailed when they had a military coup .

        -Nate

        Reply
    • Eric L.

      Nate. You’re amazing.

      1. Keep it up.
      2. I apologize for assuming you were some kind of slightly-fictitious internet persona, and not a real guy.

      Reply
      • -Nate

        @Eric ;

        Don’t be too impressed, I’m another high school dropout who’s too stupid to move away from the Ghetto I live in and to stop riding Motos when it’s clear I should .

        I don’t have any $ and drive a 34 year old beat to shit car with 430,000 miles and think all this is fine ~ it certainly beats pulling tits and shoveling shit on a dairy farm in new Hampshire, lemme tell you that .

        I’m not “poor”, that being a state of mine I refuse to entertain .

        Broke isn’t bad, I’m only broke after I pay all my bills in full so it’s a wash .

        =8-) .

        The So. Cal. TT Run is this morning, it’s raining lightly in Los Angeles, I expect we’ll have a swell time .

        -Nate

        Reply

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