My father’s prized possession was a 1971 R60/5 BMW motorcycle and when he died my brother (the eldest) took ownership of “the Beemer”.
My brother rode it for several years then decided to refurbish the bike. He didn’t get much farther than stripping it down to a thousand pieces before the project stalled about 6 years ago. Last year, when I sold my bike, I offered to take on the reassembly project. My brother agreed and handed over an engine, a frame, a gas tank, two wheels, and boxes and bags of filthy parts, largely unlabelled, and (as it turned out) somewhat incomplete.
For the past 7 months, I have worked through figuring out what goes where, what’s broken, what’s missing, and how to transform random bags of parts into a functioning motorcycle. I have faced each challenge with as much patience as I could muster, and asked for help and support from friends, relatives, books, and the Internet community. Each part cleaned, repaired, and replaced was a labour of love, joy, and an opportunity to focus on the task in front of me while keeping the overall vision in mind, and staying curious about how would it all work.
I worked on myself more than I worked on the bike, staying curious when I was frustrated with self-imposed deadlines. As much as figuring out the mechanics and bolting parts together, I was working on knowing when to try harder and when to step back and when to ask for help.
On July 2nd, 2015 (as documented on YouTube below) that bike came back to life, idling smoothly.
And as planned, July 6th, I started an inaugural motorcycle tour of Washington and BC. The first evening of the trip, on a remote stretch of Washington State Highway 20, I was cruising happily around a left hand bend at 100 kilometers per hour. Suddenly, a strong winded gusted across the road and I lost control of the carefully cleaned and assembled, but largely untested, machine. The bike went down and I slid and rolled across the hot, hard pavement. My newly painted and pinstriped front fender was destroyed, my handlebars were bent, my headlight was smashed and many other parts, including my personal body, were also bent, bruised and scraped.
As you can imagine, this could have been devastating emotionally, physically, and mechanically. But I managed to realize that the project (me and the bike) is not yet done. I managed to stay with the theme of the project being more about “working on myself”. I stayed curious, and stayed focussed on living in the moment, feeling gratitude for what was good as opposed to what could have been. And I went into problem solving mode again.
Through the kindness of strangers and my recently, intimate knowledge of how that bike goes together, I and the bike were patched up and on the road again the next afternoon, and we completed a 2,000 kilometer road trip without further mishap.
What an adventure, life is.