#293 Fanning the flames of jealousy

A high fuel load fire in the West Seattle neighbourhood destroys a choice collection of dualsport bikes, and inadvertently leads to a severe case of HP2NV. Trust Nancy to connect the dots.       

Trouble began when I ran out of parts. Before that, parts were delayed in shipping. To make a short story long, I ended up rebuilding the front end of my BMW enduro after a collision with a taxi last spring. (Read, “I made a wrong turn on Paper Trail,”/’As the Wheel Turns’ Sept. 2012) The front fork was leaking excessively, and it wasn’t just the seals. I replaced both fork stanchions. Why I thought the fork brace was fine is beyond me. Blissful ignorance?
I put the bearings in the freezer and heated the frame around the steering head with my hair dryer. I then hammered the cold (shrunken) outer races into the warm, expanded spot. Next day I tried to find the wheel bearings but could not. It finally occurred to me to look in the freezer. Surprise! Cold bearings hammered into a warm wheel hub. The forks went back together with a few challenges, such as the battle of the circlip. I didn’t forget to put the rubber boots on before installing the tubes. Right. So then came the fork brace, the last thing to add before Casper hit the road. And it did not slip into place. Not at all.
Gregg Templeton at MAX BMW says things to me like “we’ve got it here or in another of our stores.” Never had I heard him say, “not available.” What do you mean, not available? This was the first time I have not been able to get something to keep my bike running. Could it be my 26-year-old bike is suddenly too old to ride?
I was referred to Internet BMW Rider (IBMWR.org) and was amazed how quickly someone responded to my plight with an eBay ad for an aftermarket fork brace from the UK. I was also informed that there’s a cult following for my bike, and given some reasons why. So I’m grounded, waiting on Royal Post, and feeling a bit depressed. The occasional ride on my roommate’s KLR helps, but not enough.
While hunting a fork brace I had the idea to call my friend Aaron Jennings. Once upon a time my wheels rolled on the west coast, and I parked my R80 G/S next to two others on a Seattle street. That never happens! I went for tea and returned to watch the owners inspecting my bike in detail. Aaron’s was a 1984. We went dirt biking in the mountains, and have been friends ever since. For years he was the only other person I knew with my bike.
Now the parts manager at South Sound BMW, I thought Aaron might know of a spare fork brace, only to learn of a tragedy that struck his rather large garage. (Like me, he bought his house for the garage.) One month before getting married, Aaron woke to a strange sound, looked outside and saw flames licking out the windows of his shop, a true nightmare. Eleven bikes were in there when the early morning fire started—perhaps by an electrical short from a wire stapled too tightly to a stud 20 years earlier, or so the fire fighters guessed. The list of bikes included his freshly rebuilt R80G/S, her vintage Honda 400-four, her NT 650 Honda Hawk, his wedding gift to her, a Yamaha XT 225, his TW200 …a nd a brand new 2002 R1150GS ridden home the night before. It was the only bike insured against fire. Tools in the well-equipped garage included a welder. Oxygen tanks made the flames rocket. Rubber turned the sky black. Four fire services attended, along with TV crews. Had it been windy, the entire West Seattle neighbourhood would have burned down. Firefighters called it a high fuel load fire as the temperature soared to 3,500F, melting glass headlights. Everything in the garage was reduced to other states, and the garage was burnt to the ground. Firefighters kept tripping over spools of wire, which turned out to be what was left of steel belted tires. I heard the sad story of friends helping to fill dumpsters with what had been molten aluminum and such.
Can you imagine your engine a puddle of aluminum with steel bits mixed in? No bikes, not a single tool, survived. Sure put my lack of fork brace in perspective. After absorbing that tale, I still had to ask. The G/S? Gone.
The fire was two years ago, and they now have his and hers WR250R dualsports, plus she rides a BMW 650 X Country. But what is he riding now? Well, I call it the HP2NV. Never heard of it? HP is not a sauce; 2 is the number of friends I know with one, and NV is a special designation—short for envy. Officially, it’s the HP2 from BMW.
Made between 2004-06, the 1200cc, 195-kg HP2 is the super version of a BMW enduro. It was engineered to be light and tough for real off road use. The HP2 is probably way more bike than I could handle or ever need, but there you have it. NV. The HP stands for High Performance. The factory spec top speed is 200 kmh, but the tank is only 13 litres. (Ha! My G/S beats that with a 33-litre tank. The turtle wins the race.) One friend with more enduros than anyone needs bought an HP2. The other friend who traded so many bikes but always kept his G/S now rides an HP2. My status should rise because I now have two friends with HP2s. But somewhere in there I should have one!
Wanting what I already have is so much better than wanting what my friends have. There’s a 2006 model with 5,500 km on the clock for sale in Toronto for $15,000. (Seems I’ve dropped 10 per cent of that on Casper in the last year.) My roommate Christopher Langford wants one for his paramedic graduation present. Would go nice with his KLR. I couldn’t possibly cope if three friends had one!
Fork brace. I want a fork brace. I have a coveted bike that’s developed a cult following, with more parts in Europe than here. I suppose it’s time I got connected online and find the people who’ve bought a G/S lately, and who will know where to source parts. I’d love to meet them. Just don’t tell me they have HP2s as well, ‘cause right now I’ve got severe HP2NV!