To answer the question that probably immediately springs to mind when you hear which particular BMW motorcycles Andreas Seyffer (55) and Klaus Bayerlein (61) set out on to visit one of Europe’s most westerly points: yes, there was a breakdown, albeit a minor one! Bayerlein’s 1969 BMW R 60/5 seems almost fresh out of the showroom compared to Seyffer’s R 63 dating from 1929. Yes, you read that right – the latter of the two really will soon be turning 90, but its owner doesn’t see that as any reason to put his pride and joy out to pasture and simply dust it down now and again. After all, the jewels of automotive history can only really sparkle when they’re doing what they were built for, out on the open road. And besides, the two friends find themselves gripped by a burning sense of wanderlust on a regular basis.
Two friends en route to a faraway place.
The two avid motorcyclists – Andreas Seyffer also competes in vintage races – have known one another for a long time and already have a number of long-distance tours together behind them. So, they have the type of rapport you need when you’re about to set off on a 7,000-kilometre round trip (4,350 miles) through France and Spain to Cape Finisterre aboard two BMW machines that have aged gracefully – carrying nothing but a very small tent and the minimal luggage there was room for alongside the tools and spare parts. The pair set out from Munich on 2 June 2018, with the R 63 leading the way of course, as it doesn’t have any indicators and its rear light is tiny. And anyway it’s far older, so it was only good manners to let it go first.
Performance and sportiness – the BMW R 63.
Back in its day, the BMW R 63 was the most powerful and sportiest BMW in the range. Launched in 1928 it was only in production until 1929. In that time, just 794 were built, making it one of motoring’s true rarities. Its flat-twin boxer engine mustered 24 hp from its 735 cubic centimetres. Back then, there was still no such thing as a rear suspension, and the bike had a hand-operated three-speed gearshift on the right of the fuel tank with another lever on the handlebar for adjusting the ignition timing. Owner Andreas Seyffer has improvised a hook that allows him to change gear using his knee too, which comes in very handy for braking into corners. It wasn’t until the arrival of the BMW R 5 in 1936 that the revolutionary foot-operated shift first made an appearance.
Comfort and long-distance prowess – the BMW R 60/5.
The other half of the vintage duo, Klaus Bayerlein’s BMW R 60/5 from 1969, looks positively futuristic by comparison. Especially popular with touring motorcyclists, the bike’s 40 hp, electric starter, comfortable suspension and excellent lights means that, half a century on from its debut, it is still a hassle-free companion for everyday riding and the ideal choice for an ambitious long-distance road trip.
No hanging around at first.
The journey started with a series of long legs as the two friends made a beeline for Biarritz on France’s Atlantic coast. From here onwards though they switched into pleasure mode, riding mainly along empty minor roads that twisted their way through stunning scenery.
Spain’s three northern regions of Castile and León, Asturias and Galicia are fiercely proud of their special traditions and linguistic heritage. The varied, lush green landscape is often reminiscent of Upper Bavaria, but can also have a distinctly Californian feel, and is anything but monotonous. If there was no accommodation or campsite to be found, the duo simply pitched their tent at the side of the road. Many of the villages along the route were really isolated, as only the places visited by the hordes of pilgrims walking the Camino de Santiago have properly opened up to tourism.
A throng of curious onlookers quickly gathered at every stop, who all then shook their heads in disbelief when they found out how old the BMW R 63 was. When they were close to San Sebastian, the two friends paid a visit to a Basque mechanic who restores and repairs BMW motorcycles. Unfortunately, they managed to leave a case and tools behind and had to backtrack 80 kilometres (50 miles) once they realised. That oversight and the frequent rain showers aside, the two adventurers enjoyed every mile of the journey and the wonderful sights along the way to Cape Finisterre (or Cabo Fisterra in Galician). Despite being called the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, it is here that the Way of Saint James – as it is also known – actually ends, some 60 kilometres (37 miles) beyond Galicia’s famous capital city.
Who needs mechanical faults when you have human error? The breakdown.
The duo experienced technical problems just once, and even then it was a fault of their own making. After checking the oil level at the final drive of his BMW R 63, Andreas forgot to put the screw back and set off again without it. By the time he noticed, many miles of road separated him from the screw and the matching open-ended spanner, so a wine cork from a local bar had to suffice for the rest of the journey. Irritating, yes, but it didn’t cause too much of a headache. Apart from that, there were no incidents to report; just regular refuelling and mile after mile of simply riding, admiring and enjoying. That is, after all, exactly what these machines were designed for, no matter whether it was 90 years ago or 50. And when you can still have so much fun with them, why just keep them for exhibition purposes?
This was certainly the opinion of visitors to the huge “Wheels and Waves” motorcycle festival in Biarritz. The two friends were keen not to miss out on the event on their way back to Munich and, needless to say, the R 63 once again caused quite a stir. Now they are home once more, the touring duo are already searching for their next destination. One thing is already certain: the further away it is from Munich and the longer the journey takes, the better.