In visiting museums and collections, I would always be intrigued and amazed by those who were very focused in their acquisitions. Just one marque, or just one model of one marque, or all of the models of one marque for a single year, or all of the yellow Ferraris. These curators have a specific theme or quest, and set out to achieve a focused goal. I always thought of these as rather eccentric collectors. I imagined that they were bored with gathering the usual suspects like Gullwings and Vincents. Perhaps they just wanted to outdo a fellow collector by saying “I have every shade of green BMW 2002 ever offered” or “I have every model of the Norton Commando ever offered for sale”. This is the “Inch wide and mile deep” approach to contrast the mile wide and inch deep collectors.
In a recent conversation, I realized that I am not immune to this tendency. I was speaking with an inch-wide enthusiast friend about the new Goldwing. This is relevant because he has 12 Goldwings (13 if you count the Silverwing). This is impressive just based on the space required, but also based on the dollars. He can spout chapter and verse about the nuances between model years. Three of them are yellow. He even has a model that is widely regarded as bad. It is the mark of a true inch-wide enthusiast, that they even have the bad version of the vehicle. He also has models that the ordinary motorcycle enthusiast would consider to be the same. He has special editions, and first-version-to-have-X models. He knows his Goldwings. And then, he pointed to a couple of my airheads and we had the following conversation.
“Those look identical to me. Those are your Goldwings.” He was pointing to an R75/6 and an R75/7.
“They are not, see the tank on this one and the instrument cluster…..” I fell right into the trap and was explaining nuances between the models that only airheads would appreciate, and probably just a subset of them at that.
“They are both the same blue.” Hhhmmmm, he did have a point there as they were the identical blue. Although, one was far more faded than the other.
“Yes, but see the spoke wheels versus the cast wheels, and the switchgear is totally different…….” He was smiling now, and I was digging a deep hole.
“Was there a big performance jump between these, or some big functional improvement?” He was honestly asking this question, fully expecting to find the rationale for having both.
“Well……not really.” I did not want to tell him about the few horsepower difference, or the infamous $2000 o-ring. That could easily be considered the bad version. I quickly ran through the years of knowledge and the memorized contents of the Ian Falloon book on Airheads. There was nothing of substance to offer a motorcycle enthusiast not pierced by one of cupid’s horizontally opposed arrows. Nothing.
“Is one more of a touring model that goes with that fairing?” He was pointing to the color-matched blue Vetter fairing that I had removed, and had no intention of reinstalling on the /6.
“Well……not really.” He was now fawning bewilderment.
“Is either one super rare or collectible then?” His knowledge of BMW Airheads was like my knowledge of Goldwings; an inch wide and a half inch deep. I could easily have lied.
“Well this one has fairly low miles, but………no” He was now implying that I was even worse than him, since I had no redeeming special editions or rarity cachet.
“This one says R75 as well. Why would you have multiple versions of the same bike?” It was the /5 toaster tank. Beautiful and so different, but he had scored a knock down blow. Yes, I had gathered all three versions of the R75 over time, quite intentionally. This was a great motor for BMW, and I appreciated the subtle nuances between iterations of this platform from early 1970s to late. It goes even further if you include the R80RT. Yes, I was an inch-wide enthusiast. But when you have no substantive retort in a debate, when you have no defense, you must turn to offense. You must attack a flank where you at least have some advantage.
“Oh yeah, well I can park all three of these in the space taken up by one of your behemoth Goldwings!”.