Considering purchasing a 1971 BMW R75 / 5. Never owned a BMW motorcycle, would this be a reliable machine? High maintenance?
The R75/5 was a somewhat groundbreaking motorcycle when release in 1969/1970. Good performer and solid bike. With the appropriate TLC, these bikes can easily go 200K-500K miles. But it will take some care and feeding. Things wear out, you need to continue to check on things like valve clearances, timing, etc. Regular changes of oil. If you can work on motorcycles/cars/trucks, then it's reasonable to expect to be able to work on the BMW as well. The OEM still supports the bike and so do many other independent parts shops/mechanics, there are on-line groups, and some places have local tech days where you can go to work on the bike and/or learn from others.
They are considered reliable bikes, but it will take some maintenance. Everyone has a different definition of what high maintenance is. I'm just changing the clutch on my /7 after 100K miles...probably could have gone another 50K but just had to know. It's taken me 3-4 weeks to do, working a few hours each weekend. OK, I'm no Master Mechanic!!
The only thing that will give that peace of mind is a new bike/car/truck every 2-3 years. Things happen to all vehicles. The more complex they are, the more complex and costly are the repairs...often you can't even do them. The BMWs, especially the '70s bikes, are of a simple design and can be easily troubleshoot with basic skills. You might have to consider always riding around with some duct tape, or bailing wire, or length of electrical tape, or electrical manual, or whatever.
Some motorcycle organizations, Airheads Beemer Club and BMW Motorcycle Owner's of America in particular, include as part of membership a list of people and phone numbers around the country to help out in an emergency. That's pretty nice to have as your backup plan if things turn bad on the road. I've had to use those services twice in my motorcycle career. If you can get to the Internet, all on-line forums would be available to help solve problems.
I have owned a 71 R75/5 for 15 year and I would say that in general they are reliable and low maintenance for a 40 year old motorcycle. How this motorcycle was treated by other owners will have the biggest effect on how reliable this one will be. The service intervals will much shorter than on a modern motorcycle, but could be easier for the shade tree mechanic to do.
Jim from Pasadena
I have a 70 75/5, about 3 years now. I'm not a mechanic, but I've found it to be a basic reliable bike to get to know.
(Aluminium duct tape!)
If you want a vintage bike that is fairly reliable rider, there isn't much better than a /5. It's way cool, comfortable, easy to work on and an absolute ball to ride.
Nothing this age can be 100% reliable. But, this is probably as close as you could come in a 40 year old bike. If the bike you're looking at is well kept, get it!!!!
Every time I ride mine I get this big grin that won't go away!
I have a 1973 R75/5 and I bought it because they have a reputation for reliabilty, it makes me smile, it has an electric-starter and it's reliable and IF/WHEN you need parts/support there is a world full of experts.
You won't be sorry, go for it! (and post pictures).