BMW Boxer Twins guide
18th May 2017
Veloce Publishing | Peter Henshaw | Airheads
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We've been reading Peter Henshaw's latest motorcycle buyer's guide, this one aimed at prospective purchasers of air-cooled Boxer twins built between 1969 and 1994 (excluding ST and GS models which are covered by another book).
Like all the guides in this series (and we're advised that over 100,000-plus have been sold across the range), it follows much the same formula. Meaning that it's a pretty down-to-earth, grassroots tome that gets you down there on your knees studying the rusty bits, the bits that wear, the bits that need regular servicing, and the bits that you need to especially watch out for. Etc.
And that's what a book like this is supposed to do. Right? Trouble is, it's also repetitive and throws up the same facts over and over again.
For instance, page 3 tells us that Boxers can often cover 100,000 miles or more, while page 10 tells us that Boxers can often cover 100,000 miles or more. Meanwhile page 6 warns about the seat height not suiting shorter riders, while page 9 warns us about the seat height not suiting shorter riders.
There were similar repetitions throughout, and that might be good if you've got a memory like a proverbial goldfish. But on the other hand, if you can remember what you've read just a couple of pages earlier, it feels like padding. It feels lazy.
And there's some conflicting stuff too. On the mileage/longevity question, for instance, we're warned that valve guides really need replacing at 50,000 miles, and that gearboxes need work as early as 40,000 miles or as late as 90,0000 miles—which makes you wonder about the earlier 100,000 mile claim.
In fairness, Henshaw is correct. We've owned three Boxers (an R65, an R80 and an R80ST), so we understand the foibles well enough. But if we'd read this book cold, we might be a little confused about exactly how reliable and durable these bikes are. Boxers can last, and they can go wrong prematurely (or, at least, problems can appear premature when a 100,000 mile speedo has been swapped for a 20,000 mile instrument). Consequently, it's hard to nail down all the facts without a few springing out again. But the repetition issue certainly should have been spotted and dealt with.
Beyond that, the writing style is ... well, fairly mundane. That's probably what most folk would want when looking to buy an unfamiliar bike. But a little wit, humour and sidelong observation wouldn't have done any harm and would have helped contextualised the problems. Moreover, a little fun between the pages might inspire potential buyers to firm up their interest in the bikes—which, okay, isn't really Henshaw's job. But if books have a temperature, this one is cold rather than warm.
However, there are plenty of facts, and that's what counts. But there's also a lot of general information that could apply to pretty much any bike (before-you-view advice, auction buying advice, paperwork/document issues, paint problems). That information is useful, but it's not specific and it de-personalises the reading experience leading to a sense that this book is largely older information repackaged with a few new chapters. And that's probably largely true. However, when you're watching the puppets, you don't really need to see the strings, do you?
The images are merely okay. But Veloce has presented many, if not most, of the pictures at postage stamp size. What this book (and others in the series) desperately needs is a couple of double page shots (ideally highly evocative images) that bleed off the page and draw you in—as opposed to the mini-images that shut you out constantly. And either that makes sense, or it doesn't. So we won't labour it further.
It's a fair little book that will help prospective buyers explore the more serious BMW Boxer puzzles, problems and pleasures that await them. Henshaw evidently knows a lot more than he's revealed, and the book would have benefited by a few such extra revelations as opposed to the repetitions. And while we think of it, the generalised egg-sucking information ought to have been reduced to just a page or two leaving more space for the aforementioned double page images—or maybe a few period BMW adverts to show how the German manufacturer originally marketed its products.
There are 64 colour pages (of which a couple are adverts for other Veloce books). The ISBN is: 978-1-78711-005-2. The size is A5. The covers are soft. The publisher's price is £12.99.
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