More Than A Motorcycle
Time is a tricky subject. No matter the preparation, the weight of time will often sneak up on us without warning. The less we have, the more important this measurement of moments becomes. Time can also alter the value of an object over an extended period, sometimes even in sentimental ways.
This irreversible clock plays the most important role in the choices we make throughout our lives. With limited time during the summer of 2013, Barie Goetz took part in the quick restoration of this vintage BMW, a bike belonging to the eldest of his eight siblings, Jeff, who had unfortunately been diagnosed with terminal cancer. The story is heartbreaking, yet purposeful.
Let’s start this journey in the year 1967, when Jeff Goetz purchased a 1966 BMW R69S from the widow of the previous owner. The beloved motorcycle became a primary source of transportation, with Jeff riding it while he was in the Navy stationed near the capital and later when working at the Department of Veterans Affairs. He even went on a cross-country camping trip through Canada with his wife. The memories piled up, but eventually the bike ended up in a dirt floor shed and sat there for nearly twenty-five years until his younger brother, Barie, convinced him to unearth the now legendary motorcycle. With plans to one day restore it, they disassembled the bike down to the crank, sorting the parts into boxes.
The brothers had quite a passion for two wheels and spent a lot of time riding together on their various motorcycles. Barie retired in 2004, and Jeff followed in 2006. The last big ride the two did together was straight off of Jeff’s bucket list, the four corners of the lower 48 states. With their Honda ST1100s, Barie and Jeff rode the entire thing without trailering, camping out along the way. They started by riding to the Barber Vintage Festival in Birmingham, Alabama, then continued down to Key West, the southernmost point. The following year, they rode north to the easternmost point in Maine. In the summer of 2010, they made the excursion to Washington state, the westernmost and toughest point, before finishing it off in Wisconsin’s northernmost point.
After falling and breaking his arm in 2013, Jeff received news that nobody ever wants to hear. X-rays showed that cancer was everywhere, and time was very limited. Tommy, who was the second oldest of the siblings and lived in California, wanted to do something special for Jeff and suggested restoring the R69S. In October of that year, Barie and their other brother, Jack, got the project rolling, with Tommy providing $15,000 towards the work.
All of the boxes from Jeff’s house in Maryland had to be moved to Barie’s shop in Pennsylvania. Jack tackled the wiring while Barie focused on the assembly. Because of the time crunch, they transported the engine and transmission to Max BMW in Connecticut, a shop with a great reputation that specializes in vintage BMW motorcycles. As they were rebuilding the engine, assembly continued back home. Jeff had previously sandblasted and powder coated the frame, but the rest of the bike needed attention. In addition to ordering parts, Barie was tasked with sorting, cleaning, sandblasting, and painting most of the other original pieces.
Greg at Custom Hot Rod & Cycle Shop in Butler, Pennsylvania, painted the fuel tank, fenders, headlight bucket, shock covers, and more. As with most old fuel tanks, water had rusted the inside and caused a hole. Greg fixed the setback by removing the side bracket for the pad, welding the pinhole leak in the tank, then welding the bracket back on.
Once all of the parts were ready, a rolling chassis was pieced together and hauled 400 miles back to Max BMW so they could install the engine and transmission. Barie and Jack wrapped things up with a final assembly when returning home, and the bike was finished.
The motorcycle was restored not as a factory model, but as Jeff’s bike. There were some flaws that were left in place, like a dent in the front generator cover and some scratches under the cylinder heads from when Jeff had laid the bike down in traffic. The painted pinstripes on the tank and fenders were not factory correct when Jeff had it repainted in the past, and they were kept this way after the restoration. “We wanted it to be HIS bike,” explained Barie.
The restoration was completed in only 71 days and presented to Jeff on December 7, 2013. It fired up after only two kicks, and although physically unable to ride, he was able to spend a meaningful moment sitting on the bike with his wife. Big smiles were all around. The gas was then drained, and the twin-cylinder boxer was left in the family room for him to enjoy.
Jeff passed away in March of 2014, less than a year after being diagnosed. He had always wanted to restore his R69S, and thanks to the dedicated work put in by Barie, Jack, and those involved, he was able to see his beloved bike exactly how he remembered it. Three years later, Barie bought the bike off of Jeff’s widow, repeating history from fifty years earlier when a widow first sold it to Jeff.
Time is unavoidable, but life should be a celebration. As cliche as it sounds, the only option we have is making the most of what we’re given. Let this story inspire you to do the things you’ve always dreamed of doing. Spend time with the people you love. Get the motorcycle you’ve had your eye on. Ride across the country and back, then do it again and again.