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BMW R80RT and R100RT

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The RT is the station wagon of motorcycles, and it remained popular for the long-distance touring set for an incredible 17-year run.

BMW originally offered this fully outfitted land yacht as a dual shock model, from 1978 to 1984. In 1985 it was updated to a mono-shock chassis and lasted in the BMW lineup for a full 11 years, through the end of the Airhead era in 1995.

Based on the ground-breaking RS model, the RT (Reise Tourer, roughly translates to “travel touring”) errs more towards the “Touring” side of the sport-touring continuum.

Offered in 800 and 1000cc variations, it’ll keep a rider neat and dry when blasting through pouring rain and puddles. Its fairing is so comprehensive it’s got vents that can/must be manually opened to let air in on hot days. Plus, it’s got two glove boxes, and was favored by some police departments for its ability to hold a CB radio and still have an extra compartment for a sack lunch—not to mention the integrated side cases and top box these bikes came with from the factory.

Compared to the RS, the RT got taller handlebars, a taller windscreen, and a slightly wider (also see: heavier) fairing with extended coverage down around the legs—basically offering as much of an aerodynamic bubble as one could hope for without getting into a car.

So scorned by the latest millennial crop of motorcycle builders that if there were an endangered species list for motorcycles these old RT’s would top the chart.

It’s like the plight of the White Rhino, but in reverse. Rather than leave the animal for dead after stealing the tusk, the café poachers discard the 50-pound fairing and carve the remaining 450-pound carcass into a grand vision of something better. In many cases builders can succeed in making the RT a better bike; in others this once noble cruise ship has been left looking like a shaved cat.

One day the full fairing might come full circle, back into vogue.  One day.

Owners: Andrew David Watson, 1985 Red R80RT; Brendan O’Neill, 1995 Gray R100RT