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Pilgrimage to the 2016 Airhead SuperTech

Posted By John Phillips, Wednesday, March 16, 2016

I got my entrance fee check in early when the Maryland chapter of The Airhead Beemers Club (ABC) announced they would be running the much anticipated annual ABC SuperTech weekend February 19-21, 2016 at the Tuckahoe Steam and Gas Association museum of vintage steam engines in Easton, MD.  In 2014, when it was announced that SuperTech must find a new venue, MD Airheads grabbed the torch and have done an outstanding job for the second year.  The event drew attendance  from around the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions, but also from as far away as Washington state.  As quick introduction for those who might not know, the ABC is an international network of owners of air-cooled BMWs (discontinued in 1995) founded in 1991 to help fellow Airheads keep their classic bikes on the road   There are ABC chapters in every state, in four Canadian provinces, the UK, Japan and Australia.  The activities of each are orchestrated by an elected Airmarshall. 

Through local riding events and tech workshops, the monthly newsletter Airmail and the on-line Airlist forum, members connect to help each other answer wrenching questions, troubleshoot problems and keep abreast of upgrades and a growing network of commercial resources for airhead parts and services.   Sometimes the help can be one on one, like when NJ Airmarshall Dave Cushing called with an offer I couldn't refuse: "Hey, if you haven't learned how to lube your clutch splines yet, bring the bike down and I'll show you."  For five hours, Dave patiently instructed while I turned the wrenches.  It was a gift of time and knowledge I hope I have the chance to pass along to a new Airhead one day. 

For the 70 or so Airheads fortunate to attend this year, the payoff was once again the collegial pleasure of catching up with old friends and making new ones, kicking tires about our favorite bikes, sharing knowledge and comparing experiences, taking copious notes at the tech seminars and refueling at day's end with the culinary delights arranged for by MD Airhead organizer, master of ceremonies and head chef Mark Lipschitz.  His booming voice and frequent use of a Bengal taxi horn kept the program running on schedule. 

A special BMW airhead retrospective was presented this year by Ian Clarke from the UK.  A rather interesting fellow, Ian.  He has toured extensively through  Europe and the UK on airhead BMWs since 1967.  His personal collection of motorcycles numbers more than 40. Though not all of his bikes are BMWs, he is best known in the shire as a restorer of, and acknowledged expert in, pre 1970 BMW airheads.  He haunts the auto jumbles (flea markets) of the UK and Europe to buy/sell/swap rare BMW bits and contributes regular articles to the UK BMW Riding Club Journal and the e-zine, The Airhead.  With Ian's arrival earlier in the week,  Mark wangled invitations to tour the private BMW motorcycle and memorabilia collections of Jim Hopkins and Bob's BMW dealership in Jessup, MD (see links) both terrific time capsules of BMW artifacts dating to the 1920s.    A variety of "how to" technical sessions, from upgrading fork dampers, to replacing the rear main seal to proper gearbox shimming was supplemented by a much appreciated club update given by NY Airmarshall and ABC Board Director Mike Friedle.  Membership and finances are growing, a good thing.  SuperTech 2016 closed with a recognition award to Bob Sipp  for his many years of contributions to ABC education.  Bob's traveling display of expertly machined airhead component cutaways is a hugely helpful teaching  aid at every SuperTech.  

I've been an MOA member for almost 20 years, but an ABC member for only five.  I can honestly say  say I've  not met any  group more closely knit, more passionate and knowledgeable, more engaged or more eager to share than those who ride and maintain BMW's classic air-cooled twins.  Because of their dedication, beautiful 30/40/50+ year old airhead BMWs are ridden to almost any motorcycle gathering.  Once again, SuperTech proved that  providing "continuing airhead education" not only helps bring the airhead community together, but also strengthens the ties that bind it together.  Thanks again to all Airhead volunteers who made the 2016 SuperTech a success.  While at it, another round of thanks is in order to the Air Marshals and ABC volunteers everywhere who arrange for all the ongoing local airhead events.  Their efforts inspire the rest of us to help out whenever and however we can, and that after all, is the whole point.  

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Tags:  ABC  Airheads  Maryland  SuperTech  tech 

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