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Wanted: Next Gen Airheads

Posted By John Phillips, Saturday, June 18, 2016

Attending Airhead events is certainly satisfying, but a little troubling in one respect. There is undeniable comfort in associating with like-minded folks who not only share a passion for air-cooled BMW motorcycles, but also generational memories.  Many moons have passed and we are all taking on a certain patina, shall we say. The lurking question surfacing more and more is how we will keep the sport/hobby we love vital and growing when we don't see that many younger faces in the crowd. This is not unique to Airheads. The same question comes up at gatherings of Norton owners and perhaps other vintage bike groups as well.

There are, of course, newcomers that fly to the flame regardless, each with a unique story of how their drive to march to the beat of a different drummer intersected with an opportunity to acquire a vintage Beemer and eventually to connect with the Airhead community. Jonathan and Chris are two. Both are in their 30s, both married, Chris with a young daughter. Jonathan is an Ivy Leaguer who helps implement policy for Princeton University. He and his wife enjoy leisurely weekend rides on a '60s R 60 and more recently a '70s R 75. Chris is a skilled machinist who sculpts complex molds from blocks of aluminum. He enjoys tinkering and tweaking his '70s R 60, and as we speak is prepping his modern adventure bike for an extended tour through the Maritimes.

It has been a delight to get to know both, and though they come from different backgrounds and work experiences, there are a few things they share in common worth noting. First, both acknowledge that they came into Airhead ownership and eventually to the Airhead community by circumstance and serendipity, not by some grand plan or design. Second, they are hooked on the Airhead experience and now can't imagine leisure time now without it - i.e., it is not a passing fancy. Their appreciation for the sophisticated simplicity of 40- and 50-year-old Airhead BMWs enhances their riding enjoyment and also drives the enjoyment of learning to do their own maintenance in an era when it is almost impossible to do anything on a modern bike except to maybe change the oil. With a nod to Emerson, both have discovered that owning an Airhead is a journey, not a destination. As a result, both fully intend to enjoy their Airheads, and especially the Airhead community, as long as life circumstances allow.

Most of all, it is encouraging to know that there are more Chrises and Jonathans out there. The challenge is to find them and to not leave to chance that they will eventually find us. Airheads own and promote an important part of BMW history and heritage that will sustain if we focus on connecting with those we will eventually pass the gavel to.

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