Airhead Tech Pages

R-Powered Snowblower

by Tom Keen

(saved and rediscovered by David E.B. Smith

             A holiday classic that's right up there with It's a Wonderful Life .... 
             - --------------------- 
             Subject: BMW: R100-Snowblower
             Some of you may be interested in the R100 - Snowblower conversion I 
             just completed. The "R-Blower" 
             Last week all the unusually heavy snow, middle age, no riding time 
             and a general psychosis inspired me to pull out the tool box and come 
             up with a great solution to snow removal.  I don't suggest this 
             project to everyone but if you can do basic mechanical work on your 
             bike and have some time, give it a whirl. 
             I noticed on the news that there was an unusually heavy demand for 
             new snow blowers here in Ohio.  We dont get much snow and the 15 
             inches of the white stuff that has fallen here in the last week was 
             causing folks to dip into their savings and buy snowblowers.  I'm 
             cheap and have teenagers and never felt the need for a snowblower, 
             but after couple of hours shoveling the stuff and I was ready to
             take the plunge also. 
             I shopped around but all the snowblowers in southern Ohio had been 
             sold.  I finally found a dealer who had an old one that had been 
             traded in, and he was willing to let me have it, "for a song."  $50 
             later, I was home with a industrial type snowblower - 36" bucket and 
             with a blown Briggs and Stratton engine.  I got the dead engine off it 
             and was just about to start making a few calls to find a new engine 
             when I notice my old motorcycle, sitting in the corner of the garage. 
             That wonderfull engine was just sitting there on the bike.  Two jugs, 
             air cooled, almost indestructible ... a great piece of engineering. 
             It seemed, at the time, perfectly reasonable, to take the engine off 
             the bike and put in on the snow blower. 
             It took about an hour to get the R engine out of the bike. I bolted 
             the transmission back on and set in on top of the snow blower and 
             amazingly, it looked good.  And it fit, if if mounted horizontally. 
             I drilled out new holes for engine mounts and cut pieces of angle iron 
             that were bolted onto the blower's . I cut a larger hole for the oil pan 
             of the engine to drop into and let the engine rest on top to the blower. 
             A trip to the car parts store and I had a heavy duty pulley which 
             I machined out to fit over the output shaft on the transimission. 
             It was a matter of trial and error but I found a belt that fit, 
             connecting the new pulley to the snow blower. Standing back from my 
             creation and admiring my work, I realized that all I had to do now 
             was move the battery, fuses etc and rig up something to hold a little 
             gas and I was ready to blow the snow off Knecht Dr. and into the next 
             I used duct tape and fastened a plastic, one gallon milk container to 
             the blower and ran a piece of fuel line down to the carbs. Then, I 
             removed the hand controls from the bike and stuck them on the new 
             snowblower, running the cables to the clutch and carbs.  I fabricated 
             little clamps to secure them to the handle bars and at various points 
             on the deck of the machine...  The last step was putting the battery 
             and various electric components to the snowblower.  I used a mesh, 
             potato sack, mini jumper cables, and duct tape to accomplish this. 
             And it was Done!  (Ive left out a few details here, wiring harness etc 
             so as not to burden you with details) 
             It looked really good to me. All that engine on top of that big old 
             snowblower ...  I could always come back and install  a more 
             attractive alternative to the duct tape and the milk jug fuel tank. 
             With the help of a couple of neighbors, I pushed the new R-Blower to 
             the edge of the drive, pulled in on the clutch, flipped the choke 
             open and hit the starter button. "VRAAAAMMMAMMM" went the engine. I 
             had forgotten how loud these things could be without an exhaust 
             system.  Snow instantly evaporated on the side of the machine where 
             the exhaust ports were pointed. Dog howled; cats and small children 
             ran for their lives. But it ran... god I love these engines! 
             I manually pushed the shift lever down and slowly 
             let out the clutch. The blower's auger begin to spin, really fast. I 
             pushed the blower's gear lever into the lowest setting and at idle we 
             lurched forward. The Rblower slammed into the first 4 foot drift 
             across the drive and "VVRRRRAAAAAAAAAAAAAMMMMMM" 
             "SHWOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOSH" ... it inhaled that drift 
             and shot a blast of snow towards my neighbors house that had to be at 
             least 50 feet high. 
             I had the driveway clear in about 30 mins. The noise attracted folks 
             from a 5 block area, two TV crews showed up and the R-Blower was an 
             instant sucess. In the course of that day.  I cleared almost all the 
             driveways and most of the streets in my neighborhood. My pockets were 
             stuffed with $10 and $20 bills from grateful folks.(I donated this 
             money to charity, lest anyone think me a ungenerous). And the R-Blower 
             and I were on the evening news. 
             Last night we got 5 more inches of snow and as soon as it's light, I 
             will fire up the beast and do it again. 
             I would be happy to provide anyone interested in this conversion a 
             list of parts and specifications.  During the down time this summer I 
             intend to mount a real fuel tank and battery holder, and get a decent 
             paint job (Im thinking, classic black with hand pinstripping) 
             Praying for more snow, in Dayton, Ohio. 
             Tom Keen 
             Tom Keen - Dayton, Ohio USA 
                    BMWMOA, IBMWR 
             Part II, 
             Ive already gotten a bunch of questions regarding the R100-Snowblower 
             conversion project.  I'll post an update this evening and provide a 
             complete description of today events (busted motor mounts, and  
             unanticipated spline problems) but real quickly, here are answers to 
             a few of the questions I've recieved: 
             Jeff Dunkle: "...Have you considered using a smaller engine for the 
                 Jeff: I would have if I had one, maybe this spring when the engine 
                 goes back into the bike I will shop around for an R50/ engine with 
                 kick start and magneto system. 
             Roozbeh Chubak " I'd put a seat on it" 
                 Roozbeh: this really isnt practical in my opinion,  but I can 
                 understand why some of our older listmembers might appreciate the 
             Joe Senner:  "do you think a kbike engine would work?" 
                 Joe,  well if you want to go to all the trouble of hooking up the 
                 radiator and fairing pieces I guess it would. 
             Tom C:  " I'd think the belt drive would be the weak spot in your system 
             ...your thoughts, please?" 
                 Tom, you are absolutely right... the R-Blower goes through vbelts 
                 quicker than a case of Lonestar through Joe Senner.  I am 
                 considering switching to a chain drive system. 
             Jim Rouch (Dr. Curve) - "To really get the performance maximum out of 
             that engine you need to put on pumpers and larger valves with teflon 
             scrapers on the valve stems... and then you have to..... (snip). 
             Thanks again for the responses to my tech piece, I'll get something 
             out soon about the vibration problems. 
             Tom Keen - Dayton, Ohio USA 
                    BMWMOA, IBMWR 
             Part III 
             We got another five inches of snow last night and I thought the list 
             might be interested in an update on today's adventures. 
             Several problem have surfaced with the R-Blower design. 
             I had been running the R-Blower very sucessfully for about 30 mins this 
             afternoon and began to experience really severe vibrations. 
             The far side of the engine start heaving into the air about four inches 
             slamming itself up and down on the deck of the blower.  A quick 
             inspection revealed that two of the angle iron motor mounts had torn 
             loose from the sheet metal deck of the snowblower.  I rewelded them 
             but would suggest anyone attempting this conversion reinforce the entire  
             snow blower with steel straps welded to form a lattice frame and get the 
             Lustmeister engine mounting kit with the rubber dampers. 
             The other thing that happened was totally unexpected... the splines on 
             the output shaft started to disintegrate.  As you recall, I mounted a 
             pulley on the output shaft.  To do this I took the female part of the 
             spline assembly and welded it to the pulley and put this new piece on 
             the output spline (male part).  I thought that a little freeplay in the  
             thing would minimize the effects of engine vibration etc. I notice shiny 
             wear ridges on the spline this afternoon.  It appeared that the water 
             and salt were getting on the splines and drying them out causing the 
             excessive wear.  Here's my solution... 
             I took a metal fence post and welded it upright to the deck of the 
             snowblower. When I was finished it stuck up about four feet from the 
             top of the machine.  I then suspended a bottle of gear oil, using a 
             coat hanger, from the top of the post.  I punctured a very small hole 
             in the bottle of oil, inserted a gromet into the hole and then inserted 
             an end of a length of small guage plastic tubing through the center of 
             gromet.  The other end of the plastic tube was routed to a position 
             about an inch above the splines and duct taped in place. 
             Using a tube clamp I was able to squeeze the tube down to the 
             point a single drop of oil, dropped from the end of the tube onto 
             the splines at the rate of one every five minutes. 
             This fix works great. the splines are constantly lubed and I have not 
             noticed any further wear.  I believe that this this type of system would 
             work on those nasty K bike splines but think I would come up with 
             some sort of salvage system to recover the oil. A small electrical pump 
             might work well and the bottle of oil could be mounted somewhere 
             under the seat. 
             Tom Keen - Dayton, Ohio USA 
                    BMWMOA, IBMWR 
             I want to thank you all for the overwelming support and advise about 
             the R-Blower, my R100-snowblower conversion.  Its been gratifying 
             that my efforts have been so well received.  But it is, with a sad 
             heart, that I must report that the R-Blower is dead and will not likely be 
             rebuilt in Dayton, Ohio. 
             About two hours ago, several of the local presidents came by the 
             house.  Apparently, they had been eating chicken wings and sucking 
             down beer at a local establishment and had decided to come over, 
             introduce themselves, and see the R-Blower in action.  I'm not going 
             to name these folks.  They know who they are. And maybe someday, 
             they can write their version of the incident. 
             These two guys and one lady wanted me to start the R-Blower and give 
             them a demonstration.  I led them to the garage and showed them my 
             creation. Then, we pushed it outside.  Since the presidents were a 
             bit unsteady on their feet, I got out a few folding chairs, setting them 
             up next to the machine so they could safely watch and listen as I 
             the finer points of my design. 
             "Start that sucker up!" cried President #1 
             "Yeah! I dont want to hear all this tech crap." yelled president #2 
             "My husband wants me home by 9 and you are wasting time" said 
             President #3. 
             The sun had set by that time, and I was a little nervous about 
             operating the R-Blower after dark.  I had not bothered to mount the 
             headlamp or running lights.  But, I was eager to please and make an 
             impression on my fellow presidents.... I hit the starter button: 
             Instantly I realized my mistake!  Blue and orange flames shot out of 
             the exhaust ports straight at the face of President #1, who was sitting 
             about 3 feet away, innocently picking chicken out of his teeth. 
             I can only image what he saw and thought about when he heard 
             the first blat of that engine and saw those flames leap out at him. 
             If time really does slow down in situations like this, President #1 
             must have seen the exhaust valves sliding up in their guides. 
             "EEEIYOOOOOOOOOOOW!!!!!!!!" He screamed, as the exhaust blasts passed on 
             either side of his face. And then, as if by magic, his body rose 
             up from the chair and he was propelled backwards over the low fence at 
             edge of the driveway. 
             To the best of my recollection (it's a blurr from that point on) I 
             heard another scream and felt a heavy hit as one the two remaining 
             Presidents tackled me.  I was thrown to the ground. Looking up, I saw 
             the other president grab the right side controls and fumble for the kill 
             switch, he turned the throttle instead. VRRRRRRRAAAAAAAAAAAA 
             AAAAAAAAAAAAAAMMMMMMMMMMMMM The sound was deafening as the old R100 
             hit the red line.  I swear - the ground started moving underneath me and 
             vision blurred. 
             I passed out shortly thereafter from a combination of the noise and the 
             beating I was receiving from the president who had tackled me...the last 
             thing I remember was that president's fist coming down as he screamed 
             something about me burning up the best riding buddy he had ever had. 
             I'm feeling a better now, my wife is trying to take care of me with 
             ice and tylenol.  It seems to help.  As I write this, the R-Blower is 
             being disassembled by two Dayton Police officers. It was either that 
             or go downtown with the other presidents.  The officers are going to 
             take the blower section of the R-Blower with them for evidence and 
             have made a very forcefull suggestion that I put the engine back in 
             the bike. "Real damm fast". 
             President #1 is just fine, by the way.  His hearing and eyesight is 
             expected to return to normal.  Number #2 and #3 are in the Montgomery 
             County Jail but I will probablly go down and bail them out tommorrow 
             morning, eventually I will drop the charges.  I just dont have the 
             heart to see a fellow president in jail, especially when this thing 
             was my fault:  I realize now, that I failed to follow even the most 
             safety procedures. 
             Praying for Spring, again, 
             Tom Keen 
             Tom Keen - Dayton, Ohio USA 
                    BMWMOA, IBMWR