BMW Motorcycle History
The legendary German marque that is so well known for its
automobiles actually has its roots in motorcycles. BMW’s first
motorcycle, the R32, debuted in 1923, and its Flat-Twin engine layout is
still used in its current lineup. The BMW name is known for premium
motorcycles that can go long distances, although its current offerings
are also geared toward younger and faster riders.
Bayerische Motoren Werke is incorporated. The company produces
The Prussian army orders 2,000 BMW model IIIa aircraft engines
A plane powered by an updated model IV engine sets an altitude
record at over 32,000 feet.
Just a few weeks later, the Treaty of Versailles is signed and
Germany is forbidden to manufacture airplanes. BMW turns its focus to
The 2-stroke 148cc Kurier motor is developed.
The M2 B15 is developed. It’s BMW’s first flat-Twin – aka ‘Boxer’ –
motorcycle. The motor is based on an earlier aircraft design.
The first light-alloy cylinder head is developed.
Legendary BMW designer Max Friz sequesters himself in his house and
draws the plans for an all-new motorcycle. The 486cc R 32 is shown at
the Paris “Salon.” It is a big improvement over the M2 B15 and reaches a
top speed of about 60 mph.
A racing version of the R 32 – the R 37 – is introduced. Also, the R
39 debuts and front brakes are added to the R 32.
BMW develops the R 47, which would go on to replace the R 32, R 37
and R 39.
BMW releases its biggest motorcycle to date – the 750cc R 62, with a
top speed of 71 mph.
Paul Köppen wins the 500cc class at the famed Targa Florio road race
in Sicily. BMW will win the next two years’ races, as well.
Ernst Henne uses a supercharged, 750cc “kompressor” (supercharged) on
a closed stretch of Autobahn to set a new land-speed record of over 134
An economic downturn in Germany leads BMW to produce a smaller bike,
the 198cc R 2. This commuter bike was the first to use a one-piece
‘tunnel’ crankcase. Smaller motorcycles (under 200cc) did not require
licenses in Germany, and the R 2 went on to sell more than 15,000 units.
The R 4, with a 398cc single-cylinder overhead-valve engine, is
The German army commissions BMW to produce R 4s, helping the company
to stay in business despite the Great Depression.
The 745cc R 12 is introduced. It is the first production model with
hydraulically dampened front forks.
The R 5 is introduced, which is BMW’s first bike with rear-plunger
suspension. Also, the 500cc R 7 is released, which can reach 87 mph.
Otto Ley wins the Swedish 500cc Grand Prix on another “kompressor.”
The supercharged BMWs will be the dominant force in Grand Prix racing
until WWII. (After the war, the FIM bans forced-induction motors. Some
people interpret the rule as punishing the Axis, since the most
successful supercharged racing motorcycles were German and Italian. The
single-cylinder bikes favored by British manufacturers were
A Bavarian motorcycle cop and off-road racer, Georg Meier, tries a
BMW road racer and pulls off after a few laps, saying he’s afraid to go
Beginning with the R 61, BMW has introduced rear suspension on all
production models. Six new models are introduced this year, including
the R 23, R 51, R 66 and R 71. The R 71 is the last BMW bike to feature a
Georg Meier wins the Isle of Man Senior TT on a BMW.
With the start of World War II, BMW turns its attention back to
BMW introduces the R 75, which was designed for war use. Weighing a
whopping 925 pounds, the R 75 featured 750 cc engine, large gas tank,
two seats and a sidecar. It could also be fitted with a machine gun.
The U.S. Army is impressed with the R 75 and similar Zundapp models.
Captured German bikes are sent back for Harley-Davidson and Indian to
copy. Up to 1,000 prototypes are built, but those motorcycles never see
With the war over, BMW is forbidden to manufacturer motorcycles and
turns its attention to making bicycles. To add insult to injury, German
patents are taken in war reparation, and the French company CMR (later
known as Ratier) begins making a BMW clone.
BMW begins motorcycle manufacturing again with the R 24. The
company’s first post-war bike, the R 24 is powered by a 250cc engine,
the maximum allowed at the time.
BMW introduces the R 50/2 and R 51/2. Both are seen as inferior as
the main rear bearing had been moved into the crankcase and needed to be
replaced every 10,000 miles.
The R 25 with plunging rear suspension is introduced.
BMW produces the 600cc R 67, outfitted with a sidecar.
BMW begins production of the RS Series, which features a swinging
arm rear suspension and Earles forks. Also, the R 25 is redesigned and
released as the R 25/3.
The RS54 Rennsport production racer is unveiled.
The team of Wilhelm Noll and Fritz Kron win the sidecar World
Championship. Their victory marks the start of an incredible run; BMWs
will win 19 of the next 21 world titles!
The R 50, which also features a rear swingarm and leading-link front
fork, replaces the R 51/3.
Walter Zeller finished second in the 500cc World Championship,
behind John Surtees; it is BMW’s best “solo” result in the modern era.
Motorcycle production falls from 23,531 in 1955 to just 5,429 in
1959 due to an economic decline.
The classic R 69 S is introduced. It is the fastest Boxer available
at the time, reaching a top speed of 109 mph. Also, the R 27 is
released, which features a rubber-mounted engine to cut down on
Special United States export versions of the R 60 and R 69 are
built, but no new models are released from 1961 through 1968.
The /5 Series is launched and features electric starters. The R
50/5, R 60/5 and R 75/5 are all released with telescoping front forks.
BMW celebrates its 50th anniversary and the 500,000th BMW motorcycle
rolls off the line. The R 90 S is released, featuring a 900cc engine.
The /6 Series is also introduced, with 600, 700 and 900cc variations.
For the first time, BMW offers five-speed gearboxes on production
BMW introduces the /7 1000cc R 100/7. The R 100 RS is also released,
featuring the same 1000cc engine and a top speed of 125 mph. It is the
first production bike to feature a full fairing.
Helmut Dähne wins the Isle of Man Production (1000cc) TT.
Reg Pridmore becomes the first-ever winner of the AMA “Production
Superbike” championship, on an Udo Geitl-tuned R90S entered by Butler
& Smith, the U.S. BMW importer.
The R80/7 is introduced and becomes a favorite of police forces.
The luxury-touring R100RT is introduced and features a full-touring
fairing. The 473cc R 45 is also introduced.
The 800cc R80G/S is introduced, which features a single-sided
swingarm. The initials stand for Gelände/Strasse, which is “offroad and
street” in German.
Hubert Auriol wins the third edition of the Paris-Dakar race on an
R80G/S prepared by HPN, a German specialist tuner that is still in the
business of equipping BMWs for rough country.
BMW introduces a road version of the R80G/S – the R80RT.
The K100 is introduced – the first of the water-cooled K series. It
is the first production bike with electronic ignition and fuel injection
and has a top speed of 132 mph. A racing version called the K100RS is
BMW designs its first three-cylinder motorcycle – the K75. This bike
shares much in common with the K100 but consumes less fuel and is has
more nimble handling.
BMW re-launches the R100RS with Monolever rear suspension and a 60
The R100RT is re-launched with Monolever rear suspension and a
smaller engine. BMW also debuts its double-jointed single-sided swingarm
Paralever system this year. The 1000cc K100LT luxury cruiser is also
The R100G/S goes into production and is known as the ‘largest dirt
bike in the world’ thanks to its 463-pound weight.
The K1 goes into production. At the time, BMW was obeying a
voluntary 100-hp limit on engine power. In order to maximize performance
without exceeding that limit, the designers create a striking,
all-encompassing aerodynamic body that allows the 600+ pound machine to
reach 140+ mph. It features the first ever digital engine electronics
system on a production bike. It’s far too strange for BMW’s (then)
conservative riders, and as a result it will be was discontinued after a
few years of underwhelming sales.
A four-valve version of the K100RS is introduced. ABS is now
standard on all K series bikes.
The 1,000,000th BMW motorcycle is produced – a three-cylinder K75RT.
BMW begins outfitting its motorcycles with three-way catalytic
converters. BMW also re-releases its R100R.
The R1100RS sports tourer is introduced. The bike is powered by a
fuel-injected, eight valve, twin-cylinder engine.
BMW’s first single is released in 30 years, the F650 Funduro, plus
the first four-valve GS, the R1100GS.
This is the last year that the two-valve traditional Boxer is
The powerful four-cylinder, liquid-cooled K1200RS is introduced.
BMW introduces its first chopper/cruiser – the R1200C. It’s the
choice of James Bond, but that’s not enough to make it very popular. It
will be discontinued a few years later.
Richard Sainct wins the Paris-Dakar on a race-tuned 650cc
single-cylinder “Funduro.” Officially, the bike’s designated the F650RR.
The only stock part on the entire machine is the taillight!
BMW releases its R1150GS, as well as a new luxury-tourer, the
An all-new, lighter and more powerful Boxer Twin motor equips the
The K1200S is a radical new machine for the venerable manufacturer.
It features an across-the-frame four-cylinder motor making a claimed 167
horsepower. It is the first time in years that BMW has shown a
willingness to compete head-to-head in the marketplace with the world’s
biggest motorcycle companies.
The company leaks news of the S1000RR, a four-cylinder literbike
that it plans to race in the 2009 World Superbike Championship.
- Join date : 16/01/2010
Age : 35
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