BMW's motorcycle history began in 1921 when the company commenced manufacturing engines for other companies. Motorcycle manufacturing now operates under the BMW Motorrad brand. BMW (Bayerische Motoren Werke AG) introduced the first motorcycle under its name, the R32, in 1923.
BMW merged with Bayerische Flugzeugwerke in 1922, inheriting from them the Helios motorcycle and a small two-stroke motorized bicycle called the Flink. In 1923, BMW's first "across the frame" version of the boxer engine was designed by Friz. The R32 had a 486 cc (29.7 cubic inches) engine with 8.5 hp (6.3 kW) and a top speed of 95 to 100 km/h (59 to 62 mph). The engine and gearbox formed a bolt-up single unit. At a time when many motorcycle manufacturers used total-loss oiling systems, the new BMW engine featured a recirculating wet sump oiling system with a drip feed to roller bearings. This system was used by BMW until 1969, when they adopted the "high-pressure oil" system based on shell bearings and tight clearances, still in use today.
The R32 became the foundation for all future boxer-powered BMW motorcycles. BMW oriented the boxer engine with the cylinder heads projecting out on each side for cooling as did the earlier British ABC. Other motorcycle manufacturers, including Douglas and Harley-Davidson, aligned the cylinders with the frame, one cylinder facing towards the front wheel and the other towards the back wheel. The R32 also incorporated shaft drive. BMW has continued to use shaft drive on its motorcycles and did not produce a chain driven model until the introduction of the F650 in 1994.
In 1931, BMW introduced the single-cylinder shaft-driven R2, which, as a 200 cc motorcycle, could be operated in Germany without a motorcycle licence at that time. The R2 headed a series of single-cylinder BMW motorcycles, including the 400 cc R4 in 1932 and the 300 cc R3 in 1936.
The BMW R12 and R17, both introduced in 1935, were the first production motorcycles with hydraulically damped telescopic forks.
In 1937, Ernst Henne rode a supercharged 500 cc (31 cubic inches) overhead camshaft BMW 173.88 mph (279.83 km/h), setting a world record that stood for 14 years.
Construction was so good that during World War II Harley-Davidson copied the BMW engine and transmission—simply converting metric measurements to inches—and produced the shaft-drive 750 cc (46 cubic inches) 1942 Harley-Davidson XA.
The terms of Germany's surrender forbade BMW from manufacturing motorcycles. In 1946, when BMW received permission to restart motorcycle production from US authorities in Bavaria, BMW had to start from scratch.
In 1955, BMW began introducing a new range of motorcycles with Earles forks and enclosed drive shafts. These were the 26 hp (19 kW) 500 cc R50, the 30 hp (22 kW) 600 cc R60, and the 35 hp (26 kW) sporting 600 cc R69.
On June 8, 1959, John Penton rode a BMW R69 from New York to Los Angeles in 53 hours and 11 minutes, slashing over 24 hours from the previous record of 77 hours and 53 minutes set by Earl Robinson on a 45 cubic inch (740 cc) Harley-Davidson.
For the 1968 and 1969 model years only, BMW exported into the United States three "US" models. These were the R50US, the R60US, and the R69US. On these motorcycles, there were no sidecar lugs attached to the frame and the front forks were telescopic forks, which were later used worldwide on the slash-5 series of 1970 through 1973. Earles-fork models were sold simultaneously in the United States as buyers had their choice of front suspensions.
In 1970, BMW introduced an entirely revamped product line of 500 cc, 600 cc and 750 cc displacement models, the R50/5, R60/5 and R75/5 respectively and came with the "US" telescopic forks noted above. The engines were a complete redesign. The roller and ball-bearings in the bottom end had been replaced by shell-type journal bearings similar to those used in modern car engines. The camshaft, which had been at the top of the engine, was placed under the crankshaft, giving better ground clearance under the cylinders while retaining the low centre of gravity of the flat-twin layout. The new engine had an electric starter, although the traditional gearbox-mounted kick starter was retained. The styling of the first models included chrome-plated side panels and a restyled tank. The /5 series was given a longer rear swingarm, resulting in a longer wheelbase. This improved the handling and allowed a larger battery to be installed.
The /5 models were short-lived, however, being replaced by another new product line in 1974. In that year the 500 cc model was deleted from the lineup and an even bigger 900 cc model was introduced, along with improvements to the electrical system and frame geometry. These models were the R60/6, R75/6 and the R90/6. In 1973 a supersport model, the BMW R90S, was introduced. In 1975, the kick starter was finally eliminated.
In 1995, BMW ceased production of airhead 2-valve engines and moved its boxer-engined line completely over to the 4-valve oilhead system first introduced in 1993.
Tue, 05 Aug 2014
BMW reported an 11.2% growth in motorcycle sales revenue for the second quarter ended June 30, 2014, thanks to a new best-ever quarterly record of 42,259 motorcycles sold. The record sales quarter also led to a record of 70,978 motorcycles sold in the first half of 2014, the most motorcycles BMW has sold in a six-month period in the company’s 90-year history in the business. The second quarter sales result represents a 5.1% increase on the 40,209 motorcycles sold in the same quarter last year.
Tue, 22 Jul 2014
The members of So Cal BMW Motorcycle Dealers Group have partnered with MotoQuest to create an all-new festival celebrating BMW Motorcycles and motorcycling culture at Snow Summit Resort in Big Bear, CA September 19th-21st. This BMW Motorcycle Festival will feature guided and self-guided test rides both on and off road on the latest machines from BMW Motorrad, seminars from event sponsors like Schuberth Helmets and Twisted Throttle, and excellent riding through the mountains of Southern California. World traveler and author Glen Heggstad will be featured Saturday night with his exciting tales of danger, beauty and people riding a BMW through more than 50 countries.
Mon, 21 Jul 2014
Jack Broomall holds eight different motorcycle land speed records, set at the world-famous Bonneville Salt Flats on a variety of bikes. The records are cherished, as are the machines. But Broomall won’t think twice about auctioning his BMW S1000RR later this month, as a donation to the Austin Hatcher Foundation (AHF) for Pediatric Cancer.
Fri, 18 Jul 2014
BMW has developed a new anti-lock braking system designed to work when a motorcycle is leaned over into a corner. The new ABS Pro system will initially be offered as a retrofit upgrade on the BMW HP4 sportbike, but it’s likely only a matter of time before the technology becomes available on other models. The ABS Pro uses the same sensors already employed by BMW’s Dynamic Traction Control and Dynamic Damping Control electronic suspension, both of which are already available on the HP4.
Thu, 17 Jul 2014
The Taylormade Brough Superior racebike will make its Moto2 racing debut at the British Grand Prix at the U.K.’s Silverstone circuit. Backed by insurance company Bennetts, the one-off entry will feature British Supersport racer Luke Mossey riding the Taylormade Carbon 2 racebike. Led by California-based but British-bred Paul Taylor and John Keogh, the Taylormade project was started to rethink the spark the impending relaunch of the Brough Superior brand as well as to explore new ways of designing prototype race machines.
Mon, 14 Jul 2014
Marco Melandri rebounded from last week’s disappointing Portimao round to win Race One at Laguna Seca while Tom Sykes extended his championship lead with a win in a red-flagged Race Two. Melandri got taken out of the second Portimao race after his Aprilia teammate Sylvain Guintoli slid into his RSV4. Melandri looked eager to make up for that DNF, leading every lap of Race One on his way to his third win of the season.
Fri, 04 Jul 2014
The liquid-cooled BMW R1200GS receives a slight tweak for 2015 along with new optional quick shifter and keyless ignition system. The Adventure version also gets these new options as well as new choices to lower the seat height. The 2015 GS receives the heavier crankshaft introduced on the 2014 R1200GS Adventure and R1200RT.
Fri, 04 Jul 2014
BMW is updating its big six-cylinder touring bikes with traction control as standard equipment and a number of new optional add-ons including keyless remote ignition. Previously available as part of BMW’s factory-installed Safety Package option, the Dynamic Traction Control system will now be standard on all 2015 K1600GT and K1600GTL models. The system continuously monitors rear wheel traction during acceleration, stepping in when it senses excessive wheel spin.
Fri, 04 Jul 2014
BMW announced a new special edition version of the K1300S equipped with some upgraded parts and a unique paint job. The 2015 BMW K1300S Motorsport comes with a new Black Storm Metallic, Light White and Lupine Blue Metallic color scheme, with a bit of red striping for good measure. A band of black running across the top of the bike from nose to tank to tail is complemented by a tinted windscreen.
Thu, 03 Jul 2014
BMW has officially recalled the 2014 R1200RT in the U.S., after the company released a worldwide warning to customers about a potential defect with the rear suspension system. According to documents released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the piston rod on the R1200RT’s Dynamic Electronic Suspension Adjustment (ESA) rear shock absorber may break without warning. The problem was first discovered April 1 after a warranty claim was filed in France.