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.
Fri, 02 May 2014
BMW announced a new competition for privateer racers competing worldwide. Private road racers competing on BMW’s S1000RR or HP4 sportbikes in 15 different series worldwide will earn points based on their results, with the top privateer at the end of the year winning the BMW Motorrad Race Trophy. The trophy represents BMW’s new philosophy towards motorcycle racing which began with the official withdrawal of factory support in the World Superbike Championship.
Thu, 01 May 2014
Racer Gloves USA will have multiple World and AMA Champion, Doug Polen, at its tent for autograph signing between 12:00PM- 2:00PM during the Quail Motorcycle Gathering Saturday, May 17, 2014. A 2011 AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame inductee, Polen is one of the most accomplished American road racers of the 1980’s and 1990’s and guests of The Quail Motorcycle Gathering have the opportunity to meet Polen during his autograph signing. 2014 Quail Motorcycle Gathering To Honor Eddie Lawson
In other Quail news, the film makers, stars and motorcycles from “Why We Ride,” the acclaimed motorcycle documentary produced by Bryan H.
Thu, 24 Apr 2014
BMW’s venerable R1200GS has a lot of fans around the globe, including us. To my eyes, the GS does a fine job of maintaining a traditional dirtbike’s minimalist appearance, minus those bulging cylinders protruding from either end. But now more than ever, thanks to the introduction of liquid-cooling, the GS is a modern marvel of mechanical and electrical engineering.
Thu, 17 Apr 2014
What do you get when you bring together the designer of the Fisker Karma and the great-grandson of the founder of Lego? The answer is this cruiser concept model by Danish brand Lauge Jensen called the Viking. The company was formed in 2004 by bike builder Uffe Lauge Jensen but later sold to industrialist Anders Kirk Johansen, the scion of one of Denmark’s wealthiest families and great-grandson of Ole Kirk Christiansen who invented Lego building blocks.
Mon, 14 Apr 2014
Reigning World Superbike Champion Tom Sykes put on a clinic this weekend, leading every lap in both races to claim a pair of wins at Spain’s Motorland Aragon circuit. Sykes’ Kawasaki teammate Loris Baz was right there with him, recording a pair of second-place podiums to give Team Green a pair of one-two finishes. Sykes and Baz were also one-two in the Superpole qualifying on this nearly flawless weekend for the Kawasaki factory team.
Thu, 10 Apr 2014
BMW is developing a new organic light emitting diode lighting system for cars and motorcycles. Unlike conventional LEDs, organic LEDs (or OLEDs) uses wafer-thin semiconductive layers made from organic polymers to produce light. OLEDs are more efficient and emit less heat than LEDs.
Fri, 04 Apr 2014
The first C Evolution electric scooters have rolled off the line at BMW‘s main motorcycle production plant in Berlin, Germany. The result of three and a half years of development, the BMW C Evolution scooter is the company’s two-wheeled foray into electric vehicles. The C Evolution shares the same lithium-ion battery module as the BMW i3 electric car.
Wed, 02 Apr 2014
A notice to any potential law breakers out there: Victory is getting in on the police bike business. Using stock Cross Country models modified with only lights and sirens, the Victorys may not be as ill-equipped for chases (at least slow speed, parking lot chases) as you might think. Just check out this video below for proof.
Mon, 31 Mar 2014
Spy photographers have captured a new BMW adventure-tourer powered by the S1000RR’s Inline-Four engine. The new model, which we expect will be called the 2015 BMW S1000XR, will be more road-oriented than the company’s bread-and-butter GS line, offering a competitor to the likes of the Ducati Multistrada 1200 or the recently reviewed Aprilia Caponord 1200. Other publications that have published the spy photos (Insella.it and MotorcyclistOnline for example) have put forward names such as S1000F or S1000 ADV for the new model, but a trademark application BMW filed with the USPTO suggests it may be introduced as the “S1000XR”.
Wed, 19 Mar 2014
BMW‘s most important model reached an important milestone as the 500,000th boxer-engined GS rolled off the company’s production line in Berlin, Germany. The landmark liquid-cooled 2014 R1200GS follows a lineage half a million strong of flat-twin adventure tourers tracing back to the first R80G/S produced in 1980. “As a plant it is a privilege for us to continue building on the successful history of the legendary flat-twin GS,” says Marc Sielemann, head of the Berlin plant which produces the bulk of BMW’s motorcycles since 1969.