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BMW's first motorcycle, the R32

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 to 1925.


Motorcycle historyEdit


BFw Helios (1920-1923)
BMW R 32 (1923-1926)
BMW R 2 (1931-1936)

At the end of World War I, the Treaty of Versailles demanded that BMW cease production of aircraft engines. To remain in business, the comany began producing small industrial engines (along with farm equipment, household items and railway brakes). In 1920, BMW M2B15 flat-twin petrol engine was released. Despite being designed as a portable industrial engine, the M2B15 was also used by several motorcycle manufacturers, including for the 1920-1923 Victoria KR1 and the 1920-1922 Bayerische Flugzeugwerke (BFw) Helios motorcycles.[1][2]

BMW merged with Bayerische Flugzeugwerke in 1922, and the BFw Helios became the starting point for the first BMW motorcycle.[1][2] Released in 1923, the BMW R 32 used a 486 cc (29.7 cu in) flat-twin petrol engine, which was transversely mounted (to eliminate the cooling problems of the longitudinally-mounted engine in the Helios). This engine with 6.3 kW (8.5 hp), resulting in a top speed of 95 to 100 km/h (59 to 62 mph).[3] 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; a design which BMW used until 1969. The R 32 also started the tradition of shaft drive, which was used on all BMW motorcycles until 1994.

The BMW R 37, produced from 1925-1926, was BMW's first sporting model. It was based on the R 32 and used an overhead valve engine producing 12 kW (16 hp).

The first single-cylinder BMW motorcycle was the 1925 BMW R 39, which was BMW's smallest model and used a 250 cc (15.3 cu in) engine. It was not successful and was discontinued in 1927.[4] The next single-cylinder motorcycle was the BMW R 2, which was released in 1931.[5] It used a 200 cc (12.2 cu in) engine and could therefore be ridden in Germany without a motorcycle licence at that time.[6][7] The lineage of single-cylinder motorcycles continued with the 400 cc (24.4 cu in) BMW R 4 in 1932 and the 300 cc (18.3 cu in) BMW R 3 in 1936.[8]

The BMW R 12 and BMW R 17, both introduced in 1935, were the first production motorcycles with hydraulically damped telescopic forks.[5][9]

In 1937, Ernst Henne recorded a top speed of 279.5 km/h (173.7 mph) on a BMW 500 Kompressor racing motorcycle, setting a world record that stood for 14 years.

The design of the BMW R 71 746 cc (45.5 cu in) flat-twin motorcycle was licenced to the Soviet Union in 1938,[10] resulting in the Dnepr M-72 which was produced from 1942-1960.


During World War II, the German military needed as many vehicles as it could get of all types and many other German companies were asked to build motorcycles. The BMW R 75 performed particularly well in the harsh operating environment of North Africa, partly due to the protruding cylinders of the flat-twin engine providing more effective cooling than other configurations which overheated in the sun. Shaft drives also performed better than chain-drives which were damaged by desert grit. The R 75 inspired similar models from U.S. manufacturers, such as the Indian 841 and Harley-Davidson XA.[11]


East German-built BMW R 35 (1945-1955)
BMW R 24 (1948-1950)
BMW R 51/3 (1951-1954)

In Soviet-controlled East Germany, BMW's sole motorcycle plant in Eisenach recommenced production of R35 and R75 motorcycles soon after the war, for reparations. The factory continued to use the BMW name, causing two separate companies (one in Eisenach and the other in Munich, West Germany) to be using the BMW name between 1948 and 1952. The head office of BMW, based in Munich, had no control over the operations in East Germany. Eventually in 1952, after the Soviets ceded control of the plant to the East German Government, and following a trademark lawsuit, the East German company was renamed Eisenacher Motorenwerk (EMW). Instead of BMW's blue-and-white roundel, EMW used a very similar red-and-white roundel as its logo.[12]

In West Germany, many of BMWs facilities had been badly damaged during the war, including the Munich factory which was in ruins. Initially, the terms of Germany's surrender forbade BMW from manufacturing motorcycles. In 1947, when BMW received permission to restart motorcycle production from US authorities in Bavaria,[13] BMW had to start from scratch. There were no plans, blueprints, or schematic drawings because they were all in Eisenach. The first post-war BMW motorcycle in Western Germany, was the 1948 BMW R 24. The R 24 was reverse-engineered from the pre-war BMW R 23 motorcycle with several improvements[14] and powered by a 247 cc (15 cu in) single-cylinder engine. It was the only postwar West German model without rear suspension. In 1949, BMW produced 9,200 units and by 1950 production surpassed 17,000 units.

Production of flat-twin models resumed in 1950 with the 500 cc (31 cu in) R 51/2 model, which was followed by the BMW R 51/3 and BMW R 67 twins in 1951, and the sporting 26 kW (35 hp) BMW R 68 in 1952. Except for the R 68, all flat-twin models came with "bell-bottom" front fenders and front stands.


BMW R 50 (1955-1960)
BMW R 27 (1960-1966)

Motorcycle sales in Europe plummeted in Europe as the 1950s progressed, with three of BMW's major German competitors going out of business in 1967. In 1954, BMW produced 30,000 motorcycles. By 1957, that number was less than 5,500.

In 1955, BMW began introducing a new range of motorcycles with Earles forks and enclosed drive shafts. These were the 19 kW (26 hp) BMW R 50, the 22 kW (30 hp) BMW R 60 and the sporting model BMW R 69 with 35 hp (26 kW). On June 8, 1959, John Penton rode a BMW R 69 from New York to Los Angeles in 53 hours and 11 minutes, slashing over 24 hours from the previous record.

By the late 1950s, the overall BMW company was in financial trouble. The company narrowly avoided a merger with Daimler-Benz through the combination of financing from brothers Herbert Quandt and Harald Quandt, increased success of the automobile division and the selling off its aircraft engine division. Changes in the motorcycle market saw BMW's last shaft-driven single-cylinder model, the BMW R 27, end production in 1967. Also, most of BMW's offerings were still designed to be used with sidecars. However, by the late 1960s, sidecars were no longer a consideration of most riders; people were interested in sportier motorcycles instead. The BMW R 50/2, R 60/2, and R 69 S were the last sidecar-capable BMWs, with the latter being the most powerful and desirable model.[15]

In the United States, sales of motorcycles were strong through the 1950s, in contrast to drastically declining sales in Europe. Later, specific "US" models were sold in the United States for the 1968 and 1969 model years: the BMW R 50 US, R 60 US and the R 69 US. These models were sold with telescopic forks (alongside other BMW models which were sold with Earles forks) and without sidecar lugs.


BMW R75/5 (1969-1973)
BMW R75/6 (1973-1976)

The model range was entirely revamped in 1969 with the introduction of the BMW /5 range, consisting of the 500 cc BMW R 50/5, the 600 cc BMW R 60/5 and the 750 cc BMW R 75/5 models.[16][17] The engines were a complete redesign, with the crankshaft bearings upgraded from roller bearings to shell-type journal bearings (the type used in modern car engines).[16][17] The camshaft was now chain-driven camshaft and located underneath the crankshaft instead of at the top of the engine, in order to lower the centre of gravity.[16] An electric starter was available for the first time, although the traditional gearbox-mounted kick starter was also retained.[16] The styling of the first models included chrome-plated side panels and a restyled tank. In 1973, the rear swingarm was lengthened, which improved the handling and allowed a larger battery to be installed.

The introduction of the "/5" models coincided with production relocating from Munich to a new factory in Spandau, West Berlin.[16][18] at a site earlier occupied by a Siemens aircraft engine factory.[19][20]

The BMW /6 range replaced the "/5" models in 1974, with the 500 cc (31 cu in) engine being discontinued and a 900 cc (55 cu in) engine introduced. The "/6" model range consisted of the 600 cc BMW R 60/6, the 750 cc BMW R 75/6, the 900 cc BMW R 90/6 and the sporting 900 cc BMW R 90 S.[17][21] Other upgrades included a five-speed gearbox,[17][21] brakes and the electrical system. In 1975, the kick starter was finally eliminated.[21]

In 1976, the BMW /7 range replaced the "/6" models. The 800 cc BMW R 80/7 model was introduced, and the 900 cc BMW R 90/6 and BMW R 90S models were replaced the 1,000 cc BMW R 100/7, BMW R 100S and BMW R 100RS models. The latter was a full-fairing design which produced 51 kW (68 hp) and had a top speed of 200 km/h (124 mph).[22] Later variants of the 1,000 cc models included the BMW R 100T ("Touring"), the BMW R 100 RT and BMW R 100CS ("Classic Sport").

The 1978 BMW R 45 and BMW R 65 were entry-level 450 cc and 650 cc models that replaced the BMW R 60/7. Later variants of the BMW R 65 included the 1982 BMW R65 LS, the sporting BMW R 65 S and the 1987 dual-sport BMW R 65 GS.


1986 BMW K100RS
1994 BMW R100RT

In early 1983, BMW introduced a 987 cc, in-line four-cylinder, water-cooled fuel injected engine to the European market, the K100. The K series comes with a simplified and distinctive rear suspension, a single-sided swingarm. (In 1985 the traditionally powered boxer R80RT touring bike received this monolever rear suspension system and in 1987 the R100RT received it).

In 1985, BMW introduced a 750 cc three-cylinder version, this one smoothed with another first, a counterbalance shaft.

In 1986, BMW introduced an electrically adjustable windshield on the K100LT.

In 1988, BMW introduced ABS on its motorcycles. ABS became standard on all BMW K models. In 1993 ABS was first introduced on BMW's boxer line on the R1100RS. It has since become available as an option on the rest of BMW's motorcycle range.

In 1989, BMW introduced its version of a full-fairing sport bike, the K1. It was based upon the K100 engine, but now with four valves per cylinder. Output was near 100 hp (75 kW).


1996–2004 BMW K1200RS
BMW R1200C cruiser

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.

During this period, BMW introduced a number of motorcycles including:

The R1200C, produced from 1997 to 2004, was BMW Motorcycle's only entry into the Cruiser market. At the other end of the model lineup, the C1, produced from 2000 to 2002, was an enclosed scooter, the only scooter to be offered for sale by BMW.

Since 2004Edit

K seriesEdit

On 25 September 2004, BMW globally launched a radically redesigned K Series motorcycle, the K1200S, containing an all new in-line four-cylinder, liquid-cooled engine featuring 123 kW (165 hp).[23] The K1200S was primarily designed as a Super Sport motorcycle, albeit larger and heavier than the closest Japanese competitors. Shortly after the launch of the K1200S, problems were discovered with the new power plant leading to a recall until the beginning of 2005, when corrective changes were put in place.

In the years after the launch of K1200S, BMW has also launched the K1200R naked roadster, and the K1200GT sport tourer, which started to appear in dealer showrooms in spring (March–June) 2006. All three new K-series motorcycles are based on the new in-line four-cylinder engine, with slightly varying degrees of power. In 2007, BMW added the K1200R Sport,[24] a semi-faired sport touring version of the K1200R.

In October 2008, BMW launched three new 1,300 cc K-series models: the K1300R, K1300S and K1300GT.[25] The K1300 models feature an increase in engine capacity of 136 cc, an increase in power to 175 hp (130 kW), newly styled fairings and a new exhaust system.

In 2011, BMW launched two six-cylinder, 1,600 cc, K1600GT and K1600GTL motorcycles, the former intended as a sport-tourer and the latter as a luxury touring model. The engine produces 160 hp (120 kW) and 129 lb⋅ft (175 N⋅m). They also offer adaptive headlights, traction control, ABS, tire pressure monitors, and a variety of sound systems.

R seriesEdit

San Marino blue 2015 BMW R1200RT

In 2005, bikes with the opposed-twin-cylinder "boxer" engine were also revamped. The new boxer displacement is 1,170 cc (71 cubic inches). The engine is more powerful, and all of the motorcycles that use it are lighter than their predecessors.

The first motorcycle to be launched with this updated engine was the R1200GS dual-purpose motorcycle. The R1200RT tourer and R1200ST sports tourer followed shortly behind. BMW then introduced the 175 kg (386 lb), 78 kW (105 hp) HP2 Enduro, and the 223 kg (492 lb), 100 hp (75 kW) R1200GS Adventure, each specifically targeting the off-road and adventure-touring motorcycle segment, respectively. In 2007, the HP2 Enduro was joined by the road-biased HP2 Megamoto fitted with smaller alloy wheels and street tyres.

In 2006, BMW launched the R1200R and the R1200S, which is rated at 81 kW (109 hp) @ 7,500 rpm.

In 2014, BMW introduced a completely new R1200RT a partial water cooled engine with 125 hp (92 kW) at 7,750 rpm, 92 lb/ft (125 Nm) torque at 6,500 rpm, and a wet clutch.

In 2015 BMW introduced in the R1200RT keyless ignition and the "San Marino blue" color.

The only change by BMW for the 2016 model year of the R1200RT was in available colors. “Platin bronze metallic” was added and the existing paint finish Callisto grey metallic matt is no longer available.

Alpine white 2017 BMW R1200RT

All 2017 liquid-cooled boxer models were fitted with a judder (definition: an instance of rapid and forceful shaking and vibration) damper on the transmission output shaft. New features also included a revised selector drum actuator, transmission shafts, and transmission shaft bearing. In addition to these technical changes, the 2017 R1200RT was available with optional ABS Pro, which senses lean angle and adjusts intervention accordingly (as part of the Ride Modes Pro option package). It was also available in two new colors: Carbon Black Metallic and Alpine White. Ebony Metallic and San Marino Blue Metallic were no longer available.

The only changes for the 2018 model year were colors. The bronze color is gone and in its place is a metallic red color, "Mars red metallic," with a dark slate metallic nose.

F seriesEdit

F 800S

BMW has also paid attention to the F Series in 2006. It lowered the price on the existing F650GS and F650GS Dakar, and eliminated the F650CS Scarver to make room in the lineup for the all-new F800 Series. The new motorcycles are powered by a parallel twin engine, built by Rotax. They feature either a belt drive system, similar to the belt drive found on the now defunct F650CS, or chain drive. Initially, BMW launched two models of the new F800 Series, the F800S sport bike and the F800ST sport tourer; these were followed by F650GS and F800GS dual-purpose motorcycles, both of which use the 798 cc engine despite the different names.[26]

G seriesEdit

G650 Xchallenge enduro

In October 2006, following a nomenclature change, BMW announced the G series of offroad style motorcycles co-developed with Aprilia. These were equipped with an uprated single-cylinder water-cooled 652 cc fuel-injected engine producing 53 hp (40 kW), similar to the one fitted to the single-cylinder F650GS, and equipped with chain drive. Initially, there were three models in the series, all produced for BMW by Aprilia in their North Italian Scorzè Plant, each focused on a slightly different market:

  • G650 Xchallenge hard enduro featuring 21 inch front and 18 inch rear spoked wheels[27]
  • G650 Xcountry scrambler / adventure sports featuring 19 inch front and 17 inch rear spoked wheels[27]
  • G650 Xmoto street moto / supermoto featuring 17 inch cast alloy wheels.[27]

The G450X, a hard-enduro was introduced in 2007,[28] and discontinued in 2010.

At the end of 2010 BMW introduced the G650GS, an extensively facelifted and reworked version of the original F650GS.

HP2 SeriesEdit

First was the 175 kg (386 lb), 105 hp (78 kW) HP2 Enduro, followed by the road-biased HP2 Megamoto fitted with smaller alloy wheels and street tyres in 2007.

In April 2007, BMW announced its return to competitive road racing, entering a factory team with a "Sport Boxer" version of the R1200S to four 24-hour endurance races.[29] In 2008 they released this as the HP2 Sport.


The S1000RR is a sport bike launched to compete in the 2009 Superbike World Championship.[30] It is powered by a 999 cc (61 cu in) inline-four engine producing 193 bhp (144 kW).

Husqvarna acquisitionEdit

In 2007, BMW acquired Husqvarna Motorcycles, including its production facilities and staff, from Italian manufacturer MV Agusta.[31][32] On 31 January 2013, BMW announced that Pierer Industrie AG has bought Husqvarna for an undisclosed amount, which will not be revealed by either party in the future.[33]

See alsoEdit



  1. ^ a b Norbye, Jan P., BMW - Bavaria's Driving Machines, pp. 14–17
  2. ^ a b Faloon, Ian (Feb 15, 2009). The BMW Boxer Twins Bible: All Air-Cooled Models 1970–1996 (Except R45, R65, G/S & GS). Veloce Publishing. pp. 6–7. ISBN 978-1-84584-1-683. BFW decided to produce motorcycles, and its first effort was the Flink of 1920 with a 143cc Hanfland two-stroke engine.
  3. ^ {{cite web|url= | |title=BMW R32 specifications
  4. ^ Tragatsch, Erwin (1992-07-30) [1977]. Tragatsch, Erwin (ed.). Illustrated Encyclopedia of Motorcycles (Second ed.). Book Sales. p. 89. ISBN 0-8900-9868-9. Retrieved 2013-06-02. In 1925, the first BMW single was built, this was the R39... All BMWs built to 1929—except the R39 which was dropped in 1927—...
  5. ^ a b Wilson, Hugo (1995). "The A-Z of Motorcycles". The Encyclopedia of the Motorcycle. Dorling Kindersley. p. 28. ISBN 0-7513-0206-6.
  6. ^ Gantriis, Peter; Von Wartenberg, Henry (2008). The Art of BMW: 85 Years of Motorcycling Excellence. MotorBooks International. p. 58. ISBN 978-0-76033-315-0.
  7. ^ Gantriis, Peter, The Art of BMW: 90 Years of Motorcycling Excellence, p.58
  8. ^ Holmstrom, Darwin, Nelson, Brian J., BMW Motorcycles, pp. 33-34
  9. ^ Holmstrom & Nelson, pp. 34-36
  10. ^ Falloon, Ian (February 2009). "The BMW Boxer Twins Bible". Veloce Publishing Limited. Retrieved February 5, 2017.
  11. ^ "Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum: 1942 Harley-Davidson XA". Archived from the original on 2012-11-14. Retrieved 2011-02-25.
  12. ^ EMW roundel
  13. ^ Norbye, p. 76
  14. ^ Gantriis, Peter, The Art of BMW: 90 Years of Motorcycling Excellence, p.98
  15. ^ Greg Williams (May–June 2011). "The BMW /2 Series: Bavaria's Best?". Motorcycle Classics. Retrieved 2011-05-20.
  16. ^ a b c d e Walker, Mick (2005-09-01). "1: Background". How To Restore Your BMW Twin: 1955-1985. Motorbooks Workshop (2nd ed.). pp. 18–20. ISBN 978-0-7603-2262-8. Retrieved 2013-11-06.
  17. ^ a b c d Norbye, p. 126
  18. ^ Falloon, Original BMW Air-Cooled Boxer Twins 1950–1996, p. 21
  19. ^ Gantriis, Peter, The Art of BMW: 90 Years of Motorcycling Excellence, p.120
  20. ^ Holmstrom & Nelson, p. 83
  21. ^ a b c Walker, Mick, How To Restore Your BMW Twin: 1955-1985, pp. 20-22
  22. ^ BM Bikes BMW R100RS Specifications
  23. ^ Sport Rider BMW K1200S specifications
  24. ^ K1200R Sport Archived 2007-03-12 at the Wayback Machine
  25. ^ "BMW Motorrad unveils new K-Series models - K Series celebrates 25th anniversary with 3 new models!". BMW Motorrad UK. 7 October 2008. Archived from the original on 11 November 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-22.
  26. ^ Omorogbe, Jane (3 April 2008). "Ridden: BMW F800GS and F650GS". MSN. Retrieved 11 November 2009.
  27. ^ a b c Brissette, Pete (20 April 2007). "2007 BMW G 650 X Series". Archived from the original on 25 July 2014. Retrieved 16 October 2014.
  28. ^ [1]
  29. ^ Scoop BMW press release
  30. ^ Carroll, Michael (2008-04-16). "BMW officially unveils World Superbike contender". Motorcycle News. Retrieved 2008-04-17.
  31. ^ "BMW buys Husqvarna". Motorcycle News. 20 July 2007. Retrieved 2007-08-27.
  32. ^ "BMW Motorrad acquires Husqvarna Motorcycles". American Motorcyclist Association. 20 July 2007. Retrieved 2007-08-27.
  33. ^ "Is KTM the real owner of Husqvarna ?".


Further readingEdit

External linksEdit