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BMW
BMW
Germany
BMW Roundel
Founded1921
LocationGermany

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.

Motorcycle history

Pre-1921

BMW began as an aircraft engine manufacturer before World War I. With the Armistice, the Treaty of Versailles banned the German air force so the company turned to making air brakes, industrial engines, agricultural machinery, toolboxes and office furniture and then to motorcycles and cars.

The origin of the BMW roundel

The circular blue and white BMW logo or roundel is often alleged to portray the movement of an aircraft propeller, an interpretation that BMW adopted for convenience in 1929, which was actually twelve years after the roundel was created. In fact, the emblem evolved from the circular Rapp Motorenwerke company logo, from which the BMW company grew. The Rapp logo was combined with the blue and white colors of the flag of Bavaria to produce the BMW roundel so familiar today.

1921–1945

BMW's first motorcycle, the R32
BMW's first motorcycle, the R32
1923 R32
BMW's opposed engine and transmission unit in an R 32

In 1921, BMW began its long association with a 1886 German invention known to Germans as the boxermoter (see Karl Benz and flat engines). The 1921–1922 M2B15 boxer, designed by Max Friz, was manufactured by BMW for use as a portable industrial engine, but was largely used by motorcycle manufacturers, notably Victoria of Nuremberg, and in the Helios motorcycle made by Bayerische Flugzeugwerke. Friz was also working on car engines. The boxer design in a motorcycle is firmly linked to BMW, but has been used (not always in volume) by a number of other companies worldwide, including Honda in their Gold Wing from 1975 to the present.

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 engine with 8.5 hp (6.3 kW) and a top speed of 95–100 km/h (60 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 aligned the cylinders with the frame, one cylinder facing towards the front wheel and the other towards the back wheel. For example, Harley-Davidson introduced the Model W, a flat twin oriented fore and aft design, in 1919 and built them until 1923.

The R32 also incorporated shaft drive. BMW continued to use shaft drive in all of its motorcycles until the introduction of the F650 in 1994 and the F800 series in 2006, which featured either chain drive or a belt drive system.

In 1937, Ernst Henne rode a supercharged 500 cc overhead camshaft BMW 173.88 mph (279.83 km/h), setting a world record that stood for 14 years.

During World War II the Wehrmacht needed as many vehicles as it could get of all types and many other German companies were asked to build motorcycles. The BMW R75, a copy of a Zündapp KS750, performed particularly well in the harsh operating environment of the North African campaign. Motorcycles of every style had performed acceptably well in Europe, but in the desert the protruding cylinders of the flat-twin engine performed better than configurations which overheated in the sun, and shaft drives performed better than chain-drives which were damaged by desert grit.

So successful were the BMWs as war-machines that the U.S. Army asked Harley-Davidson, Indian and Delco to produce a motorcycle similar to the side-valve BMW R71. Harley copied the BMW engine and transmission — simply converting metric measurements to inches — and produced the shaft-drive 750 cc 1942 Harley-Davidson XA.

1945 - 1955

The end of World War II found BMW in ruins. Its plant outside of Munich was destroyed by Allied bombing. The Eisenach facility while badly damaged was not totally destroyed and tooling and machinery was safely stored nearby. The facility was not dismantled by the Soviets as reparations and sent back to the Soviet Union where it was reassembled in Irbit to make IMZ-Ural motorcycles as is commonly alleged. The IMZ plant was supplied to the Soviets by BMW under license prior to the commencement of the Great Patriotic War. After the war the terms of Germany's surrender forbade BMW from manufacturing motorcycles. Most of BMW's brightest engineers were taken to the US and the Soviet Union to continue their work on jet engines which BMW produced during the war.

When the ban on the production of motorcycles was lifted in Allied controlled Western Germany, BMW had to start from scratch. There were no plans, blueprints, or schematic drawings because they were all in Eisenach. Company engineers had to use surviving pre-war motorcycles to copy the bikes. The first post-war BMW motorcycle in Western Germany, a 250 cc R24, was produced in 1948. The R24 was based on the pre-war R23, and was the only postwar West German BMW with no rear suspension. In 1949, BMW produced 9,200 units and by 1950 production surpassed 17,000 units.

BMW boxer twins manufactured from 1950 to 1956 included the 500 cc models R51/2 and 24 hp (18 kW) R51/3, the 600 cc models 26 hp (19 kW) R67, 28 hp (21 kW) R67/2, and R67/3, and the sporting 35 hp (26 kW) 600 cc model R68. All these models came with plunger rear suspensions, telescopic front forks, and chromed, exposed drive shafts. Except for the R68, all these twins came with "bell-bottom" front fenders and front stands.

The situation was very different in Soviet-controlled Eastern Germany where BMW's sole motorcycle plant in Eisenach was producing R35 and a handful of R75 motorcycles for reparations. This resulted in one BMW motorcycle plant existing in Eisenach between 1945 and 1948 and two motorcycle companies existing between 1948 and 1952. One was a BMW in Munich in Western Germany (later the German Federal Republic) and the other in Soviet controlled Eisenach, Eastern Germany (later the German Democratic Republic), both using the BMW name. Eventually in 1952. after the Soviets ceded control of the plant to the East German Government, and following a trademark lawsuit, this plant was renamed EMW (Eisenacher Motoren Werke). Instead of BMW's blue-and-white roundel, EMW used a very similar red-and-white roundel as its logo. No motorcycles made in East Germany after World War II were manufactured under the authority of BMW in Munich as there was no need for an occupying power to gain such authority. After the collapse of the Iron Curtain many EMW models have made their way to the USA. It is possible to find find restored R35 motorcycles today parts of which are EMW and parts of which are BMW as many parts are interchangeable, making authentic identification quite difficult because all BMW R35 motorcycles were produced in Eisenach until 1952, when they became EMW.

1955 - 1969

As the 1950s progressed, motorcycle sales plummeted. In 1957, three of BMW's major German competitors went out of business. In 1954, BMW produced 30,000 motorcycles. By 1957, that number was less than 5,500. However, by the late 1950s, BMW exported 85% of its boxer twin powered motorcycles to the United States. At that time, Butler & Smith, Inc. was the exclusive U.S. importer of BMW.

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.

Although U.S. sales of BMW motorcycles were strong, BMW was in financial trouble. Through the combination of selling off its aircraft engine division and obtaining financing with the help of Herbert Quandt, BMW was able to survive. The turnaround was thanks in part to the increasing success of BMW's automotive division. Since the beginnings of its motorcycle manufacturing, BMW periodically introduced single-cylinder models. In 1967, BMW offered the last of these, the R27. Most of BMW's offerings were still designed to be used with sidecars. By this time sidecars were no longer a consideration of most riders; people were interested in sportier motorcycles.

The 26 hp (19 kW) R50/2, 30 hp (22 kW) R60/2, and 42 hp (31 kW) R69S marked the end of sidecar-capable BMWs. Of this era, the R69S remains the most desirable example of the dubbed "/2" ("slash-two") series because of significantly greater engine power than other models, among other features unique to this design.

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.
As the 1950s progressed, motorcycle sales plummeted. In 1957, three of BMW's major German competitors went out of business. In 1954, BMW produced 30,000 motorcycles. By 1957, that number was less than 5,500. However, by the late 1950s, BMW exported 85% of its boxer twin powered motorcycles to the United States. At that time, Butler & Smith, Inc. was the exclusive U.S. importer of BMW.

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.

Although U.S. sales of BMW motorcycles were strong, BMW was in financial trouble. Through the combination of selling off its aircraft engine division and obtaining financing with the help of Herbert Quandt, BMW was able to survive. The turnaround was thanks in part to the increasing success of BMW's automotive division. Since the beginnings of its motorcycle manufacturing, BMW periodically introduced single-cylinder models. In 1967, BMW offered the last of these, the R27. Most of BMW's offerings were still designed to be used with sidecars. By this time sidecars were no longer a consideration of most riders; people were interested in sportier motorcycles.

The 26 hp (19 kW) R50/2, 30 hp (22 kW) R60/2, and 42 hp (31 kW) R69S marked the end of sidecar-capable BMWs. Of this era, the R69S remains the most desirable example of the dubbed "/2" ("slash-two") series because of significantly greater engine power than other models, among other features unique to this design.

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.

1970 - 1982

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 from the older models, producing more power and including electric starting (although the kick-starting feature was still included). Part way through the 1973 model year, a long wheel base (LWB) was added to correct some earlier handling problems. These models are popularly called 1973½ models. Most models were came with large 6-gallon tanks, but some came with 4½-gallon tanks. These are called "toaster" models because of the tank's resemblance to a kitchen toaster.

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 1975, the kick starter was finally eliminated and a supersport model, the BMW R90S, was introduced. In addition to "/" or "slash" models, other Airhead models such as the G/S (later, GS) and ST also have dedicated followings within BMW circles, while others favor certain earlier models like /5 "toasters." Each has its merits which owners will freely debate with enthusiasm. Later BMW model types such as K-bikes (1983 on) and oilheads (1993 on) included technical innovations that made them more complicated though many owners still elect to service them personally.

In 1977, the product line moved on to the "/7" models. The R80/7 was added to the line. The R90 (898 cc) models, "/6" and R90S models had their displacement increased to 1,000 cc; replaced by the R100/7 and the R100S, respectively. These were the first liter size (1,000 cc) machines produced by BMW. 1977 was a banner year with the introduction of the first BMW production motorcycle featuring a full fairing, the R100RS. This sleek model, designed through wind-tunnel testing, produced 70 hp (51 kW) and had a top speed of 200 km/h (124 mph). In 1978, the R100RT was introduced into the lineup for the 1979 model year, as the first "full-dress" tourer, designed to compete in this market with the forthcoming Honda Gold Wing.

In 1979, the R60 was replaced with the 650 cc R65, an entry-level motorcycle with 48 hp (36 kW) that had its very own frame design. Due to its smaller size and better geometrics, front and rear 18-inch (460 mm) wheels and a very light flywheel, was an incredibly well-handling bike that could easily keep up and even run away from its larger brothers when in proper hands on sinuous roads. BMW added a variant in 1982: the R65LS, a "sportier" model with a one-fourth fairing, double front disc brakes, stiffer suspension and different carburettors that added 5 hp (4 kW). A short stroke version of the R65, the 450 cc R45 appeared in some markets.

1983–2003

In early 1983, BMW introduced a 1,000 cc, in-line four-cylinder, water-cooled 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 got it).

In 1985, BMW came 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).

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 Motorcycles 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 scale by BMW.

Since 2004

K series

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). 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. Recently, a K1200S set a land speed record for production bikes in its class at the Bonneville Salt Flats, exceeding 174 mph (280 km/h).

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, 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. The K1300 models feature increased in engine capacity of 136 cc, an increase in power to 175 hp (130 kW) and a new exhaust system.

R series

R1200GS

In 2004, bikes with the opposed-twin cylinder "boxer" engine were also revamped. The new boxer displacement is just under 1,200 cc, and is affectionately referred to a "hexhead" because of the shape of the cylinder cover. The motor itself is more powerful, and all of the motorcycles that use it are lighter.

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 (390 lb), 105 kW (141 hp) HP2 Enduro, and the 223 kg (490 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 90 kW (121 hp) @ 8,250 rpm.

F series

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 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.

G series

In October 2006, BMW announced the G series of offroad style motorcycles co-developed with Aprilia. These are 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 are equipped with chain drive. There are three models in the series, all produced for BMW by Aprilia in their North Italian Scorzè Plant, each focused on a slightly different market:

In some markets the single cylinder F650GS has been rebranded as the G650GS.

HP2 Series

First was the 175 kg (390 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. In 2008 they released this as the HP2 Sport.

S1000RR

Main article: BMW S1000RR

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

Husqvarna acquisition

In July 2007, it was announced that BMW had signed a contract to acquire Husqvarna Motorcycles, including its production facilities and staff, from Italian manufacturer MV Agusta.

Source: Wikipedia.