The foundations.

Max Friz designs the R32.

At the Berlin Motor Show in September 1923, the starting signal was given for the construction of BMW motorcycles: The R 32 is the first BMW motorcycle, developed by Max Friz. The world-renowned boxer engine will be the manufacturers main characteristic.

The father of the boxer flat-twin.

The father of the boxer flat-twin.

BMW Motorrad is given its initial boost on January 2nd 1917: On this day, the 33-year-old engineer Max Friz starts working for BMW. Shortly beforehand, the Swabian had quit his job under his previous boss Paul Daimler in Stuttgart. As it turns out, this is a highly fortunate circumstance for BMW, since after the banning of aircraft and aircraft engines by the treaty of Versailles on June 28th 1919, the existence of BMW seems to be placed on an unsure footing. Max Friz, who soon becomes BMW's head designer, turns his full attention to the motorcycle. In December 1922, hardly 4 weeks after the order was issued, Friz has already put the first BMW motorcycle on the drawing board to original scale. The core is the new drive concept of the BMW flat twin "boxer" engine.

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The R 37 opens the door to racing.

The R 37 opens the door to racing.

The BMW boxer concept is now realised in high quality and with a robust and powerful technology which BMW has adopted from aircraft manufacture for motorcycle production. The BMW boxer soon advances to become an optimum basis model for professional racing, which always makes the greatest demands of material and technology. Of course, the R 32's standard output of 8 bhp is enhanced somewhat. Rudolf Schleicher, himself an active motorcycle racer and with BMW since 1923 as an engineer, takes charge of the project. He designs a steel cylinder with a new light alloy cylinder head with suspended valves. The R 37 of 1925 achieves twice the power of its predecessor with 500 ccm and 16 bhp. It provides the basis for the BMW racing machines and makes the brand BMW not only in off-road racing and on the race tracks but also throughout the whole motorcycle world. The result: from 1924 to 1929, all German Championships in the 500 ccm category are won by BMW.

 

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The fastest motorcycle in the world.

In its fundamental design, it is still Schleicher's model which sets out to break the absolute speed record in 1929. After some technical modifications - including supercharging of the engine by means of a compressor - the time finally comes on September 19th 1929 for the first time: Ernst Henne shoots up the Ingolstädter Landstrasse north of Munich at a speed of 216 kph and thus surpasses the existing world record by 10 kph. In the course of subsequent years, Henne alternates with Italian and English motorcyclists time and again in achieving new records.

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The motorcycles of the 1920s

1923: R 32.

1923: R 32.

The first BMW motorcycle was produced using the two-cylinder four-stroke boxer engine previously supplied to other manufacturers. This was modified for transverse configuration and fitted with a directly blocked three-speed transmission. Instead of a chain drive, which is susceptible to wear-and-tear, the force of the drive was transferred to the grease-filled bevel gear casing on the rear wheel by means of a cardan shaft. The longitudinally ribbed cylinders were cast in a single piece together with the cylinder heads and feature vertical valves.

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1925: R 37.

1925: R 37.

There was now a new sports engine in the unaltered chassis of the R 32 with flat spring front wheel rocker, drum brake to the front and rear brake wedge block. The R 37 was ready to go. It featured overhead valves in the encapsulated aluminium cylinder heads, the latter representing a world first in standard motorcycle production.

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1925: R 39.

1925: R 39.

The first BMW single-cylinder machine: The R 39. Designed for sport model, it convincingly achieved 6.5 hp from a 250 cc cylinder capacity in the shortened chassis of the R 32. The engine and cylinder were cast as a single piece, while the R39 was the first bike with an external calliper brake on the cardan flange instead of the old block brake.

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1928: R 63.

1928: R 63.

For the 750 cc model, the cylinder bore of the R 57 engine was increased to 83 mm - installed in the familiar longitudinal configuration with transverse cylinders to improve cooling. This remained the sportiest BMW model until end of the 1920s, with an output of 24 hp and a top speed of over 120 km/h.

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1929: R 11.

1929: R 11.

Pressed steel profiles for frame and fork tubes replaced the previous lugged and welded tubes on the R 11. Developed specially for use with a sidecar, the stability of the new frame made a positive impression. The motorcycles now became more robust and people outside Germany began to speak in respectful tones of the "German school" of motorcycle design. BMW diligently upgraded its models, so that there were five series of the R 11 in all.

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1929: R 16.

1929: R 16.

The new chassis also housed a sports engine that was equipped with two carburettors at the start of the 1930s, increasing output to 33 hp.

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More decades

  • 1930s.
    Of records and races.

    In the 1930s, the engineers not only considered performance development, but also introduced, for example, the hydraulically damped telescopic fork and the elaborately designed OHV boxer engine - with unique consequences and successes.

  • 1940s.
    On with pioneering spirit.

    After the turmoil of the war, BMW manages a new start with motorcycle production. First they build the R 24 a single-cylinder motorcycle limited to 250 cc. 

  • 1950s.
    Back on top.

    The 1950s are marked by sporting successes. BMW achieves remarkable top speeds with a series-manufactured machine. Furthermore the drivers of motorcycle teams win world championship titles.

  • 1960s.
    Up turn.

    In Berlin-Spandau, where aircraft engines were built up to 1945 and subsequently tool machine facilities were installed, the BMW motorcycles are given their new home and Berlin air in their tyres. In keeping with the new motorcycle boom, BMW manufactures a completely newly developed series with the /5 models.

  • 1970s.
    Protection against wind and weather.

    A new era is being introduced: Cockpit and full fairings make driving on the motorcycle more comfortable. There are sporty motorbikes. In particular, the R 90 S is a popular design classic - not least because of its elaborate two-tone paintwork. 

  • 1980s.
    New technology, new segment.

    The motorcycle manufacturer surprises with pioneering innovations and the new segment of travel enduro. After the revolutionary single-arm swing from 1980, the BMW Paralever system is introduced in 1987 in the R 100 GS. 

  • 1990s.
    Pioneer, trendsetter.

    The new four-valve boxer with electronic engine management and the first BMW single-cylinder motorcycle since 1966 come on the market in the 1990s. In addition, in the spring of 1991, BMW Motorrad became the world's first motorcycle manufacturer to offer a regulated three-way catalytic converter for motorcycles. 

  • 2000s.
    Sportier and more dynamic than ever.

    Several new models and technical innovations are driving the growth at BMW Motorrad: the new K-Series now comes with a transversely mounted engine, and the newly developed F-Series fuels the mid-range segment. At the end of the decade, BMW Motorrad will introduce one of the most important new releases on the market - the S 1000 RR marks the first time that the brand has entered the world of superbikes.

Current models

Suitable motorcycles.