BMW Motorrad

Motorrad | August 2nd, 2008 by 7

As I promised earlier this week with the article about BMW’s new and revolutionary motorcycle helmet, BMW Blog would be covering more news and features …

As I promised earlier this week with the article about BMW’s new and revolutionary motorcycle helmet, BMW Blog would be covering more news and features about BMW motorcycles. After all, they deserve a lot of respect, as do their riders. To see the Motorrad news, just click the Motorrad category icon on the right there –>.

Today I went and hung out at a BMW motorcycle shop in my area and learned a lot about the guys that are dedicated to BMW bikes. I also learned that BMW Motorcycles only make up roughly 1% of all motorcycles in the U.S. Even Triumph accounts for more bikes (just below 3%).

Still, though, it takes a dedicated person to ride a BMW just like us BMW car drivers. We love our Bimmers, and talking with the riders today, I’d say they have us beat for dedication, believe it or not.

800px bmw r32 vl tce 500x374 BMW Motorrad

BMW Motorcycles date back to 1921 when they started making engines for others. They started making what they called ‘Boxer Engines’ out of a basic Flat-Twin cylinder setup, except with each cylinder hanging out in the breeze, one at each side of the motor. This was very good for keeping the engine and cylinders cool.  BMW produced their first road-going motorcycle in 1923 called the R 32. The R 32 was made up of a 486cc Boxer engine that had 8.5hp and a top speed of roughly 60 MPH. With the R 32 also came a new wet-sump oil system that BMW used until 1969. Motorcycles didn’t start using wet-sumps until the 70’s when the Japanese motorbikes started gaining far more recognition in America.

As you can see BMW was already using new and better technologies before everyone else. It’s the BMW way.

Later, in the 1937 BMW set a world record of 173.88 MPH with a supercharged 500cc bike. This record was unbeaten for 14 years due to WWII coming about. The record was set by Ernst Henne who died in 2005 at 101 years old. Maybe the speed prolonged his life?

BMW was pretty much the official bike of South African duties for the Nazi’s. That sounds like a Mastercard commercial, by the way. But the BMW R 71 was so good that the U.S. Army commissioned Harley Davidson to literally copy the bike. Harley did so by converting the metric scale of the BMW to inches. The reason that the BMW was better than all of the others was due to its Boxer design that had the cylinders coming out of the sides to catch air, and also due to the shaft drive that didn’t get beat up by the harsh African sand like all chain driven bikes did.

After the war BMW had to start all over again. All of the records of the pre-war motorcycles were blown up. All they had to go on was left over motorcycles that were still riding around the streets. From the old R 32 they were able to build the R 34 in 1948. With sales climbing well over 26,000 in two years BMW was back on their feet. From there BMW was able to make more profit and build much better bikes.

BMW motorcycles have had a rather successful career in racing as well, just like with their cars.

Stay tuned for more BMW Motorrad history coming to you from BMW Blog.

Article by Josh from

[Information and photos taken from: Wikipedia]

7 responses to “BMW Motorrad”

  1. Ari Kukkonen says:

    I think most difficult thing after the war was that they lost whole factory. They lost Eisenacher factory to East Germany and so Ural starts producing exact copies of Boxer-motors. Urals still have exact copy of that era engine, it really is exact as they had the whole factory… Limited only by the russian build quality of course :-).

  2. Giom says:

    That is a fasinating story! I never knew any of this.

    I’ve owned 4 BMW bikes to date – from the C1 to the R1150RT. Loved every one of them.

    Strange, though, that the US is so slow in warming up to the Motorrad
    brand. Don’t worry, a South African, Pieter de Waal, is now vice president of Motorrad in the US. If he can do over there what he did for SA, that’ll all change.

    Just curious… The current US economy downturn, is this hitting BMW car and bike sales alot?


  3. Horatiu B. says:

    Great story Josh! Enough said :)

  4. RawAutos says:

    @Ari Kukkonen: 100% correct. Someones been doing their homework… :)

  5. Horatiu B. says:

    @RawAutos: I found your long comment on the old server, it was for Giom, I thought you might wanna have it again, so here it is:

    Well, the U.S. has always taken time to warm up to new and better ideas. I think the biggest thing is the price difference and the different level of dedication. It’s interesting enough that the guys I talked to said you basically had to be a gadget freak or an engineer to really love and understand the Beamers.

    I think we will see a warmer push to BMW in the near future, especially since they entered the 2009 Superbike World Championship. Now they have the HP2 Sport that is pretty much an exact replica of the actual 24 hrs of Oschersleben bikes that took 1st and 2nd.

    I will be doing another history lesson either today or tomorrow about BMW Motorrad to help finish up and give a more recent history. Also, I will be doing a few articles about some bikes coming up within the next few days, as well.

  6. LumpyCam says:

    Good review of BMW bike history.

    I believe that the poor adoption of BMW bikes in North America is due to the perception that motorbikes are a toy to ride on sunny Sundays. Lawyers on Harleys or squids on GSXers. If you want a quick thrill for 2hrs then BMW is not your sexiest choice. HOWEVER – if you tour, commute, or ride year round then BMW is the overwhelming choice. Look at the parking spaces at your office and i’ll bet 10-50% are BMW, even though they only account for about 1% of bike sales. When the weather gets cold or it’s raining BMWs are the majority (at least where I live in Canada).

    People that acutally use and depend on their bike ride BMW.

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