Bmw Motorcycles

10 Best Motorcycles BMW Ever Made

10 Best Motorcycles BMW Ever Made

Established in 1916, the Bayerische Motoren Werke, a company well-known as BMW, first started as an aircraft engine manufacturing company during World War I. Once the war was over, BMW needed a new and profitable business venture. In 1923, BMW started the production of motorcycles only to quit in the 1960s. The company made this decision when its motorcycles failed to deliver what the brand promised, precision and reliability. However, the company was unable to remain out of the motorcycle scene for long. The company’s obsession with innovation, technology, and engineering compelled it to make a strong comeback and get better at manufacturing motorcycles. Over time, BMW’s unique designs and tested engineering earned it a reputation for reliability. By combining the craftsmanship of the war days with high-tech features, BMW further cemented its position as a top motorcycle manufacturer in the world. Throughout its production years, the motorcycle brand has introduced a variety of motorcycles, including roadsters, touring bikes, adventure bikes, sports bikes, heritage cruiser motorcycles, and scooters. Each model introduced by BMW boasts a unique feature that instantly conveys the bike’s riding capabilities to the potential owner. In its quest for perfection, BMW created a new motorcycle segment, the ADV motorcycle. This article will explore the best motorcycles BMW ever made in different motorcycle segments.

1. The Story of BMW Motorcycles

BMW was originally called the Rapp Motor Works, a Bavarian engineering company, established in 1913 by a young German engineer, Karl Rapp . In 1916, the Rapp Motor Works changed its name to BMW. The company built aircraft engines and not motorcycles in the first World War era. The company became popular long before it started manufacturing motorcycles, thanks to its revolutionary fuel system for aircrafts that allowed them to fly higher than other airplanes. In 1919, an airplane powered by a BMW engine set the world altitude record of 32,000 feet. But after World War I, the German company was not allowed to manufacture aircrafts and engines. Under these sanctions, BMW was under the verge of losing business and desperately needed a new venture to stay relevant. The company tried manufacturing brake systems for trains, but were unsuccessful. BMW was good at building engines, so it decided to build a new engine for a motorcycle.

1.1 Building the First Motorcycle

The year 1923 marks the beginning of BMW motorcycle production. The company asked Max Fritz, a young engineer, to design a motorcycle engine. Fritz was a genius when it came to designing aircraft engines. Fritz emerged with revolutionary motorcycle engine designs within four short weeks.

1.2 The Production of BMW R32 & R37

The first motorcycle Max Fritz ever designed was named BMW R32. It was unlike any other two-wheeler in the 1920s. The R32 was the first real motorcycle and not a bicycle with an engine as the motorcycle lacked a bicycle style chain drive connected to the rear wheel. On the contrary, it had a unique drive shaft. The same component that connects the engine to the rear wheel in a car.

The R32 had a special 494 cc engine consisting of two pistons laid flat almost 180-degrees away. The R32 engine was called a “boxer” and could generate 8.5 hp of horsepower. Technically, the BMW boxer was a two-cylinder horizontally-opposed four stroke motor. The basic design of the motor and driveshaft are still used today and are synonymous to BMW.

Ernst Henne further enhanced the popularity of BMW R32 with his amazing racing skills. Henne broke the first record for BMW in 1929 by riding R37, a race bike based on R32. The R37 had a top speed of 216 km/h or 134 mph. This may not be a big achievement for a motorcycle in the modern era; however, to be able to reach such a high-speed back in the 1920s was a milestone achievement as it made BMW a globally recognized motorcycle brand. The R37 was the first BMW that was designed for race tracks but later became a production bike. The bike was a huge success; however, it was discontinued only after two years of its launch due to high production costs.

1.3 Fastest Motorcycles in the World

After the R32, BMW did not look back. From 1926 to 1937, the brand focused on becoming the manufacturer of fastest motorcycles in the world and broke multiple global speed records in various racing competitions. About five years after introducing its iconic R32 motorcycle, BMW manufactured a car, called Dixie, in 1928. The first true automobile by BMW was called a 315 and was introduced in 1935. This automobile had a top speed of 60 mph. On the other hand, BMW’s 1935 motorcycle model had a top speed of 125 mph.

1.4 The Launch of BMW R51

The BMW R51 was based on the company’s new design technology, which involved welding the motorcycle frame for a sportier look and feel. In addition, the motorcycle featured a sporty 494 cc boxer twin-cylinder engine that generated 24 hp of horsepower and a top speed of 125 mph.

1.5 BMW Almost Quits Motorcycle Production

Though BMW motorcycles had redefined speed on race tracks by setting new records, the production bikes had their fair share of breakdowns and other issues. Besides there was a huge shift in the post-World War II market trends. Earlier, motorcycles were the preferred mode of transportation because people could not afford cars. By the 1960s, Europe’s economy improved and people could afford cars. Hence, cheaper mode of transportation was no longer required. As the motorcycle sales reduced and their cars generated more sales, BMW almost quit production of motorcycles in the late 1960s.

1.6 The Vehicle of Choice for Law Enforcement

Though BMW contemplated quitting manufacturing motorcycles, it chose to continue making bikes because law enforcement agencies around the world preferred BMW two-wheelers. This development helped BMW to expand its market reach. Resultantly, BMW focused on evolving its existing motorcycles and its technical specifications, especially the flat two-cylinder boxer engine. In addition, the brand continued to use the driveshaft instead of a chain.

1.7 Launching the /5 Series

During the late 1960s BMW also analyzed the market trends and detected a gap. Though people were no longer using motorcycles for transportation, bikes were still used for adventure and sport. BMW used this opportunity to introduce a new lineup, the /5 series, also called the Slash-5 series which was an instant hit.

Each motorcycle launched under the slash-5 series had a (/) in its name. These motorcycles were manufactured from 1969 to 1973. And during this period BMW was producing at least 10,000 bikes each year. Hence, the business grew exponentially so BMW continued manufacturing even more reliable and powerful motorcycles. The BMW R75/5 was one of the most successful models of the /5 series. It featured a 749 cc engine that could generate 50 hp at 6,400 rpm.

1.8 The BMW R90S - First Superbike

In 1973, BMW introduced its new model at the Paris International Motorcycle Show. This brand new motorcycle was called the R90S. The BMW R90S was the first production motorcycle that had a top speed of 125 miles per hour. Furthermore, the bike stood out with its sophisticated design and technical innovations. The R90S was the first BMW motorcycle with a separate tachometer and speedometer. Moreover, it featured a special headlight cowling, a dual racing seat, steering dampener and had holes in the disc brakes that helped with weight distribution, kept the brakes cool, and increased the bike’s stopping power. The R90S resonated with the American motorcycle enthusiasts as it was different from other sports bikes of its time. Each R90S model was hand painted so no two models were the same. In 1976, Reg Pridmore demonstrated the racing capabilities of the R90S by winning an American motorcycle championship. Though the motorcycle Reg Pridmore used in the competition was tuned to increase the horsepower up to 100 hp, the fact that R90S was capable of such power after modification further added to its popularity.

2. 10 Best BMW Motorcycles of All Time

The BMW R90S proved to be a breakthrough model for the brand. To keep the momentum going and to stay relevant in the ever-evolving global motorcycle landscape, the company had to create reliable models before and after the R90S. Listed below are the ten motorcycles BMW ever made after making its mark on the motorcycle industry.

2.1 BMW R100RS


Photo Credit: @rideapart

In the mid-1970s, BMW needed a new modern motorcycle design to overcome the growing competition. In 1976, BMW created the R100Rs, a new motorcycle with advanced technological features. THE R100RS was the first production motorcycle in the world that came from the factory with complete bodywork or full fairing. This motorcycle was tested multiple times in the wind tunnels to ensure that it had exceptional aerodynamics and offered adequate wind protection. BMW revealed the R100Rs at the Cologne Motorcycle Show in 1976. The bike stunned the audience as it was the first bike of its time with instruments, handlebars, and switches integrated into the plastic bodywork. The R100RS produced 67 hp of horsepower and had a top speed of 124 mph.

2.2 BMW R80GS


Photo Credit: @wikipedia

After the remarkable success of the BMW R100RS model, that company had to take on an even bigger challenge, which was to exhibit an impeccably designed innovative motorcycle at the Frankfurt Motorcycle Show. To completely outshine other motorcycle manufacturers and attract a larger number of potential clients, BMW created the unique R80GS model. It was a hybrid model offering the perfect blend of best features of street and dirt motorcycles. Launched in the 1980 this versatile motorcycle could literally do anything a motorcycle wanted it to do. Riders used it as a comfortable commuter. In addition, it was extremely fun to ride on twisties and asphalt roads. The fact that BMW R80Gs could also tackle difficult off-road trails made this motorcycle an over-achiever. On top of these qualities, the R80GS could produce a horsepower of 50 hp and a top speed of 100 mph. As for specifications, the R80GS was equipped with a large fuel tank, comfortably wide handlebars, aggressive tires with optimal traction, and an upgraded suspension setup. All these features ensured reliability and commendable on-road/off-road capabilities. After the bike was launched, it became the vehicle of choice for riders who wanted to explore Africa on a two-wheeler without suffering breakdowns. The unparalleled success of the BMW R80GS in the world’s most challenging race, the Dakar Rally, helped increase the sales. The BMW R80Gs made a record of covering 6068 miles of the most difficult trails in the world. In the process, the motorcycle proved to be an invincible two-wheeler of its time. The soaring sales of the BMW R80GS compelled the brand to pioneer an all new motorcycle category, called the ADV segment. Today, upgraded high-performing versions of the original R80GS are making great profit for the company.

2.3 BMW R1200GS


Photo Credit: @motorcyclenews

The R1200GS was introduced by BMW in 2004. This motorcycle is one of the most innovative designs of the BMW GS lineup. It is powered by a big and more powerful 1,170 cc boxer engine that can produce 100 hp of horsepower. The R1200GS increased in popularity among the masses because of its high fun factor. You could ride it on highways, off-road trails, or city streets for hours on end and never get bored. A rider looking for adventure and recreation could definitely depend on the BMW R1200GS.

2.4 BMW K100

BMW K100

Photo Credit: @wikipedia

In the early 1980s, BMW redesigned its original boxer engine in an attempt to augment the engine outputs, speed, and overall performance of all motorcycle lineups. The idea was to evolutionize the older models and revolutionize the upcoming lineups. Consequently, the BMW’s team of engineers successfully replaced the quintessential BMW boxer engine, an air-cooled two-cylinder motor, with a four-cylinder liquid-cooled engine, which was BMW nicknamed the Flying Brick by the company. The BMW K100 was the first production motorcycle featuring the “Flying Brick” and it was launched in 1983. The side-ways placement of this four-cylinder engine in the BMW K100 was the most unique feature of this bike. As for BMW fans, they had mixed opinions about this development, but one thing was common among all. The announcement of the new engine came as a shock to the motorcycle world. Some riders approved of the revolutionary engine, while others were unable to accept this drastic change. For more than 50 years, the original BMW meant a bike with a boxer engine. Hence, many BMW fans refused to accept the K100 with a flying brick engine as the original BMW. Luckily, the K100 won the Motorcycle of the Year award around the world, and people finally began purchasing it. The K100 with its new engine was BMW’s first step towards revolution, but the company decided to continue the production of boxer engines to keep the trust of potential buyers. The K100 bike produced 100 hp of horsepower and had a top speed of 150 mph. Besides having a revolutionary engine, the BMW K was the first motorcycle to come with a digital electronic system. It featured the same fuel injection system that BMW used in its cars. Additionally, it came with a catalytic converter to reduce pollution. The biggest revolutionary feature was the anti-lock braking system. The BMW K100 became the first bike ever with ABS. Riders were curious whether the ABS would work on a motorcycle. To reassure its clientele, BMW invited different riders and motorcycle journalists to the press release and had them test the anti-lock braking system. The remarkable performance of the ABS was a huge breakthrough not just for BMW but for the motorcycle industry in general. In addition to ABS, the ergonomic comfort, streamlined fairing design, touring capability, and low-maintenance shaft drive of the BMW K100 motorcycle made it a huge success.

Also Read: Best Touring Motorcycles made by BMW - Viking Bags

2.5 BMW R12


Photo Credit: @motorcyclespecs

The BMW R12 was launched in 1935 and is considered the first pre-World War II model that helped BMW gain global recognition. The R12 was probably the first BMW production bike of its time that was known for its innovative features and not for its racing capabilities. The R12 featured a powerful 745 cc boxer engine, oil damped telescopic forks for front suspension. Before the BMW R12, motorcycles had rigid front suspensions and were not as comfortable to ride as the new model. This technical advancement made R12 an international success and the best-selling motorcycle of the pre-World War era.

2.6 BMW S1000RR


Photo Credit: @motorcyclenews

The BMW S1000 RR was introduced in 2009 and is considered the most ambitious super sport bike. This lightweight motorcycle generates massive power and was designed to compete with Japanese super-sport bikes. The S1000RR is based on a race bike, the S100R, but has better features and riding capabilities. The bike generates 204 hp of horsepower thanks to the ShiftCam engine technology. To manage this amount of power and 190 mph of top speed, riders need precise handling, and the BMW S1000RR offers just that. The comfortable ergonomics, sophisticated design, and advanced electronic features of the BMW S1000RR have redefined the supersport bike segment.

2.7 BMW R nineT

BMW R nineT

Photo Credit: @gq-magazine

When BMW replaced the traditional two-cylinder boxer engine with the new four-cylinder flying brick engine, it received praise and criticism. To regain the lost business, BMW created the R nine T and equipped it with its iconic boxer engine. The retro styling of the R nine T coupled with the classic engine made the R nine T an instant success. After introducing the R nine T, BMW created different versions of the bike, including Scrambler, Urban G/S, and Cafe Racer. The simple design of R nine T made it stand out among other BMW models. The modern technical features of the R nine T were nicely balanced with retro styling and subtle aesthetics while leaving room for customization. Hence, it is a perpetual favorite of the motorcycle community.

Also Read: Top 3 BMW R nine T Cafe Racer Builds

2.8 BMW F800 GS


Photo Credit: @twotyres

Launched in 2008, the BMW F800 GS is an impressive adventure touring motorcycle. Unlike the R nine T, the BMW F800 GS features a 798 cc parallel twin engine that generates 80 hp of horsepower and 60 lb-ft of torque. The streamlined front of the motorcycle improves aerodynamics and rate of acceleration, allowing riders to reach a top speed of 130 mph. The sophisticated engine, nimble handling, and bodywork make this motorcycle a fun ride on asphalt and off-road trails. When compared to the BMW R1200GS, this model is slightly underrated, but the manageable power and fun factor of this bike make it the best ride for anyone looking to try the adventure motorcycle segment. The customizability of F800 GS allows riders to tweak the bike according to their riding needs and preferences.

2.9 BMW K 1600 GTL

BMW K 1600 GTL

Photo Credit: @zigwheels

The BMW K1600 GTL is a large heavy-weight motorcycle equipped with a 1,649 cc six-cylinder engine that generates 160 hp of horsepower. With a fuel tank capacity of 7 gallons, the K1600GTL is considered the Gold Wing of BMW. The bike was introduced in 2011 to cater to riders who prefer luxury and comfort during long-distance tours. The BMW K1600 GTL is the perfect motorcycle for anyone who enjoys cross-country trips. Due to its touring amenities and reliable performance, the BMW K1600 GTL has won many awards. In addition, it was named the Touring Motorcycle of the Year in 2011. Though the BMW K 1600 GTL comes with travel essentials, it can be easily customized with aftermarket luggage bags, windshields, auxiliary lights, and other custom motorcycle parts.

2.10 BMW HP2 Sport

BMW HP2 Sport

Photo Credit: @motorcyclespecs

The BMW HP2 Sport was a versatile street-legal race bike that you could ride on the race tracks anytime. The HP2 Sport engine displaces 1,170 ccs and generates 128 hp and 80 lb–ft torque. When the HP Sport became popular because of its muscular frame and stunning aesthetics, BMW decided to launch its enduro and megamoto variations, called HP2 Enduro and HP2 MegaMoto respectively. However, these designs were not as well received as the sport version.

3. Last Words

Ever since BMW decided to enter the motorcycle business, the company has delivered excellent engineering, modern motorcycle technology, and unique design concepts to the motorcycle world. In 2023, the company marked its 100 years of excellence. Consequently, the demand for BMW motorcycles continued to rise unabated. Riders can only hope for more best-selling two-wheelers in the future. If you have never owned or ridden a BMW before, make sure you test-ride at least one motorcycle mentioned in the list above.

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