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The History of BMW Motorcycles

May 14, 2021 ·

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Bayerische Motoren Werke AG — more commonly known as BMW —was founded in 1916 in Munich, Germany, where it began producing aircraft engines.

Karl Rapp and Gustav Otto merged companies to form BMW, and they produced aircraft engines until the end of World War I. Afterward, they started producing small industrial engines, including a flat-twin petrol engine used by several motorcycle manufacturers. BMW Motorrad was created, and the first BMW branded motorcycle was produced in 1923.

Since then, BMW has produced a range of high-quality bikes and established itself in the industry. Motorcycle Mechanics Institute (MMI) developed a relationship with BMW that led to the formation of the BMW Motorrad specialized training program.

Continue reading to find out more about BMW motorcycle history, as well as details on the BMW Motorrad program offered at MMI.

Early Days

BMW was forced to stop producing aircraft engines at the end of World War I as part of the terms of the Treaty of Versailles. This led the company to produce smaller engines and a range of other products so they could remain in business.

In 1920, BMW released its M2B15 flat-twin petrol engine. It was originally designed as a portable industrial engine, but it was also used by several motorcycle manufacturers.

In 1922, BMW merged with Bayerische Flugzeugwerke, which had been using BMW engines in its BFW Helio motorcycles. This design was where BMW got the inspiration for its first motorcycle, the BMW R32, which was released in 1923.

The R32 featured a flat-twin boxer engine, which is a configuration still used by the company today. Through the years, BMW Motorrad has continued to produce a variety of high-quality motorcycles, which has helped it maintain its status in the industry.

BMW Motorcycle Timeline

While going through all of the BMW motorcycle models by year would take a long time, we’ve highlighted select models through the decades after the release of the R32.

1920s BMW Motorcycles

1925 R37: A racing version of the R32, the R37 had a two-year production run, during which time only around 150 were made. Road equipment was removed from the frame, which fitted only a seat, drivetrain and headlight. It had nearly double the horsepower (16) of the R32.

1928 R62: BMW produced its first 750cc touring motorcycle. It would lay the foundation for future touring BMWs and featured a bent-tube, all-welded frame known as a “flat tanker.”

1930s BMW Motorcycles

1930 R2: Due to economic hardship in Germany, BMW produced a smaller bike called the 198cc R2. The commuter bike featured a “tunnel” crankcase and, despite its smaller size, had many of the same features as large boxer-twin motorcycles.

1935 R12: The R12 was presented at the German Automobile Expedition in February 1935. The 745cc bike was the first production model that featured hydraulically dampened front forks.

1940s BMW Motorcycles

1941 R75: Development of the R75 started in 1938 due to a request from the German army during World War II. The motorcycle, released in 1941, featured a sidecar and 750cc engine.

1948 R24: After being forbidden to make motorcycles immediately following World War II, BMW began again with the R24, which featured a 250cc engine. It was also the only postwar BMW motorcycle without a rear suspension.

1950s BMW Motorcycles

1952 R68: The introduction of the R68 featured a higher compression ratio than other sport bikes, as well as larger valves and an output of 35 horsepower. It could reach a top speed of 99 mph and earned the nickname of the first German “100-mph racer.”

1955 R50: The 490cc R50 debuted at the Brussels Motor Show and was an air-cooled flat-twin. It featured a rear swing-arm suspension with adjustable shocks and a rear end that could accommodate a sidecar.

1960s BMW Motorcycles

1960 R69S: The R69S was considered a classic motorcycle and was the fastest boxer available at the time. It had 42 horsepower and was designed as a high-powered and high-compression sport bike.

1969 R50/5: The /5 Series was launched with the release of three different models. The R50/5 featured a 500cc engine and electric starter, as well as telescoping front forks.

1970s BMW Motorcycles

1973 R90S: The R90S was a 900cc sport motorcycle produced from 1973 to 1976. It featured a distinctive paint job and drilled brake discs. It was able to accelerate from 0 mph to 62 mph in 4.8 seconds and reach a top speed of 124 mph. The 1976 R90S would win the inaugural AMA Superbike Championship.

1976 R100RS: The BMW R100RS was part of the R100 series and featured a 980cc engine. The motorcycle was the first bike that featured a standard full-fairing frame that was aerodynamically tested in an aircraft wind tunnel.

1980s BMW Motorcycles

1980 R80 GS: The R80 GS was the first purposely-built on/off road enduro motorcycle designed for highway and/or dirt use. BMW released the world’s first single-sided swing arm, known as the monolever, the same year as well.

1983 K100: The K100 was released in 1983 and featured a 987cc fuel-injected, water-cooled engine. It was the first model in the K series that was born out of the need to develop a clean-burning engine.

1985 K75: The K75 was the first three-cylinder motorcycle introduced by BMW, and about 50% of its parts were interchangeable with the K100. It featured increased fuel efficiency and improved handling.

1988 K100LT: BMW became the first motorcycle manufacturer to introduce an anti-lock braking system (ABS) on the K100LT (luxury touring model).

1990s BMW Motorcycles

1993 R1100RS: The release of this sports touring bike was the first of the BMW motorcycles to feature an R259 “oilhead” boxer engine, which was fuel-injected and twin-cylinder.

1994 F650: The F650, also known as the Funduro, was released as the first single-cylinder motorcycle from BMW in 30 years. It was considered a multipurpose bike with some off-road capabilities.

2000s BMW Motorcycles

2004 K1200S: The K1200S was considered a fun and powerful release from BMW that featured improved handling and a four-cylinder motor with 167 horsepower.

2009 S1000RR: This sport bike was produced to compete in the Superbike Championship, but it was also commercially produced. It was considered the best-equipped sport bike in the 1,000cc category at the time of its release.

2010s BMW Motorcycles

2011 K1600GT: This model was the first from BMW to be powered by one of the smallest six-cylinder engines ever built. It’s also touted as one of the fastest luxury touring motorcycles in the world.

2013 R1200GS: This model is a water-cooled, completely revamped boxer motor capable of 125 horsepower.

2014 R nineT: The R nineT falls into the standard class of motorcycles and was inspired by the R90S retro-styling and years of BMW motorcycle production. It features a range of design elements that allow it to be easily customized and has standard ABS.

2020s BMW Motorcycles

2020 R1250 GS: This model includes innovative shift cam technology and can produce 134 horsepower.

2021 R18: BMW entered the cruiser world with the largest displacement boxer motor ever, 1800 cc.

2021 S1000RR M Series: This is the first M model from BMW Motorrad. Its genes come directly from professional racing. Utilizing the new shift cam design, the M RR and M RR with M competition package offer pure racing technology for some of the highest performance demands in motorcycle racing.

For almost 100 years, BMW has produced quality motorcycles that fit a range of purposes. You can get the chance to learn how to work on different models by enrolling in the BMW Motorrad program at MMI.

BMW Motorrad Program at MMI

MMI is proud to have maintained a relationship with BMW Motorrad USA for more than 15 years. The BMW Motorrad program helps students gain the opportunity to further their training and work specifically with a brand they love.

MMI and BMW Motorrad have maintained a relationship for more than 15 years.

After completing the 18-week Motorcycle Technician Prerequisite (MTP) program, students who have maintained a 3.5 GPA and have a 95% attendance rate are eligible to apply for the 12-week BMW Motorrad program. The 12 weeks are split into four different segments:

  • Section 1: Students learn about the history of BMW motorcycles and the training requirements for technicians. Model identification and the structure of vehicle identification numbers (VIN) are covered, as well as engine service overview and service considerations for specific models.
  • Section 2: During the second section, students are familiarized with the skills they need to repair and service modern BMW bikes. They will receive repair orders and go to work just like they would in a real service environment.
  • Section 3: Students have the chance to demonstrate what they’ve learned in the first half of the program during the interactive BMW Motorrad technician prove-out.
  • Section 4: The final section of the program has students utilizing BMW’s diagnostic computer systems to perform coding and programming on new control modules, as well as reviewing the basics of a range of BMW’s electrical systems. Students will troubleshoot actual problems using existing software.

Program Benefits

For students who choose to enroll in the BMW Motorrad program offered at two MMI campuses, there are several benefits to attending, including:

  • State-of-the-industry equipment: BMW Motorrad works closely with MMI to ensure the latest models and current technology are provided. This ensures students receive the most up-to-date training possible.
  • Certification: Graduates of the Motorrad program are eligible for BMW Motorrad USA Level 1 Certified Motorcycle Technician status.

Receive Specialized BMW Training at MMI

If you have a love for BMW motorcycles, getting advanced training at MMI can help prepare you for an entry-level career at a dealership.1 Enroll in the BMW Motorrad program to take steps toward an exciting future that you’re passionate about!

Want to learn more? You can request more information online here or speak with an Admissions Representative at 1-800-834-7308.

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