We delve into BMW Motorrad’s heritage with a visit to the BMW Museum at Munich
Text & Photos: Derryn Wong
This concept bike from 1934 surely qualifies as one of the most beautiful motorcycles ever made – which is why we’ve put up so many pictures of it! Conceptualised as a replacement for the 1928 R16 mainstay, the R7 was a super-special one-off that contained many innovative ideas.
Aside from the simply stunning Art Deco inspired styling, the bike also had single-cast cylinder heads and a crankcase, which was only found in aeroplane engines of the time. It also packed telescopic front forks, which despite their commonality in modern bikes, were a rarity at the time.
It even had innovative solutions in drivetrain management that would only find their way onto boxer engines in BMW bikes in the 1950s. There is only one prototype in existence and it’s likely the most expensive BMW bike, if it were to ever go on auction, that is.
As early as the 1930s there was already success for BMW, then still known mostly for its aviation engines, in the field of motorcycle racing. One of the most outstanding examples of the pre-war era is the RS 255, which was a supercharged racing bike with a 500cc boxer engine – it was faster than all of its rivals and lighter too. Rider Georg Meier became the first non-British rider to win the legendary Isle of Man Tourist Trophy in 1939 with the RS 255, sealing its place in history. This particular example is worth almost $600,000.
The R80 G/S was a ground-breaking bike – it was, in 1981, the first of the breed we’d come to known as adventure touring bikes. Back then it was also the first ‘dual-sport’ bike with a big engine, in this case a 797cc boxer twin.
Suitably fettled, like the example you see in the photo, it was a competitive machine as well, with Hubert Auriol winning the Dakar Rally on the bike you see here, in 1981, and 1982, with Gaston Rahier also winning in 1984 as well.
This isn’t a ‘GS’, but an RR, which doesn’t stand for ‘race replica’ but for ‘rally raid’. BMW has had a long and illustrious history with the toughest long-distance rally in the world, the Paris Dakar race. Hubert Auriol won on a BMW GS800R back in the third iteration, in 1981, while the F650RR seen here won in 1999 and 2000 at the hands of Richard Sainct.
The bike looks nothing like a stock production version of course, with a huge amount of modifications for long distance rallying, such as an enlarged fuel tank, ruggedisation features and a map reader.
S1000RR WSBK Troy Corser
While BMW’s World Superbike efforts are no longer officially from the factory, there’s no doubt the programme has come a heck of a long way since 2009 and the debut of the road and race versions of the S 1000RR. Australian rider Troy Corser took a pole and a podium in 2011, a prelude to the success of 2012 and 2013.
Although the ‘factory’ is no longer represented in WSBK, like every other major brand in the series, the S 1000 RR is still fighting fit at the hands of ‘semi-official’ customer racing teams.
In pre-modern days, BMW was known for its long-distance, super-reliable touring bikes, but they left quite a bit to the imagination. But did you know BMW used to go superbike racing – and won? The legend of the beautiful R90S began with its awesome 1970s paintwork, but was significantly embellished by its win of the American Superbike Championship in 1976, back when a ‘superbike’ mean anything that could top 160km/h and didn’t even need a full fairing.
Custom bike builder Roland Sands recently made a modern homage to the R90S, but we still like the original better, and this racing version the best.