At The Mechanists, we like cars a lot, but we also love motorbikes. Even though we haven’t given them much love in the recent posts, it is now time to address this, starting with one of the most the historically acclaimed motorbikes for almost a century – the BMW R-Series.
In recent years, the R-Series from the 60’s up to the 80’s have know a keen interest from enthusiast looking to either restore or highly customise these models. The results have been pretty impressive in some cases, and it also helped the average price of those bikes to not go any lower. Some heavily modified R-Series from this era can easily exceed £20K.
The first legendary BMW flat twin which created the identity of the Motorrad brand was designed by Max Friz in 1921 and was initially used by Bayerische Flugzeugwerke on their Helios motorcycle as well as other manufacturers. In 1922, BMW inherited the Helios through the merger with Bayerische Flugzeugwerke and started working on their own creations.
In 1923, BMW’s first air-cooled flat-twin motorcycle was born using the original M2B15 engine and was named R32. It featured a 486cc engine with an impressive 8.5hp(!) though do not get fooled as the R32 was capable of speeds up to 60mph which was quite an achievement for its time. It also featured a shaft drive which had been part of BMW motorcycle’s DNA ever since, and we had to wait until 1994 to see the first chain model with the F650.
Over the years, the R-Series evolved drastically while maintaining their identity which made them so special, efficient and reliable. Their motorbikes were extensively used by different countries during WWII thanks to their ruggedness and versatility, especially with the R75 model. In fact, it was so good that Harley-Davidson was commissioned by the U.S. Army to produce a similar type of bike resulting in the shaft-driven 750 HD XA in 1942. The R bikes have been used is many different applications such as racing, rally-raid, utilitarian, military, etc…
Fast forwarding today, the R-Series are still big in the game and the R1200GS is the best selling bike in the world. With the neo-retro trends, BMW successfully revived its cafe/scrambler line by introducing the R Nine T in 2014. The German brand aficionados also realised the creative potential there was in all R bikes and started to come up with the most exquisite creations thanks to their incredible customisation potential. Their look and character personally remind me of the passion some people have about Porsche air-cooled generations, sharing similarities not only in their cooling system, but also generally in terms of design, presence and personality on the road.