Of records and races - and even more records.

New designs lead to the sporting success of BMW motorcycles.

In the 1930s, the engineers not only considered performance development, but also introduced, for example, the hydraulically damped telescopic fork and the elaborately designed OHV boxer engine - with unique consequences and successes.

The BMW R 5 from 1936 - 37 is a completely new design by Rudolf Schleicher. With 24 bhp and 500 ccm and due to its favourable weight, it is one of the sportiest motorcycles of the times. The BMW R 5 has an engine with a tunnel housing, two camshafts, a gearbox with pedal shift, a tube frame made of seamlessly drawn and electrically welded conic oval tubes, adjustable damping at the telescopic fork and footrests instead of the step plates which had been commonly used up to that time.

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The first hydraulic telescopic fork.

With the R 12 and the R 17, BMW was the first motorcycle manufacturer worldwide to replace the existing leaf spring fork with a hydraulically damped telescopic front wheel fork. This principle from 1935, in use to this day in almost all motorcycles, was previously put to successful use in racing: the innovative technology passed the acid test in off-road competitions, mountain and circuit races and not least on Ernst Hennes' world record runs. 

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Fastest man on two wheels.

Fastest man on two wheels.

On the Frankfurt-Darmstadt motorway, Ernst Henne attempts a new world speed record with the latest 500 ccm compressor machine with 108 bhp. The motorcycle is entirely faired, and aerodynamic insights are applied to achieve the crucial improvements. The result is breathtaking: at a speed of 279,5 kph, Ernst Henne becomes the fastest man on two wheels. The world record of November 28th 1937 holds its own for 14 years. 

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Schorsch Meier, the "cast iron man".

Schorsch Meier, the "cast iron man".

With the 65 bhp BMW compressor machine he causes an uproar on the race tracks of Europe. The results speak for themselves: in 1938, his first season, BMW factory rider Georg Meier wins the European championship. In 1939, Georg "Schorsch" Meier - already referred to in the weekly new magazines of the time as "cast iron Meier" - makes even bigger international headlines: he is the first non-Briton riding a foreign bike to win the legendary "Senior Tourist Trophy" on the Isle of Man - yet another victory for BMW.

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The motorcycles of the 1930s

1931: R 2.

1931: R 2.

The R 2 featured a new single-cylinder engine for the unlicensed 200 cc class in a lighter version of the pressed steel frame. A drum brake was introduced for the rear wheel for the first time.

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1932: R 4.

1932: R 4.

The R 4 was the higher displacement single-cylinder version with reinforced R 2 chassis and was intended for use by government agencies and as an off-road sports model. The right offset crank allows a straight power train to the rear wheel.

 

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1935: R 12.

1935: R 12.

The R 12 marked the first hydraulically damped telescopic front fork on a motorcycle. This brought a significant improvement with regard to comfort and rideability in comparison with the previous flat spring rocker. The unchanged pressed steel frame houses a flathead engine, available either with one SUM or two Amal carburettors. New to the boxer models were the four-speed transmission and drum brakes on the rear instead of the previous Cardan brakes. 

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1935: R 17.

1935: R 17.

The sports model: The R 17 with the powerful OHV (overhead valves) engine. This enabled the motorcycle to achieve an incredible top speed of 140 kilometers per hour. 

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1936: R 5.

1936: R 5.

The R 5 was a complete redesign by Rudolf Schleicher with an engine with tunnel housing, two camshafts, pedal-controlled transmission, conical tubular frame made of seamless drawn oval tubes, adjustable damping on telescopic front fork and footrests instead of footboards.

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1938: R 51.

Source: BMW Group Archive; Photographer: BMW Werkfoto.

1938: R 51.

The new tubular frame underwent a significant improvement through the addition of a straight rear wheel suspension. The successful involvement of designer Alexander von Falkenhausen in the Six-Day Race finally convinced the greatest sceptics of the value of this technically impressive innovation. 

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1938: R 66.

1938: R 66.

The new tubular frame underwent a significant improvement through the addition of a straight rear wheel suspension. The new top model, the R66, was given a 30 hp 600 cc OHV sports engine, enabling it to achieve a top speed of an incredible 145 km/h. 

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More decades

  • 1920s.
    The foundations.

    At the Berlin Motor Show in September 1923, the starting signal was given for the construction of BMW motorcycles: The R 32 is the first BMW motorcycle, developed by Max Friz. The world-renowned boxer engine will be the manufacturers main characteristic. 

  • 1940s.
    On with pioneering spirit.

    After the turmoil of the war, BMW manages a new start with motorcycle production. First they build the R 24 a single-cylinder motorcycle limited to 250 cc. 

  • 1950s.
    Back on top.

    The 1950s are marked by sporting successes. BMW achieves remarkable top speeds with a series-manufactured machine. Furthermore the drivers of motorcycle teams win world championship titles.

  • 1960s.
    Up turn.

    In Berlin-Spandau, where aircraft engines were built up to 1945 and subsequently tool machine facilities were installed, the BMW motorcycles are given their new home and Berlin air in their tyres. In keeping with the new motorcycle boom, BMW manufactures a completely newly developed series with the /5 models.

  • 1970s.
    Protection against wind and weather.

    A new era is being introduced: Cockpit and full fairings make driving on the motorcycle more comfortable. There are sporty motorbikes. In particular, the R 90 S is a popular design classic - not least because of its elaborate two-tone paintwork. 

  • 1980s.
    New technology, new segment.

    The motorcycle manufacturer surprises with pioneering innovations and the new segment of travel enduro. After the revolutionary single-arm swing from 1980, the BMW Paralever system is introduced in 1987 in the R 100 GS. 

  • 1990s.
    Pioneer, trendsetter.

    The new four-valve boxer with electronic engine management and the first BMW single-cylinder motorcycle since 1966 come on the market in the 1990s. In addition, in the spring of 1991, BMW Motorrad became the world's first motorcycle manufacturer to offer a regulated three-way catalytic converter for motorcycles. 

  • 2000s.
    Sportier and more dynamic than ever.

    Several new models and technical innovations are driving the growth at BMW Motorrad: the new K-Series now comes with a transversely mounted engine, and the newly developed F-Series fuels the mid-range segment. At the end of the decade, BMW Motorrad will introduce one of the most important new releases on the market - the S 1000 RR marks the first time that the brand has entered the world of superbikes.

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