It’s hard to conjure up a competent rival for the BMW. So many bikes show potential on paper, from the Kawasaki Z1 to the Moto Guzzi V7 to the Suzuki GT750 and the Honda Goldwing. But in reality, neither of these machines had enough material to stand against the mechanical reliability, effortless mile munching, and extremely high speeds of the BMW. A few years ago, the motorbike market was nearly extinct, thanks primarily to a lack of interest from the younger generation.
However, with the progression of the café racer scene, all of this has changed dramatically. A café racer, by definition, is a motorcycle that has been refitted to resemble the racing machines of the ‘60s, incorporating elongated fuel tanks, bench seats, and clip-on handlebars. Here are five BMW motorcycles we really love.
1953 BMW R25/2
When the 1953 BMW R25/2 was introduced in the market, it represented Tony Hessner’s meticulousness. Having worked at bicycle shops during high school and a few years of college, Tony was certainly no mechanical newbie. He was particularly fond of creating his own customized racing bikes, using select components (from hubs to derailleurs to cranksets) and Italian frames.
He would literally build up a ten-or twelve-speed bicycle to his specifications, starting from the wheels. The R25/2 came with a new single seat suspension system, as well as a Noris generator to replace the Bosch unit integrated on the R25. The new engine could deliver 12HP at 5,800rpm. Both the rear plungers and front fork were non-hydraulic spring action only. The steel rims on the two 19” wheels were painted two-tone black and silver.
Stopping power was provided by 6.29” diameter half hub drum brakes, front and back. Its total weight was about 312 pounds completely fueled, and could carry up to 660 pounds (its double weight). The motorcycle claimed a maximum speed of 65mph and was extremely popular.
1939 BMW RS 255 Kompressor
In 1939, a German BMW rider named Georg Meier won the Senior (TT) Tourist Trophy at the Isle of Man, making it the first victory by a non-Briton since the championship’s inception in 1907. Meier achieved this courtesy of a BMW RS 255 Kompressor with 500cc, maintaining 89.38mph average speed and finishing a whole 2 minutes ahead of his first runner up in 2 hours, 57 min, 19 seconds.
This win came after years of development, particularly during the mid ‘20s when BMW started experimenting with supercharging. This basically means forcing extra air into an engine manually, which in turn facilitates more fuel combustion and increases the average output of an internal engine. The company employed Swiss-based Zoller superchargers, which reportedly doubled the power output.
By 1935, a number of improvements had been made to the bike. The 500cc engine now came with twin overhead cams propelled by side shafts, as well as a new foot-shift, left side, four-speed gearbox. In 1937, BMW incorporated a rear suspension, which improved handling significantly. When Georg Meier took the completed BMW RS 255 Kompressor to the race-track in 1938, he took both German and European Championships.
1957 BMW R69
The undisputed leader of all German machines in terms of detail finish and technical design was probably the 1957 BMW R69. This 590cc twin machine was one of the limited Continental designs that are uniquely reminiscent to the several big British models. But, unlike the popular 600 & 650cc vertical twins today, the R69 was designed as a luxury tourer as opposed to a sports motorcycle.
Features such as shaft drive and the conventional h.o engine are not in line with chain drive vertical twins. The two concepts used different design philosophies, and the price of two British twins was equivalent to one BMW with some remaining change for a puncture outfit! Clutch action was sweet and seamless, while the gear change was easy and positive. The combined suspension and sprung saddle provided superb riding comfort.
An integrated tommy bar on individual legs made the bike readily adjustable, and the back springing synchronized excellently with the front, providing outstanding road holding under any conditions. Although the big engine was flexible enough to achieve up to 20mph on traffic in top gear, it really excelled on open roads, reaching an impressive 90mph without any vibrations.
Steering was state-of-the-art as well, thanks primarily to a low center of gravity. It had a perfect riding position that allowed the rider to bring full knee pressure to bear, and was easy to maneuver through traffic.
1973 BMW R90S
The 1973 R90S was another great example of BMW’s reign in the industry in terms of motorcycle design. In 1974, it was way above the competition and went a long way towards keeping the Japanese in check. It influenced the handle bar fairing for the subsequent generation of sports motorcycles. The chassis was soft and compliant, for a sports machine, while the engine was conveniently quiet. The design was timeless and, as expected, did not come with several common faults.
The bike’s boxer engine was a tough ol’ lump. Its kit was oversubscribed with spanners and sockets, all enveloped in a cozy tool roll. The technology was not exactly complicated, and the onboard tools were sufficient to handle most of the repair work.
1977 BMW R100RS
The 1977 BMW R100RS introduced a new styling in a period of increasingly complex touring motorcycles. It was bold, elegant, and futuristic at the same time. Its blue/silver paint represented its ability to traverse long distances at lightning speeds with competence, speed, and sportiness. It could effortlessly cover hundreds of miles per day, and has been recognized as the most competent BMW sport touring motorcycle to date.
Its strong cockpit fairing guaranteed unparalleled protection wrapped in breathtaking style. What’s more, the rider could enjoy the ride to the fullest without having to worry about the effects of wind, rain, and cold. When it made its public debut about thirty years ago, nothing on two wheels could match its design and overall performance. Its 7-piece, frame mounted fairing almost blended in with the rider – it was crisp, seamless, sculpted, and pleated.
Each and every modern plastic-covered sports motorcycle pays tribute to the 100RS trend setting design.