A Motorcycle Legend from Germany: The History of BMW Motorcycles

The BMW brand has long been associated with quality and performance, and their motorcycles are no different. From the early days of the BMW R32 to the modern-day sport motorbikes, BMW has consistently produced some of the most reliable, powerful and stylish motorcycles in the world. In this article, we'll take a look at the history of BMW motorcycles and explore how this legendary brand has shaped the motorcycling industry.


BMW first started producing motorcycles in 1923 with the R32 model. This motorcycle set the standard for reliable, powerful and stylish motorcycles and it quickly became a favorite of many motorcyclists, because it was also easy to use. Over the years, BMW has continued to innovate and develop its motorcycle range, introducing new technologies and designs that make their motorcycles stand out from the competition. From the powerful and classic R series to the modern-day sport motorbikes, BMW has consistently produced some of the most iconic motorcycles in history.

The BMWs legendary motorcycles from Munich, the Bavarian capital, have been part of the culture since the early days, and they continue to capture the imagination of motorcyclists from all over the world. With their iconic designs, reliable engines and advanced technology, and diverse portfolio of models it's no wonder that BMW remains one of the most sought-after motorcycle brands in the world today.

Early History of BMW Motorcycles

BMW's Motorrad brand was established in 1921 in Munich, Germany, when they began making engines for other companies. Their own motorcycle models—branded as BMW Motorrad—debuted in 1923 with the BMW R 32. This model was powered by a flat-twin engine, also recognized as a "boxer-twin" engine.


In 1922, BMW and Bayerische Flugzeugwerke joined forces, with the BFw Helios and this merge became the foundation of the first BMW motorcycle. This motorcycle, the 1923 BMW R 32, was powered by a 486cc flat-twin engine, also known as a "boxer-twin" engine created by Max Friz (Fritz) BMWs core engineer. With a reliable engine and stylish design, the R 32 quickly gained popularity and established BMW as a top motorcycle manufacturer. This success was followed by several other models, including the R51/3, R50/2, and R75/5. These motorbikes solidified BMW's reputation for producing reliable, powerful, and stylish motorcycles.

Throughout the 1930s, BMW Motorrad continued to develop and refine their engine designs, introducing several new models such as the R61, R71, and R12. These models featured improvements in engine efficiency and power output, as well as a higher level of comfort for the rider. BMW also incorporated new technologies such as a 4-speed transmission, plunger-type rear suspension, and electric lighting for night riding. All of these advancements made it easier for riders to enjoy their BMW motorcycles and explore new places.


During World War II, the German military sought as many different types of vehicles as it could procure, and several German companies were asked to construct motorcycles. Particularly well-suited for the difficult conditions in North Africa, the BMW R 75 showed good performance due to the flat-twin engine having protruding cylinders, which provided more efficient cooling than other designs that overheated in the sun. Additionally, the shaft-drive of the R 75 was better able to resist damage from desert grit compared to the chain-drive. As a result, the R 75 went on to be a model that inspired similar designs from US companies, including the Indian 841 and Harley-Davidson XA.

The Rise of Air-Cooled Engines

In the 1950s, BMW introduced their R 50 and R 60 models, which were powered by an air-cooled boxer-twin engine. This design allowed the engines to be more compact, and thus, resulted in more maneuverable motorcycles. The air-cooled engines also proved to be more reliable and easier to maintain. The R 50/2 and R60/2 were particularly successful and became the bestselling models of the 1950s.

The success of the air-cooled boxer-twin engine led BMW to continue to refine and improve the design, introducing the R69S in 1961. This model featured a larger 600cc engine, improved brakes, and an updated suspension for a smoother ride. This iconic model was a favorite among police forces, as well as touring and recreational riders. The R69S was the first BMW motorcycle to be equipped with a speedometer and a tachometer. From here, BMW continued to introduce new models, improving on the boxer-twin engine design and creating iconic motorcycles such as the R90S, R100RS, and R1200C.

Introduction of BMW K-Series of Motorcycles

In the 1980s, BMW introduced the K-Series of motorcycles, which utilized a single-cylinder, water-cooled engine mounted on a steel-tube frame. This design improved power delivery and fuel efficiency, while being more lightweight than the boxer-twin models. The K100 was introduced in 1983 and was powered by a 987cc engine. The K100RS was released in 1986 and featured a full fairing and a more powerful engine. This model was so successful that it was followed shortly by the K75 and K1100RS.

BMW R-Series and Its Innovations

The R-Series of BMW motorcycles from the 1970s featured an improved boxer-twin engine mounted on a tubular steel frame. This model was the first from BMW to feature an automated clutch and a front-wheel disc brake. The most famous model of the R-series was the BMW R75, which was used by the German army during WWII.

BMW Motorcycles of the Modern Era

In recent years, BMW has continued to refine their air-cooled boxer-twin engine while also introducing new models such as the F800R and F800GT. These models are powered by an 800cc parallel-twin engine and feature state-of-the-art technology such as ride-by-wire throttle, traction control, and anti-lock brakes. BMW has also introduced the S1000RR, a powerful 1000cc supersport motorbike with a top speed of 186 mph.

Today, BMW’s motorcycles are still renowned for their quality and performance. From the iconic R-Series to the K-Series, BMW has created some of the most iconic and beloved motorcycles in the world. Whether you’re a novice rider or an experienced veteran, BMW has a model to fit your needs and provide you with an unforgettable ride.

BMW does not only have followers but there are critical voices from the motorcycle community as well. The most common points against the BMW motorcycles are that the engines lack character and that the modern motorcycles have too many electronic assistants that interfere with the pure original joy of riding a motorcycle.

Most Popular BMW Models

BMW S 1000 RR

The BMW S 1000 RR is a powerful supersport motorbike with a top speed of 186 mph and advanced technology such as ride-by-wire throttle and traction control. It is one of the fastest and most powerful machines on the market with the power delivery of 205 HP as well as well as a motorbike filled with state of the art technology and top class suspension and brakes.

BMW S 1000 R

BMW S 1000 R is basically a stripped down version of the RR supersport, making one of the top contenders in the supernaked category.

BMW R 18

The BMW R 18 is a classic cruiser motorbike with a 1,802cc boxer engine and a retro-style design. This motorcycle is sure to turn heads wherever you go with its vintage styling and modern technology. The BMW R 18 is a perfect combination of style and performance. It comes in 5 versions for 2023 from the regular BMW R 18 to BMW R 18 Transcontinental or the special 100 years edition.

BMW R nineT

The BMW R nineT is a classic-style motorcycle that utilizes a powerful 1170cc boxer-twin engine, an adjustable suspension, and retro styling. It is very stylish and comes in 5 versions from Pure to Scrambler to Urban G/S or special 100 years edition.

BMW R 1250 GS

The BMW R 1200 and 1250 GS is a popular adventure motorbike that features a powerful 1200cc engine, ABS brakes, and a host of other features for off-road riding. In its Adventure version, it is the ultimate dual purpose adventure motorbike for long distance journeys and probably the most favorite by many for its versatility. Its off-road capability does not match the one of for example Honda Africa Twin or lighter motorcycles, but its low center of gravity, iconic reliability and many electronic assistant options and accessories make it the number one choice for many bikers. The GSs come also in smaller versions with 850 cc or 750 cc engines.


From the early days of the R32 to the modern-day sport motorbikes, BMW has consistently produced some of the most reliable, powerful and stylish motorcycles in the world. The history of BMW motorcycles is a testament to the brand's commitment to quality and innovation, and it's no wonder that their iconic designs continue to capture the imagination of motorcyclists from all over the world.

The early BMW motorcycles set the stage for the brand's success today. BMW is now one of the most recognized, respected, and sought-after motorcycle brands in the world. Not only do they offer stylish designs, but they also provide riders with a reliable, powerful, and comfortable ride that is sure to make every trip an unforgettable experience.

BMW has been producing iconic motorcycles for nearly a century, and their commitment to innovation and quality has resulted in some of the most advanced and reliable motorcycles in the world. From the classic air-cooled boxer-twin engines to the modern S1000RR, BMW has truly earned its reputation as one of the world's premier motorcycle manufacturers.

BMW has been a leader in the motorcycle industry for over a century, and their legendary machines have captured the hearts of riders all over the world. BMW's most iconic models, such as the R90S, R100RS, and R1200C, have set the bar for performance, design, and innovation. From the classic R-Series to the modern F800R, BMW has consistently pushed the boundaries of motorcycle technology.

The R-Series was BMW's first foray into the motorcycle industry and was introduced in the 1970s. This model featured a boxer-twin engine mounted on a tubular steel frame, the first motorcycle from BMW to offer an automated clutch and a front-wheel disc brake. The most famous model of the R-Series was the BMW R75, which was used by the German army during WWII. BMW continued to refine their boxer-twin engine with the introduction of the K-Series in the 1980s. The K-Series featured a water-cooled single-cylinder engine, which improved power delivery and fuel efficiency.

In recent years, BMW has kept up with the ever-changing technology in the motorcycle industry by introducing the S1000RR, a powerful 1000cc supersport motorbike with a top speed of 186 mph. BMW has also released the F800R and F800GT models, which feature an 800cc parallel-twin engine and state-of-the-art technology such as ride-by-wire throttle, traction control, and anti-lock brakes. BMW's R nineT, R1200GS, and S1000R models also remain popular amongst riders who appreciate the classic styling and modern technology of BMW motorcycles.

Who are some of the most famous individuals to have owned a BMW motorcycle?

There are some well-known people who have owned a BMW motorcycle over the years – from musicians to actors to athletes.

One of the most famous owners is probably David Beckham, the English footballer and former captain of the England National Team. He's owned several different BMW models throughout the years, including a R1150GS Adventure.

Another famous BMW motorcycle owner is Alicia Keys, the American singer-songwriter and philanthropist. She owned a BMW K1200RS, which she rode around her hometown of New York City.

Other people who have owned BMW motorcycles include the American actor and film producer Leonardo DiCaprio, the American rock musician Slash, the British actor and comedian Rowan Atkinson (better known as 'Mr. Bean'), and the British singer and songwriter Rod Stewart.

When did BMW first start making motorcycles?

BMW first started making motorcycles in 1923. Prior to that, the company had been in the business of aircraft engine production since 1913. The first model of BMW motorcycle was the R32, and it featured a flat-twin engine design that would become iconic for the brand. The R32 was a success for BMW and helped set the standard for the company's motorcycles for decades to come.

What engineering innovations have helped to make BMW motorcycles so popular?

BMW motorcycles are some of the most popular and revered vehicles in the world. This is largely due to the engineering and design innovations that have made them so reliable and powerful. BMW has long been at the forefront of motorcycle engineering, with their advanced and sophisticated designs that incorporate innovative technologies. For example, the company is renowned for its patented Telelever suspension system which is used on many of its models. This system offers improved stability and handling, and helps to reduce the effects of bumps and dips on the rider. BMW also offers a range of optional features and accessories, such as auto-leveling suspension and the Remote Control Electronic Suspension System. These features make riding a BMW motorcycle a truly enjoyable experience. In short, the combination of BMW's engineering innovations, advanced technologies, and rider safety features have made them one of the world's most popular motorcycle brands.

What are the most popular BMW motorcycles?

The most popular BMW motorcycles are the R1200GS, the R1200RT, the F800GS, the F800R, and the S1000RR. The R1200GS is a great all-around motorcycle that offers a mix of off-road capabilities and touring comfort. The R1200RT is a tourer with plenty of cargo space and a strong engine. The F800GS is a great adventure bike that's perfect for off-road exploration. The F800R is a sporty street bike with great handling and a responsive engine. Finally, the S1000RR is an absolute monster of a bike, made for track day performance.

How has the BMW motorcycle brand evolved since its inception?

BMW motorcycles have been around since 1923 and have come a long way since then. BMW has a long and storied history in the motorcycle industry, having produced some of the most iconic and innovative models of all time. Over the years, BMW has continually pushed the boundaries of motorcycle engineering, resulting in motorcycles that are both powerful and reliable. Today, BMW produces an extensive range of motorcycles, from touring bikes to sport bikes and more. They have also introduced cutting-edge technologies such as Ride Modes Pro and Dynamic Traction Control, which provide riders with a safe, comfortable and enjoyable ride. In addition to their motorcycles, BMW also produces a range of accessories, apparel and parts, allowing riders to customize their bike to their own individual style. All in all, BMW has been a leader in motorcycle design and innovation for over a century, and their brand continues to evolve and improve with each passing year.

What racing successes has BMW had with its motorcycles?

BMW has had numerous racing successes with its motorcycles since its first race in 1923. Over the years, BMW has had numerous wins at the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy, the Bol d'Or endurance race, the Suzuka 8 Hours endurance race, and many other events. BMW has also won multiple world championships in the Superbike and Supersport classes. All in all, BMW has been a dominant force in motorcycle racing and its success is a testament to the company's commitment to excellence.

What special editions of BMW motorcycles have been released over the years?

Over the years, BMW has released a wide variety of special edition motorcycles that are highly sought after by collectors and enthusiasts alike. These models include the R NineT Scrambler, the R NineT Racer, the R NineT Urban G/S, and the R NineT Pure. Special editions of the S1000RR, K1600GT, and R1200RS have also been released. Each of these special editions feature unique design elements, limited production numbers, and often include unique amenities such as custom paint schemes, unique parts, and exclusive accessories. If you're looking for a truly unique and one of a kind motorcycle experience, a special edition BMW motorcycle is definitely worth considering! Currently there is a 100 Years edition available in 2023 for the BMW R 18 and R nineT.