90 years of BMW Motorrad.

It's our turn to say thank you.

BMW Motorrad is 90 years old – that's a real reason to celebrate. But we don't deserve all the credit. We couldn't have made it here without all the friends of BMW Motorrad who have remained so loyal to us over the years and have passionately represented the BMW brand. Relive 90 years of passion, 90 years of innovation and 90 years of progress here in our web special. Enjoy!

The 20s

Max Friz – the inventor of the opposed-twin engine.

Max Friz – the inventor of the opposed-twin engine.

The 2nd of January 1917 marks the genesis of the first BMW motorcycle. On that day, 33-year-old engineer Max Friz joins BMW. The Swabian native had just quit his previous job after disputes with his former boss Paul Daimler in Stuttgart. A fortunate turn of events for BMW, as it turns out.

The Treaty of Versailles, signed on 28 June, 1919, prohibited Germany from manufacturing aircraft and aircraft engines. BMW's future seems uncertain, to say the least. But Max Friz, now head of design at BMW, seizes an opportunity and redirects all his focus to motorcycles. In December 1922, barely less than 4 weeks after receiving his assignment, Friz completes a full-scale drawing of the first BMW motorcycle. The centrepiece of the machine is a new engine design: the BMW opposed-twin.

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The 30s

BMW causes a sensation on Europe's racetracks.

The 40s

Moving forward with a pioneering spirit.

A comeback with the R 24

The first post-war BMW motorcycle is designed in Munich based on a pre-war bike. The company makes a new start – albeit a hard and difficult one – using machine tools borrowed from other companies. The manufacturing permit granted by the Allied Powers only allows the company to make a single-cylinder motorcycle that cannot exceed 250 cc. The blueprints are ready by summer 1948, but the first BMW R 24 does not come off the line until shortly before Christmas of that year. It has a 247 cc, 12 horsepower engine. BMW Motorrad builds almost 10,000 of them the next year. That number increases to 17,000 one year later.

The chassis of the old R 23 now has a modernised single-cylinder engine with a centrifugally governed ignition advance. Another new feature is the four-speed transmission with ratchet foot control. BMW makes a very successful comeback with the R 24 and the bike quickly attains special honours: German president Theodor Heuss' motorcade is a fleet of R24s.

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The 50s

R 68 – the 100-mile racer.

The 60s

BMW motorcycles around the world.

The 70s

Born in a wind tunnel: the R100 RS.

Born in a wind tunnel: the R100 RS.

The R 100 RS was BMW Motorrad's first production motorcycle with standard full fairing developed in a wind tunnel. The primary purpose of the fairing was to improve aerodynamics while protecting the rider from wind and bad weather. In addition, the R 100 RS was the first BMW bike with a 1-litre cylinder capacity. With a top speed of 200 km/h, the motorcycle also excels when it comes to speed. However, unlike competitor bikes, the rider of the R 100 RS can sit in a relaxed upright position behind the fairing, even at high speeds. For BMW, this model represents the birth of the sport touring motorcycle.

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The 80s

A new segment: touring enduros.

A new segment: touring enduros.

After entering the off-road racing market, BMW modifies the successful off-road machine and introduces a production dual-sport bike in 1980: the BMW R 80 G/S. G stands for "Gelände" (= off-road), S for "Strasse" (= road). One feature in particular causes a sensation: the world's first single-sided swing arm, the BMW monolever, with the rear wheel mounted on one side. This model spawns a new segment of large, comfortable adventure touring bikes, a cornerstone of BMW's motorcycle business to this day.

In the early eighties, BMW sends the boxer packing. To the desert, that is. BMW wins the toughest rally in the world with the help of Frenchman Hubert Auriol, nicknamed "the African" because of his navigating talents. Auriol repeats his success in 1983. In 1984 and 1985, Belgian Gaston Rahier adds his name to the list of winners riding a BMW.

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The 90s

BMW Motorrad: impressive innovations.

The 2000s


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