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BMW Motorcycle History and a Quiz Too

By Walter F. Kern

Learn about BMW Motorcycle History and Take a BMW Quiz Too

The Beginnings of BMW

This article gives a BMW motorcycle history lesson and quiz about BMW motorcycles. It is part of a series of motorcycle history lessons and quizzes.

Some may think they already know a lot about BMW, its history and its machines. Perhaps you would like to take a quiz on BMW (Beemer) history and skip the rest of this article. That's OK. You may want to come back later for more information.

Here's your chance to take the BMW Motorcycle History Quiz now. (Currently, the quiz does not work on mobile devices.) However, I hope you will first want to read more about BMW motorcycle history before you take the BMW quiz.

The following is a short potpourri of the history of BMW motorcycles.

Use it to satisfy yourself that you know BMW history now or as a stepping stone to learning more BMW motorcycle history later on. There will be a quiz at the end.

New riders of motorcycles are familiar with the current models but may not be aware of the history of a given motorcycle manufacturer. Someone not familiar with motorcycles associates the name BMW with luxury cars. However, cars were to come later.

Gustav Otto's Flugzenmaschinenfabrik merged with Karl Rapp's Flugwerke Deutschland in 1916 to become the Bayerische Flugzeugwerke (BFW), initially specializing in the design and manufacture of airplane engines. In 1917, under the leadership of Karl Rapp and Max Friz, the Bayerische Flugzeugwerke was renamed the Bayerische MotorenWerke (Bavarian Motor Works) or BMW and continued building engines for German aircraft during World War I.

After that war, they found little demand for these engines and began producing engines for trucks and boats. They found little success in that endeavor also so they turned to building engines for motorcycle manufacturers.

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In 1921-1922 they produced a 500cc flat-twin engine known as the M2 B15. The pistons worked in opposition to each other resembling a boxer, hence, the engine became known as the Boxer. The engine was placed with the cylinders in line with the frame of the motorcycle. This had some problems, notably an inability to uniformly cool each cylinder.

By 1923, BMW had decided to start building their own motorcycles and enlisted Max Friz to design a new integrated motorcycle. Friz in designing the first BMW, the R32, rotated the previous flat-twin engine 90 degrees to place both cylinder heads directly in the airstream for improved cooling. This bike used a car-type 3-speed transmission and clutch and employed a shaft drive. It was adorned with a BMW logo, a circle with blue and white quadrants symbolizing a spinning propeller. The "R" in R32 and a whole succession of R-bikes is short for the German word Rad that means cycle.

This same basic design continued to be refined by BMW until 1983, a period of over 50 years.

In 1983, BMW saw that the future of motorcycles would be filled with water-cooled engines and introduced a new series starting with the K100 model. This was a four-cylinder water-cooled engine that was inclined 90 degrees to the left. It looked like a small car engine on its side. An immediate dichotomy of BMW owners was created. Owners of the air-cooled R-bikes could see that the future might only have K-bikes in it. In 1985 BMW introduced the 3-cylinder K75 bike. The water-cooled, fuel-injected K-bikes then started receiving many innovations such as the first motorcycle Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) on the K100 in 1987.

BMW began to realize that the owners of the R-bikes didn't want to see the technology that had served BMW for 60 years thrown away in favor of the new K-bike technology. Therefore, in 1993, BMW reworked the flat-twin technology to provide fuel injection, oil cooling and ABS brakes together with a modern look and suspension for the Boxer. The R1100RS, R1100RT and other models emerged. In 1996, the old two-valve Boxers and the three-cylinder K75 Series were phased out of production. The last model of the classic boxer generation, an R80GS Basic, came off the production line at the Spandau BMW motorcycle plant on December 19, 1996.

Now read page 2 that discusses the F650, an enhanced series of K-bikes, and how I was introduced to BMW motorcycles. Then take the BMW Quiz.

=> Page 2: The F650, K-bikes, and the Quiz

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