BMW Motorrad has long been a producer of exclusive, premium motorcycles. As the Bavarian brand has been producing motorcycles since 1923, it’s unsurprising that BMW has produced many exceptional bikes. However, among them all, a handful stand out in my mind as being the best.
6. The ‘Flying Brick’
The K 100RS, also frequently referred to as the ‘Flying Brick’, may initially seem to be an odd choice for a list such as this. However, in my mind this bike demonstrates very well the innovative and resilient nature of the BMW Motorrad brand. It was the first motorcycle to offer ABS as an option, making riding a safer proposition. It also was among the first BMW motorcycles to be liquid cooled. The K 100RS utilized a Bosch fuel injection system which was very similar to the unit being used in the 3er of that time. This bike was, in my opinion, BMW’s best sport-touring motorcycle up to that point and helped the brand to fight off the onslaught of Japanese bikes which were highly popular with the motorcycle media at that time. It kept BMW relevant.
5. The BMW F 800GS
You couldn’t have a proper BMW’s best list without including a GS model. I’ve recently written a story on the GS models and the significant role they’ve played for the BMW Motorrad brand, often being among the brands best selling models, as well as the industry as a whole since the first GS was introduced in 1980, effectively creating the adventure-touring segment. Today, the R 1200GS is the best selling GS model but in my personal experience they are a bit too large and cumbersome for off-road use. At 5’11”, I find the R 1200GS to be too tall and hefty to inspire confidence. I rarely meet a 1200GS rider whom doesn’t need to be on their ‘tippy toes’ when at a standstill on the bike. The F 800GS, in my view, offers the perfect balance of power and capability between the F 700GS, which uses basically the same engine with 10hp less, and the big brother R 1200GS.
4. The K1
The K1 was BMW’s first true high speed sport-touring machine which is a predecessor of the current K 1300S. The K1 was a highly exclusive model with less than 7,000 examples being produced over the 5 model years that the K1 was in production. The bike had 95HP and could reach speeds of up to 150mph but the bike was very heavy weighing in well above 500lbs without even its operating fluids. What the K1 achieved for BMW was, however, a new image, an image of adrenaline pumping excitement and a higher degree of flamboyance whereas prior to this the BMW’s motorcycle division was mostly associated with more conservative touring bikes. This change in perception arguably set the stage for BMW’s later success in the sportbike market.
3. The R90/6
The R90/6 was a great bike. So great, in fact, that BMW brought it into modernity with the introduction of the BMW R nineT. Arguably the ideal standard motorcycle, the R90/6 has an upright, comfortable seating position paired with a nearly 900cc displacement making the bike great fun to ride even for long distances. In many ways the R90/6 can be thought of as the quintessential BMW motorcycle. It weighed in at just under 430lbs wet, making it relatively nimble for such a large bike.
2. The HP4
BMW motorcycles are, in general, pretty exclusive. However, if the S 1000RR wasn’t quite exclusive enough for you and you wanted a bike that was ready for the track from the manufacturer, you bought the HP4. That is, if you could get your hands on one. The bike is incredibly rare, however, BMW has not released specific figures. Some speculate that less than 1000 HP4s exist in North America. Built from the best materials, the HP4 adorned special body cladding to distinguish it from the S 1000RR. It was only produced for 2 model years, 2013 and 2014. The HP4 is a modern representation of BMW Motorrad at its absolute best.
1. The R32
The R32 occupies the number one spot in my mind for two reasons. The first being that it was the very first BMW Motorcycle without which no other BMW bike would exist. The second being that it was the first time BMW’s now renowned ‘boxer’ engine was utilized which, in a modified and modern form, still powers several models in the current lineup. The flat-twin engine because of its simplicity and high reliability helped to put a small Bavarian airplane engine manufacturer on the map and survive the post-war period.
This is the author’s list but this is obviously highly subjective. What bikes would make your own top list?