BMW History

90 Years of BMW Motorrad - Tradition and Innovation

The history of BMW Motorrad is a success story which began with the development of the flat twin "Boxer" engine some 90 years ago and has progressed through to today's state-of-the-art technological innovations. Here we present all BMW Motorrad models and invite you to visit the BMW Group Archive, with numerous pictures, advertising brochures, owner's manuals and motorcycle journals on the subject of BMW Motorrad. The BMW Group Archive also offers a series of products and services for owners and aficionados of classic BMW motorcycles. 

"30 years of GS" 

When BMW Motorrad launched the R 80 G/S it not only founded a new market segment – it founded a completely new attitude to life. 
The R 80 G/S was the world’s first travel enduro and it set standards in terms of performance and driving enjoyment, just as the BMW Motorrad R 1200 GS continues to do today.
We wish the BMW Motorrad GS all the best on its dusty way into the next 30 years!


The History of the BMW Travel Enduro

When BMW presented the new R 80 G/S in Southern France in 1980, it was the beginning of a new success story which continues to this day. Since the presentation of the world's first large travel enduro, BMW sets the standard in this segment.
You will find the most important milestones of this story here.

1978-80: The way to the first enduro

The roots of the BMW GS lie in off-road racing. At the end of the seventies, BMW Motorrad participated in international events such as the famous Six Days and European off-road racing championships. Also, some BMW Motorrad engineers and mechanics developed their own models during this period, entering off-racing events with these. On the basis of these competitive motorcycles, a roadworthy prototype was created without any official development contract which had excellent qualities for both on-road and off-road use. The prototype itself was so good that the management of BMW Motorrad GmbH immediately gave their blessing to the project and in less than 21 months BMW was able to present the result to the public.

1980-87: The new vehicle category

On September 1st 1980, BMW presented the R 80 G/S - an all-rounder which had not existed in motorcycle history in this form to date. Whether highway, country road, field track or unsecured terrain: the R 80 G/S was a motorcycle which was easy to control over any surface and in every situation - also providing the rider with excellent comfort over long distances. The G/S was by no means a compromise but a perfect synthesis of an off-road and a touring bike - thus opening a whole new market segment, that of the large comfortable travel enduro. The technological highlight was the monolever - the name given to the rear-wheel guidance system. This had enabled BMW to put the first single-sided swing arm into serial production in conjunction with a high-capacity motorcycle.

1987-96: The second generation

In 1987, the enduro was completely revised for the first time. The capacity of the new top model R 100 GS was now one litre. This meant that the BMW GS was once again the largest, most powerful and fastest enduro on the market. At the rear wheel, the BMW paralever - a single-arm rear swinging fork with torque strut - made for easier handling over rough terrain but also guaranteed a level of ride comfort on asphalted roads which was hitherto unknown. In 1990, at the 10th anniversary of the GS, all GS models were enhanced with standard trim. With the second generation, BMW Motorrad continued GS history and the special models R 100 GS PD Classic and the R 80 GS Basic which were made at the end of the production period have since become collectors' items.

1994-2003: The first four-valve GS

The R 1100 GS appeared in 1994 and was the first enduro to feature the four-valve engine launched a year earlier. This impressive motorcycle saw BMW continue to set standards in the enduro segment, and in many countries it topped the annual statistics on new vehicle registrations. Thanks to its innovative suspension coupled with a powerful, high-torque engine, the R 1100 GS offered easy handling off road coupled with outstanding touring abilities on the road. Its successor, the R 1150 GS, continued the success story of BMW Motorrad travel enduros in 1999, as did the BMW Motorrad R 1150 GS Adventure, which was specially designed for the needs of long-distance travellers and which appeared in dealerships in 2002.

2000-2007: The single-cylinder GS

Following the tremendous success of the ‘Funduro’ models F 650 and F 650 ST, BMW Motorrad launched a revised version of the single-cylinder bikes in 2000. The BMW Motorrad F 650 GS and F 650 GS Dakar offered newcomers the familiar enduro experience. With its water-cooled single-cylinder unit, this lightest member of the BMW Motorrad family had sufficient power and proved the ideal motorcycle for everyday use and travel – a typical BMW Motorrad GS, in fact! But this ‘little’ GS also had winner’s genes, as demonstrated by its wins at Dakar in 1999 and 2000.

Since 2004: The BMW Motorrad R 1200 GS

The next generation of BMW Motorrad GS was introduced in 2004. Capacity had been increased, as had power and torque. Weight, on the other hand, had been drastically reduced, the R 1200 GS weighing almost 30 kg less than its predecessors. This meant even more dynamic performance on every terrain. The BMW Motorrad R 1200 GS Adventure, for globetrotters, followed in 2005. The R 1200 GS has been refined in numerous ways since its launch. For example, the ESA (Electronic Suspension Adjustment) available since 2008 allows you to adjust the suspension to any kind of road, while still driving.

Since 2008: BMW parallel-twin enduros

In 2008, BMW Motorrad presented two completely redeveloped enduro models, the F 800 GS and F 650 GS, which succeeded the F 650 GS single-cylinder-engined bike. Featuring the liquid-cooled straight-twin-cylinder engine and chain-driven rear wheel familiar from the F 800 S and F 800 ST, the two new models offered a pure BMW Motorrad enduro experience in the mid-sized segment, whether on asphalt, gravel, or completely off-road. 
Excellent handling aside, their stamina on long journeys also won over the enduro community, and the two sister models occupied top places in the registration rankings from the outset.

Decades of success

BMW from 1920 to 1950: the early success story   
Since when have the flat twin "Boxer" engine and shaft drive been characteristic features of BMW motorcycles? In the early decades you will find out everything worth knowing about the legendary BMW motorcycles: including the presentation of the first BMW model, thefirst hydraulic telescoping fork and the fastest motorcycle of the 1920s. Read about the tough conditions which dogged production after 1945 and discover which machine became the "bestseller" during the economic miracle.

BMW from 1960 to the present day: the continuation of success.  
In later decades, you will find out about larger, more powerful and faster BMW models. Read background information on the birth of the travel Enduro and the K Series. Find out everything about the first ABS for motorcycles. How were the F Series and the Cruiser created? Discover the new BMW C1: it shows us the way ahead into the future.     

BMW Museum  

Would you like to see the milestones of motorcycle history live and appropriately presented? If so, why not visit the BMW Museum in Munich! There is a wide range of exhibits from the BMW R 32, Georg Meier‘s factory compressor and the design icon BMW R 90 S right through to concept vehicles which provide a look ahead to the foreseeable future. And of course, the museum not only presents the motorcycle highlights of the blue and white brand. There are aircraft engines dating back to the company’s early years, automobile treasures from seven decades, a unique presentation of the company’s history and innovative museum architecture - all of which invites visitors to undertake a truly unforgettable journey through nine decades of BMW. Curious to find out more? If so, visit the museum homepage.   

BMW Museum