Strike a conversation about classic or vintage motorcycles and most of the times, the discussion would start and end with the likes of certain cruisers, the Triumphs and the BSAs. Few would mention BMW.
Now, BMW’s history of making motorcycles goes as far back as 1923 when the company produced their first motorcycle under the BMW Motorrad division. The German manufacturer carries the reputation of developing one of the oldest engine designs – the flat-twin, or more popularly, the Boxer twin.
So, it would be a lack of judgement to conclude that BMW does not have any memorable motorcycles in their archives. BMW has established the Boxer-twin as one of the most reliable and durable motorcycle engines and continuously made improvements to ensure that the performance is also top-class.
The early high-point of the engine was in 1955 when BMW introduced one of the most popular motorcycles of its time, the R69. It came in three variants – R69, R69S and R69US. All three had the combined production run from 1955 to 1969.
We sincerely thank Mr. Gurmukh Singh for his time and letting us ride his motorcycle
They shared the same 594cc boxer twin engine which had Pushrod architecture (also known as OHV or Overhead Valve). The R69 produced 35 BHP while the S and the US versions churned out 42 BHP.
The base model, R69, made its 35 BHP at 6,800 RPM and the motorcycle weighed 202 kg ready-to-ride. Everything considered it was a pretty fast motorcycle with the top speed of 165 km/h and the acceleration quick enough for spirited riding. The R69 models were the biggest reason BMW was called the Mercedes of motorcycles while some even regarded it as the Rolls-Royce of two-wheels.
The boxer engine gave it a unique look and the whole motorcycle was extremely well put together. From the paint quality to the fit-n-finish of all parts, the R69 was an immaculate product. The styling was clean and the engine played a key role in beautifying the overall appearance. The round headlamp, the standard fuel tank and the spring seat, at times, made it look a bit like a cruiser. Another reason for this was the engine itself, because of the way cylinders are located, it appeared to carry a low profile.
The R69 was a premium product and given its incredible highway performance, it was regarded as a luxury-tourer rather than a sport-tourer. Its chassis and suspension package was extremely competitive and along with the 18-inch wheels, the R69 was a very capable handler.
In the following years, the R69 evolved into the even more popular R90, the modern interpretation of which we see today as R nineT which is powered by an 1170cc DOHC 4-valve per cylinder engine.
Today, the R69 is one of the best examples of a Vintage motorcycle that a motorcycle enthusiast can come across. When we came face to face with it as part of our 0 to 100 motorcycles project, we knew it is a keeper. And if BMW was to make it today, rest assured, at least one of us is inclined to get one no matter how long it would have taken.