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  1. #1

    Is BMW more different now?

    I first posted this on the ADVRider site in October of '06. I was going to send it to the MOA as a letter but never did because I was going to fact check myself and find some pictures. Would you all like to help me out? Or critique? I can take it.
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    Did BMW change all of a sudden or has my favorite motorcycle manufacturer always been this "different".

    I grew up looking at BMWs as the old man's bike that cost a lot, didn't perform but ran forever. Also a lot of quirky guys had them and some of them showed up at Alices and some were even pretty cool - but they were really an old man's bike.

    Then BMW decided to change things up and increased the engine size to 900cc and put a bikini fairing on the thing - and hey that paint job was cool! I went to Laguna Seca and saw the R90S with Pridmore and McLaughlin riding them and they were damn FAST on these things sponsored by Butler and Smith. Man, they sounded cool too (should've heard the Ducati 900SS and the Guzzi LeMans too).

    Then BMW jacked up an R80 and put high fenders on it - huh? I didn't get it, nobody else I knew got it at the time either. For some reason they were racing it too - from Paris to some place in Africa? Europeans must be wussies cause we do Baja here and that means cactus and Mexican water so...

    Then they made an inline 4 cylinder but they turned it sideways, always something different with these guys... Who needed them? They were rediculously expensive, underpowered, heavy and smoked! What is BMW thinking? Won't last.

    Wierd, they made the bike with only a single sided swingarm - that was new! Called it a monolever or something - who cared... at the time.

    Then they introduced the first fully faired sport touring (a category I believe they invented) and it was developed in a wind tunnel. It worked like you wouldn't believe in hairy crosswinds too. I had to have one of these R100RSs so I got one, after they discontinued the boxer motors... (more on that later)

    Wierder, they changed the name of the monolever to a paralever and did somethign to it so when you gassed the bike it didn't jack up - which was pretty wierd at first. If you really rode a monolever hard and were used to chain drive it was interesting to go up and down at first but you got used to it and got a little smoother in the process. Also, BMWs were softly sprung so riding hard introduced a lot of dive on braking (and a lot of bruised knees on that R100RS fairing) and they were kind of hard to set well for a corner. Try braking hard going downhill two up after wobbling though a fast sweeper... and we wonder why people whine now...

    Then BMW decided that flying bricks were the way to go in the mid-eighties so off went the R-series bikes into history, at least kind of. All I remember was that BMW wasn't going to make the boxer anymore. Marketing brilliance, by mistake - everyone wanted a big boxer more than ever... A move that could've changed everything we know about BMWs if they had stayed the course...

    Then they introduced ABS on the flying bricks. Figured it was since the bikes were so heavy they needed all of the help they could get. Who else would need ABS? Men don't need ABS, we have good brake lines and now everybody had disc brakes so we had it under control. Who doesn't remember partial lockup under hard braking - especially the weak drum rear brake that had no feel (hell rear brakes still have no feel). But you know this was the first real breakthrough in braking since Honda put the front disc brakes on a CBR750.

    The K1 showed that BMW can reach for the stars in it's own patented wierd way. ABS, paralever, wild bodywork. Went no where then but we all love it now...

    Then BMW changed the front forks, called them telelever. The dealer, whom I knew way too well, tried to brainwash me into believing that sliced bread wasn't all that great after all - this was it! I never rode an early model back then but the magazines said they helped braking - beside BMWs weren't really sportbikes anyway... maybe my knees wouldn't be so black and blue...

    Then new heads and more displacement showed up on the R-bikes and they surged. That surge would be the main reason I got so pissed at BMW in the future. Hmmm, oil cooling helped stabilize the air cooled motor, that's an improvement... BMW clearly stated that the motor did not surge, no empiricle evidence... but they added a second spark plug for some reason and the surge went away. History now tells us they knew they had a problem but the internet wasn't what Al Gore designed it to be yet...

    Then BMW decided that we needed power brakes. Most people were blown away with the power of the brakes and they were pushed real hard by BMW advertising when they came out. BMWs will now save your life even if you lost three fingers in someone else's chain drive. Unfortunately it was also best if you lost all feeling in that last finger too cause it was way too much like a light switch. That was another technological feat... you know they're as bullet proof as a shaft drive...

    Then BMW really did it - they made the R1200s. This new motor is wrapped by an all new chassis and that final drive has a hole in it (in more ways than one...). Great new motor in a much more compact and lighter bike - what's not to like. I had to have one and thanks to another member here I traded an R1150GS Adv for his '05 example. I like it, a lot. Everything still works fine, never a probelm... it doesn't surge either...

    Then BMW introduced this active ride control thing where you can program the suspension. Cool and it seems to work but then I have not been to the K-bike boards to search for empirical evidence of catastrophic failures...

    Then BMW removed the power from the ABS brakes - for a more sporting rider and not because we screamed about it. There was a lack of empirical evidence...

    Then BMW introduced traction control, that we have yet to see.

    We all know about the great little things like tubeless spoked wheels, heated grips and seats, electric center stands and windscreens, and such which add to the list of innovations.

    BMW has always followed it's own course and damn all those around them. They have made a few blunders that without correction could have left us with a far different company or none at all. Does BMW believe in it's heritage and feels that it owes us as loyal customers or history anything?

    BMW must be doing something right, the R1200GS is the 5th best selling bike in the US and Harley produces something like five times the number of bikes that BMW can muster in any given year.

    So after reviewing all of this is BMW evolving in an unusual manner or are they just as different and progressive as they have always been? At first it appeared that the develpoments were technically sound and worked, even if it took some evolutionary refinement. Are they now developing technology in response to needs we don't know we have yet just because it is available? The technology in cars used to be years ahead of motorcycles, BMW is bringing it all close to real time but is it needed?

    Hey what do you think? I know that we have beat a lot of the recent technologies to death but how about the history of BMW and their place in the evolution of the modern motorcycle? Do they do it right?

    Please forgive my interpretation of history as reality may have been tempered by my memory of things...
    Last edited by Chumley; 01-10-2012 at 05:10 AM. Reason: Missed edit

  2. #2
    I was with you until this:

    The K1 showed that BMW can reach for the stars in it's own patented wierd way. ABS, paralever, wild bodywork. Went no where then but we all love it now...

  3. #3
    Registered User
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    Dec 2007
    If this could be cut to one paragraph, I'd read it.
    MOA #46783

  4. #4
    Registered User ANDYVH's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Green Bay, WI
    Yeah, I get the point, but even "bullet points" could have reduced the bulk. But, the gist is that I feel BMW realized years ago they had to continue and prove their technoligical lead in the cycle market with more than just bigger four cylinder engines in basic frames and simple suspensions.

    Their evolution has led them to being a viable technology leader even with a much smaller cut of the motorcycle market pie than the big four.
    Get trained! The best "performance" upgrade you can get is YOU. Visit for training info.

  5. #5
    I really doubt if the R1200GS is the 5th best selling bike. I mean I REALLY, REALLY doubt it.

    I'm privy to most of that information and I do not see a shread of data to back that up.

    BMW does things differently to be different. They want all their stuff to be unJapanese....some ideas work some do not. In many cases they have made their faithful Koolaid drinkers the beta testers.

    I like some of the engineering aspects, but others really turn me off.

    I like the bikes, but I typically do not like the other BMW riders & I really have only found one BMW dealership that I thought was worth anything.

    I'd rather meet a kid who has been riding a new CBR250 for six months and listen about how much he loves riding rather than hear some crusty old Beemer Geek wax poetically about his ESA, fork oil or tire pressure.

    Perhaps I'll buy an S1000RR.....a VERY Japanese BMW, but more than likely I will not.

    The 1600 seems cool, but that is a gadgetfest waiting to break.

    I find the 800s to be as bland as nursing home food.

    The water cooled boxer makes zero sense, but the correct direction, a bigger version of the 800, would bot work for two reasons.....The remember their black eye when they decided to go with the brick and phase out the boxer & Yamaha already beat them to that design........Heck, there was going to be a 4 cylinder boxer, but the decided not to do it because Honda beat them to it. See a pattern?

    Here is an opportunity....lots of people on here are talking about a retro BMW. seems to work for Guzzi on some level. Fuel inject and old airhead & dust off the tooling for the /7 bikes. Make them really low HP so they comply with emissions regs, but allow the customers to pump them back up with simple mods. This would be a good niche for them, but their German pride will never allow them to "go back".

    They have been good at branding, second only to HD. In a good month they sell 1,000 units, if they had to go on the bike itself and the quality of the dealer that number would drop to less than 500 units a month.

  6. #6
    Registered User
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    Jun 2003
    Northern Front Range, CO
    whether you like or dislike the changes that BMW is currently involved in making, and whether you like or dislike their current crop of offerings- i think your brief historical analysis clearly addresses your question.
    BMW has ALWAYS been at the forefront of innovative designs and offerings (shaft drive, opposed twin engine design, telescopic forks when the rest of the world was using springer or leaf spring front ends, Earles fork anti-dive when the rest of the world came on board with telescopics, in-line front to rear water cooled rather than transverse like everyone else, ABS, etc., etc.).
    Ride Safe, Ride Lots

  7. #7
    Registered User easy's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Texas Hill Country
    Too many different words....

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by SCQTT View Post
    I really doubt if the R1200GS is the 5th best selling bike. I mean I REALLY, REALLY doubt it.
    When and where? Also, it's probably by model. I'm sure you could cherry pick data to back that up. In fact, here's data from the first 6 months of 2010 in the US UK based upon registrations.

    1 Honda CBF 125 1,484 2.4%
    2 Yamaha YBR 125 1,198 1.9%
    3 Yamaha YZF R125 1,152 1.8%
    4 BMW S 1000 RR 1,009 1.6%
    5 Honda CBR 1000 RR 919 1.5%
    6 BMW R 1200 GS 838 1.3%
    7 BMW R 1200 GS ADVENTURE 778 1.2%
    8 Yamaha XC 125 733 1.2%
    9 BMW R 1200 RT 676 1.1%
    10 Honda VFR 1200 673 1.1%

    Note that if you combine the GS and the GS Adv it comes out number 1.

    Last edited by marchyman; 01-11-2012 at 07:32 PM. Reason: UK, not US. Sorry 'bout that.

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