BMW's first motorcycle, the R32
BMW's motorcycle history began in 1921 when the company commenced manufacturing engines for other companies. Motorcycle manufacturing now operates under the BMW Motorrad brand. BMW (Bayerische Motoren Werke AG) introduced the first motorcycle under its name, the R32, in 1923 to 1925.
In 1921, BMW began manufacture of its M2B15 flat-twin engine. Designed by Max Friz for use as a portable industrial engine, the M2B15 was largely used by motorcycle manufacturers, notably Victoria of Nuremberg, and Bayerische Flugzeugwerke in their Helios motorcycle. Friz was also working on car engines.
BMW merged with Bayerische Flugzeugwerke in 1922, inheriting from them the Helios motorcycle and a small two-stroke motorized bicycle called the Flink.
In 1923, BMW's first in line crank with two horizontally opposed air cooled cylinders boxer engine was designed by Friz. The R32 had a 486 cc (29.7 cubic inches) engine with 8.5 hp (6.3 kW) and a top speed of 95 to 100 km/h (59 to 62 mph).
The engine and gearbox formed a bolt-up single unit. At a time when many motorcycle manufacturers used total-loss oiling systems, the new BMW engine featured a recirculating wet sump oiling system with a drip feed to roller bearings. This system was used by BMW until 1969, when they adopted the "high-pressure oil" system based on shell bearings and tight clearances, still in use today.
The R32 became the foundation for all future boxer-powered BMW motorcycles. BMW oriented the boxer engine with the cylinder heads projecting out on each side for cooling as did the earlier British ABC. Other motorcycle manufacturers, including Douglas and Harley-Davidson, aligned the cylinders with the frame, one cylinder facing towards the front wheel and the other towards the back wheel. T
he R32 also incorporated shaft drive. BMW has continued to use shaft drive on its motorcycles and did not produce a chain driven model until the introduction of the F650 in 1994.
On 25 September 2004, BMW globally launched a radically redesigned K Series motorcycle, the K1200S, containing an all new in-line four-cylinder, liquid-cooled engine featuring 123 kW (165 hp).
The K1200S was primarily designed as a Super Sport motorcycle, albeit larger and heavier than the closest Japanese competitors. Shortly after the launch of the K1200S, problems were discovered with the new power plant leading to a recall until the beginning of 2005, when corrective changes were put in place.
In the years after the launch of K1200S, BMW has also launched the K1200R naked roadster, and the K1200GT sport tourer, which started to appear in dealer showrooms in spring (March–June) 2006. All three new K-series motorcycles are based on the new in-line four-cylinder engine, with slightly varying degrees of power. In 2007, BMW added the K1200R Sport, a semi-faired sport touring version of the K1200R.
In October 2008, BMW launched three new 1,300 cc K-series models: the K1300R, K1300S and K1300GT. The K1300 models feature an increase in engine capacity of 136 cc, an increase in power to 175 hp (130 kW), newly styled fairings and a new exhaust system.
In 2011, BMW launched two six-cylinder, 1,600 cc, K1600GT and K1600GTL motorcycles, the former intended as a sport-tourer and the latter as a luxury touring model. The engine produces 160 hp (120 kW) and 129 lb⋅ft (175 N⋅m). They also offer adaptive headlights, traction control, ABS, tire pressure monitors, and a variety of sound systems.