Rider’s Library – The Complete Book of BMW Motorcycles

The Complete Book of BMW Motorcycles Review | Ian FalloonJust when we thought we had seen Ian Falloon’s career masterpiece in his long line of brand-specific histories with the 2015 release of The Complete Book of Classic and Modern Triumph Motorcycles 1937-Today, we received word of his latest release from Motorbooks about BMW.

The Complete Book of BMW Motorcycles-Every Model Since 1923, is every bit as comprehensive as his work on the Triumph marque, covering not just the full range of models, but racing history, personalities, design points and specifications – all within 288 beautiful pages.

As with the Triumph book, this one is in large format (9.75” x 12” pages) on high-quality heavy stock, and is packed with hundreds of color and black/white images, design illustrations and data tables from the dawn of the company’s motorcycle manufacturing in 1923 to 2015.

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Falloon unfurls the BMW story from its forced transition from manufacturing aircraft engines for the Kaiser’s war effort in WWI to building motorcycles when the Treaty of Versailles banned Germany—and thus, the company from aircraft manufacture until the mid-1920s.

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Those circumstances forced the company into survival mode, which led to the acceptance of a suggestion by shop foreman Martin Stolle, already a motorcycle racer on a British-built Douglas, to enter the motorcycle market. Ironically, the first motorcycles powered by a BMW-built engine were branded Victoria KR1; the name of the Nuremburg company that built the frames. Those early M2 B15 engines were reverse-engineered from the opposed flat twin that powered the Douglas and were marketed to other motorcycle manufacturers as well.

By 1923, BMW had merged with the flagging Bayerische Flugzeug-Werk (BFW) that was also affected by the Treaty and began building its first complete motorcycles. The first model, the R32 introduced the transverse engine mounting still in use today for the boxer twins, abandoning the longitudinal mounting that led to rear cylinder overheating on the Victoria models. It also introduced the shaft final drive system, three-speed gearbox and magneto ignition to the product.

The innovations didn’t stop with the R32 and by 1927, BMW was active and successful in racing with the introduction of supercharging on the R57 and R63. Then, in 1929, Ernst Henne gave BMW its first world land speed record on a non-faired, supercharged machine at 134.67 mph.

Despite BMW’s rapid rise from its post-war start-up to manufacturer of dominant performance machines in less than a decade, by the early 1960s, the motorcycle manufacturing part of BMW, which by this time was also placing heavy emphasis on automobile manufacturing, was in a stall. Falloon explains it this way:

“As BMW concentrated on expanding its car production, moving from the Isetta and 700 to larger capacity cars, its motorcycle existing range continued unchanged. This year saw the beginning of a rather bleak era for motorcycles as production and development stagnated. With only 4,302 motorcycles manufactured, 1962 represented the lowest point since 1927.”

Despite this situation, sidecar racing success through the 1960s and ‘70s led to 19 world championships in a 21 year span. Nevertheless, sidecar racing success wasn’t translating to the showroom.

Falloon goes on to detail the end of the tailspin beginning with the introduction of the /5 bikes in 1970, renewed racing success in the seventies, and the company’s first production superbike, the R90S in 1974. From there, the book takes the reader to BMW’s current diverse range of machines and high performance masterpieces on into 2015.

Fans and owners of the BMW motorcycle brand will find this book of enormous interest, but the appeal doesn’t end there. Most any motorcycle enthusiast will appreciate this remarkable work that is likely to achieve some classic status in its own right.

Book Info

  • Title: The Complete Book of BMW Motorcycles-Every Model Since 1923
  • Author: Ian Falloon
  • Published: 2015 hardcover, 288 pages, color and black & white images, illustrations, data tables.
  • Publisher: Motorbooks, Quarto Publishing Group, 400 First Ave. North, Suite 400, Minneapolis, MN 55401
  • ISBN: 978-0-7603-4727-0
  • MSRP: U.S. $50.00 U.K. £35.00 $60.00 CAN