A look at the next 100 years

What will the motorcycle of the future look like?

The 100th anniversary of the BMW Group is an opportunity to look back at the historic early days of the motorised two-wheeler and ahead to the future, where the role of the motorcycle will be completely redefined in an increasingly digital world.

It's the 7th of March, 1916. Bayerische Flugzeugwerke AG (Bavarian Aircraft Works) begins operations on Lerchenauer Strasse in the north of Munich. Three years later, Zeno Diemer sets the world altitude record of 9,760 metres with the BMW IV six-cylinder inline aircraft engine.

The small factory will later go on to reach new heights in other vehicle segments. Soon after changing its name to Bayerische Motoren Werke AG, the company begins developing the first motorcycle, long before it enters the automobile sector.

The engine as the key element.

Breaking with all convention, the BMW motorcycle did not have the geometry of a bicycle, however. The engine was the centrepiece. Max Friz and his team designed the BMW R 32 completely around the engine.
The highlights: an opposed twin-cylinder engine with cylinders mounted across the frame, a manual gearbox bolted directly to the engine and a shaft-drive powertrain. All these are distinct features of BMW motorcycles with opposed-twin engines to this day.
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The BMW R 32 – the first BMW motorcycle.

The BMW R 32.

A sporty bike for the rough roads of the 20s. The BMW R 32 had a big impact on the industry. Riders loved the low-wear and low-maintenance shaft drive, which was perfect for the dusty gravel roads of the time. Even back then, motorcyclists already appreciated its secure but sporty handling.
Thanks to its sophisticated design, the BMW R 32 established itself as a premium product and BMW as a manufacturer of high-end touring and sport motorcycles. From the US to South America to Asia, demand for the bike grew around the world. Almost 5,000 motorcycles were manufactured in Munich in 1928.
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The first racing medals soon started coming in. In February 1924, Rudolf Schleicher won the "Mittenwalder Gsteig" hill climb on the BMW R 32. In 1937, BMW works team rider Ernst Henne set the last of his many records on a fully faired, supercharged BMW motorcycle: His record speed of almost 280 km/h would not be broken until 14 years later. In 1939, Georg "Schorsch" Meier rode a BMW supercharged racing bike to victory in the legendary Tourist Trophy race on the Isle of Man, the oldest motorcycle race in the world.
British BMW rider Jock West came in second. In later years, BMW Motorrad celebrated wins in the German Motorcycle Championship, the Sidecar World Championships, and the Paris-Dakar rally. As motorcycle sport gained in popularity, motorcycling became a favourite recreational activity, and the BMW R 80 G/S dual-sport motorcycle became a top seller. The bike was the predecessor to the popular GS series of dual-sport bikes, which remain the ultimate riding machine on and off the road to this day.
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The innovations of past decades inform the company's vision for the next 100 years. Engineering skill, creativity and pioneering spirit are the basis for designing sustainable forms of personal mobility that are always tailored to the needs of people. BMW Motorrad already has over 20 models that offer a taste of the future. The BMW C evolution, an electrically powered maxi scooter, is one example.
What will the motorcycle of the future ultimately look like? Designers at BMW Motorrad will present their vision when they unveil their Vision Vehicle on 11 October in Los Angeles. Audiences already got a taste of the vision motorcycle at the THE NEXT 100 YEARS centenary event on 7 March at the Olympic Hall in Munich. The first of four Vision Vehicles made its world debut at the kick-off event.
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