BMW Motorcycle Buyer’s Guidebook74
by Mark Zimmerman
Photography by Brian J. Nelson
143 pages, $24.95
Motor Books Int’l, copyright 2003


by Thomas Day

One of the best aspects of motorcycling is riding an older classic machine, and BMW motorcycles make an excellent choice. The BMW Motorcycle Buyer’s Guide was written to help riders and buyers in their search for a practical, solid and fun older BMW machine.

This book tries to fill a niche in the well-covered BMW book market. It is more rider-friendly than the excellent “BMW-as-investment” Illustrated Buyer’s Guide–BMW Motorcycles by Knittel & Slabon; and has more useful technical information than Mick Walker’s BMW Twins–The Complete Story. Both of these are superior resources and I would recommend all three titles if I were in the market for a classic BMW motorcycle.

Mark Zimmerman lists all postwar singles, twins, K-bikes and the new oilheads and chain-driven singles. He groups them into families and discusses the strengths and weaknesses of each type. The author highlights troublespots for each machine, provides caution where necessary and itemizes running use and repair costs.

The author is not without a sense of humor. In the chapter on the new 650cc singles, Mr. Zimmerman concludes, “…unfortunately the new singles have much in common with the old singles &endash; that is, they are heavy, slow and expensive” (p. 120) This is not to say that the Rotax-powered bikes are bad. They are quite competent. But there are equivalent machines that are faster, lighter and cost significantly less.

We were disappointed with some of the technical descriptions. In the section on R-80 and R-100 two-valve GS twins, the author warns of the potential for “rear-bearing failure in the Paralever swingarm.” (p. 94)  Due to extra stresses created by greater swingarm travel, the rear U-joint in some Paralever GSs has been known to fail. While it is technically correct to call a U-joint a bearing, it isn’t very precise. Mr. Zimmerman again warns of “rear-bearing failure in the Paralever swingarm” in newer four-valve R-1100 and R-1150 oilhead bikes. This is a separate problem, occurring within the rear hub, behind the final drive output gear. It is confusing to identify these two very different concerns with the same imprecise terminology.

We were also bothered by some editing and layout choices. Specific details are illustrated with clear insert shots and helpful captions, but many of them have sloppy keylining that is distracting at best, simply wrong at worst. The insert that cautions about the finicky nature of the Dell’Orto carbs on R90S bikes is keylined to the sidecover/battery area of a R100RS. (p. 66) In addition, on the “Garage Watch” pages for the R80 and R100 family, the author selects the one-year-only R75/7 machine. While the R75/7 certainly belongs with other /7 bikes, wouldn’t it be better to illustrate the /7 family with a more-common model? BMW owners are a discriminating lot and such mistakes don’t sit well when it comes time to purchase either bike or book.

One of the best features of this guide is the outstanding photography by noted moto-photographer, Brian J. Nelson. Whole bikes are artfully captured in a variety of environments that never look artsy or staged. Idiosyncrasies specific to particular models are clearly illustrated with Mr. Nelson’s excellent detail shots. Whether you are in the market for a BMW cycle or just want to read about a specific machine, you’ll love the images in this book.

BMW Motorcycle Buyer’s Guide is a decent book that bears harsher scrutiny due to its excellent competition. Deduct stars for the technical discrepancies and oddly laid-out inserts; add stars for the excellent photography. MMM rates this two-and-a-half out of four cylinders.


Uber-bike newbie &endash; Good text to get you on your way.

Cash-in-hand buyer &endash; Best to supplement this with other guides.

das Bolt Spötter &endash; Some technical inaccuracies. Read it anyway


MMM welcomes your comments and book recommendations. Send e-mail to Please put “Book Review” in the subject line.



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