by Sev Pearman
On a perfect late spring morning in 1987, I was fixing my ’77 Triumph Bonneville (again) when a colleague came over and offered me a ride on his ’76 R90/6. I was immediately struck by how quiet and smooth the big twin was. That one ride was all it took. The Triumph was jettisoned for a ’78 R-80/7. That was the end of British bikes and the start of my 80,000-mile BMW odyssey.
Author Kevin Ash has assembled a breezy history of this illustrious marque. If you have never ridden one of The Legendary Bikes from Germany, you don’t know what you are missing. Known for its quality, innovation and engineering excellence, BMW started in 1917 as a manufacturer of aircraft engines. They designed their first motorcycle engine, the M2B15 boxer in 1920, and sold their first complete bike, the R-32, in 1923.
The author uses excellent archival photos and line drawings to illustrate BMW engineering excellence. MMM readers may know that BMWs have utilized shaft drive since 1923, but did you know that BMW offered the world’s first telescopic fork on their R-12 twin in 1935?
The history is arranged chronologically. Each section is laden with official BMW images, engineering drawings and period advertising. There is ample coverage of BMWs storied race successes, with special attention to their supercharged models and post-war sidecar dominance. Subsequent chapters cover the /2 twins and singles, airhead twins, the K-bike triples and fours, R-259 oilheads, chain-drive singles, and the new transverse-4 K-bikes and 800 twins.
All significant models receive a page or three of copy and several photos. What ever your preference, you’ll find your favorite bike. An excellent company timeline is included, along with a throwaway interview with David Robb, head of BMW Motorcycle Design.
Mr. Ash has written a thinly-veiled love letter to BMW motorcycles. We liked the summaries of each significant model; the above-average photos and drawings and the excellent layout and design. We were slightly disappointed at the lack of depth and technical information. If you are looking for specifications and production numbers there are other, better books out there. If you want a fun book that captures the excitement that comes with owning and riding a BMW, then you’ll enjoy BMW Motorcycles – The Evolution of Excellence. It quietly motors forward on three out of four cylinders.
“Doesn’t BMW make cars?” – “So that’s what the logo means!”
Enthusiast – Read this then go find your dream BMW.
Kool-Aid drinker – Give copies to convert the heathens.
MMM welcomes your ideas for future book reviews. Send your suggestions to: firstname.lastname@example.org Please put “Book Review” in the subject heading.