I am no expert on BMW motorcycles – I will admit that right away, as I have never owned one personally.
That said, I have plenty of BMW motorcycle riding friends (fanatics) and have wanted one for a very long time. In particular, I would like to get a vintage GS (1980-1997) and have been doing some research recently on vintage BMW motorcycle model numbers, in general.
BMW uses a sometimes systematic/sometimes unsystematic naming convention for their motorcycles that is pretty easy to follow and understand once laid out in front of you. Below is a basic breakdown for those who lack a fundamental understanding of what those BMW motorcycle model numbers mean.
This list is by no means exhaustive as there were many side models and off-shoot iterations of bikes that BMW produced. This is meant as a general guide.
BMW Motorcycle Model Numbers: Semi-Unsystematic, Systematic, Unsystematic Again….
BMW likes to use straight numbers, dashes, and slashes instead of the colloquial names we are used to from the Japanese manufacturers.
–Prior to 1969: The naming convention wasn’t that systematic. The table below lays out the models that I am aware of, but keep in mind that there were many others. If you can get your hands on any one of these, don’t hesitate. The number after the R generally correlated with engine size. Those with a 2X are single cylinders, while the rest are generally the BMW twins we are accustomed to seeing.
|R 50 S||1960-1962|
|R 69 S||1960-1969|
–1969-1983: Really the systematic naming convention began in the 1950’s and 1960’s with the /2 or “slash 2” bikes listed in the table above. This continued with /3, /4, /5, all the way up to the /7 in late 1970s. Like their predecessors, the first number after the R correlates with engine size, while the number after the slash corresponds to the generation or iteration of the motorcycle.
–Post 1983: This is when BMW started getting wild and crazy again with their motorcycle designations. They kept the R series, but also introduced the F, K, G, and HP2 series.
The bottom line to the story is that if you are in the market for a vintage BMW focus on the “slash” number – the lower the better. If size is important, there are generally R50, R60, R75, and R90 iterations of each generation with R90 being the largest displacement at 900cc.
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