BMW motorcycles at BMW Welt, Munich

GeelKameel's picture

Points: 5


While in Munich, we visited the BMW Welt complex.


The BMW Welt is a combined venue for exhibitions, deliveries, adventure, museum and events.

Across the road is the administration building and the Munich assembly plant for BMW cars. The administration building is in the shape of four cylindrical towers – often called the Four-cylinder building.

My main interest was to see the BMW motorcycle museum.

I was very impressed at the professional way that the exhibits are presented, but also bit disappointed that there were relatively few motorcycles. I consider it more an exhibition of key historic BMW motorcycles rather than a museum as I imagine that a museum should be like.

Entering the motorcycle section of the exhibition, the history of the BMW motorcycle is depicted by means of one exhibit for each major technological step in the development of the BMW motorcycle.

A feature that I found very informative is that a full-size outline of each exhibit is presented as a backdrop. The major features that distinguishes it from the previous model shown in orange lines, as illustrated in the photo below


The following pictures illustrates what you see as you walk through.


You are greeted by the R7 Prototyp. This is a unique motorcycle that was introduced as a concept in 1934, but never produced. It has an 800cc engine, pressed steel frame and a flashy body, boasting smooth lines and fenders that partially wrapped around the wheels. 

Then you see the iconic Boxer engine.

Many many bike enthusiasts own a BMW motorcycle for one simple reason ---- The boxer layout of the engine. 

BMW M2B15 engine (1920-1923)  494cc, 5kW @ 3000rpm

Quote from the plaque alongside the engine:

"When the First World War came to an end, BMW recognised the opportunities offered by motorised two-wheel transport and developed a flat-twin engine, based on an English engine of this type.

From 1920 onwards it was supplied to numerous German motorcycle manufacturers, such as Victoria in Nuremburg, all of whom installed it with the cylinders arranged front-to-back rather than transversely"

Besides in the Victoria KR1, this engine was also installed in other motorcycles eg Bison, Corona, Helios, SMW.

The Victoria KR1, built in 1920. Note the longitudinal orientation of the boxer engine.


The BMW R32 (1923-1926) is the first motorcycle built by BMW. The M2B15 engine was installed. The R32 has a much cleaner and more purposeful design, compared to the other motorcycles only three years older (eg the Victoria)


The R39 (1925-1927) was the first single cylinder motorcycle by BMW. Lower capacity engine, built to the same quality and reliability as the twin.

The R39 won the German 250cc championship in 1925.



The R63 (1928 – 1929) was the first BMW motorcycle that was specifically aimed at the sport rider. When launched in 1928, it was one of the fastest motorcycles available. Total production was a low 794 units.


This R2 (1931 – 1936) is an example of the Pressed Steel frame technology that BMW started and was subsequently followed by many manufacturers over the world. The pressed steel frame with riveted joints was preferred above the brazed tube construction utilized for earlier frames.

When BMW equipped it's entire range of motorcycles with pressed frames, the other manufacturers followed suit. The term "German School of Motorcycle Design" was coined.


R5 (1936 – 1937) A completely new design with many new innovations like a lightweight frame and revolutionary telescopic fork.


R51 (1938 – 1940)

The R51 is an example of the introduction of hydraulic suspension. Steel-tubed frames re-appeared, this time welded together.

The R51 proved to be quite capable when riding off-road as well. During those years some riders regarded the R51 as the "Perfect all-rounder".


R68  (1952 -1954)

The R68 was an all-new motorcycle that was introduced after WW II.

This model was an exclusive sports bike that restored the company name among international manufacturers. That raised two-in-one exhaust was an (expensive) option on the sport model.


RS 255 (1938)

Racing has always been important to BMW. The race track was the test arena for many innovative designs and technological development.

BMW Type 255 Kompressor  was a supercharged boxer twin race motorcycle from the 1930s. A BMW 255 Kompressor was ridden to victory by Georg Meier in the 1939 Isle of Man TT and the first win by a non-British competitor in the premier 500cc Senior TT class.

Besides two-wheel racers, BMW had great success with side-car racing.

Two exhibits that represent the side car version of BMW motorcycles.

The famous R75 Wehrmacht version with side car had special modifications for the German Wehrmacht. Rear differential lock, low range gears for difficult terrain, reverse gear and a bolt-together split frame for quick engine replacement.

In a general exhibition area were a variety of motorcycles of more recent years to be seen.


The R50 and the R50/2 series was built for about 15 years. The R50 was the backbone for the survival of BMW motorcycle production when the motorcycle market was very depressed during the 1950s/1960s. The R50 was factory built in many variants for government authorities all over the world. 

R90S (1973 - 1976)

This was the first model for which BMW enlisted a designer. The R90 and R100 models became favourites among a very large number of enthusiasts. To this day many riders will agree that riding one of these bikes still is a special experience. They have a unique sound and feel.


The very reliable and capable F650 had a new four-valve single cylinder engine, developed jointly with the Austrian manufacturer Rotax. The F650 was the first chain driven motorcycle by BMW. Previous models all were shaft driven.


The K75RT (1985 to 1995)​ was a 3-cylinder version of the K100 (1983 to 1992). It was actually launched two years after the K100. 

The latest K-series are large capacity luxury motorcycles. 


R80 (1980 - 1987)

Quote BMW: "The BMW R80 GS was the first large engined touring enduro in motorcycle history. The number of enthusiasts who have chosen a bike in this category since it's introduction is still increasing."

The BMW Monolever and the single swinging arm rear suspension to appear on a large-engined production bike were very innovative and successful.


Two enduro bikes.

Sadly no 1100GS, no 1150GS, no 1200GS to be seen.....

Besides the exhibition of the motorcycles, there are many cars and beautiful engines on display. Amongst others the BMW powered Brabham Formula 1 racing car from 1980s.


Some thoughts on the BMW Welt.

The BMW Welt is a huge, modern building with flowing lines outside and inside. The inside is very spacious, yet to me it felt a bit crowded with all the people and exhibits everywhere.

Exhibits are the latest model of the BMW line-up (cars and motorcycles) (oh, and Mini and Rolls Royce as well).

Everything there has a feeling of smart "life-style".

Impressive, but smart life-style is not quite what I like.


Slightly out of sight from the main mall/passage is an area dedicated to the BMW motorcycles. One 2019 model from each major series is mounted by the front wheel so that you can climb on and get a good feel of the bike.


We went on a tour of the car production plant.

Very impressive, to say the least. Amazing the amount of automation and synchronisation. One can write pages on this. The one notable aspect is that when the floor pan of a car with a specific specification (2-door, 4-door, body colour, engine, luxury spec, seats, etc) starts on the production line, it is marked with a barcode. From there each robot it encounters would read the barcode, pick the appropriate component and places it exactly where it belongs, whether it needs to be welded or bolted. The welding robot reads the bar code and welds accordingly. Amazing to see a four-door and a 2-door and/or a hatchback passing nose-to-tail through a single the welding bay.

Another fascinating aspect is the just-in-time synchronisation. Each component/subassembly is scheduled from delivery at the plant, moving from store to assembly line and to ready availability exactly when and where it is needed. When a chassis arrives at any specific fitment bay, the appropriate components are waiting there, no other components that are not needed.

It is notable that the assembly plant prefers to receive pre-assembled units (eg dashboard with instruments, complete seats, complete engines, etc) instead of doing detail sub-assembly work. This policy saves space and assembly time.

Yes, there are humans on the assembly line. They are quite busy doing all kinds of fitting and tightening and checking and supervising. Interesting is the fact that there are more people in the administration building than on the huge, expansive, multi-storey assembly plant.

Unfortunately, visitors are not allowed to take pictures.

A day well spent?

Yes. But we could have done the visit in half the time if we booked a much earlier factory tour the moment we arrived. 

Charles Oertel's picture
Joined: 2007/04/14

Wow, nice report.  Somehow the 1150GS still comes out as the best looking bike to me...wink

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