The BMW Motorcycle

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Ernst Henne
Ernst Henne ...
The war may have put an end to the first chapter of BMW history, but it wouldn't be complete without covering the firm's motorcycle development.

The very advanced R 32 designed by Max Friz was followed, in 1925, by the 500cc R 37, which produced 16 bhp. Its configuration was that of a flat, opposed twin having steel cylinders and, that same year, it was followed by the single-cylinder R 39 which possessed a swept volume of 250cc and developed 6.5 bhp.

A series of successively improved, more powerful motorcycles followed which were much more interesting in their overall design concepts and had engines up to 750 cc displacement mounted in much-improved frames.

To mention but a few examples, 1935 witnessed the introduction of telesscopic front forks combined with a pressed-steel frame, while the year 1938 was notable for the use of telescopic springing on both the front as well as the rear wheel.

However, interesting as the series-built motorcycles may be, the most interesting aspect was the development of machines destined for attempts at the world's absolute high-speed records for motorcycles. Ernst Henne, who had raced motorcycles very successsfully in the Twenties, was the one responsible for convincing the BMW management to undertake the record attempts.

Under the supervision of chief engineer Schleichert a 750 cc, ohv-engined machine was prepared with which Henne captured the abolute world's record speed for motol cycles on the 9th September, 1929 setting the mark at 134.63 mph.

Ernst Henne's Remarkable
Motorcycle Land Speed Records
137.55 mph
147.98 mph
151.77 mph
152.32 mph
159.03 mph
169.91 mph
173.51 mph
This rate was continuously pushed higher by Henne over the following years, reaching its maximum figure in 1937. Henne also established a new absolute record for 3-wheeled vehicles, motorcycles with sidecars, for BMW reaching a speed of 118.48 mph in 1931 and raising this mark to 128.98 mph one year later, in 1932.

This record stood till 1955, when Wilhelm Noll bettered it, also with a BMW, pushing the figure to 174.0 mph. BMW achieved sensational results in motorcycle racing as well, in both solo-machine and sidecar events. In 1939, the former military dispatch rider Georg Meier rode the newly developed, 500 cc, supercharged, 56 horsepower machine to victory in the 500 cc class of the British Tourist Trophy, being the first German to win this most diffiicult of all of the world's motorcycle races.

Until BMW's 50th anniverrsary in 1966 the following results had been attained in motor sports events: 1,965 outright wins; 215 gold medals; 124 championships (including several world championships); 107 Grand Prix wins; three victories in the famous 6-Day Trophy event and . very many second places in countless other contests of speed and endurance.


The First BMW Motorcycle
The first BMW motorcycle, daring to the year 1923. The basic concept of the R32 remained as a guide-line for all subsequent motorcycles which were built by the Bavarian marque and was acclaimed as one of the most advanced designs of its era. The motorcycle made its debut at the Paris Salon...
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