This year marks the centenary of Bayerische Motoren Werke AG so we’re looking back at the company’s motorcycling innovations to list the top 10 motorcycling firsts that the firm has achieved in as many decades.
Until fairly recently BMW’s mainstream motorcycling image was one of staid solidity rather than spectacular blue-sky thinking, but looking back at the company’s achievements it’s clear that reputation was ill-deserved. It might have long steered clear of the crucible of superbike racing and avoided direct comparison with other firms, but BMW has been ploughing its own innovative furrow ever since it first started building bikes in the 1920s.
Some of the technologies that it’s brought to the market have remained BMW-only oddities while others have spread so far and wide it’s hard to imagine motorcycle design without them. Rather than trying to rank one innovation above another, we’re listing them chronologically.
10. 1935 BMW R12 - hydraulically-damped telescopic forks
For the last couple of decades BMW has had a reputation for unconventional front suspension set-ups – Telelever and Duolever – but the firm was also the first to bring a bike with hydraulically-damped telescopic forks to the market. The 1935 R12 was the machine in question. While others, notably Scott, had tried telescopic forks in the past, they’d been undamped until the BMW turned up. So on this occasion, BMW’s decision to use ‘unconventional’ front suspension laid the template for almost every motorcycle of the modern era.