By the early 1970’s BMW was saddled with a very stuffy image that was in real need of an update. BMW’s were unsexy. They were bikes for old men. If story that sounds familiar, maybe it will help to think of today’s R90S as the S1000RR of the early 1970’s.
In the immediate postwar period, manufacturers proliferated and churned out cheap transportation by the bucketload, so Europeans could get to work efficiently and affordably. But by the late 60’s things had begun to shift and, with the rise of the Japanese, who were churning out cheap, highly sophisticated motorcycles by the bucketload, BMW was facing a bit of an identity crisis, much in the way that Harley Davidson has in recent years, with their fanbase slowly aging out of motorcycles entirely.
Or just buying cars instead.
The result of BMW’s re-imagining was this stylish machine. It was based on BMW’s proven platform, with the usual host of hot-rod updates to improve performance. A pair of Dell’Orto carbs and higher-compression pistons were fitted, and the 898cc pushrod, OHV engine was a bored out version of the earlier 750 and the engine featured fairly oversquare dimensions. It added up to 67hp and, put through a five-speed transmission, meant a top speed in the neighborhood of 125mph, a very fast neighborhood at the time. For a big sportbike, the BMW was relatively light at 474lbs wet.
The stylish bikini fairing allowed BMW to compliment the usual tach, speedo, and warning lights with an analogue clock and a volt meter, while twin discs provided improved stopping power over other BMW models, although that wasn’t saying much, and even these upgraded brakes were considered the R90S’s weakest characteristic.
As with Moto Guzzis of the period, the image of the shaft-driven BMW was more touring than sport, but the R90S was successful in competition: in the USA, the American Motorcycling Association organized a new race series for “Superbikes” and the R90S placed first and second in the very first race. But for all the sporting competence, BMW couldn’t completely shake their practical image, and it still featured low-maintenance shaft-drive, would take a set of hard luggage, had impressive range, and could comfortably cruise all day at 80. It was supremely competent, but still just a little bit uptight…
From the original eBay listing: 1975 BMW R90S for Sale
First titled 5/29/1975 in Michigan
Stainless spokes, good tires and battery, K&N air filter
Original large tool kit/roll, tire pump and owners manual
Great running -excellent engine idle
Serviced at BMW Daytona Beach
Always garaged and covered: no damage, no crashes, no issues
Clock is not working-may be disconnected from battery
Have 2 keys and 2 key blanks, 2 oil filters
Runs like new
Geez, “BRAKE FAILURE”?! That’s a terrifying warning light! With 26,000 miles on the clock, this example is very clean and relatively low-mileage: these can and do rack up serious, continent-crossing distances quite regularly. Bidding is up to almost $8,500 with the Reserve Not Met. These are on the rise in terms of value, but I wonder where this one is priced, and whether or not the seller is aiming a bit too high, too soon…