For as long as there have been motorcycles, people have wanted to ‘go the distance’ on them – after all, touring on a motorcycle is the best way to see the world. BMW Motorrad has always been at the forefront of the touring segment, designing and producing machines over the years that have allowed adventurous riders to go all over the globe with confidence. Some of the most important motorcycles from the past decades will be featured in a special ‘milestones’ display at BMW Motorrad Days from 1-3 July.
To appreciate a machine like the top-of-the-range six-cylinder K 1600 GTL luxury tourer, with its amazing levels of power, comfort and weather protection, it is necessary to understand everything that has gone before it. All the previous touring and sports touring models have contributed to the development of a ‘brand new’ model series that is, in essence, the sum of everything that BMW has learnt as a pioneer of motorcycle touring over the past 88 years.
It’s hard to imagine, then, that for the first 50 years of BMW motorcycle production, no machines were actually supplied with a fairing. In fact, it wasn’t until 1973 and the introduction of the iconic R 90 S that a BMW model was offered with a cockpit fairing permanently mounted on the handlebars, direct from the factory. This was a sports bike that you could tour on, and one with attitude, decent handling and an impressive top speed that saw it win TT and Superbike races.
It was an instant success and was followed in 1976 by the R 100 RS, the first large-scale production motorcycle in the world with a full fairing permanently mounted on the frame. This fairing was created by designer Hans A. Muth and developed in painstaking detail in BMW’s wind tunnel, with the aim of not only providing sufficient weather protection but also improved high-speed stability. This was important, because up to that point, fairings offered by other manufacturers had provided sufficient weather protection but generally impaired ride response at speeds over 100 km/h.
The great success of the R 100 RS sports tourer encouraged BMW Motorrad to produce the R 100 RT in 1978, which was more heavily focussed towards comfort. The fairing was still more geared towards wind and weather protection, as well as offering smart detail solutions with extras such as folding additional headlamps and storage compartments. It was a well equipped machine that showed BMW’s commitment and focus in the touring sector.
When BMW presented its first four-cylinder K series machines in 1983, the new range naturally included a travel tourer – the K 100 RT – which offered exceptional weather protection and decent panniers. This was followed by the luxurious LT models as well as smaller-capacity touring machines like the boxer-engined R 80 RT and the three-cylinder K 75 RT.
In the years that followed, we have seen some amazing touring machines and many riders have benefited from wind-tunnel developed fairings and enjoyed the kind of comfort and weather protection that could have only been dreamed about by riders of pre-1973 BMW bikes. However, it’s not only touring riders who enjoy the kind of comfort offered by the latest R 1200 RT. Authorities order virtually exclusively faired models of this flagship touring boxer for police riders all over the world, not just because of the superior weather protection but also because the fairing provides space for blue lights, additional headlamps and other special police equipment.
And BMW is not content to rest on its laurels either: this was demonstrated as long ago as 1980 with the ‘Futuro’, a prototype from which individual elements went into serial production some ten years later in the aerodynamic K1 sports tourer.
With the latest K 1600 GT and GTL models, riders are able to experience silky-smooth six-cylinder power, amazing handling, advanced levels of technology for improved performance and safety, efficient ergonomics and unsurpassed wind and weather protection. Everything BMW knows about making touring motorcycles has gone into this new model series.
As a pioneer of faired touring models, BMW is now able to look back at nearly 40 years of experience – more than any other manufacturer in the world. Enjoy a trip through touring history and see all the important machines of the past four decades in the ‘milestones’ exhibition at BMW Motorrad Days from 1-3 July.