If you're interested in owning and collecting classic BMW motorcycles, you'll want to be familiar with the following list of BMW motorycycle parts suppliers and resources:
A word on magneto ignitions
BMW enthusiast Darryl Richman notes that most pre-1970 BMWs have magneto ignition, “which is a mysterious device that produces sparks out of nothing. Magneto bikes don’t need a battery, nor do they need a functioning generator. Magnetos are also extremely reliable and can be very long lived. They have two downsides, however. One is that because they produce more power the faster they spin, their output is fairly weak at kick-starting speeds — when you really want the strongest spark. This means that a machine has to be in pretty good tune to kick it to life. The other is that the mag coil is a very specialized device that has thousands of windings in a particular pattern. The old, very fine wire was insulated with a kind of shellac that can break down over the decades and can short out, effectively cutting down the number of windings and the power produced. Or the wire itself can break from vibration.
“The classic symptoms of a magneto going out are that the bike starts when cold and runs, but won’t restart when hot. If you wait 30 minutes to an hour, the bike will often start again. Eventually, the time interval before it will start once again increases. What’s happening is that the shellac is migrating out, but the wires don’t actually make contact with each other until they expand from heat. While the bike is running there are still enough effective windings to keep sparking, but not enough at kickstart speeds.”
Richman recommends obtaining copies of the parts and owners manuals, and a shop manual, when available. The parts books make ordering parts from vendors a lot easier. “There’s a Clymer manual for BMW bikes 1955-69, which is quite helpful. In general terms, however, there are three books, all now sadly out of print, but that show up on eBay and at used book stores that can be really helpful in choosing a bike and determining completeness and correctness.”
The books Richman alludes to include Bahnstormer, The Story of BMW Motorcycles, by L. J. K. Setright, How to Restore Your BMW Motorcycle - Twins 1950-1969, by Roland Slabon (be careful when searching for this book: Motorbooks has issued a new edition by a different author which appears to be a step backwards) and the Illustrated BMW Motorcycle Buyer’s Guide, 2nd Edition, by Roland Slabon and Stefan Knittel.
• BMW Motorcycles (ISBN-13: 978-1-884313-57-8, Whitehorse Press), by Kevin Ash
Just released by Whitehorse Press, this book carries a brief compendium of BMW motorcycles from the very beginning to the new F800 twins. Consider it the latest means of keeping all the models straight.
• BMW R90S (ISBN-13 978-1-884313-56-1, Whitehorse Press) by Ian Falloon
Here’s a concise history of the R90S, which is widely regarded as the first superbike. Mac Kirkpatrick had a good bit of input in the book.
• BMW R100RS (ISBN 1-884313-31-0, Whitehorse Press), by Bill Stermer
As long as we’re covering books about BMWs, I’ll mention my own that was published in 2002 and exclusively covers the R100RS. Introduced for the 1977 model year, the RS was the first bike to sport a full aerodynamic fairing, and it was one of the most stunning designs of its time. For the book I was able to include many photos from the BMW archives, from Mac Kirkpatrick, and I also interviewed the RS’s designer Hans Muth.
BMW Vintage Clubs and Information Sources
• Airheads Beemer Club: The international Airheads club is for fans of air-cooled BMWs. It puts out a very nice monthly magazine that includes a tech column, and the local Airheads clubs have many events nationwide throughout the year.
• BMW MOA: While not specifically vintage, the BMW Motorcycle Owners Association is a very active club and covers all aspects of Beemer riding. Also has a very good monthly magazine.
• BMW Veteran Motorcycle Club of America: Founded in 2004, this relatively new club is devoted to those who are interested in owning, operating, repairing, restoring and studying both the history of vintage BMW motorcycles and the machines themselves.
• Cycle Works: Ed Korn offers engine videos, tools and parts for old BMWs, and others.
• Internet BMW Riders: The IBMWR has been around since 1992 and is made up of its mail list (known as "The Big List" in BMW motorcycles circles) that includes people from every continent. Its 1,500 members are dedicated to the free exchange of information and ideas regarding BMW motorcycles. They also have a great market for used bikes.
• John's Beemer Garage: This site offers parts catalogs, exploded drawings, photos and documents.
• R90S Worldnet: This group is for devotees of the BMW R90S, which was manufactured from 1974 through ‘76, and is led by Mac Kirkpatrick.
• Slash2: Despite its name, this Yahoo group is a home for discussions related to all vintage BMW motorcycles manufactured prior to 1970and includes technical tips, social opportunities, tips and tricks. This is Darryl Richman’s site, and he reports that it is pushing 1,400 members and is very active, especially on postwar bikes.
• Vintage BMW Motorcycle Owners, Inc. (VBMWMO): Here are several pages of resources on one website. Their extensive Parts & Services Resource List, and Vintage BMW Links, are on the left-hand menu.
• Vintage BMW Motorcycles: This group is for those who favor pre-1981 BMWs, and who eschew such niceties as ABS, fuel-injection, liquid cooling, GPS and the rest.
• 5 United: Here’s technical help and restoration info for owners of /5 BMWs, which were made from 1970-1973.
Vendors of Parts and Services for Classic BMWs
• Apple Hydraulics: These folks in New York specialize in reliably and cheaply rebuilding any hydraulic cylinder such as a brake cylinder, master or slave.
• Duane Ausherman: This former BMW dealer in California has a wonderful website with lots of information.
• Bench Mark Works: Craig "Vech" Vechorik carries the complete line of BMW Mobile Tradition parts for bikes earlier than 1970, and Airhead parts as well. He’s located in Sturgis, Mississippi, and also has a store in Canada. Darryl Richman reports, “He is very smart and has a lot of tricks up his sleeve for repairing these bikes. Vech has a good writeup on postwar magnetos on his web site. He and Mark Huggett (see below) have different coils available for the postwar bikes, and I have had good luck obtaining prewar Bosch D2B magneto repairs from Hans Radstaack, a Dutch specialist who speaks very good English, and Bayrische Magnetzünder in Orthofen, Bavaria.
• Blue Moon Cycle: Located in Georgia, this dealership offers a good print and online vintage catalog with exploded parts diagrams.
• BMW Mobile Tradition: BMW itself has devoted a lot of time to offering a very complete line of replacement parts for BMWs from 1948 to 1980. See your BMW dealer for details.
• Bob's BMW: Bob’s, a dealership in Jessup, Maryland, has a very nice catalog that in addition to the new stuff includes parts for Airheads, and a Vintage section for 1950-69 models.
• Boxerworks: Boxerworks is a shop in Watkinsville, Georgia, that is devoted to old BMWs and those who keep them on the road. Also has some very active forums.
• Philipp Dreher: “One of the nicest guys to work with is Philipp Dreher,” Richman tells us. “He has an extensive collection of repop parts as well as some NOS and good, used parts. Dreher’s main business is farm machinery, but he’s a real enthusiast and bought the stock of Joseph Kast when Kast retired a few years ago. His repop parts fit because he has tried many of them himself in his own projects.”
• eBay Auctions: Yeah, we know, everybody knows about eBay. Kevin Brooks reminds us that here you can do a global search for BMW motorcycles, parts or specific categories of interest
• Gaenssle Engine Rebuilder: “I’ve had extensive machine work done on pre-war bikes by a machine shop in Munich, Germany, run by Axel Gaenssle,” Richman says. “Gaenssle’s right-hand man, Matthias Kunz, knows these engines inside and out. He can make all sorts of common repairs as well as modern updates. Gaenssle has performed restoration work for BMW Mobile Tradition. Both Gaenssle and Kunz speak fluent English, and the web site is available in both languages.”
• Kradrider List: For German war bikes of all stripes, Richman recommends the Kradrider List, which often seems to be exclusively about R12s but in fact includes good information about even pre-war bikes. “A working group from this list put together an excellent resource for the D2B magnetos just this year, for example.”
• Mark Huggett GmbH: Richman reports that Mark Huggett is a South African native who has a shop in a tiny Swiss village near Zurich. “He is instrumental in getting parts made for BMW Mobile Tradition, which gives him access to the original drawings in the BMW library. He has a large stock of pistons, runs a restoration forum on his web site and his online shop is really nice to use.” Order enough parts, Richman says, and your parcel arrives with a bar of Swiss chocolate inside.
• Marc Hyman: Kevin Brooks recommends this site for an excellent diary of a Marc Hyman’s R69S restoration project.
• Max BMW: This company has an online parts fiche (technical diagrams) that goes way back!
• Motobins: Located in the UK, this is a very good supplier of both new and used parts for BMWs.
• Motorrad Stemler: This German site has catalogs and parts for many classic BMWs, including pre-war.
• Peter Nettesheim: This gentleman has a BMW museum at his home in Huntington, New York (which he opens only for certain events), and an obvious passion for old BMW motorcycles. Nettesheim has personally restored many pre-war BMWs, and says, “I am very willing to accept contact by any interested in my passion, BMW motorcycles.”
• Oldtimer Garage: “Lately, I’ve been getting some pre-war repo parts from Leszek Lyzwinski in Szczecin, Poland, which is just over the border from Germany,” Darryl Richman reports. “He understands English, which is very helpful, and there’s an English version of his site. His parts are surprisingly inexpensive, and yet of good quality. I got two new rims for my R12 for about $65 each, and they came flat and round! He has repops for a lot of the tinware. The Polish Post is surprisingly quick, too.”
• Wolfgang Reichenberger: If you seek R12 parts and service, Richman directs you to Wolfgang Reichenberger in Germany. “He can make some common and difficult repairs, makes a lot of his own repop parts, and also has a stock of good, used parts."
• Ross Thompson Metal Finishing: This Canadian company reportedly offers help with gas tanks and other sheet metal.
• Uli's Motorradladen: Yes, it’s German, but the site’s in English and they have repro parts for many older bikes.