If you’ve been into classic motorcycles for any length of time, you’ve undoubtedly come across Ian Falloon’s work. A prolific researcher and chronicler of things two-wheeled — particularly German and Italian — Falloon’s books have earned a deserved reputation for accuracy and completeness, making any new title from him a highly anticipated event.
Falloon has produced a handful of books on BMW motorcycles, but this latest work, The Complete Book of BMW Motorcycles: Every Model Since 1923, underscores the evolution of his work. Falloon’s earlier books lean heavily on facts and statistics. That’s not a bad thing; wonks like facts and statistics. But like his recent The Complete Book of Classic and Modern Triumph Motorcycles 1937-Today, this latest work puts substance and form on the same scale and weighs them equally. The result is impressive in both regards. At 9-3/4 inches by 12 inches The Complete Book of BMW is every bit the beautiful coffee table book, but it’s hardly light reading.
An airplane engine manufacturer during World War I, BMW moved to motorcycle engines after being banned from aviation following Germany’s defeat. Falloon provides a concise history of the build up to BMW’s first motorcycle, the R32 of 1923, and from there tracks BMW model development year by year, highlighting model specifications and detailing specific changes.
The earlier years up through the 1970s are especially well illustrated, thanks to fantastic factory photographs from the BMW Group Archives and contemporary museum-quality images. Race models and their development are covered, with detailed discussion of some of the most famous BMW race bikes of all time, including the prewar 500 “Kompressor” and pre- and postwar RS models.
Along the way, Falloon provides the reader a comprehensive and compelling account of BMW’s rise to become one of the most innovative and important motorcycle manufacturers of all time.
There are a few perhaps understandable omissions, including models like the C1 scooter of 2000-2002 and the recent BMW “maxi” scooters. Although Falloon doesn’t say, it’s probably safe to assume they were left out for not really being motorcycles in the traditional meaning of the term.