The BMW R60 /5

A classic BMW motorcycle


| July/August 2010



bmw r60/5

BMW R60/5

BMW R60 /5
Years produced: 1970-1973
Claimed power: 46hp @ 6,600rpm
Top speed: 102mph
Engine type: 599cc air-cooled OHV opposed twin
Transmission: 4-speed 
Weight: 440lb (wet)
MPG: 45-50
Price then: $1,548 (1970)
Price now: $1,500-$3,500

It seems incredible now, but in the mid-1960s, BMW came close to abandoning motorcycle production completely. Motorcycles were suddenly becoming a losing proposition, so BMW decided to focus on developing its more profitable automobile business, a move that in time revived the company’s finances: It also meant that the BMW motorcycle range got somewhat neglected.

The then-contemporary BMW R60/2 was badly outclassed in power and handling by Italian, British and Japanese bikes. The sportier BMW R69S was available with lighter telescopic forks and a few more horses, but it was still pretty sluggish. Both bikes retained such anachronisms as a DC generator, 6-volt electrics and magneto ignition. If BMW was to continue building motorcycles, a radical change was needed. Fortunately, what the company came up became a classic BMW motorcycle - the BMW R60 /5.

New designer, new designs for the BMW R60 /5

In 1964, BMW made the decision to stay in the motorcycle business, and lured Hans-Günther von der Marwitz away from Porsche. It was his job to design the new bikes, which would be built at Spandau, near Berlin, instead of Munich. The Slash 5 series (R50/5, R60/5 and R75/5 of 500, 600 and 750cc) was announced for the 1970 season, and represented a revolution in BMW motorcycle design. Though the flat-twin BMW boxer engine layout remained, just about everything else was new.

In the engine, a new forged 1-piece crank with bolt-on flywheels replaced the old built-up, roller-bearing shaft, and used connecting rods borrowed from the 2.8-liter 6-cylinder car engine. The camshaft, formerly above the crankshaft and gear-driven, was moved below the crank and was now chain-driven. Iron-lined light alloy cylinder barrels replaced the previous cast iron types and were capped with redesigned cylinder heads fed by standard slide-type Bings on the R60 and R50 models. Other improvements included an alternator-powered 12-volt electrical system with an electric starter, though the kickstart was retained.

A much lighter tubular steel frame featured a large-diameter backbone and duplex tubes with the drive shaft built into the right side of the rear swingarm. Twin Boge rear spring/shock units were adjustable for preload with a simple hand lever. A Sachs telescopic fork of BMW design replaced the Earles fork at the front end. Light alloy wheel rims were attached to alloy hubs with a twin-leading-shoe, 7.3-inch drum front brake and similar sized single-leading-shoe drum rear.

tony bower
9/17/2012 11:23:59 AM

I rode one around Australia in 1976 (about 20,000 miles), two up with my girlfriend. All up with us and gear the bike weighed about 900 lbs, which made it seriously underpowered for passing cars on two lane roads. I bought it with 30,000 miles on it and sold it at 60,000 miles for about the same money. It was very reliable and comfortable on bitumen and dirt roads if you could go fast enough over the corrugations. I had one big get off on a sandy track where my technique of "keep accelerating in sand to keep the front wheel light" finally came unstuck with a massive tank slapper that spat me, my girlfriend and most of the luggage off the bike. After that, I modified my sand riding tactics to include paddling. A good bike - I really wanted 75/5 for the extra power, but couldn't find one at the time. Next bike was an R90S, which solved the power issue. I've still got it with 90,000 miles on the clock and needing a re-build.


al lovitz
6/28/2012 6:43:40 PM

When I lived in Germany in the early '70's BMW introduced the /5 bikes. As it turned out, I lived in an upstairs apartment with a BMW Motorcycle dealership downstairs. When the /5 came out, I dropped by the dealership to take a look. Needless to say, I bought a new 750/5. I rode that bike all over Europe. One of the most memorable trips was to Nurburgring for the "Elephant" gathering in the middle of winter. To my amazement, there were riders/bikes from all over Europe at the meet. For a few Deutchmarks, one could ride around the race course. Frankly, my wife and I were so cold, we left the meet rather early and went home. Getting back to the bike, the comments in the article were right on the mark - it was comfortable, reliable, and ran very well. At the time, German highway police rode R50's, and could they ride! I do remember that the cost of my new ride was around $1800 out the door. Upon my return to the States, I sold the bike for more than I had paid for it. A year or so later, I bought a new BMW R90/5, which was a continuation of the R75/5. Both were outstanding rides.






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