| May/June 2007

Years produced:
Total production: 1,000 (approx.)
Claimed power: 42hp @ 7,000rpm
Top speed: 103mph
Engine type: 594cc overhead valve, air-cooled opposed twin
Weight: 205kg (452lb) (w/half-full tank)Price then: $1,712 (1968)
Price now: $6,000-$12,000
MPG: 50 (est.)

Desirable and rare, the BMW R69US was built to be ridden. John Landstrom's Granada Red 1969 proves the point.

“I got this bike about 20 years ago,” explains Landstrom, owner of Blue Moon Cycle in Norcross, Ga., just outside of Atlanta. “I restored it shortly after I got it, then I sold it to a friend in Germany. I bought it back from him, and then sold it to a friend in Georgia. Then I bought it back from him. At this point, I’ve bought the bike three times.” Needless to say, John is a fan of the BMW R69US. “The steadfast reliability of a 1960s vintage BMW motorcycle allows me to go touring with the same confidence I would have touring on a modern motorcycle,” he says.

Where it all began
Bayerische Motoren-Werke was founded in 1916 as an aircraft engine factory. With the end of World War I came a ban on German aircraft, so BMW looked for other arenas for its output. The company started building motorcycle engines in 1920 or 1921 and complete bikes in 1923. War came again in 1939, and once again BMW found itself on the losing side. After a brief period where the BMW factory, then located in Munich, Germany, was relegated to the manufacture of cooking pots, its first postwar bike, a single, appeared at the 1948 Geneva show. The first postwar flat twin, the R51/2, was initially built for the French police, and wasn’t available to civilians until 1950.

The R51/2 was a 494cc overhead valve design, with split valve covers, plunger rear suspension and new, inclined Bing carburetors. BMW was one of the first to use telescopic forks (starting with the R12 in 1935), and the R51/2 featured new two-way damped telescopics. However, the R51/2 was basically a prewar design, and the engine was replaced in 1951 with the R51/3.

The R51/3 continued the R51/2’s 68mm x 68mm bore and stroke, but a single camshaft driven by helical-cut gears replaced the previous wear-prone timing chain. The front cover housed an auto advance unit and the generator. The plunger frame was basically the same as the previous years’, but the brakes were beefed up and the gas tank now held 4.5gal. A 594cc model, the R67, was also produced, intended mainly as a sidecar hauler.

11/29/2015 12:32:41 AM

I bought my '63 R69S in the summer of '63 with 6,000 miles on it from Oden Cycles in Reno. The first owner was said to have been a college student from the east coast who didn't want to ride it home. I put 60,000 miles on it during my college years when it was my only wheels. I had a few issues with its reliability but they were almost all results of "improvements" I made to it. After college I replaced it with a Honda 4 when they first came out. The old Bum W had been a good steed, and served me well but was clearly outdated in several respects. I'm now back on a Beemer, an R100 airhead which is perfect for me who likes simple.

11/19/2015 9:41:18 AM

I bought my 1969 R69US in 1972, with 400 miles on it, for $1400. My dad nearly had a heart attack. It had the big tank (300 miles at 62 mph, its happy place), the big saddle, and was painted in Munich Police dark metallic blue. I rode that bike all over the country (one trip alone was over 12,000 miles), replaced the exhaust system with stainless steel pipes and mufflers, and kept it about ten years, when I stuck the front wheel in a gap between lanes, got into a speed wobble, and kinda bent the poor thing. (I was turned around, giving a hand signal to change lanes. I didn't see the crack coming, and had only one hand on the bar, and couldn't get the other one back on, quickly enough. I was doing 40 in fourth gear, so had no power available to lift the front. Like that would have happened, anyway!) The bike laid on its side behind my parents' house for five years, when a girlfriend's dad expressed interest. I stood the bike up, tickled the carbs, and started it on the first kick. We were both amazed. I miss that bike.

Ride 'Em, Don't Hide 'Em Getaway

Classic Motorcycle Touring and Events.

The latest classic motorcycle events and tours.