BMW R90S

The high-speed BMW R90S set the motorcycle industry on its head.


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BMW R90S

BMW R90S

Photo by Roland Brown

BMW R90S

Years produced: 1974-1976
Total production: 17,378
Claimed power: 67bhp @ 7,000rpm
Top speed: 125mph
Engine type: 900cc, two-valve, horizontally opposed twin
Weight: 215kg (474lb) wet
Price then: $3,430 (1974)
Price now: $3,500-$7,500

The speedometer shows a steady 80mph on the BMW R90S as the road ahead unwinds from a gentle curve. I’m sitting comfortably, leaning slightly forward to slightly raised handlebars, my chest and head protected from the wind by a neat half-fairing that also contains a clock and voltmeter.

The big orange fuel tank on this classic BMW motorcycle is full, giving the prospect of 200 miles of nonstop, high-speed riding. Below the tank I can see the engine’s cylinders sticking out either side, their gentle rustling almost drowned by a throaty twin-cylinder exhaust note. By modern standards the mechanical and exhaust sounds are loud, but they do nothing to mar the aristocratic air of the BMW R90S.

Nor does the bike’s stability as I bank through a series of gentle curves, suspension soaking up the bumps efficiently, the tall-geared engine feeling unburstable. Never mind its generous fuel range; this bike gives the impression that it would cruise at speed and in comfort forever.

Built for the long haul

However long BMW builds flat twins, it’s debatable whether there will be another to match the impact the BMW R90S made with its launch in 1974. The half-faired 90S, finished in a stylish smoked-color scheme (gray was the original color, with this bike’s orange following as an option a year later), may have been a sportster only by BMW’s traditionally restrained standards. But with a top speed a shade over 125mph, it was seriously quick by mid-Seventies standards.

The R90S was at its best traveling rapidly over long distances, but there was much more to this bike than sheer speed. Handsome, fine handling, comfortable, well equipped and very expensive, the R90S was arguably the best all-around superbike that money could buy.

herbertbishop
9/1/2014 8:44:47 PM

I enjoy reading your blog and it keeps me inspired by having a motorcycle like that. I have Ducati 749 999 and it is so amazing too. By the way, I like your vintage bmw-r90s.


Russell_2
12/9/2011 1:16:24 PM

I had a silver smoke '74 R90S back in 1979. It was sold to me as having 25,000 miles. I was later to find it was 125,000 miles! I wouldn't have believed that had I not met an old friend with the same bike who had put on a little more than 100,000 miles in just two years. This bike really invited long distance riding. I would ride from Vancouver Island to the Oregon coast and back on a long weekend. I used to check gas mileage regularly and measured 50 mp(Imperial)g at 90mph average. 90mph seemed the most fuel-efficient speed and was the bottom end of the sweet spot which extended from 90-110 mph. 100 mph was the optimum speed for my bike - the quietest and smoothest and the suspension seemed to work best at that speed. I had the higher "touring" windshield and if I leaned forward two inches at 100mph helmet wind noise would disappear and the loudest sound was the tires on the road, followed by the wind in the spokes and then by the rockers clicking and finally by the exhaust, in that order! I would get lengthy "air" over the tops of road crests at that speed and could even land a little crossed up and the bike would sort itself beautifully on landing, I should never have sold it, but I did get 100,000 miles of pleasure on it.






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