September 29, 2023

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The Complete BMW Motorcycle Buying Guide: Every Model, Explained

Welcome to Brand Breakdown, a series of comprehensive yet easy-to-digest guides to your favorite companies, with insights and information you won’t find on the average About page.

BMW automobiles have long set themselves apart in the crowded luxury marketplace by being driver-oriented machines, offering a dynamic experience behind the wheel while maintaining a high degree of refinement. Products from BMW Motorrad are no different, bringing equal amounts of sportiness, capability and luxury to the table. But just as BMW’s cars have adapted to changing times, so too have BMW’s motorcycles. Constant innovation, with a focus on safety and accessibility, has made its efforts to mint new riders among the most successful in the industry.

Entry-level single-cylinder bikes and scooters seek to bring the joy of riding to urban mobility. Adventure and heritage motorcycles equipped with the brand’s signature boxer engine are instantly recognizable, thanks to the horizontally opposed cylinders. And even those Beemers that don’t bear such obvious marks can still be clearly identified, as all of them wear the iconic blue-and-white roundel on the gas tank.

BMW Motorrad History

BMW stands for “Bavarian Motor Works” (or Bayerische Motoren Werke, in German) and while the company is best known for its cars, its motorcycle engine manufacturing predates its first automobile by nine years.

BMW AG was founded in Munich in 1916 and produced airplane engines during World War I; in 1921, it began building motorcycle engines for other manufacturers before building its first bike, the R32, in 1923. (That R32 was the foundation of BMW motorcycles for decades; its shaft drive was in use until 1994.)

Following World War II, the company was given permission to start building motorcycles again in Western Germany in 1947; however, it had to start from scratch, as all its surviving blueprints and plans were at the facility in Eastern Germany under Soviet control. Following a trademark lawsuit in 1952, motorcycles produced at the Eisenach plant in East Germany wore a red-and-white roundel bearing the name EMW (Eisenacher Motoren Werke) to distance them from BMW. (If you think those bikes are highly sought-after collector’s items these days, you’d be correct.)

How BMW Names Its Motorcycles

As is the case with its cars, BMW Motorrad uses an alphanumeric naming system for their motorcycles. The first part of the name is a letter, which corresponds to an engine type; currently, the BMW Motorrad lineup has engine types varying from scooters names start with a C (parallel twin-cylinder engines attached to a constantly variable clutch) to sport bikes like the departed $78,000 HP4 Race (high-performance four-stroke four-cylinder). Between those extremes, you have bikes starting with the letter S (four-cylinder sport motor), R (opposed twin-cylinder), G (single cylinder), F (parallel twin-cylinder), and K (three or more cylinders).

The second part of the name is comprised of numbers, which represent the size of the engine’s displacement in cubic centimeters….except when it’s actually just a random series of numbers instead, which does happen.

Lastly comes the letter or letters following the numbers—the part of the name that explains the purpose of the bike: A (for Adventure, sometimes spelled out), S (sometimes Sport or Strasse, the German word for street), G (from the German word Gelande, which means terrain), GT (sport touring), RR (road racing), RT (road touring), L (luxury), T (touring), GTL (luxury sport touring), B (bagger), R (road), X (extreme), and GSA (grand sport adventure, sometimes spelled out) all see use in 2019.

BMW Motorrad Terminology

BMW Motorrad: Pronounced “Moto-rad” (meaning “motorcycle” in German), this has been BMW AG’s motorcycle division since 1923.

Beemer/Beamer: Traditionally, “Bimmer” is the nickname for BMW cars, while “Beemer” or “Beamer” applies to motorcycles. Why? Well, the etymology comes from the post-WWII era. BMW was competing with British bike company BSA, whose bikes were nicknamed “Beesers.” The “Beemer” nickname was attached to the BMW bikes in an effort to keep it from seeming like the staunch German brand.

Flat Twin: BMW’s iconic engine layout of choice, with two horizontally opposed cylinders mounted across the frame.

Airhead: The flat twin engine with two valves per cylinder produced from 1969 to 1995 that is cooled by air.

Oilhead: Partial oil cooling, which came to the flat-twin boxer in 1995, when the cylinders gained two valves for a total of four.

Precision Cooling: A glycol/water coolant mixture is sent to the hottest part of the engine around the combustion chamber. This accounts for 35% of engine cooling; air and oil account for the other 65 percent. Precision water cooling arrived on the GS line of bikes in 2013.

GS: The literal translation of Gelände/Straße is “Off-road/Road,” but GS is also used interchangeably to mean Gelände Sport. The first BMW GS produced was the R80/GS in 1980 and continues through today; the line is easily identified by the long travel suspension and upright riding position, and bikes are often optioned with long-distance touring accessories.

Shaft Drive: The final drive system of choice for BMW since the R32 arrived in 1923, consisting of a shaft that connects a gear inside the gearbox to another gear inside a hub on the rear wheel.

Urban Mobility (Scooters)

Markus Jahn

The BMW CE 04

The BMW CE 04 is BMW’s electric scooter that draws heavily from the Concept Link design study. It entered production in 2022.

  • Power Output: 42 hp, 45.7 lb-ft
  • Top Speed: 75 mph
  • EV Range: 80 miles
  • Starting Price: $11,795


    bmw c 400 gt motorcycle parked in front of a bridge in the distance with sunset in the background


    The BMW C400 GT

    The BMW C400 GT is the brand’s capable urban combustion scooter powered by a water-cooled 350 CC single-cylinder engine.

    • Power Output: 34 hp, 26 lb-ft
    • Top Speed: 86 mph
    • Starting Price: $8,245



      bmw motorcycle parked on a terrace with an ocean sunset in the background


      BMW G 310 GS

      The G 310 GS is BMW’s dual-purpose, entry-level, single-cylinder adventure bike. It’s simple, versatile and an awesome entry-level bike for novice to adventure riding.

      • Power Output: 34 hp, 20 lb-ft
      • Top Speed: 88 mph
      • Starting Price: $5,695

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        bmw f 750 gs parked on the road with mountains in the background

        BMW F 750 GS

        The BMW F 750 GS is a mid-range all-around enduro motorcycle that debuted in 2018 as a replacement for the F 700 GS. It has an “extra low” seat height and comes standard with ABS Pro, Dynamic Traction Control and LED indicators.

        • Power Output: 77 hp, 61 lb-ft
        • Top Speed: 118 mph
        • Starting Price: $9,995

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          bmw f 850 gs parked in dirt with a sunset in the background

          Marco De Ponti

          BMW F 850 GS

          The BMW F 850 GS is another middle-class adventure model that’s a clear step up from the G 310 GS but not quite up to the R 1250 GS. It has more power than the F 750 GS and also comes in a F 850 GS adventure trim.

          • Power Output: 90 hp, 63 lb-ft
          • Top Speed: 125 mph
          • Starting Price: $12,595

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            bmw f 900 xr driving on a desert mountain road

            Joerg Kuenstle

            BMW F 900 XR

            The wild-looking new F 900 XR is another mid-level BMW adventure bike that’s as happy on the road as it is off it. It has more power than the F 850 GS. But it’s designed for younger and potentially beginner riders with a relatively affordable price point.

            • Power Output: 99 hp, 68 lb-ft
            • Top Speed: 124 mph-plus
            • Starting Price: $11,695

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              bmw s 1000 xr parked on the road in front of water

              PETER SCHREIBER 2019

              BMW S 1000 XR

              The S 1000 XR is BMW’s sporty four-cylinder adventure sport bike. It combines a 165-hp inline four-cylinder engine and sport bike riding dynamics with GS ergonomics and styling. It was redesigned for 2020 to be lighter and faster with an overhauled engine and suspension.

              • Power Output: 165 hp, 84 lb-ft
              • Top Speed: 124 mph-plus
              • Starting Price: $16,945

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                bmw r 1250 gs parked in the dirt with woods in the background


                BMW R 1250 GS

                The BMW R 1250 GS is the brand’s flagship adventure touring bike and the best-selling motorcycle in the BMW lineup. It can be found conquering continents with its 136-hp four-stroke flat twin. It also comes in an R 1250 GS Adventure version.

                • Power Output: 136 hp, 105 lb-ft
                • Top Speed: 124 mph-plus
                • Starting Price: $17,995

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                  bmw r18 riding on the street in germany with an arty looking building in the background


                  BMW R18

                  The BMW R18 is a classic-style cruiser built to compete with Harley-Davidson and powered by a new engine with an automotive level of 1.8 liters of displacement. It’s available in four versions: the R18, the heritage-inspired R18 classic, the R18 B and the luxurious R18 Transcontinental.

                  • Power Output: 91 hp, 116 lb-ft
                  • Top Speed: 111 mph-plus
                  • Starting Price: $14,995

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                    bmw r ninet motorcycle parked in front of a brick wall

                    Joerg KuenstleJoerg Kuenste

                    BMW RnineT

                    The RnineT is BMW’s retro-styled standard roadster with an air-cooled two-cylinder boxer engine which debuted in 2014. It’s designed to be a canvas for the buyer to customize. It comes in four versions: the RnineT, the RnineT Scrambler, the RnineT Urban G/S and the stripped-down RnineT Pure.

                    • Power Output: 109 hp, 85.5 lb-ft
                    • Top Speed: 124 mph plus
                    • Starting Price: $10,995

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                      bmw g 310 r motorcycle in a garage with dirt kicked up in the air


                      BMW G 310 R

                      The G 310 R is the more urban-oriented of the single-cylinder entry-level bikes, has already attracted a wide-ranging audience from new riders to custom builders. With a low center of gravity that’s been shifted towards the front wheel by rotating the cylinder head 180 degrees (thus giving the whole cylinder a rearward tilt) and a fully-fueled weight shy of 350 pounds, it offers an engaging riding experience that novices and veterans can both enjoy.

                      • Power Output: 34 hp, 20.6 lb-ft
                      • Top Speed: 88 mph
                      • Starting Price: $4,995

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                        bmw f 900 riding around a corner with rocks in the background


                        BMW F 900 R

                        The F 900 R is BMW’s barebones naked roadster that debuted for the 2020 model year with a compact and athletic look. It was designed to be a comprehensive upgrade and more fun than its predecessor, the F 800 R.

                        • Power Output: 99 hp, 67 lb-ft
                        • Top Speed: 124 mph-plus
                        • Starting Price: $8,995

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                          bmw s 1000 r motorcycle parked on an airplane tarmac


                          BMW S 1000 R

                          The S 1000 R is just shy of being a full-blown sport bike. It’s an enthralling, stripped-down piece of machinery that somehow remains comfortable enough for commuting. It notably comes standard with Gear Shift Assist Pro, which lets you skip the hassle of engaging the clutch when ratcheting off shifts at full tilt.

                          • Power Output: 165 hp, 94 lb-ft
                          • Top Speed: 124 mph-plus
                          • Starting Price: $13,945

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                            bmw r 1250 r roadster riding with mountains in the background

                            Joerg Kuenstle

                            BMW R 1250 R

                            The R 1250 R is BMW’s largest roadster which debuted for the 2020 model year. It packs the company’s newest Boxer in its frame, which delivers rich, torquey power no matter your riding style.

                            • Power Output: 136 hp, 105 lb-ft
                            • Top Speed: 125 mph-plus
                            • Starting Price: $14,995

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                              bmw k 1600 b motorcycle parked on tarmac in front of a mountain

                              Joerg Kuenstle

                              BMW K 1600

                              When you think of BMW motorcycles, you don’t think of baggers. But the K 1600 B makes a statement with its six-cylinder engine, low-slung silhouette and incredible road presence. It comes in five versions: the K 1600 B, the K 1600 B Option 719 midnight, the K 1600 Grand America, the K 1600 GT and the K 1600 GTL

                              • Power Output: 160 hp, 132.7 lb-ft
                              • Top Speed: 120-plus mph (without floorboards)
                              • Starting Price: $22,545

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                                bmw r 1250 rt motorcyle parked on cracked tarmac


                                BMW R 1250 RT

                                The R 1250 RT boasts a twin-cylinder boxer making 136 hp and 105 lb-ft and makes use of a new variable camshaft control system dubbed “BMW ShiftCam” that gives access to more torque across the powerband by using variable valve timing. On a big bike like this, that’s exactly what riders are looking for: ease of riding, comfort, and doing the long rides in style.

                                • Power Output: 136 hp, 105 lb-ft
                                • Top Speed: 124-plus mph
                                • Starting Price: $19,695

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                                  bmw s 1000 r motorcycle being driven hard around a corner on track


                                  BMW S 1000 RR

                                  The S 1000 RR is BMW’s sport bike. It was initially a homologation special to race in World Superbike before becoming a production model. It was reengineered in 2019 to be even faster, lighter and nuttier than the previous version, with more than 200 hp and a bonkers 14,500 RPM red line.

                                  • Power Output: 205 hp, 83 lb-ft
                                  • Top Speed: 185 mph
                                  • Starting Price: $16,995
                                    bmw m 1000 rr

                                    Fabian Kirchbauer

                                    BMW M 1000 RR

                                    The M 1000 RR is the first Motorrad product to earn the fabled M badge found on BMW’s high-performance cars. And the extensively upgraded S 1000 RR can hit speeds well beyond what those cars are electronically limited to. It also comes in a special “50 Years M” Edition.

                                    • Power Output: 205 hp, 83 lb-ft
                                    • Top Speed: 189 mph
                                    • Starting Price: $32,995

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                                      bmw r 1250 rs motorcycle parked on a country road overlooking a mountain

                                      Joerg Kuenstle

                                      BMW R 1250 RS

                                      There’s also the R 1250 RS, which is a sport touring bike that Beemer categorizes closer to the former than the latter; big, stylish and capable, it’s a well-rounded bike packing the company’s new air-cooled Boxer engine.

                                      • Power Output: 136 hp, 105 lb-ft
                                      • Top Speed: 125 mph-plus
                                      • Starting Price: $15,695

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