Every new model product launch is chock full of information about the presenting company – most of which is not germane to the motorcycle itself. This information is oft ignored, or left on the editing room floor to make room for riding impressions and technical information regarding the motorcycle. With the First Ride Review of BMW’s new R NineT Scrambler in the books, we take a look at a few items of interest from BMW you may not know about the company and the the motorcycles it produces. With BMW celebrating its 100th Birthday, there’s a lot to choose from, but here’s five past and present factoids.
The Rail Zeppelin, or Schienenzeppelin, was powered by BMW’s twelve-cylinder aero-engine. Known as the BMW VI, the 600 horsepower, liquid-cooled V-12 accelerated the Rail Zeppelin to a world speed record for rail cars of 143 mph in June of 1931. Only one example of the Rail Zeppelin was constructed in Germany due to safety concerns. What could go wrong with an open-blade propeller pulling into a crowded train station? When powering contemporary aircraft, the BMW VI set numerous records for speedy long-distance flight.
BMW VI Specs
Between 1929 and 1937 BMW works rider Ernst Jakob Henne established numerous speed records on both two and four wheels. BMW used the two-wheeler records to promote the company as “the fastest motorcycle in the world.” Henne’s last motorcycle speed record of 174 mph, in November 1937, was achieved aboard a 500cc supercharged engine with a streamlined fairing. The record stood for 14 years.
Piloted by Frenchmen, Hubert Auriol, BMW’s new R80 G/S wins the world’s toughest off-road race, the Paris-Dakar Rally, in 1981, the third year of the rally’s existence. BMW would go on to win a hat-trick of Dakar Rally’s in ’83, ’84, and ’85, aboard the R100GS. FYI, the GS in the model’s nomenclature refers to “Gelände/Straße” (off-road/road).
Since its introduction, BMW’s GS models have proven to be the most popular model in the company’s lineup. That changed last year, at least in North America, when the S1000RR outsold the GS. This may not come as a surprise to MO readers, as we’ve chosen the S1000RR numerous times as either Motorcycle of the Year or Sportbike of the Year. It is one of the most versatile sportbikes ever built, and one of the fastest as well. Then again, the GS has won many of our adventure-touring shootouts. Maybe we should shootout one against the other?
According to BMW, R nineT owners are second only to BMW K1600GTL/Exclusive owners in terms of household income ($150k-$175k). That’s a nice tax bracket to be in! Add to that is the fact that 9% of R NineT buyers are first-time motorcyclists with an average age of 53. Basically, men with the wherewithal to afford a mid-life crisis. BMW’s S1000RR boasts ownership from its most ethnically and demographically diverse clientele, while the R NineT boasts the second-most diverse crowd.