BMW R32 – the “great-grandfather” of modern bikes, without which they could not exist

BMW R32 – this historically important motorcycle exhibit, so to speak, became, as it were, the progenitor of the motorcycle history of the well-known BMW company. After all, it was after it became a sensation at the 1923 Paris Motor Show that the success and quality of the famous brand’s motorcycles began. Therefore, in this post we will pay all attention to it. Why not?

The first BMW motorcycle – R32, was created in just a month !!!, and it was in such a timeframe that the talented engineer Max Fritz invested in the distant 1923. But this would not have happened if after the First World History had not made a sharp turn, the Versailles Peace Agreement had not appeared, perhaps there would have been no BMW brand, no boxer engines, no rear wheel drive by a shaft … but you never know what else. Keeping the dream of heaven in his heart, Fritz stood behind the drawing board and in a month created a motorcycle from scratch !!!!!


Road bike / 1923/122 kg / 494 cm³ / 8.5 hp

Max Fritz made a transmission to the rear wheel with a propeller shaft, a refined duplex steel frame, like a gas tank held by an invisible force of magnets, a compact boxer turned across. Of course, it was not the engineer himself who invented the concept of the boxer motor, but it was he who created this 494-cc “square” motor (the diameter and stroke of the piston is 68 mm). He turned it across in the frame, he also placed the crankshaft and the gearbox with shafts (in a single block, by the way) parallel to the longitudinal axis of the apparatus, he also decided to transmit torque to the rear wheel with a shaft.

BMW R32 04

The BMW R32 ignition key, which is familiar to a modern driver, does not have an ignition key on the left handlebar: we set the ignition timing with the lever on the left handlebar, check if the gear shift lever on the right side of the gas tank is in the neutral position, open the fuel supply valve, fold the chrome kickstarter foot and literally with a couple of clicks you can start the engine, no matter how old it is. The professionalism of the engineer and those who assembled it makes itself felt.


The sound – the shot of the short mufflers ending under the footpegs – is great. And not only with its timbre, but also with its clarity. The boxer engine is as crisp as no other. The flashes go exactly one after one at intervals set by the same Max Fritz.

BMW R32 05

The saddle has a tricky two-coil spring, which seems to be even a little with a margin. But if you take into account the fact that there is no trace of the rear suspension, one hundred percent “cracker”, then the stock is, oh, how you need it.

Ha, and the throttle stick is not on the motorcycle at all – it appeared four years later. There are two shifters on the right side of the steering wheel. One is responsible for the amount of the mixture supplied, the second for the volume of air consumed by the engine. If you start the “BMVshka” and then begin to move the upper one a couple of centimeters to the left, the engine speed grows, let go of the clutch lever, the R32 shudders and tries to move, but the engine starts to get a little feverish. The very moment when it’s time to connect the second shifter.

1923 BMW R32

A short movement, the rpm stabilizes and increases, the motorcycle starts off. The speed increases gradually, and at some point the flow of air and fuel becomes insufficient for further acceleration: the speedometer needle freezes at one of the marks. But after that, the real delicate work begins. To accelerate, you need to very accurately manipulate the shifters, “tossing into the firebox” the required volume of the mixture, and even in the right proportion. Slightly mistaken – the engine is rapidly trying to “choke”, convulsively backtracking – you lose the pace. There are only three gears, while they are quite stretched, because the maximum speed of the R32 is almost 95 km / h !!!! This is quite a lot for 1923! There is gunpowder in the flasks.

1925 BMW R32

But, probably, in our time, with such control, few drivers would cope. After all, the management of these “shifters” is a delicate matter. Try to guess exactly how much “great-grandfather” needs. I would definitely get lost at first. But everything will come with experience!))))) It’s a pity that there is no “old man” at hand.

By the way, to stop, you need to press the rear brake pedal, and since the rear brake mechanism is a rim screwed to the spokes, against the walls of which a brake shoe with wooden (!) Linings is pressed, you can wait for a stop in the morning. So the front drum brake has to be applied as well. Its design for those years is quite progressive for itself, and with some improvements, such cable-driven brake drums survived almost to the end of the 70s of the last century. And the braking dynamics are surprisingly good … When the speed starts to fall, then you need to turn on neutral! Gather up courage, release the brake, change gear, brake again … That’s not all – again, “walk with the” shifters “.. Being a motorcycle driver in the mid-20s of the last century is a real art!

BMW R32 03

Now about the ride comfort: BMW R32 invites the driver to take a position, slightly bent over the steering wheel, with his back slightly tilted forward. Thus, the driver’s knees and elbows work in tandem with the springs. And if it gets really tight, then you can get up from the saddle. And although the first German autobahn, built by order of Konrad Adenauer, was commissioned in 1932, an experimental two-lane road-transport training road 19.5 kilometers long in Berlin appeared in 1921. This means that the R32, which was born on April 16 1926, there was every chance to rush along this road.

BMW R32 lever fork

The front wheel bounces on bumps, jumps by itself – the process of movement can be controlled only in rare moments when the tire is pressed into the asphalt. But there’s nothing you can do about it: you can’t get more from a lever mechanism with a spring. Although the BMW R32, the great-grandfather of “flat” opposites, can confidently keep a given course, and this course was set by an engineer who was simply a master of his craft: the vector of unswerving forward movement was inscribed into the concept of this motorcycle by Max Fritz back in 1922, when drawing board, the best motorcycle was born, which will give odds to more than one modern bike. And even if he is inferior in dynamic characteristics ………………… .. but he is handsome and you can’t argue with that!

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