Red BMW “Boxer” Motorcycles from 1968 On
by Jeff Dean
Tucson, Arizona, and Madison, Wisconsin.

Today is

1968 R60US

Since 1967, when I first started riding BMW motorcycles, I have found red BMWs especially attractive. The first time I ever saw a red BMW was in 1968, when a new R60US was for sale. I took the photos of the BMW twin in 1968 at Harder's Sales and Service, Janesville, Wisconsin, of a brand new BMW shaft-drive, opposed-twin, or “Boxer,” motorcycle waiting to be sold. It had telescopic forks, which I learned later came only on “US” 1968 and 1969 models. The Granada red motorcycle I saw that day was a 1968 R60US that had just arrived at the dealer and was awaiting a buyer. Alas, I could not afford it at that time.

As you can see in the photos, the following minor elements were painted a matching red: tire pump, center stand, and sidestand. The following minor parts were left the standard black: foot pegs, battery holder, and rear brake lever.

 

Note the old 1960s cars in the background of the left photo below. It was 1968!

 




1967 R60/2

The BMW R60/2 engine offered 30 HP, and a kick starter for its 594cc capacity, and its torque is 36 lb-ft. It weighed 429 pounds with its stock 4.5 gallon gas tank full. An optional 6.5 gallon tank was offered that when full, brought that weight to about 450 pounds. The top speed was listed as 90 MPH, but you had to work at it to get it there. A tummy down on the tank, tail wind, and downward slope were great helps. Of course, the R60/2 had distinctive Earles front torks. In spite of its limitations, the R60/2 is a joy to ride and I would not be without one or three.

In January 2006, I met Tim Stafford at the MidAmerican motorcycle auction in Las Vegas, Nevada, where he was auctioning off the most beautifully restored BMWs I had ever seen. Tim, who works out of San Diego, does exquisite restorations of BMW motorcycles. I since have heard his restorations represent the “gold standard” of BMW motorcycle restorations.

I wanted a Granada red R60/2 but neither Tim nor I had the formula for that color paint. So how to get orignal paint to match was a conundrum. We decided to use the gas tank of the R75/5, shown in the segment below, as the basis for a match because it was the original paint from BMW. I sent Tiim the tank and he removed the chrome panels to access to see matching original paint that had never been exposed to sunlight. That is the color of paint he used for my R60/2, now named Scarlett.

 

Above left: Scarlett next to Lake Monona, Madison, Wisconsin, with the white dome of the Wisconsin State Capitol across the late in the distance. Above right: Scarlett on the Merrimac ferry crossing the Wisconsin River.

Below left: Here is Tim Stafford riding Scarlett in 2009 in Tubac, Arizona. Below right : Wherever scarlett goes among gatherings of motorcycle fans she draws a crowd. Here she is at the Slimy Crud in 2007 in Wisconsin.

 

Left below: Scarlett at Iron Horse Motorcycles, Tucson, Arizona, with owner John Cartwright standing behind. Right below: that is me with Scarlett near Cambridge, Wisconsin. It in interesting how the red color seems to change with different lighting. But it is the same bike. The right photos below and above are more accurate renditions of the color.

 




1973 R75/5 (1970 to 1973)

The R75/5 engine came with 50 HP and 44 lb-ft of torque and had a electric starter(!). The bike had four gears and the first BMW electric starter. It weighed 452 pounds with 4.5 gallons of gas in its tank. It was alleged to reach 108 MPH.

My first opportunity to acquire a red BMW boxer, was an R75/5. It was a beautiful motorcycle with chrome side panels and white pinstriping. It was thirty years old when I bought it in 2003, and the color was a deep and haunting Granada red, the same color as the 1968 R60US bikes I had seen 35 years earlier. Its red gas tank had a pivitol role to play three years later in the restoration of my 1967 R60/2.

 

The left photo below shows chrome-sides gasoline tank and its pinstriping on this R75/5. The right photo shows the offset boxer cylinders. It is a vi ew that I find especially appealing when riding this motorcycle. Why wasn't the headlight nacelle painted matching red? I do not know.

 




R100RT (1978 to 1994)

The BMW R100RT was introduced in 1978. It was the first touring BMW with a full fairing and stock saddle bags. It stayed in production through 1974. It offered a 5-gears, 70 HP, 56 lb-ft of torque, and weighed 525 with full 5.3 gallon tank. It came with a clock and voltmeter, as well as speedometer and tach, and it could be ordered in Colorado red metallic. The top speed was given as 118 MPH.

The bike was a good step forward for BMW, being with a fairing, windshield, and standard bags. But it had its problems, at least the ones I owned and rode did. The worse thing about it was that the fairing and windshield trapped the engine and ambient heat. It was not a warm-weather bike. This problem was solved with the first "oil-head" model, the R1100RT, which was introduced in 1995 (see next segment). The R100RT was also a vibrator.

 



BMW R1100RT (1995 to 2001)

The R1100RT, and the new R1200RT, handle like sport bikes, aided as they are by the unique telelever front suspension and paralever rear. With the telelever front end, you can brake as hard as you want, and an RT will not dive. I have ridden RTs on Road America, Elkhart Lake, at speeds over 120 mph and rounded tight corners at speeds and lean angles I though would be impossible for a street bike to handle—without ruffling the R1100RT. Unless you are a professional racer, chances are that the RT can ride a lot better on a track than you can. It has ABS (anti-lock braking system) for added safety in foul weather or panic situations (which is why the California Highway Patrol adopted the R1100RT- Ps exclusively). It has fuel injection, four-valve heads, and puts out 90 horsepower. It has a windshield that is electrically adjustable for height with the push of your left thumb. It has standard waterproof saddlebags and an optional top case for great luggage capacity.

BMW introduced on its RT boxer twins in 1995 the Telelever fork, a variant of the earlier British Saxon-Motodd design, wherein an additional swingarm that mounts to the frame and supports the spring. This causes the trail and castor angle (rake) to increase during braking instead of decreasing as with traditional telescopic forks, reducing substantially front end dive when braking. The two fork sliders have no damping, as a central coilover hydraulic damper, supported by an A-frame connected to the engine crankcase, handles that. The Telelever has been used on the all BMW “RT” models to the present day.

The R1100RT has received numerous awards from motorcycle magazines. Cycle World selected the RT as the Best Liter-Class Sport-Tourer in 1998, 1997, and the year it was introduced, 1996. Rider Magazine chose the RT as the Top Liter-Class Sport-Tourer in 1999, 1998, 1997, and 1996. In 1996 the Robb Report named the RT as one of the world's eight best motorcycles. In 2000—somewhat surprisingly—even Motorcyclist named the RT Best Tourer.

 




BMW R1150RT (2001 to 2004)

Revolutionary itself in design when it was introduced in 1995, the fluid lines and advanced technological features of the R1100RT have been retained nicely in its successor, the 2002 R1150RT. But two-pound lighter five-spoke wheels replace the original three-spoke cast wheels. The switches are as those on the R1150GS. The clutch is hydraulic. The headlight design is new for BMW. For the 2004 model year only two spark plugs per cylinder and a maintenance-free gel battery were included; a radio kit was deleted from U.S. motorcycles.

The R1150RT comes with standard brakes that are themselves revolutionary. It has the world’s first power-assisted brakes ever put on a motorcycle. When you activate these brakes, you stop — now! Moreover, they are fully integrated. That is, both brakes are applied fully using either the front brake lever or the rear brake pedal, or both. Advanced ABS prevents the wheels from locking up. These brakes set a new standard far ahead of “normal” motorcycles, and they are going to reduce injuries and save lives.

 



BMW R1200RT (2005 to 2013)

The BMW R1200RT is a touring motorcycle that was introduced in 2005 by BMW Motorrad to replace the R1150RT model. It features a 1,170 cc (71 cu in) flat-twin engine producing 110 bhp at 7500 rpm and 85 foot-pounds of torque at 6000 rpm and a six-speed gearbox and shaft drive. Cruise control, heated hand grips, and Paralever and Telelever suspensions were standard. The standard electrically operated windscreen can be adjusted across a large range of heights. Standard ABS brakes, servo-powered on the 2005 and 2006 models but deleted in 2007 and later, were partially integrated such that the rear brake pedal only applies the rear brake while the front brake lever applies both brakes. Cylinders came with double overhead cams. There were modest changes in styling. For 2013 the R1200RT is unchanged from 2010 to 2012. The only colors available for 2014 are two shades of gray and "ebony metallic."

Left below: I am taking delivery of my 2005 Piedmont red R1200RT at the Milwaukee BMW dealership. Below right: My wife, Jill, on our 2005 R150RT. Red R1200RTs, as shown here, were only offered in 2005 and 2006.

 



2016 R1200RT for the U.K. — Only Across the Pond

The lovely “Candy Burgundy Smoked” R1200RT below was available for 2016, but only in the United Kingdom. I was very disappointed that it was not brought into the United States.

 



BMW R1200RT (2014 to 2018)

The BMW RT, a motorcycle that has defined the classic touring bike segment since 1978 had been completely redesigned — the 2014-2018 BMW R1200RT. The new RT has a new air/water-cooled BMW 1,170cc boxer engine with 92 lb/ft of torque, 125 bhp, and a traction control system ASC. The standard ride modes "Rain" and "Road" can also be activated at the press of a button, to adapt to weather conditions and road surfaces. An on-board computer, an electrically operated windshield, standard color-matched saddle bags, and heated grips are also basic items. Optional equipment for the 2014 RT included semi-active electronic suspension adjustment, and BMW Dynamic ESA, which responds quickly to changing road surfaces, and shift assistant pro that allows the rider to shift up and down without using the clutch or throttle. A central locking system locks both cases by remote control, a radio, a top case, low or high saddles, a tank bag, and cruise control are available. For the 2015 R1200RT model year keyless ignition and a new color, San Marino blue, was introduced. The only change by BMW for the 2016 model year of the R1200RT is in available colors — “Platin bronze metallic” has been added.

There were no red R1200RTs offered by BMW from 2007 through 2017. For 2018, BMW offered a red-orange color, which it inexplicably called Mars red, on a R1200RT with a dark gray panel surrounding the headlight — I call it a nose.

This, coupled with the fact that the U.K.'s red model was not brought to the U.S., drove me to take a drastic step. I had purchased a white 2017 R1200RT (below left), which is a lovely bike, but then looked to me like a blank slate that could become the basis for a genuine red R1200RT. All the white panels could be painted red — using the wonderful and historic Granada red of the R60/2 and R75/5 to create a beautiful and distinctive, possibly unique, 2017 BMW R1200RT. (The red bike in the photo below, right, is not mine but belongs to a rider who is unknown to me.)

In December, 2017, I rode my white bike to Iron Horse Motorcycles, Tucson, Arizona, and commissioned it to do that work. This will complete a circle from the start to the end of this web page.

 

To be continued ...