BMW R50/2, R60/2, R60US,
R69S, and R69US motorcycles
by Jeff Dean, “The ‘Dean’ of BMW Motorcycle Web Sites”
Lives in Tucson, Arizona
Friend of the Marque (1999)
Prof. Gerhard KnŲchlein BMW Classic Award (2013)
BMW MOA #115, VBMWMO #2 (1972)
MSF Chief Instructor (1994)
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Read a 2014 OTL Article, “A Thoroughly Modern Motorcycle”

The photo above shows my 1967 BMW R60/2, “Weiss,” and Norm Benedum's black 1965 R60/2 parked in front of the octagonal “Hamburger Barn” northwest of Plain, Wisconsin, on county highway N, named after its builder, not the sandwich. Now it is called the Tim Thering Barn.

Various boxer twin BMW motorcycles with Earles front forks (see the diagram near the bottom of this page) were manufactured from 1955 to 1969 in Munich, Germany, by the Bayerische Motoren Werke (BMW Aktiengesellschaft). These included 500cc and 600cc motorcycles designed with various purposes and engine compressions.

Prior to this — from 1951 to 1955 — BMW motorcycles included the 500cc R51/3, the 600cc R67/3, and the high compression 600cc R68. These were exceptionally beautiful boxer-twin motorcycles with exposed drive shafts, 19-inch wheels, plunger rear suspensions, and telescopic front forks. Major changes to BMW motorcycles appeared in 1955.

From 1955 to 1962 BMW motorcycles included the low-compression 500cc R50 and the high-compression 600cc R69. A low compression 600cc R60  (click here for a 1959 R60 road test in a PDF file)  was introduced in 1956. Changes in engine designs resulted in new models produced from 1961 to 1969. These were the low-compression R50/2 and R60/2, as well as the high-compression R69S. Most owners refer to all of the above models as “slash-2” models, though this is technically incorrect.

For two years only, 1968 and 1969, special models with telescopic forks (later used on the slash-5 series of BMWs) were built for the U. S. market. They replicated the same three boxer engines and were known as the R50US, R60US, and R69US.

All these motorcycles came with distinctive pinstripes, usually — but not always — white on black. I could not find dimensions in the literature so I went to the source. Measuring the pinstripes on the original paint on the gasoline tank on the white R60/2, second photo below, I came up with these width dimensions. The top wide stripe is 6mm or approximately 3/16 inch wide. The space between the stripes is 3mm or approximately 3/32 inch wide. The narrow bottom stripe is 2mm or approximately 1/16 inch wide. Because pinstripes were hand painted, these widths are a starting point, but always are somewhat variable.

All of these motorcycles were manufactured with 6-volt, 60-watt electrical systems plus magentos that powered the spark plugs. A 12-volt, 200-watt conversion that preserves the magneto is now available, as noted below.

Many of these BMW boxer motorcycles are illustrated below.

Left photo above: March 2009 — Jim Strang, me, Tim Stafford, and Craig Littlefield with four slash-2s in Tubac, Arizona; all still running great! — Photo by Deryle Mehrten. Right photo: Photograph in 1967 of me on my first BMW. — Photo by Jill Weber Dean

My very first real motorcycle was a year-old 1966 R60/2, which you see me riding above, right, in 1967. Being sentimental, this is the reason I love R60/2s. (Click here to see pages from the 1965 BMW motorcycle brochure .) That bike had Enduro saddlebags, the optional wide dual saddle, and a handlebar fairing on unknown origin. (This was long before I learned about correct riding gear and became a Motorcycle Safety Foundation Chief Instructor, now RiderCoach Trainer.) I became enamored of BMW twins when I was an undergraduate student in Wisconsin and saw an upperclassman riding around campus on an elegant, quiet, black motorcycle. I had no idea then what I was looking at, and didn't find out what it was until I was in graduate school in Connecticut. There, in New Haven, I discovered Libby's Sales and Service, purveyors of Vespas and Yamahas, and something called "BMW." It took me several years before I could gather enough money to afford a used BMW, which I bought privately from a man in Oakfield, Wisconsin.

In 1966, a new BMW R60/2 cost $1,288 ($8,980 in 2011 dollars). An R50/2 cost $1,138 ($7,950 in 2011) and an R69S cost $1,564 ($10,900 in 2011 dollars).

Here is the famous 1965 BMW motorcycles “happy for a lifetime” advertisement.

Some 40 years later (photo above, left) the color of my hair has changed but I have not lost my affection for — and delight in — riding the venerable R60/2. Whenever I ride a motorcycle, however, I always wear full riding gear, including ¾ or full face helmet, boots, gloves, and riding jacket.

Above, the left bike is a “Granada red” R60/2 built Feb. 9, 1967, and fully restored in 2006 by Tim Stafford. This color was available originally on special order from the factory. The motorcycle on the right is BMW's standard “Avus black” with white pinstriping. Granada red continued to be used by BMW for its new slash-5 series models, which were introduced for the 1970 model year.

The photo to the right shows a “Dover white” 1967 R60/2 with Craven's Golden Arrow panniers and BMW's slash-2 tank bag. In the world of vintage motorcycles, originality is important. On this bike, everything, even the fuel petcocks and white rubber timing-hole cover, is original. Parts that are commonly chromed, such as the air-cleaner housing and hubcaps, have been left untouched.

This R60/2 received an invisible 12-volt, 200-watt conversion from Bench Mark Works, Sturgis, Mississippi, and can now run a much brighter headlight and 12-volt accessories.


Dover white 1967 BMW R60/2

Why the "Dover white" color? Michael Bondy, of BMW importer Butler & Smith, sent BMW a can of that color paint,which was used on his 1942 Packard, and BMW duplicated it. He then ordered 50 motorcycles in that color.

In modern terms, the Dover white paint color is GM paint code #059, 1980 General Motors frost beige (PPG #3087). I walked into a Sherwin Williams paint store recently and told them about #059. Within minutes, the proprietor handed me a half pint of what we call Dover white as touch up paint. On the can, it was labeled “frost beige!” It is a perfect match.

The photo below shows Craven Golden Arrow panniers on my Granada red 1967 R60/2. Granada red was a special-order color available in the 1960s because BMW cars were available in that color. The Cravens' paint was color matched to the motorcycle.

Dominican blue was another special color, shown in an R50/2 built Oct. 8, 1968, (photo above). The paint on this bike is original, except that the tank has been repainted.

In addition to these colors, I recall seeing a light gray and a medium green, both with white pinstriping, around BMW motorcycle showrooms in the 1960s. Motorcycles then could be specially ordered in any colors BMW offered to its car owners.


Dover white 1967 BMW R60/2

The R60/2 to the left, built Sept. 20, 1966, shows BMW's standard black paint and white pinstriping. This motorcycle has Denfeld (not “Denfield”) solo and passenger saddles as well as the optional 6½-gallon (24.6 liter) fuel tank (the standard tank held 4½ gallons or 17 liters).

The air cleaner housing was frequently chromed by owners of these models, as seen here, but was originally painted gray. BMW motorcycles in the 1960s were anything but flashy.

I bought the R60/2 shown above in 1986 in Council Bluffs, Iowa. After storing it in my sun room for nearly half its life, I rolled it out, put a battery and gasoline in it, and fired it up. It ran perfectly. You have to love the old slash-2s!

In 2009, I had Tim Stafford restore my faithful black R60/2, which long ago I had named “Iowa,” because that is where I found her. The photo above was taken in Tucson after the restoration.

“Bristol gray” was another color available on special order. The R69S to the right was displayed at the BMW MOA international rally in West Bend, Wisconsin, in July 2007.


The “turf green” 1969 R69US to the left has its original paint and was on display at the BMW MOA rally in Wisconsin in 2007. This was another color that could be special ordered in the 1960s. This bike is the "US" model, which was an option — in addition to Earles forks — for model years 1968 and 1969 and could be ordered with optional telescopic forks that were then used on the slash-5 series motorcycles that followed.

“Riviera blue” was another color available on special order. The photo to the right is of a beautiful NOS never-sold or ridden 1969 R60US with 4 miles on the odometer that was up for auction in Las Vegas in January 2013. The bid rose to $42,500 but failed to meet the owner's reserve of $47,000 and was not sold. The owner's reserve was much too high. It might have sold at or near $30,000 because of its uniquenss.

Note the side reflectors, front and rear, on the BMW to the right and the green model above. These are absent on the white, black, and gray bikes above and the red 1968 R60US below. BMWs appearing in American show rooms early in 1969 had these reflectors, which were mandated by the Department of Transportation. Bikes sold in 1968 and earlier, both with Earles and telescopic forks, did not have these reflectors.


The BMW to the left is a Dover white 1967 R69S with Earles forks. It was restored impecably in 2008 by Tim Stafford, San Diego.

It has U.S. style handlebars, Hella turn signals, and the 6½-gallon (24.6 liter) sport fuel tank.

With 42 horsepower DIN, the R69S has 40% more horsepower than the R60/2 and 62% more power than an R50/2, which makes a substantial difference felt readily when riding one. It was the desireable 1960s BMW motorcycle, though its elevated price then held back sales.

Telescopic forks for the 600cc and 500cc models were introduced as an option in the United States in 1968. They were then used on the slash-5 series BMWs starting in model year 1970.

The photo to the right is of an original Dover white 1968 R60US that has not undergone restoration. The 1968 models did not have the side reflectors seen in the 1969 blue and green examples above.

This particular motorcycle was, for a time, the personal ride of Floyd "Pop" Dreyer, who opened a BMW dealership in Indianapolis in 1953. “Pop” has been inducted into the AMA's Motorcycle Hall of Fame.


The BMW to the left is a 1969 R69US with telescopic forks.

It has U.S. style handlebars, a 6½-gallon (24.6 liter) sport fuel tank, and the red rear and yellow front small side reflectors characteristic of 1969 models.

With 42 horsepower DIN, the R69US has 40% more horsepower than the R60US and 62% more power than an R50US, which makes a substantial difference felt readily when riding one both in terms of power and vibration.

BMW's intent for its 600cc low-compression motorcycles, such as the R60 and R60/2, was to use them with sidecars.

To the right is a good example: a Dover white R60/2 and Steib sidecar on display at the Barber Museum, near Birmingham, Alabama. This photo was taken by John Harper, of Anniston, Alabama, who, with me, cofounded the Vintage BMW Motorcycle Owners in 1972.


The BMW to the left is a beautiful 1963 R50/2 owned by Vincenzo Gambardella, of Italy. Painted Dover white, it has the stock dual saddle and a custom chromed “parade” tank.

Behind it, of course, is Rome's Colosseum which, built from 70 AD and 80 AD, is over 1,800 years older than the motorcycle parked in front of it.


Here, below, is a brand new Granada red 1968 R60US (telescopic forks) in photos I took in August 1968 at Harder's Sales and Service, Janesville, Wisconsin. This motorcycle has the standard dual saddle, which was the most common on motorcycles delivered to U.S. customers. To see more of these 1968 photos, click here. It had just been unloaded and prepared, and was waiting for a buyer. Unfotunately, I could not afford it at the time.

In special colors like this, as is seen in the photos above, the frame and sheet metal items were painted appropriately, as were the tire pump, center stand, and side stand. Minor items, such as the foot pegs, battery holder, and the spring-loaded cap for the electrical socket behind the battery, were left black.

Above is an R60/2 that was built Dec. 12, 1966. It is in the traditional original black with white pinstriping, with the Wisconsin State Capitol beyond Lake Monona behind it. Craven's Golden Arrow saddlebags, no longer available, are shown as well. This is my personal favorite pre-1970 BMW motorcycle. My first motorcycle was a 1966 R60/2 very similar to this one. Original Albert left side screw-in mirrors, such as this one, with convex glass and reverse threads (to keep the mirror from unscrewing in the wind) are available from Craig Vechorik (search the online store for "mirror left thread"). The bar-end Hella turn signals are still available (on Craig's site above, search for "Hella original").

Above left: The R60/2's speedometer suggests 120 MPH is its limit. Actually, it is less than 90.

What engine oil should I use in my slash-2 motorcycles? Craig Vechorik has answered that question. He recommends straight-weight Valvoline VR1, either 30W or 40W depending on the climate and your usage of the bike. Why? Because modern engine oils have much less Zinc DialkylDithiophosphates or ZDDP, which is a key anti-wear additive for our old BMWs. Despite being referred to as zinc, this additive actually contains zinc and phosphorus, with phosphorus performing the anti-wear function in the motor oil with zinc.

While on this subject, but sure to use GL-4 gear oil in your transmissions and rear drives, not the later GL-5.

Above center: The rear-drive unit holds its own oil reservoir, as does the driveshaft housing, which serves as the right swing arm. Note that the rear springs can be adjusted with a hand-operated lever — no tool needed.

Above right: The triangular front Earles fork (named after its designer, Englishman Ernest Earles) procluded any front-end dive during heavy front braking, which is common with telescopic front forks, and was used from 1955 through 1969. It also worked well in sidecar duty. Though heavy and ponderous in turning, the Earles fork gave the old Beemer a steady and reassuring ride.

Photos above: Craig Howell rides his handsome Dover white 1959 R50 with Enduro saddlebags, which were very popular at that time and the curvaceous design of which fit nicely with such motorcycles. Notice that Craig's helmet is painted and striped to match!

What tires should we use on /2 BMW motorcycles? That question causes endless discussion. Bench Mark Works now recommends the use of universal German Heidenau K34 3.50x18 tires. I mounted them on Weiss in 2012 and they look right (photo above, left, during installation) and work fine.

For the 1969 model year, BMW finally acquiesed to the requirements of the United States Department of Transportation that it include side reflectors, front and rear, on its motorcycles. These motorcycles, which began arriving at U.S. dealers in February of that year, had a decal on the rear (photo above, center) indicating that the motorcycles met U.S. safety standards. The front side reflector then included is seen above, right, and rear side reflectors were located forward of the tail light housing and aft and below the rear fender hinge.

Above: Some of the thirty "slash-2s" on display in the vintage judging area at the BMW MOA international rally in 2007 near West Bend, Wisconsin. The large number of these models demonstrate the strong interest among enthusiasts for preserving vintage BMW motorcycles. Note that while the vast majority of these models came in black with white pinstriping, not all of them did. Here you can see gray, Dover white, Granada red, and turf green.

Right: My 1967 Granada red R60/2, restored by Tim Stafford, at the BMW MOA vintage display. It's not just a “trailer queen” — I rode it to the rally.

It won one of the best slash-2 awards (left).


In the photo below, left, here I am with my wife, Jill, in 1967, posed with our first motorcycle, a 1966 BMW R60/2.

Speaking of Jill, after I dropped battery acid on our kitchen counter, permanently changing its appearance, I decided I wanted sealed, maintenance-free 6-volt batteries for my slash-2 motorcycles. I found an inexpensive 6-volt sealed AGM battery, which is sold for about $30 through Batteries Plus.

I cannot say enough positive about this battery. I have used some for over 10 years, and every one I have ever bought is still working just fine. If you have a BMW /2 that is still 6 volts, you really should use this battery. It uses common 2-prong electrical connectors available from Radio Shack and other sources, allowing easy charging. I even installed one on the flattened battery tray of my R25/3.

In May 1972 (photo above, right) the Madison (WI) BMW Club went on a group outing to Wyalusing State Park in southwestern Wisconsin. Most of the members rode BMW slash-2 motorcycles, and nearly all had handlebar-mounted Wixom Ranger fairings on their motorcycles.

O.k., after all this do you want to know what a "slash-2" really is? Here is the answer by BMW guru Duane Ausherman.

Details for slash-2s — below, left to right. Hella bar-end turn signals are the way to go for 1955-1969 BMW motorcycles and are readily available here. The left-tread rear-view mirror that screws into the clutch perch was unavailable for many years, but has been brought back by Craig Vechorik (search the online store for mirror left thread Albert). There is no screw-in on the right perch, so the best option is the Albert headlight mount (search on the previous link for Albert headlight mirror right side). Similar Bumm mirrors are also available but are inferior in that they use flat glass rather than convex glass, as on Albert mirrors; this limits your vision and increases apparent mirror vibration.

Below, left to right. (1) For the 1969 model year only slash-2s came with red generator indicator lights on the headlight. (2) Slash-2s all came with tire pumps. Standard black models came with black pumps, which are available from Craig Vechorik, and other colors came with color-matched pumps. (3) All slash-2 motorcycles came with white timing-hole plugs, not black as commonly seen today. Original fuel line was light gray, as seen here. (4) Below, right is Bob Van Farowe's (2792 24th Ave., Hudsonville, MI 49426; tel. 616-896-8469) excellent sidestand mounted on an R60/2.

After you have invested significant change in restoring your vintage BMW, I have been asked how do you protect the centerstand? Good question. What I have done is used vinyl tubes available from a hardware store or Home Depot and slid them on to the stands (photos below). It has worked fine, thought those living in humid climates might want to keep a watchful eye on them.

Some riders find the solo Denfeld or Pagusa saddles a little hard on their rear ends during a long ride. There is a remedy for them. Alaska Leather (1-877-562-2324) offers sheepskin “Buttpads” to fit these saddles (photo delow). Be sure to ask for the owner, Barbara Smart, because she knows all about these saddles.


Barbara Smart, Alaska Leather


Right: BMW again offers a tank bag for slash-2 motorcycles. Available from any BMW motorcycle dealer, this bag fits on any slash-2, but has a wonderful cut out for the top tool box on the larger slash-2 tank.

As you can see in the photo, unzip one side and the top of the bag flops sideways to allow easy access to this tool box.



Left: The R60/2 and R50/2 speedometers (left, above) have no tachometer, but have blue shift points on the speedometer at 31 (I), 48 (II), and 67 MPH (III).

The shift points of an R69S (left, below) are at 38 (I), 60 (II), and 85 MPH (III).

The 500-page slash-2 restoration and service manual to the left, by Christopher and Barbara Betjemann of Barrington Motor Works, is the finest and most complete book ever published on servicing and restoring these motorcycles.

Here is a review of this book.

You can order it here — Barrington Motor Works Manual Order Page

It may be an expensive book, but do not touch your slash-2 unless you have it by your side!


Click on the instruction manual image to the right to access the complete 1966 BMW motorcycle owners manual.

Now I have learned that several of my slash-2s have "notchy" original steering head bearings — a well-known problem with these bikes after long use. A good indicator of this problem is that the front end "hunts" at about 30 MPH (50 km/h). Another check is to unload the front wheel and turn it slowly through the center; you will feel a slight or not-so-slight "notch" where the wheel wants to stay straight. The solution is to replace the original bearings with tapered steering head bearings, which are available from Bench Mark Works. Duane Ausherman explains it all nicely on this web page. His excellent illustration shows the replacement with tapered bearings and all the parts of the assembly (photo below, right):

I was advised by Duane and Vech that a mechanical neophyte can do this, so I gave give it a go, because several of my R60/2s are in need of this repair. A friend and I tackled this task on my white R60/2. It took us ten hours to finish the job, but the results were worth it. The bike, which used to "hunt" at about 30 MPH, became rock steady at all speeds. You have to remove the top plate and the headlight nacelle, including disconnecting wires from the switch plate. You have to drop the front fork from the frame and remove the original bearings. The latter task confounded us the most, and I went to Sears to get a long enough drift punch to drive the original races out. To help install the new tapered races, I froze them and used a heat gun to heat up the cups that would hold them. I needed more pressure to seat them, so I built a bearings seater with parts from Ace Hardware that used the old races to press the new races into place. Getting the correct amount of torque on the new bearings was "iffy." It took several adjustments before things were right.

Most slash-2s have clutch perches with a reverse-thread hole for an Albert rear-view mirror. You can see the mirror in some of the photos near the top of this page. A common problem is that the threads in this hole get stripped because the mirror's lock nut is over tightened repeatedly. There is a solution, the parts of which are seen in the photo above, left. These parts are available from Bench Mark Works and include a reverse-thread insert for the mirror's threads and a tap. Also needed is a 25/64" drill. You drill out the hole, tap it, and screw in the insert with permanent Loctite. This fix has worked for me.

One of the more serious maintenance issues for slash-2s are the famous — or infamous — oil slingers. Daryl Richman's excellent web page on oil slingers explains their function as follows: “In a slinger oiling system, the oil is pumped into the main bearings at either end of the crankshaft, and is then captured on the inner side of the bearing by the slingers, which centrifuge the oil and then direct it into the hollow crankpins. From there, the oil leaks out through laterally drilled holes, oiling the connecting rod big end roller bearings and being flung around the inside of the crankcase, which serves to oil the connecting rod small ends, the piston skirts, the camshaft and the valve train.” Got it? All those fortunate enough to own and ride slash-2s will have to deal with these sooner or later.

What is it?

First is it an R69, R50S, or R69S or a low-compression R50 or R60? That's easy to see. The R69, R50S, and R69S all have two-fin valve covers (photo below, left). The R50, R50/2, R60, and R60/2 all have six-fin valve covers (photo below, right). The same holds true for the earlier R68 (two-fins) and R51/3, R67, R67/2, and R67/3 (six fins).

Now, let's say you see a slash-2 BMW motorcycle with six-fin valve covers. You know right away it is not an R69 or R69S. But is the bike you see a 500cc R50 or R50/2, or is it a 600cc R60 or R60/2. You can look at the ID tag on the head and read it, but it is not always there. Or you could read the engine or frame number and consult the handy serial numbers list you always carry in your pocket. But there is a much easier way. Just look at the front of one of the iron cylinders. If there are nine fins are they are pointed, it is a 600cc model (photo below left). If there are eight smaller fins and they are are round, it is a 500cc model (photo below, right). Mystery solved.

To review a list of all BMW engine and chassis numbers for motorcycles produced from 1923 through 1969, including all the “slash-2” models, click here.

I am often asked, “When was my slash-2 made?” You cannot tell anything from the date on the title, because back then titles were dated when the bike was sold. Thus, a bike made in 1964 but sold in 1967 would seem to be a 1967 bike according to the title. Wrong. So, how can you tell? Simple. Send an email with your engine/frame number to Andreas Harz at the BMW Archives in Germany and ask him. English is no problem for Andreas. Usually he can give you the date it was built and where and when it was delivered.


Here is an R69S engine. Notice the so-called “ugly gap.” Isn't it cool?

Above: During the 1960s, authors of BMW road tests conducted by the Los-Angeles-based “national” monthly motorcycle magazines would often decry what they called the “ugly gap” between the top of the boxer's engine and the bottom of the gas tank. Why they thought it was ugly probably resulted from their personal predilections for chain-driven vertical twins and V-twins, which had no such gap. I thought such comments simply resulted from the author's personal prejudices and had nothing whatsoever to do with the quality or performance of those BMW motorcycles and, therefore, had no place in a so-called road test. There is no accounting for taste. Besides, I always liked the nefarious “gap” and felt the vertical and V twins looked rather cluttered and opaque.

The vast majority of "slash-2" (a common term that is not technically correct) BMW motorcycles were built at the factory in Munich. However, in the late 1960s, production was moved incrementally to Berlin. The photo above shows the very first motorcycle produced in Berlin — an R60/2. By 1969, all BMW motorcycles were manufactured in Berlin, and they still are today.



On December 5, 1951, Ernest Richard George Earles applied for a patent on "Motor Cycle Front Wheel Forks." Below is a copy of page four of his patent for the forks, now known as Earles Forks. It is Earles' own diagram of his concept. Click on the image below to see the full four-page text of his patent application.

R60/2


1955ó1969 BMW Motorcycle
Boxer-Twin Engine Numbers
1955 — 1960     R50550 001 — 563 515
1960 — 1969     R50/2 & R50US630001 — 649 037
1960 — 1962     R50S564 005 — 565 639
1955 — 1960     R60 618 001 — 621 530
1960 — 1966     R60/2622 001 — 629 999
1966 — 1969     R60/2 & R60US1 810 001 — 1 819 307
1956 — 1960     R69652 001 — 654 955
1960 — 1969     R69S & R69US655 004 — 666 320


Click here for the complete 1966 R50/2-R60/2-R69S motorcycle owner's manual

Click here to see a MotorCycle road test of the 1955 R50

Click here to see pages from the 1965 BMW motorcycle brochure

Click here to see original 1968 photos of 1968 BMWs

Click here to read the comprehensive Citizendium R60/2 page

Hier klicken, um den R50 Wikipedia Artikel auf Deutsch zu lesen.

Click here to read “Technical Data” pages from the 1967 owners manual

Click here to read English R60/2 specifications from BMW A.G., Munich, Germany.

Click here for a speedometer ratio test form