BMW is perhaps best known as a luxury car manufacturer. However, the German brand also has an impressive collection of motorcycles. Here are 5 of the fastest bikes that BMW has produced in its 101 years of business.
1. BMW Type 255 Kompressor
Shortly after creating their first motorcycle, BMW engineers began working on a competitive product for the prestigious Isle of Man TT motorcycle races (a yearly motorcycle race once recognized as the “most distinguished motorcycle event in the world” in the UK). In the mid-1930s, the RS 255 Kompressor became a championship-winning bike, claiming victories for Georg Meier and Walter Zeller. The modern supercharger Zoller for the Kompressor gave the engine maximum output of 80 horsepower from 492.6 cc, although the bikes were often tuned for races to ensure reliability.
Initial BMW riders found the Kompressor challenging to handle, and a rear suspension was added to the model in 1937 to address most of those issues. The result was that Meier won the Isle of Man TT in 1939 on the Kompressor. The BMW Type 255 Kompressor had a top speed of 225 km/h, an impressive number at the time, and continued to be produced until 1939 when WWII disrupted much of Germany’s industry.
2. BMW S1000RR
The S1000RR was introduced by BMW in 2009 as the brand wanted to make a comeback in competitive racing, including the World Superbike championship. The S1000RR was designed as a race bike, but BMW needed to sell 1,000 units to consumers for the bike to be eligible for World Superbike races. It hit the consumer market in 2009 with a 193 horsepower engine, traction control, and ABS. The model is still being produced and is in its fourth generation, with updates in 2012, 2015, and 2019. The 2024 version features a 205 horsepower engine capable of reaching a top speed of 302 km/h. To control all that power, the S1000RR also has advanced electronic safety features, including traction control and brake assist.
3. BMW R90S
In the early 1970s, BMW’s reputation in the motorcycle field was declining from its glorious days, with motorcycle sales dropping to as low as 10,000 units annually. The introduction of the R90S quickly changed that with a high-torque 900 cc engine and high compression. The R90S reached a top speed of 200 km/h and immediately found success on the racetrack, securing first and second positions in the inaugural Superbike race. It stayed in production until 1976 before being replaced by the R100S.
4. BMW HP4 Race
When it comes to pure speed and power, few motorcycles from any manufacturer can match the BMW HP4 Race. This sleek bike uses a carbon fiber and titanium construction to keep its weight at 146 kg (about 322 pounds) and a 999 cc four-cylinder engine producing 215 horsepower that can propel the BMW HP4 Race to insane speeds of almost 305 km/h. The BMW HP4 Race is designed for the racetrack, but BMW engineers still tried to create a machine that is both sophisticated and powerful. Only 750 HP4 Race bikes were produced.
5. BMW K1600GTL
The BMW K1600GTL grand touring bike was first introduced in 2011 with a 6-cylinder, 1,649 cc engine. This engine is even larger than some car engines, and the K1600GTL is still being produced today. The 2024 version produces 160 horsepower and 132.7 pound-feet of torque, allowing this 360 kg (about 793 pounds) bike to reach a top speed of over 193 km/h. Pillion riders will enjoy a luxurious perch with a high backrest and armrests, and they can upgrade to newer models with modern accessories like BMW’s GPS Navigator, keyless ride, and central locking.
Greg Drevenstedt of Rider Magazine had the opportunity to road test the K1600GTL on a long ride and was impressed by the bike’s comfort, luxury features, and performance. He shared, “The link between the right grip and rear wheel, combined with an exhaust note like mortar rounds being fired, can make for a thrilling ride for speed freaks.”