My design classic is the 1960 BMW R50 motorcycle. Over 50 years old, it still runs like a champ and looks damn fine. From the single style vintage seat, to the little rack on the rear fender and on to the classic Earles front fork design, it’s quite a little monster.
That classic BMW boxer engine clicks and clacks back and forth like some strange, drunken street drummer. Once you learn that BMW was in the business of aircraft engines, it’s easy to see how this background influenced their early motorbike designs. Looking down on the boxer when you’re seated, it looks like you have wings below you. This was an important factor 50 years ago – at the time BMW was a leader on the racing circuit.
I’ve added a few accessories to mine over the past year. Now it sports Hella horns and a Hella spotlight, adding a subtle touch of aged chrome to the bike’s vintage persona. From every angle it truly stands out as a symbol of quality German design and engineering. It’s hard to mistake this bike for anything other than German. Black, with subtle white pinstripes, it’s cold and simple, but full of character all at the same time.
It amazes me to think that it’s 50 years old. The R50 isn’t the fastest, but it can still push close to 140km/h, and goes hundreds of kilometres in a day with little effort. The sound is soft but with a little roar when you push it. You can ride it for five hours and still feel better than after 30 minutes on a Harley. Alongside the R69S, it’s part of a much sought-after generation of BMW boxers. I’m lucky to have one – it’s a legend – and one day I hope to hand it down to my son.
I like to think of this bike as the Futura of motorbikes. Not perfect, but definitely one of the coolest.
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