Are BMW Motorcycles Reliable? [Video] Most Say No

How does BMW rank among motorcycles? The company’s reputation is mixed. It’s been lauded for its innovative designs and technologies. However, it’s also been criticized for lackluster customer service and high prices.

How does a company that’s best known for producing safe, high-quality automobiles manage to be so involved in the world of motorcycles? The answer is simple: They’re very interested in the whole “riding thing.” 

The question is, “Are BMW motorcycles and scooters reliable?

To answer this question, let’s take a look at BMW Motorrad’s history. 

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A Quick View of the History of BMW motorcycles

Bayerische Motoren Werke AG, otherwise known as BMW, started in 1916 in Munich, Germany. BMW is the brainchild of Karl Rapp and Gustav Otto, who produced aircraft engines until the end of World War 1. The Treaty of Versailles effectively ended the abovementioned production and forced BMW to rethink its business. To stay operational, the company began producing small industrial engines, farm equipment, household items, and railway brakes. 

In 1920, they released the BMW M2B15, a gasoline-powered flat twin engine. Several motorcycle manufacturers used this portable industrial engine; an example of this is Victoria’s KR1 and the Helios from Bayerische Flugzeugwerke.

In 1923, BMW released their first motorcycle, the R 32. It had a 486 cc flat-twin gasoline engine which was longitudinally mounted to solve the cooling problem in the transversely mounted engine of the Helios. The R 32 produced 8.5 horsepower, a top speed of 95 to 100 km/h. It was sporting the unique shaft drive, which resulted in a long-lived, clean, and maintenance-free operation. 

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Then in 1925, BMW released the R37, a sporting model. It was primarily based on R 32, except they used a 16 horsepower overhead valve engine. This was followed by the R 39, BMW’s smallest model, with a 250 cc engine. However, due to the lack of demand, it was discontinued in 1927. 

BMW had several iterations of the R series. In 1927, Ernst Henne recorded a top speed of 279.5 km/h on a BMW 500 Kompressor racing motorcycle. This record was unbeaten for 14 years. 

BMW’s Reputation

BMW is known for its technological advances. They are the first companies to develop and produce ABS brakes and electronic suspension systems. 

When BMW unveiled its newest racer, a supercharged boxer twin, many people were startled. In the beginning, the black motorcycle did not appear intimidating, but in the hands of Georg “Schorsch” Meir, then 28, it became an unstoppable force. As a result, they won the European Championship in 1938. A year later, the highly renowned Isle of Man 500cc Senior TT.

BMW is also recognized for its innovation and being forward-thinking. It’s safe to say that the company has a lot to offer. But that doesn’t mean that they’re perfect. 

There’s been much debate regarding the reliability of BMW motorcycles. Fans regard BMW motorcycles as having some of the best build quality. According to them, BMW motorcycles are generally known for being reliable. 

However, there is one thing to keep in mind: there have been many recalls on BMW motorcycles. Visit this website to check the comprehensive list.

Consumer Reports

Bikeshala.com published an article about the Consumer Report survey on the reliability of motorcycles based on brand. The focal point of the survey was to determine the percentage of failure of a motorcycle based on brand (see data below). 

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Motorcycle Reliability by brand

BrandPercent failed
Yamaha/Star11%
Suzuki12%
Honda12%
Kawasaki15%
Victory17%
Harley-Davidson26%
Triumph29%
Ducati33%
BMW40%
Can-Am42%

The data provided in the Consumer Report shows that, along with Can-AM and Ducati, BMW has a high failure percentage, while Japanese manufacturers dominate the most reliable motorcycle brand.

The data is based on a survey of more than 11,000 Consumer Report subscribers. It shows that more than 40% of respondents had at least one major failure within the first four years of ownership of their BMW. This is concerning.

The Truth About BMW Motorcycles

Let me start by saying that no motorcycle is perfect. No matter how great, well-performing, comfortable, or fuel-efficient a motorcycle is, there will always be an issue. 

While some say that the quality of the build and materials are top-notch and that the bike will last for years, one of the chief complaints about BMW motorcycles is that they break down during long rides, their parts and accessories are expensive, and their maintenance is costly.

Reliability is Marred by Customer Reviews.

If you are a motorcycle enthusiast, you are looking for a reliable unit to buy. You want to ensure that it will not break down during a long ride because of a mechanical failure.

According to customer reports, BMW is the most unreliable and overvalued vehicle. And, it requires frequent, extensive, and expensive maintenance to achieve an ideal state of reliability. Otherwise, you may encounter issues such as shaft drive failure, frame damage, and higher-than-normal oil consumption. Assume we take the Consumer Report data seriously. In such an instance, you have a motorcycle with a 40% chance of breaking down within two years of ownership.

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In short, BMW’s reliability is a myth if the actual user experience is the basis. The only reason why this image of reliability persists is that its fan base tends to gloss over these imperfections and consider them “normal.” 

So, if you’re considering buying a BMW motorcycle, you might want to think twice and do some research first. Join Facebook groups, check the forums, and ask a friend or colleague who owns one. The research you do before you buy this brand of motorcycle could be the one to save you from a ton of expenses and headaches in the future.

Thanks for reading. Rife Safe.