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BMW R 32 and BMW R 1200 GS – BMW boxers then and now.

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BMW R 32 and BMW R 1200 GS – BMW boxers then and now.

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BMW R 32 and BMW R 1200 GS – BMW boxers then and now.

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BMW R 32 and BMW R 1200 GS – BMW boxers then and now.

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BMW R 32 and BMW R 1200 GS – BMW boxers then and now.

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BMW R 32 and BMW R 1200 GS – BMW boxers then and now.

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BMW R 32 and BMW R 1200 GS – BMW boxers then and now.

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BMW R 32 and BMW R 1200 GS – BMW boxers then and now.

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BMW R 32 and BMW R 1200 GS – BMW boxers then and now.

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BMW R 32 and BMW R 1200 GS – BMW boxers then and now.

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BMW R 32 and BMW R 1200 GS – BMW boxers then and now.

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BMW R 32 and BMW R 1200 GS – BMW boxers then and now.

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BMW R 32 and BMW R 1200 GS – BMW boxers then and now.

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BMW R 32 and BMW R 1200 GS – BMW boxers then and now.

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BMW R 32 and BMW R 1200 GS – BMW boxers then and now.

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BMW R 32 and BMW R 1200 GS – BMW boxers then and now.

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BMW R 32 and BMW R 1200 GS – BMW boxers then and now.

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BMW R 32 and BMW R 1200 GS – BMW boxers then and now.

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BMW R 32 and BMW R 1200 GS – BMW boxers then and now.

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BMW R 32 and BMW R 1200 GS – BMW boxers then and now.

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BMW R 32 and BMW R 1200 GS – BMW boxers then and now.

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BMW R 32 and BMW R 1200 GS – BMW boxers then and now.

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BMW R 32 and BMW R 1200 GS – BMW boxers then and now.

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BMW R 32 and BMW R 1200 GS – BMW boxers then and now.

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BMW R 32 and BMW R 1200 GS – BMW boxers then and now.

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BMW R 32 and BMW R 1200 GS – BMW boxers then and now.

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BMW R 32 and BMW R 1200 GS – BMW boxers then and now.

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BMW R 32 and BMW R 1200 GS – BMW boxers then and now.

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BMW R 32 and BMW R 1200 GS – BMW boxers then and now.

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BMW R 32 and BMW R 1200 GS – BMW boxers then and now.

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BMW R 32 and BMW R 1200 GS – BMW boxers then and now.

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BMW R 32 and BMW R 1200 GS – BMW boxers then and now.

BMW R 32 and BMW R 1200 GS

BMW boxers then and now

The BMW R 32 and BMW R 1200 GS mark the beginning and the preliminary end of 90 years of motorcycle construction at BMW. How do they feel, how big are the differences? MOTORRAD editors moved from place to place and between the times.

GIn the 1920s, speed was the ideal, pace. More of everything in less time, in all areas of life. When traveling, in music, when dancing, in response to rapidly changing political and economic conditions. The BMW R 32, the first motorcycle with this brand name, was created during this time, two years after the completion of the Berlin Avus, as an expression of this accelerated attitude towards life and parallel to a completely different phenomenon: inflation.

Shifting gears become an exercise in patience

When the boxer hit the market in September 1923, one US dollar was worth 53 million marks; at the height of hyperinflation, on November 15, it was worth 4.2 trillion marks. Also a rapid development. The first BMW R 32s will probably have been paid for in foreign currency, if any were delivered before the currency reform on November 16. After that they cost 2200 Rentenmarks, later Reichsmarks.

Although it comes from a turbulent time – it was delivered to Ravensburg in January 1925 – the BMW R 32 driven by MOTORRAD today radiates anything but hectic. More like the serenity and solidity of a great throw. The boxer with a longitudinal crankshaft was well cooled and already had pressure circulation lubrication and an engine / gear unit when many others were still operating with loss lubrication and open primary drives. The logical continuation of the rotary motion of the engine through the single-disc clutch, the longitudinally installed gearbox and the cardan shaft, which only needs a deflection to the rear wheel – everything was there from the start that would determine the BMW boxers for the next 89 years.

The first work cycles after starting, the old engine beats slowly to count, the setting of the throttle position, the readjustment of the air lever and the ignition timing have to be done with care. Shifting gears become an exercise in patience. Anyone who is used to flicking through the transmission with short movements will have the first shifting ceremonies on the R 32 far too hectic.

With double domes up, with double-declutching down

Ideally, upshifts with double domes and downshifts with double-declutching. It works like this: close the gas and air levers, pull the clutch, slide the gear lever on the right of the tank to intermediate idle, engage and thereby brake the input shaft, pull the clutch again, engage the next higher gear, re-engage, open the gas and air levers and by ear adjust to each other. When shifting down, the input shaft has to be brought up to speed with a throttle in intermediate idle. How does that read awkwardly? As a real action, it is much more cumbersome and, depending on the situation and feeling, is often shortened by simply sliding in the aisles. In happy moments, you can do this without scratching the straight-toothed gears.

BMW R 1200 GS brakes like a landing jet fighter on the catch hook

A few hours earlier, the BMW R 1200 GS had given the lie to its tall travel enduro silhouette on the drive to Munich and had crashed down the autobahn with up to 240 items on the speedometer. And because sprints like this are only short-lived, it was delayed in between like a fighter jet landing on a hook.

The BMW R 32, on the other hand, barely noticeably brakes. Instead of sheer braking power, it relies on the driver’s caution and foresight, who only internalized these obligations after throwing himself down a 15 percent downhill gradient in second gear. That worked out just fine in front of a herd of cows lurching home. The 1925 R-32 already has a half-hub front brake. The first models were only decelerated by the brake ring, which was clamped into the spokes of the rear wheel and two hard rubber blocks pressed into the groove. One operated by an inner cable hand lever at the front, the other operated by a heel brake pedal. It was still there in 1925 and still works today, but even a strong kick reveals only a slight bump in the height of the brake ring. Later BMW models were braked more effectively using a disc on the cardan shaft.

Another fascination with both the new BMW R 1200 GS and the two BMW R 32s is the mixture preparation and engine management. Regardless, we still talk about the R 1200 GS turning on the ignition with a turn of the key. As if it were just that! In truth, an entire control center is activated that measures air pressure, air and engine temperature, recognizes the position of the camshafts, starts the fuel pump, puts the injection and ignition coils on standby, checks the function of all electronics including ABS, ASR and ESA and the The electric starter can only work when the side stand is folded up and idling is engaged or at least the clutch is pulled. The engine always starts immediately. Depending on the respective conditions, the control center ensures the correct ignition point and the correct injection quantity. The daytime running lights come on automatically, as does the low beam, but only when it gets dark.

BMW R 32 with rear light only for an extra charge

The BMW R 32 was only given a rear light at an extra charge and leaves everything to its driver. Even gasoline and air supply, which in later carburetors are regulated synchronously via the idle nozzle, needle nozzle, nozzle needle and main nozzle, have to be readjusted individually and continuously. The ignition point, which knows only a fine line between optimal performance and piston destructive ringing, is literally in the hands of the driver. When driving on the old lady you are all ears. Is the engine ringing? Does he scoff for walking too fat? Doesn’t the singing of the bevel gears in the rear axle drive get louder after all? Quite demanding to have to play the control and diagnostic device yourself.

8.5 PS, 120 kilograms, over 80 km / h

The side valve boxer has an output of 8.5 hp, which doesn’t sound like much. Nevertheless, it easily brings the 120 kilogram motorcycle to over 80 km / h. For this you can use the stable chassis with its thick frame tubes. Only be careful with bumps. At the rear nothing springs except the tire and the elasticity of the rim / spoke assembly, at the front a drawn short swing arm, which is supported by a linkage on a leaf spring package, springs. If it hits through, the steering is alarmed; if you want to ride hearty slopes, you need curves with connoisseur asphalt (which hardly existed back then). The BMW R 32 can draw its lines safely and sweeping. Nevertheless, it was not without reason that its chassis was still good for the 750 R-63 from 1928, which is almost three times as powerful.

In the 1920s, the chassis of the BMW R 1200 GS would probably have been a guarantee for victories in the entire racing program, from off-road driving to road races to speed records. Here and now it has such an effect that the GS is significantly more agile than its only half as heavy ancestor when swinging corners – who’s surprising – and confidently will go away all the bumps that get it going. Nevertheless, the three of MOTORRAD – workshop manager Gerry Wagner, photographer Gargolov and the author – said goodbye to the BMW R 32 with a heavy heart. Because it enables historical source study in a very dynamic way. Just as it was typical for its time.

23 Pictures

Images: BMW R 32 and BMW R 1200 GS

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BMW R 32 in "The motorcycle"

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Images: BMW R 32 and BMW R 1200 GS

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"The 500 cc BMW wheel"

The type designation of the R 32 had actually been known since October 1923, when the machine was presented at the Paris Motor Show. But for the colleagues from back then it was simply “the BMW bike” or, as mentioned in the headline, “the 500 cc BMW bike”. At the beginning of 1926 this was no longer a precise name, because BMW had already brought the BMW R 37 onto the market the year before and since the end of 1925 had also been offering the R 42 shown on the front page in parallel to the BMW R 32. It can be recognized by the changed ribbing of the cylinders and cylinder heads and its engine is the further development of the boxer shown in the illustration below on the left.


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No test, but a detailed description of the BMW R 32 was in "The motorcycle", Edition 6/1926.

All three had a displacement of 494 cm³, but in contrast to the two side valves, the R 37 had an ohv engine with 16 hp. This early production racer cost 2900 Reichsmarks, 700 marks more than the R 32, and it was only built 152 times. To make it easier to differentiate, the anonymous author of “Das Motorrad” called the R 37 “the sports model”. The pointedly neutral article only donates cautious praise in connection with the cardan drive of the BMW first model: “With this type of drive, the service life of which is almost unlimited with normal use of the bike, all the annoying chain and belt difficulties that the Motorcycles are exposed to such a high degree. "

Tests or exams, as they were called in the 1930s, were not common in “Das Motorrad” at the time. Therefore, there is no evidence of how the BMW R 32 functioned by the standards of the time. Instead, the reader is offered detailed, illustrated descriptions of the individual assemblies and how they work. Above all, the functional diagram of the three-speed transmission is explained in detail.

Article from "The motorcycle" to download

Anyone who has got to know the R 32 and its brakes will especially smile at the sentence that appears on the lead page (shown on the left) in the top right column of the text: "Both wheels have powerful brakes."

In fact, the brakes are such that today’s driver understands the origin of the principle from back then, which reads: "Always drive up and down the mountain in the same gear." With a 15 percent incline, that is the "touring model", the side valve R-32, the first gear, and that would also have been suitable for the descent. As described in the current driving impressions, things turned out differently …

Subscribers who want to read the full historical article can download it from here.

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