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For more than 80 years the shaft-drive boxer twin has formed the backbone of BMW's motorcycle line-up. Although at times singles have been more popular, and fours and triples were preferred by the management, it is the boxer that has endured. From Max Friz's visionary R32 to the latest R1200GS, these stylish machines epitomise all that is best about the marque.
When Friz conceived the R32 in 1923, he chose the boxer layout because the cylinders were adequately cooled, the centre of gravity was low, and it suited shaft drive. These parameters remain valid today. Although the boxer soon established a reputation as a high-quality touring motorcycle, it was also developed into a sporting and dual-purpose machine. Throughout its long life the boxer has assumed a multitude of faces, from the sporting R66 and military R12 of the 1930s, to the ground-breaking R80 G/S of the 1970s and 1980s.
During the 1930s, 'Schorsch' Meier and Ernst Henne provided BMW with Grand Prix wins and extraordinary world records. This success continued after the Second World War, and the BMW boxer dominated the Sidecar World Championship for more than 20 years. The R90S boxer then became a Superbike, taking on the competition from Japan and Europe, before its transformation into a successful desert racer in the Paris Dakar Rally. With the release of the R1200GS, the boxer looks set to maintain its uniqueness in an era of increasing universality.
Ian Falloon, one of the world's foremost motorcycle historians, is the author of The BMW Story and Original BMW Air-Cooled Boxer Twins. He contributes to a wide variety of motorcycle magazines and his collection of motorcycles includes a 1976 BMW R90S.
For many enthusiasts of the Bavarian marque, the classic BMW boxer twin was the R90S of 1973-76. But over the eight decades since the first model in this durable range was conceived, successive generations - including the R100S, fully-faired R100RS, four-cylinder Kseries, high-performance R1100RS, and an entire class of touring and sporting models ranging from 450 to 1200cc - would ensure the BMW boxer twins a place in the popular Haynes Great Bikes Series. Ian Falloon's authoritative, lavishly illustrated book tells the complete story of the BMW boxer twins, from the Max Friz R32, built in 1923, to the latest R1200GS.