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Beyond cars & motorcycles

Think BMW (pronounced as BAY-em-VEH) and the first image that comes up in our minds are their beautifully engineered cars. A BMW fan in India would probably know that they also make powerful motorbikes. But did you know that they also make scooters and bicycles? That they also made an attempt to make a snowboarder. Well, read through.


It was in 2000, that BMW attempted to market a scooter that was conventionally different. With a car type seat having a safety cage with shoulder height roll-bars and 4 point seat belt, the BMW C1 was supposed to offer the same safe features of that of a small compact car. However because of its small 125 cc and 150 cc small engines, the product failed as it did not capture the imagination of the public in Europe and after a year the product was withdrawn. In 2009, they launched the electric version of the C1 and this still sells.


Today, they sell a powerful version of their scooter in USA, that has a 650 cc engine and is called C 650GT.


But all this began long back. Their first attempt to make a scooter was in the 1950’s, when the demand for a low cost 2 wheeler was on rise. They noticed that the Italians were selling a lot of Lambretta's, Vespa's in Europe and the world. So, in 1953 they came up with their first design, that had large wheels as in a motorcycle but due to some reasons, did not proceed to make one.


They improvised this design further and came up with a model called R10. There were 2 prototypes made. It had a tubular frame like the Lambretta and had a 4 stroke, 200 cc engine. Production of the same was about to commence but at the last moment, the management of BMW decided to put the Isetta (their bubble car project) in to production. Because of Isetta’s roaring success, the R10 bit the dust and never took off.


In the 1950s, BMW produced its first bicycle in aluminium, a material that would only become popular in the industry, 30 years later. Today, BMW markets their bicycles in several countries and prices begin from US$ 1000 (Rs. 67,000).


Both, motorcycles and bicycles are marketed by the BMW Motorrad, a division of the parent firm. Interestingly, how the 'Motorrad' got its name has an interesting story and twist.


It was in 1936, BMW attempted to make a snowboarding scooter that could be used in heavy Alpine snows for the Wermacht’s (unified Central command of Nazi Germany) soldiers who wanted to rest. So, using the popular BMW R12 engine of the 30’s, it was integrated with a slip chain for traction on snow. The prototype model was called BMW Schneerad ('schnee' is snow and 'rad' is wheels in German) and that is how the word ‘rad’ got attached to the word Motorrad.

                       BMW R12                        BMW Schneerad


BMW, beyond cars and motorcycles.

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