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Motorcycle News, Editorials, Product Reviews and Bike Reviews

BMW Embraces The Garage … But What Does This Mean?

“German precision” used to evoke nothing but positive emotions in the consumers who lusted after the Bavarian designed and manufactured goods that populated the upper tier of transportation industries. So why would BMW team up with Roland Sands’ little shop in California and put out a video featuring plenty of greasy, tattooed characters, both German and American, to develop and promote the Concept Ninety, an homage to the BMW R 90 S? Because BMW wants in on the “Garage Made” movement, that’s why. Robots and CAD are out, and handmade is in.  The question is whether a giant manufacturer can gain anything by an effort to align itself with the handmade, one-off movement, when its stock-and-trade is mass production (including by robot).  Yamaha, of course, is attempting to do the same thing with its new Star Bolt. Can giants like BMW and Yamaha really steal some buzz from Peter Buchanan-Smith and his little company Best Made, for instance?

BMW Motorrad is celebrating its 90th Anniversary, along with 40 years since the introduction of the R 90 S, and Roland Sands got the call to help design this concept. The Concept Ninety is built around the most recent generation air/oil cooled 1200cc Boxer motor with modern technology incorporated, including LED headlights that resemble the shape of the original single headlamp on the R 90 S. Here is BMW’s description of the concept (typos courtesy of BMW…perhaps, written in a garage).

90 years of BMW Motorrad – 40 years of a BMW Motorrad design icon. To mark these anniversaries, the BMW Group will be presenting a very special new machine from 6.30 pm on May 24th: the BMW Concept Ninety, on show at the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2013. In collaboration with the customer bike company “Roland Sands Design”, the BMW Motorrad Design Team has created an exclusive homage to the BMW R 90 S. Roland Sands and his team have given the BMW Concept Ninety an exclusive self-assured appearance with technologically refined, top-quality custom parts, former motorcycle racer.

The original: the BMW R 90 S.
With a top speed of just under 200 km/h, the BMW R 90 S was one of the fastest serial production motorcycles of its time. It was the first time a designer had created the perfect combination of form and function in a motorcycle development process. The BMW R 90 S was the first motorcycle ever to be fitted with a front trim section as standard, giving it an unmistakable appearance. Aerodynamically optimised front and rear trim elements were soon to be seen on motorcycles by other manufacturers, too. According to Edgar Heinrich, Head of BMW Motorrad Design: “The BMW R 90 S goes back to a time when motorcyclists were regarded as social outlaws. There was something rebellious about them – they were fast, noisy and wild. It was all about pure emotion. And it remains fascinating to this day.”

BMW Concept Ninety.
“The aim of the BMW Concept Ninety is to show how reduced and pure an emotional BMW motorcycle can be,” explains Ola Stenegard, Head of BMW Motorrad Vehicle Design. Its basic proportions are clearly geared towards the original: the faring, fuel tank and rear section instantly reveal the bike’s kinship with the BMW R 90 S. The BMW Concept Ninety also echoes the separation of the motorcycle’s proportions which was typical at the time: the trim is visually distinct from the black engine and chassis sections. While halogen reflected the technological state of the art in the original machine, cutting-edge LED lighting elements give the BMW Concept Ninety its face today.

Custom parts made by Roland Sands Design.
Roland Sands Design created the parts especially for the BMW Concept Ninety in collaboration with the BMW Motorrad Design Team: “I wanted to translate the special character of the BMW R 90 S into the modern age by means of unique parts – based on emotional design and state-of-the-art technology. It just all goes together perfectly: BMW technology, BMW history and our customer parts are a great match,” says Roland Sands. Unlike other custom bikes, the BMW Concept Ninety is designed to be ridden. The motorcycle itself and all parts are geared towards top-level performance.


  1. Todd says:

    Wow! I’d buy that in a heartbeat! Such a cool bike.

    • Montana says:

      Whoopee! Another exceptionally cool track bike virtually unusable for the real world (and the average rider.)
      I blow by them regularly in the Sierras on my 20 year old airhead with stock suspension.

  2. Starmag says:

    The original R90S was a pretty bike with a two-up seat and one inch rise handlebars making it usable for almost anything including sport touring. If one didn’t like the stock bar, one could spend $20 and mount something else. Because it had a relitively flat two-up seat one could give a ride to pretty girl. I can’t speak for others, but for myself, I still like the feel of those in my back and like to have beautiful company when I go out to do things. The manufacturers and custom builders need to give the self-centered and masochistic clip-ons and cafe seats a rest, especially on bikes that appear to be aimed at eliciting warm memories from 50 somethings who still have cash. I should know, I am one. I doubt this bike will give thrill-seeking twenty-somethings wood just because it has clip-ons and a cafe seat. Most of them won’t be able to afford it anyway. So what is this? Someone’s lame “halo” bike idea?

    • Dino says:

      Ummmm, yeah. This is a Halo bike, or a Concept bike as explained in the beginning of the article. So to celebrate some anniversaries, they asked for a customer bike that used modern hardware to pay tribute to a classic bike. This is not likely a soon-to-be production model, so you can relax. Since it is a tribute bike, they are free to make a few variances, not just a modern clone. I think it is a cool looking bike, that should generate some buzz for them (mission accomplished). Would I buy one exactly like it, no. Would I look at this bike as a cool design, absolutely.

      You might want to read the articles, not just scan through the pretty pictures! The articles are actually quite good here, tell your friends.

      • Dino says:

        Ooops, I meant a Custom bike, not a customer bike.

      • Starmag says:

        A modern clone of the R90S is exactly what many people in this very thread are asking for and this bike isn’t close. Your response would have been better without the superior-sounding put-down. I read the article. Concept bikes are many times used to gauge consumer reaction. Since I’m a consumer here’s mine – I’ve seen a lot of cafe’d boxers through the years, useful modern clones of the R90S, not so much.

    • goose says:

      Pretty much everything he said. I’ll add that Rowland Sands is an over rated hack, better than the OCC bunch but not much. He would do much better working on cartoons, all his work looks has the subtlety of that medium.

      Whoever made the decision that lead to this mess should get a written warning. BMW is on a roll, this joke won’t help them keep the momentum.


      • Starmag says:

        Ouch!.That’s gonna leave a mark! Personally, I have some respect for Mr. Sands lifetime achievements, and he did some beautiful detail work here, especially on the engine. Too bad the effort was on some future CEO;s living room bike.

  3. Lenz says:

    Nice looking, essential design.

    I love the beautifully crafted sheet metal fairing – “one off” hand-formed compound curves like this are artwork

    I am sure BMW can meld an uncluttered, essential, “muscle and bone” format with high spec, modern suspension / brakes / engine. If a bike is capable of > 160kph (100mph) it makes sense to me to also provide wind protection in the form of a nicely curved “bikini” fairing

  4. manofleix says:

    Interesting design, but R90S Tribute, I don’t think so. Riding position is for canyon racers only! The original 1974 design allowed a comfortable rider position with tank bag rest (Harro definitely) .

    Really the main tribute is the Daytona Orange color. Styling exercises usually work their way into production eventually.

    Airhead BMWs allowed the rider to really maintain a quality machine without too many screw-ups by the amateur. My newer BMWs have electronic sophistication and other reliabilties, but if it fails on the road, may as well call a tow and take it to dealer/workshop.

    Computers now allow closer tolerances and better designs…..but you need a certified mechanic to repair them (try to repair your ABS by yourself).

  5. Gronde says:

    I like it! BMW is on the right track if they continue with the “less is more” mindset. Their bikes have become too complicated over the years and this bike is rather refreshing. Kudos to BMW for doing it right!

  6. goodlyRun says:

    Lights and tags, that’s all I ask.

  7. Bones says:

    There are lots of bikes I like to look at that I wouldn’t buy. Here’s another. Some of the proportions look off to me, but the overall concept is cool.

    Two wheels, good.

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “Some of the proportions look off to me”

      the term is known as “wonky”.

  8. Tom says:

    For me, the swing arm looks somehow too long. Weird Harold indeed.

  9. skybullet says:

    raivkka,I agree except for the tank size that I like. My ideal bike has an engine you can see, hear and feel. Keep it simple with a minimum of functional body panels. Keep it light, tuned for normal riding speeds, offer an all-day comfortable version with higher bars, sensible seat and foot peg location. Someone at BMW has sensed they have gone too far with the plastic two wheeled riding appliances that sound like commercial sewing machines and feel artificial. This bike is a giant leap in the direction that would have me fumbling for my wallet.
    F800GS, KTM SMT, R80ST, DR650

  10. Dave says:

    Hooligan! Period! Now the T-Mobile girl can trade up her Ducati.

  11. stinkywheels says:

    What a great update on the old classic. I fell in love with the R90S when new but was too young. Bought a R100CS in 84 when they said they were gonna quit making them. I’ve thought of selling it a few times as it sometimes goes years between rides. But to fire it up and ride it again reminds me of how versatile and pleasing it is. Your favorite bluejeans comes to mind. I have a hard time throwing them out if they don’t have holes in ’em.

    • stinkywheels says:

      Damn, why no engine music from this? Roland Sands really knows how to cane a bike and Id’ve loved to heard him putting it through it’s paces!

  12. Gary says:

    THAT is a beauty. Maybe the most beautiful bike since the original R90S–which to my mind was one of the most beautiful bikes ever built. I hope BMW took on this project to gauge audience reception … and that they move forward with production. With more rational ergonomics, please.

  13. kjazz says:

    Aesthetically, I’ve never seen anything more compelling (that wasn’t in a swimsuit contest, that is). Roland Sands totally gets this look. What a fantastic bike!!!

  14. raivkka says:

    I love the look but as one poster claimed, the tank looks too big and out of proportion.

    For me, a motorcycle is 2 wheels, an engine, frame, handlebars and seat so I like getting away from all these wizbang electronic doodads. Ride speeds are only 25-75mph usually.

    Keep it simple, keep it reliable, keep the costs to purchase and maintain down.

    Also, I cannot subscribe to any bike that’s uncomfortable to ride. Unless you racing on the track, a road bike should be all day ride-able.

    • denny says:

      You cannot be without tank man.
      And if is nicely shaped, why not? You remember that beemers had always bit bigger tank, right? They were always mindful of range. Not like those clunky ones on Harley-barley.

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “Keep it simple, keep it reliable, keep the costs to purchase and maintain down.”

      welcome to munich and the bmw museum. nothing to see here in that respect… move along. (bavarian security gaurd gestures towards exit with flashlight)

  15. Bud says:

    I think it looks pretty cool, lots of nice details. I would have liked the fairing design to take more styling cues from the original. And it doesn’t appear to have much steering range.

  16. denny says:

    As BMW rider-dreamer (I have even my Honda in silver and blue) I’d say: go ahead and build it! It’s like a charm.
    The thing I miss is the sound and view of it on road. Unfortunately, for some strange reason (and this applies across the board) we rarely hear sound of engine in those over-hyped ‘music’ dressed videos. Motorcycle engine sound is the best music of all! Do advertisers realize it?

    • blackcayman says:

      I couldn’t agree more. Hearing myself work the motor is a big part of the enjoyment of riding. I never listen to music while riding – the bike is the soundtrack.

      …hence the need for aftermarket pipes!

      • Norm G. says:

        re: “Hearing myself work the motor is a big part of the enjoyment of riding.”

        yes, another non-adopter of motorcycle electrification…


  17. Ricardo says:

    This is just a copy of the Ducati 1000 S, but probably overpriced…

  18. Jeremy in TX says:

    I love it.

  19. ElTigre1 says:

    This is no R90S. And that’s a shame. It is a gorgeous “designer” bike. But the R90S defined Sport touring. It was a beautiful bike you could ride all day. Its ergonomics were superb. Sadly there are no real equivalents today. I had an R1200ST, which came closer to the original R90S than most anything else. But it was sure ugly and for no reason ever discovered by BMW technicians, would periodically destroy the headlight cover into a molten lump of goo. The replacements were $693. I went through three of them before I realized I really couldn’t afford the “BMW Experience”, which, to me, meant bending over and touching your toes. The R90S was comfortable, beautiful, reliable. It was fast for its day. My best buddy had one that I put a lot of seat time on. It just wouldn’t touch my ’77 Ducati 900SS. But leaving his house for the run to Daytona, he thoroughly enjoyed looking at my Desmo and saying, “Jut a minute, I think I hear a valve ticking”. Ten minutes later we were on our way, the valve adjusted. I couldn’t have done that in a day on the Duc. The R90S – that was one Hell of a bike. One you could ride fast and far.

  20. Ralph says:

    Reminds me of when Hollywood does remake movies, like the Adams Family. Can’t you think of something original?

  21. Hair says:

    Nice bike. But where are the luggage mounts?

  22. Raven says:

    Cool-looking bike. Sure wish we could have heard what it SOUNDED like in that video too.

  23. John A McDowell says:

    Let’s See… U G M Universal German Motorcycle… So this is a good start. Upgrades would be to raise the bars, or offer a true upper clamp with really tall bars and added length cables / hoses. Simularly, and extended seat rail, seat and places to mount passenger pegs and bags. Plus, maybe a “taller” front fairing and mirrors…

    The motor is what it is, build “your” style around it….

  24. Azi says:

    I feel a little sorry for motorcycle designers – we’re such a hard bunch to please. In hindsight it’s the groundbreaking designs that turn out to be current classics – but if you have a look at these clasics none of them tried to capitalise on past glories in a ‘retro’ sense. Scout, Bonneville, Black Shadow, CB750, 916 – all revolutionary in their own ways. There have been moments when the manufacturers have been bold and tried to give us what we say we want, and then get bitten in the bum when we don’t buy them. XR1200 anyone? GTS1000? MT-01? Ducati Sport Classics? Buell? Buell? Bueller?

    To me this bike is, in some ways, a metaphor of our times – when we as wealthy consumers want something new but want something old, because we don’t really know what we want. Perhaps the Gen Y hipster culture is a reflection of this too, a reaction to the postmodern identity crises of the late 20th century – a neo-nostalgia and a search for a Pirsigian ‘quality’. The irony of a bike like this is that in the search for identity in the past, BMW may have lost some of its true identity in the present.

    • GuyLR says:

      I generally agree. Creating the truly new and good is something not often accomplished. We seem to know it when it happens though and this bike is not it. I do like the valve covers.

      “Pirsigian quality”? I don’t think anyone around here or in the greater population for that matter is seriously looking for the Zen of touring two-up on a CB77. It didn’t have our fellow readers’ minimum required 100 hp!

    • jim says:

      Well put, thanks for articulating.

    • Dave Kent says:

      BMW lost its true identity when it discontinued the airhead.

      • Hefner says:

        Time stands still for no one. If the airhead design still made sense, they’d still be using it. It’s time to move on and find a new corporate identity, and I think the S1000RR was a step in the right direction, as it starts to put their bikes into the same category as their cars.

        Since BMW has been about performance cars for some time, and since their bikes were considered performance bikes at least in the 70’s/80’s, one might consider their recent bike offerings of the 90’s and 00’s as lacking their true corporate character of performance.

    • Don says:

      Ducati’s Sport Classic series were their best selling bikes until the tank sag issue became apparent and Ducati dragged their feet on coming up with a solution. I’d still like to find something in a similar style, but reliable. If the new Yamaha Bolt applied it’s minimalist/post-apocalypse styling in a standard/naked format instead of a cruiser I would jump right on it.

    • Doug says:

      As I remember the book, it was the BMW rider who was the more mentally brand enslaved of the of the riders. Every little nut, and washer had to have a BMW stamp on it.

  25. PN says:

    I like the original more.

    • todder says:

      Whole heartily agree.

    • Starmag says:

      +1 The original wasn’t a toy. This is. Maybe BMW should have consulted Peter Egan instead of Roland Sands. Mr. Egan seems to have a finely developed sense taste for his age group and loved his high mileage R90S that he bought with his own money and proceeded to put even higher mileage on riding back and forth across the USA with his wife on the back. He laments the passing of those original hard bags and the side-of-the-road valve adjustments. Many feel the original was not only functional but the best looking bike BMW ever made. Triumph and Harley Davidson don’t seem to have suffered much from remaking their most beautiful bikes from the past. With my copy machine and a pair of scissors I can crudely graft a R90S top to a modern r1200r bottom (minus the ungainly looking front fork). BMW, can you do the same for real? Seems like a no brainer that would be easy for a big manufacturer like BMW to pull off,it would make a lot of people happy (and hence willing to part with their money), and be cost effective since you already make most of the bike now in the r1200r.

      • Starmag says:

        One other thing also. How about suprising me with a 270 degree crank so the engine doesn’t sound so flat? It’s ok if it loses a bit of power (the r1200r has over the magical 100 hp) if it sounds great. Standard boxers don’t.

  26. clasqm says:

    So I watched the video, and I kept rewinding to the beginning and asking “can’t I have that one instead?”

    Give me an exact replica of the R90S with a 1200cc aircooled engine, with modern brakes and electrics and here, please take my money. That bike marked the beginning of BMW styling maturity. It culminated in the R100RS, regarded at the time as the two-wheeled Starship Enterprise, and it’s gone steadily downhill ever since.

  27. Lone Amigo says:

    Got my first BMW in 1960. Still riding a BMW. I have owned as many different bikes as there are years between 1960 and 2013. My K bike is the same color as this so-called “concept”. Frankly,I don’t like it. If it had ordinary flat touring bars I might change my mind.

    • denny says:

      I agree. even bikes can hold “extreme views”. But than, if not extreme, will they still be as attractive and desirable?

  28. LarryC says:

    Pretty bike. Like the original R90S, it overcomes being saddled with what is perhaps the most unappealing lump in all of motorcycling, the opposed twin. The droning, ungainly engine is just uninspiring. My wife calls them “air compressors.”

    The justification for the concept is a bit disingenuous.

    “The BMW R 90 S goes back to a time when motorcyclists were regarded as social outlaws. There was something rebellious about them – they were fast, noisy and wild. It was all about pure emotion. And it remains fascinating to this day.”

    I call BS on that. The original R90S wasn’t noisy and wild, it was quiet almost to the point of being silent. And it certainly wasn’t purchased by social outlaws. Most legitimate manufacturers (other than you-know-who) were running away from that outlaw image as fast as they could. If you weren’t there to experience the introduction of the R90S, it’s hard to describe the impact it made. Honda had broken new ground in civility with the smooth CB750K, and then the CB500/550s. But the R90S raised the ante to a whole new level. This thing didn’t just have a couple instruments sticking up. It had a by-god dashboard! With a clock! A clock on a motorcycle! It was almost cheeky. Who did these people think they were? Mercedes? At a time when guys were turning CB550s into smooth, fast cafe racers, here was a turnkey Q-ship. Factory. With a friggin clock! So how long, exactly, did it take to get from Munich to Zschopau?

    Well, it’s just ad-room copy. As long as BMW feels inspired to create exercises like this, I say more power to ’em. And no, despite a stint as a BMW service manager, I’m not a BMW guy. My Guzzis have more soul. They sound like a healthy Detroit V-8, not an air compressor.

  29. sl says:

    I think it looks good. What I would like to see made (and this does seem to be in the direction), is basic, light, 100 to 120 horse at the wheel with big torque bikes. Bikes that can be ridden long range, or sport ridden and also calm around town. The technology exists to accomplish this with old school big bore motors. I no longer have the urge for 150 horse screamers. I want a bike that is fun and full of power at sane speeds. Come out of a corner and whoosh. So far the giso looks good to me, except it is not light. But I still like it.

    • sl says:

      As I look at this bike I say give it a more upright (kind of supermoto-ish) seating position and I am in. Also keeping the minimalistic rear give it a nice passenger seat. Of course the front would have to change, but an old bikini faring would do. Have factory saddlebags, and tank bag available and I would be very interested. I am 18 months from the time I want to buy, and that is what I will be looking for.

    • VLJ says:

      “…basic, light, 100 to 120 horse at the wheel with big torque bikes. Bikes that can be ridden long range, or sport ridden and also calm around town. The technology exists to accomplish this with old school big bore motors. I no longer have the urge for 150 horse screamers. I want a bike that is fun and full of power at sane speeds. Come out of a corner and whoosh.”

      You just described the BMW R1200R, which is significantly lighter than the Griso. I might also include the Kawasaki Ninja 1000 (not the racier ZX-10R) in that description, but the R1200R flat-out nails what you want.

  30. Mike Johnson says:

    Motorcycle design is basically dead. This bike was a big deal forty years ago but anyone who was interested and could afford one then is so old now they can scarcely walk in a straight line.
    The Telelever WAS a real improvement so that had to be scrapped so the re-hash would seem more authentic.
    Harley, Indian, BMW – just keep re-hashing the same dead styling cues over and over.

    • Hefner says:

      The Telelever may have been an improvement in some areas (none of that “scary” brake dive), but it was definitely a hindrance in many others. They needed to make it work right, or ditch it and move on. As a bike with sporting intentions, they did the right thing here by moving on.

      While I generally agree that I’m tired of seeing rehashed designs, I think that’s what an important segment of the market is demanding: Bikes that look like they did when they fell in love with bikes, but that have modern handling/braking/power/reliability. If you were born in the 60’s, you saw Pridmore win the AMA title on a Beemer in the 70’s, and are now 50-something and likely have disposable income to spend on a bike. That’s who this bike is aimed at.

      Even if I can scarcely walk in a straight line at 60, I’ll still be riding a bike (And probably something “retro” that looks like the CBR600F2 I fell in love with at 16)

      • Mike Johnson says:

        Good for you! The real rest is to run off 10,000 and see if they are taken up by the market. I also agree that the Telelever was not properly delivered. Again it was provided to “look like” what people expected so rake was excessive and dive was added in. The outcome was in the range of that tele forks were already capable of having been introduced in 1912.
        I am 66 now so you will have to wait and see how good your reflexes are for over 120 MPH in the future 😉

  31. Philip says:

    Not a BMW bike guy, but I deem this concept cool. I don’t care if Sand’s built it himself or if guys wearing silver suits in Munich drew it up on pixels, the bike looks good. Correct colors are sunburst orange or silver and black.

  32. Mark G says:

    I bought an r100s new and still own it 120k miles later. I also have an r1150r, bought new.

    I get what he is trying to do here, but in my eye the proportions are off, and the lines don’t flow. Tank too big, the seat is too small and too shaped like a ’60’s cafe racer. The engine looks cool though. The stretched swing-arm will ruin the handling, (as well as being ugly for the reasons mentioned above) so I don’t know why they bother with performance claims.

  33. Dave Kent says:

    Ummm…What’s that? Looks like an underling at KTM with no computer skills broke into the concept room and and tried to “conceive” a bobber.

  34. Bob says:


  35. ApriliaRST says:

    I’m not sure what it means, but if they’d make their motorcycles easier to service in home shops, I’d consider buying one. 😉

  36. electricPaul says:

    The chassis is probably from the upcoming road version of the LoRider concept from about 5 years ago. The new bike will enable BMW to expand their market in a new direction. Namely, a versitile air-cooled twin with proven capability , conventional (upside-down) forks and an accessory range which includes pipes, tanks, tail-sections, wheels, bars, grips, clothing etc. This concept is a halo product to garner attention from the media and the public so that we will all be looking when the new bike is launched later in the year. Roland Sands parts and highlights will be part of the catalogue so that the basic bike can be dressed up to look like the concept.
    Bring it on!

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