Throttle Jockey: Bone up on BMW’s bikes with two new books


BMW’s well-known tagline for their cars is “The Ultimate Driving Machine,” but when it comes to their motorcycles, many in the motorcycle industry snicker and diss them as “the Ultimate Boring Machine” or “the Ultimate Retirement Machine.”

Those criticisms may have some merit as the brand has had a bit of a staid reputation until just recently, when they unleashed the world-beating S1000RR sportbike and began regularly spanking the competition in every meaningful category you can name. Slow and old, you say? Yeah, you just got passed.

But true to its roots, BMW still makes a solid line-up of ready-steady-go motorcycles more renowned for their ability to reliably traverse zillions of miles of pavement (or dirt) instead of filling your wallet with speeding tickets (S1000RR excepted). Every brand has its strong points, and with millions of motorcyclists out there happily tuca-tuca-tuca-ing down the road on their BMW boxers, well, the criticisms can just go take a holiday.

I’ve always had an interest in the history of motorcycle brands and recently, two books detailing BMWs offerings from the mighty and modern S1000RR back to their ground-breaking R32 from 1923 crossed my desk, causing many a show to pile up in my DVR while I soaked in the details of BMW’s storied machines.

First up was Doug Mitchel’s BMW Motorcycles, which chronicles 40 key BMW models that showcased innovations, ideas and sometimes a bit of wrong-headed thinking over the company’s history. Each model covered receives a plain-English (plain German?) write-up highlighting the performance parameters, history and technology behind the model. Little “Did You Know” anecdotal insets for most models add a bit of charm and up the trivia quotient nicely.

Yes, BMW built bikes for the Nazis, and while the book doesn’t dwell on that fact, it isn’t glossed over either. But for the most part, BMW Motorcycles sticks to the facts and will increase your BMW knowledge base quickly and enjoyably without being overly technical – just what I like.

mitchel2

The book is also filled with a generous helping of photos of each bike – typically a meticulously restored example out of someone’s collection – and I appreciate the attention the photographer paid to the small details instead of just filling the tome with studio-lit beauty shots. BMW Motorcycles is a fairly quick (and portable) read and doubles fairly well as a quick reference guide to both the standout bikes and different eras of the Bavarian moto maker.

From there, both casual readers and hard-core Beemerphiles alike will kill a lot of hours paging through Ian Falloon’s enjoyable but massive reference guide, The Complete Book of BMW Motorcycles.

This literal big book of BMW covers every single model the maker has rolled out the factory doors from 1923 to 2015. Every model. While it doesn’t exactly dwell on bolt sizes and seat materials for each bike, there is complete technical information and historical context for each machine. Falloon is a well-versed BMW expert and has penned numerous previous books on the brand, but perhaps none so ambitious as this one.

faloon2

Soak this book in and you’ll acquit yourself well at the next vintage (or modern) BMW meetup. The photos don’t rise to the level of detail in Mitchel’s book but Falloon makes up for it with access to BMW’s photo archive, which fills the book with rarified racing photos, vintage ads and crisp studio shots of early models. Also, befitting the coffee-table format of the book, the photos are big and do show a lot of detail.

You can’t lose with either BMW book, and seeing how there’s a lot of winter left to go for many riders, you have time to bone up on your BMW lore and tech while the snow piles up outside and your R100 snoozes silently in the garage, waiting patiently for spring.

books2

Our thanks to Quarto Publishing Group and Motobooks for sending us these two fine books for review. 

Living

Detroit’s Shinola Hotel Has Us Feeling Right At Home

With stylish guest suites and a social “living room,” the Shinola Hotel honors the Motor City’s past while looking to a bright future.
Auto

BMW’s M850i xDrive Is Perfect for When the Road Is Long and the Pursuit Is Pleasure

BMW has been out of the grand touring game for some time but the rebirth of the 8 Series gives the brand an aspirational model it so desperately needs.
Travel

21 Best Travel Books to Inspire Your Next Adventure

Get out of town ... or just go to the library. Travel books simulate the sensations of sailing, sightseeing, and setting out to explore.
Auto

These Medieval Bandit9 Motorcycles Inspired by King Arthur Are Living in the Future

Bandit9’s newest motorcycle masterpieces, Arthur and Merlin, may reference medieval lore but the machines are living in the 61st century instead of the 6th.
Fashion & Style

You Don’t Have to Drive an 18- Wheeler to Rock these Cool Trucker Jackets

The trucker jacket was built with hard work and the open road in mind.
Living

This Crazy Weighted Blanket Will Have You Sleeping Like the Dead

When we first heard about the idea of a weighted blanket, and more specifically the Bearably blanket we were, to say the least, pretty skeptical...
Living

This Brutalist Revival Home in Greece Stands Out By Blending In

Forget those white stucco homes of Santorini. Patio House is the future of Greek design.
Living

All 21 Six Flags Parks in the U.S., Ranked

It wasn't easy, but we ranked every Six Flags location in the United States. You're welcome.
Living

Bruce Willis’ $13 Million Country Estate Is For Sale

Butch Coolidge and Korben Dallas would never live in a bucolic country estate in New York, which is why it’s so shocking that action movie superstar Bruce Willis did.
Travel

The Palms Casino’s Newest High-Roller Suites Have a Bowling Alley and Whiskey Room

The Hardwood Suite is a basketball-centric masterpiece, while the Kingpin suite is a bowling bro's paradise.
Living

Old Meets New in a Unique Way in Chicago’s Cortez House

Cortez House is refreshingly modern but with nods to the building’s past … including the original meat cooler.
Living

The Best Mattresses for Side-Sleepers Who Need Support

Do you sleep on your side? You may need a mattress designed with you in mind.
Living

The Jamaican Villa Where Ian Fleming Created James Bond is for Rent and It Is Amazing

You can vacation at the birthplace of secret agent 007, complete with butlers to make your martinis.
Living

The Best President’s Day Sales on Luxury Pillows This Weekend

Tired of sleeping on that old pillow? Upgrade to something more luxurious.