Simon Fourie, editor of Bike SA, asked the same question for decades. “Why does BMW produce fast cars and slow motorcycles?” Today BMW produces arguably one of the fastest, most powerful superbikes ever and even the evergreen boxer motor has been developed to produce brisk performance. However for decades BMW motorcycles were traditionally not built for speed. They were properly engineered and built to provide their owners with endless years of problem free riding pleasure. BMWs have never been cheap to purchase. In comparison to their British and Japanese competition, the BMW was a far more pricey purchase and therefore fewer units were sold. The exception in South Africa was that, thankfully, our municipalities and town councils in the ’60s and ’70s knew a good thing when they saw one and began purchasing BMW motorcycles for traffic police duty. Many of today’s lovingly restored BMWs have seen hard years of service at the hands of a traffic cop.
Our featured motorcycle is a BMW R69S which also started life as a traffic cop’s motorcycle. The R69S was produced as BMW’s flagship model from 1960 until 1969, during which time only just over 11 300 units were sold. Although its 600cc boxer motor produced 42hp and it could do 175km/h, the performance was not worth the much higher price tag to many purchasers who settled for cheaper models in the BMW range. The low total sales and the overall excellence of the R69S has made them very sought after and therefore valuable.
Rob, the owner and builder of this one of a kind R69S cafe racer also owns several pristinely restored BMWs. This particular bike did not have matching engine and frame numbers, deemed all important to the value of a restored classic motorcycle. He thus applied his design skills to create the look of this cafe racer as well as modifying the engine to racing specification.
The original Earles-forks, frame, tank and headlight have been retained. Just about everything else on this motorcycle has been custom made. The overall ride height has been increased to provide better ground clearance when cornering. This R69S was built to go, not just for show!
The matching front and rear fenders, both mounted to move with the wheels, together with their polished aluminium struts, give a unique symmetry to this cafe racer. The exposed springs of the Earles-fork look the business as does the slightly lowered headlight on the custom fabricated brackets. The seat and lower handlebars underline that this is not a slow BMW.
The quality of Rob’s work is undeniable. Every detail can withstand close scrutiny. The beautifully restored original headlight and the quality of the specially made bracket are examples of his meticulous attention to detail which is apparent throughout this motorcycle. It takes a designer’s eye to strike the right balance between the shiny bits and the painted bits.
Rob is especially proud of his ventilation of the originally non ventilated front drum brake. Once again the craftsmanship is apparent in this once-off component.
What about the performance? The original 594cc boxer engine was fitted with a 5kg flywheel which ensures torque at low revs. A new, lightweight aluminium flywheel has been installed to allow the bored out engine to rev freely. Racing cams were imported from Germany and larger inlet valves installed. Engine internals have all been replaced with components which can withstand the stress of the additional revolutions. The original Bing carburettors have made way for larger Dellortos.
This ex traffic law enforcement BMW R69S spits flames out of its loud open exhausts and the carburettor venturis on the engine overrun. It is a proper, politically incorrect cafe racer which will induce bad behaviour from even the most law abiding rider. That is a little ironic!