The BMW R5 Hommage: the most beautiful motorbike in the world?

Unveiled at this year’s Concorse d’Elegenza, the BMW R 5 Hommage is a veritable ode to a defining model from BMW Motorrad’s pre-war history: the 1936 R5. Built to celebrate the bike’s 80th anniversary, the Hommage captures the famous lines and proportions of the original, revisiting an era of influential design. But with its multitude of bespoke parts and new ‘bobber’ design, the Hommage is also an expression of BMW’s innovative spirit, demonstrating a continuing desire to create motorbikes that are at once distinct and progressive.

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Image: BMW Motorrad 

Released in 1936, the original R5 model combined excellent construction with outstanding performance, making use of a 500cc boxer engine that broke new technical ground. It was also the model that can be credited with cementing BMW Mottorad’s reputation; after their aviation industry collapsed at the close of  First World War, BMW moved to motorbike manufacture, releasing several models to a relatively lukewarm reception. The R5, coming slightly later, was championed as an outstanding machine, placing the firm at the forefront of 1930’s motorbike manufacture.

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The original 1936 R5. Image: car-revs-daily.com

The Hommage project brought together experts from various corners of the industry; experts from the vintage motorcycle world were required to work with those who specialise in building new, custom bikes – two distinct spheres that could be seen to have somewhat antithetical values. Yet the final product evidences a team united in vision, their specialisations used to complementary effect. Holding the original R5 in high regard, the team were unanimous in their unwillingness to cannibalise an engine from an old bike – a move that would involve sacrificing the old to the new. They also eschewed the idea of replacing the 500cc boxer engine with a modern equivalent, their head of design claiming that a new engine “wouldn’t cut it because it wouldn’t honour the R 5 in the right way.”

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Image: BMW Motorrad 

Using an old R 5 engine case disfigured from years of copious racing, BMW combined carefully sourced parts with various bespoke components – many of them ingenious in design. The custom built frame is a thing of undeniable elegance: a vintage BMW badge sits upon the bespoke petrol tank hammered from sheet metal; a custom-made seat is covered in hand-stitched leather. A true one-off, the R5 Hommage is a bike every bit as covetable as the original.

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Image: BMW Motorrad

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