BMW shows Concept Ninety R90S tribute


May 25, 2013

The BMW Concept Ninety at the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2013

The BMW Concept Ninety at the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2013

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With BMW Motorrad celebrating two significant birthdays this year (90 years since the founding of BMW Motorrad, and 40 years since the launch of the BMW R 90 S), it's understandable that it should produce a tribute motorcycle to the most famous Boxer Twin. Hence, BMW will show the BMW Concept 90 at the famous Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este on the banks of Lake Como later today.

Built in conjunction with with Roland Sands Design, the project has indeed produced a modern reincarnation of the famous R90S, though at this stage, it's still a design exercise.

For those who have read of the R90S but never ridden one, rest assured it remains one of the sweetest motorcycles ever produced by a company renowned for producing many such bikes. Yes, the gearbox was a bit clunky at race speeds, but on the road, it truly was a delight to clock up miles on, with a magical combination of power, economy, long-travel suspension and despite the longitudinal crank and hence slight torque reaction, an exquisite balance.

BMW's Press release follows:

BMW Concept Ninety.

90 years of BMW Motorrad, 90 years of two-wheeled history – hardly another motorcycle manufacturer can boast such a longstanding and successful heritage as BMW. The BMW R 90 S likewise has cause to celebrate: the BMW Motorrad design icon turns 40 this year. As a tribute to both these anniversaries, the BMW Group is presenting a very special model at the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2013: the BMW Concept Ninety.

In partnership with the custom bike company Roland Sands Design, the BMW Motorrad design team has come up with an exclusive homage to the BMW R 90 S. Former motorcycle racer Roland Sands and his team are among the most in-demand partners in the custom bike scene. Their design standards and the technical finesse with which they implement their high-class custom and performance parts endow the BMW Concept Ninety with an exclusive and self-assured presence. This cooperative venture elevates both Roland Sands Design and BMW Motorrad Design to a new level.

40 years of the BMW R 90 S.

Back in 1973, BMW unveiled its flagship model in the “Stroke Six” range to the global public. Boasting a top speed of just over 200 km/h (124 mph), it was one of the fastest production bikes of its day and went on to claim numerous prizes in a variety of race series. Even when parked it radiated a powerful appeal: for the first time in the development process of a motorcycle, a designer had forged a successful alliance of form and function while creating the first motorcycle ever to feature a front fairing as standard.

Together with its sporty tail end and striking Daytona Orange paintwork, it endowed the BMW R 90 S with an unmistakable identity. The design of this bike pointed the way forward, and it wasn’t long before other manufacturers were gracing their motorcycles with aerodynamically honed front and rear fairings. Today the erstwhile trendsetter is one of BMW’s design icons.

“The BMW R 90 S hails from an era in which bikers were regarded as outlaws,” comments Edgar Heinrich, Head of BMW Motorrad Design. “There was something rebellious about it – it was fast, loud and wild. Pure emotion. And it has retained its fascination to this day.”

BMW Concept Ninety.

The BMW Concept Ninety resurrects this spirit of the emotionally charged superbike, translating the emotionality and inspiration of the earlier model into a contemporary guise. This is a modern reiteration of the traditional essence of the motorcycle: the harmonious unison of man and machine – pure and emotional.

“Today BMW motorcycles stand for perfection and function. That is what we have worked hard to achieve and something we are very proud of,” says Ola Stenegard, Head of Vehicle Design BMW Motorrad. “But we want more than that. With the BMW Concept Ninety we want to show how reduced and pure an emotional BMW motorcycle can be.”

The BMW Concept Ninety takes to the stage as a sporty boxer with a battery of sophisticated details. Its basic proportions clearly take their cue from the forebear that inspired this concept: the fairing, tank, seat and tail instantly signal its family bond with the BMW R 90 S. The BMW Concept Ninety also picks up on the demarcation of the bike’s proportions that was a hallmark of the time.

The upper ergonomic and aerodynamic bodywork is visually separated from the black engine and chassis. The bodywork is hand crafted from aluminium. Its brushed areas can be seen in the tinted areas of the front fairing and tank, as well as at the tail. The rich orange shade of the BMW Concept Ninety is also a nod to the legendary Daytona Orange paintwork of the BMW R 90 S.

The BMW Concept Ninety delivers a very sporty interpretation of the front fairing. But whereas halogen was technically cutting-edge in the BMW R 90 S era, contemporary LED elements light up the face of the BMW Concept Ninety, honouring its ancestor with a round headlamp design. Seamlessly mounted behind it, the dynamically shaped tank ensures an optimal connection between rider and machine.

Further along, the tank and seat melt harmoniously into each other. A steadily ascending line from the handlebars to the tail creates a slight wedge shape, lending the BMW Concept Ninety an almost ready to attack stance when viewed from the side – like a sprinter about to explode into action.

Below the bodywork sits the air-cooled flat-twin boxer engine. Entirely in black with contrast cut details this section of the bike symbolises concerted power, precision and performance. The mechanics and technology as a whole are purposely rendered visible and reflect a keen attention to detail. Custom parts made by Roland Sands Design.

As the observer’s gaze gradually penetrates this motorcycle, more and more details are revealed. Many of the high-quality parts of the BMW Concept Ninety hail from custom bike specialists Roland Sands Design in California. In close collaboration with BMW Motorrad Design, the Roland Sands Design team designed and manufactured these parts specially for the BMW Concept Ninety.

The mechanical parts and engine area, above all, bear the Roland Sands imprint. Particular attention was devoted to those elements typical of a boxer, and thus also of BMW, which were meticulously designed and elaborately finished. Key highlights include the front cover of the engine and the valve covers, that got painstakingly milled, as well as the exhaust system. The parts were milled using a contrast cut process, which strikes an alluring contrast to the black mechanical components.

This technology was also applied to the rims, whose classic design recalls the racing triumphs of the BMW R 90 S in the 1970s. The machining and technical implementation of the parts, are state of the art – like all the details on the BMW Concept Ninety. “It was important for me to translate the special statement made by the BMW R 90 S into the present through the use of unique parts – employing emotional design and cutting-edge technology,” says Roland Sands of his approach to the bike.

Likewise designed and made by Roland Sands are the brake and clutch controls, the Paralever arm and the air filter under the seat. All these meticulously manufactured individual parts blend smoothly into the form language of the BMW Concept Ninety.

“Everything just fits together perfectly: the BMW technology, the BMW heritage and our custom parts complement each other beautifully,” comments Roland Sands on the result of this collaboration.

Edgar Heinrich adds: “The BMW Concept Ninety is sheer enjoyment in every respect – from the development of the idea to the sketching stage to the construction process. But above all when you’re riding it. It’s an absolute riding machine – just like the R 90 S was in its time.” Unlike other custom bikes, the BMW Concept Ninety can be – indeed begs to be – ridden. The motorcycle and all its components have been designed with top performance in mind.

About the Author
Mike Hanlon Mike grew up thinking he would become a mathematician, accidentally started motorcycle racing, got a job writing road tests for a motorcycle magazine while at university, and became a writer. As a travelling photojournalist during his early career, his work was published in a dozen languages across 20+ countries. He went on to edit or manage over 50 print publications, with target audiences ranging from pensioners to plumbers, many different sports, many car and motorcycle magazines, with many more in the fields of communication - narrow subject magazines on topics such as advertising, marketing, visual communications, design, presentation and direct marketing. Then came the internet and Mike managed internet projects for Australia's largest multimedia company, (Australia's largest Telco), (Australia's largest employment site),,, and a dozen other internet start-ups before founding Gizmag in 2002. Now he writes and thinks. All articles by Mike Hanlon

The R90S was a nice bike. I bought a '74 when I got out of the army in '87. Rode it for a couple of years then sold it in '89 to pay for books and tuition. Should have kept the bike.

Windsor Wilder

I had a R80/7 1979 model for 26 years . In that time I rebuilt the motor 3 times & had the gearbox rebuilt more times than I care to remember . The simple design & ease of maintenance was to me the whole idea of owning a motorcycle in the first place . Would have loved one with a Turbo though .

Mick Perger

The various 70/80s "Airheads" models were simply one of the best motorcycles ever made-light weight, simple,good handling, easy to work on (valve adjustment in 20 minutes), reliable and fun to ride. BMW motorcycle division was struggling at the time and made a few tweaks for "new" Models (RS, GS, etc.) New BMWs are overpriced,over complex and 100lbs more pigish (showing my age?).

Yes,Mike Perger is right about the weakness of the trannys, as they needed overhauling every 50,000 miles or so. Everything else can be done at home.

Hopefully BMW will come out with a simple,nice "retro" with the original weight. Slim chance that will happen.

Thanks Mike for the many years of excellent motorcycle articles.


As a 52 yr disabled guy riding is not in the offing, but I read your notes and appreciate what you say since I too enjoyed learning and working on my bikes, your feelings for these old bikes makes me want to start shopping for one right now. But, as kid had to have Z900 Kaw, that thing was good for nothing but speeding tickets!

George Blackmore

Oh yes Please, where can I get one?

I have an old R65 that used to belong to my dad and I have loved the old 2V R's ever since I saw a fully restored R90s outside the ambverlight cafe in south australia.......

awesome bikes

John McG

Having owned a R12GS and now a HP2 Enduro and S1000RR I hope BMW produces this bike with the new water-cooled engine. While I love the R12S this is more my speed and a perfect classic looking bike to bring into market to face off against the Triumphs which have done so well in the vintage class.

Dale Brown

I like the Concept. It shows a very artistic effort based on achieving a stylish design. However the R90s was never created to be stylish. It was created to be a world class Sport Touring "balanced" motorcycle. Read Sport Touring. Where the R90/6 was in todays terms a "standard" motorcycle, the S model added a controversial paint scheme that attracted attention but was a truely balanced machine that performed well for many riding styles. That is the hardest part to design. You could tour, sport ride, or daily commute. You could attach accessories to tune the bike for your purposes. That was the beauty of the R90s, flexability and a rewarding feeling that was returned when going for a ride. It was not a race replica, uncomfortable or single purpose style with the worlds greatest suspension components. Balance is the key to success for the R90s. Key factors in the design were: weight 500 lbs, width at the knees, suspension travel, handle bar to seat to footpeg ratio, room for two, smooth and supple ride, some air protection without creating noise in the face, instrumentation that makes sense, an engine you can see and be proud of its display, a quality sound. Quality brakes that do the job. The human element has not changed that much since 1975. A motorcycle that fits the human in 1975 will still fit in 2013 and even better if done properly. My advice is to design the new R90s to return the same qualities a little style and that feeling as the original and you will have a hit again. My rides: K1, R90/6, K100RT, K100RS, Ducatis.

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