38 Years Stored: 1967 BMW R50/2


Despite my love of BMW vehicles (vintage ones, that is), I’ve never ridden a classic BMW motorcycle. My uncle in Massachusetts has a sweet K series bike that I’ve been pining after for years, but I’m not quite ready to give up on my four-wheeled distractions – for now. This 1967 BMW R50/2 here on eBay is a recent discovery, having been put into storage in 1978 and not seeing the light of day until recently. 


The R50/2 is not the fastest bike on the road, and actually is the lower compression model offered that year. While the hot ticket is often thought to be the R69S, the bike featured here will certainly provided a pleasant cruising experience with the style like only a vintage BMW bike can offer. Despite being in long-term storage, the R50/2 has fared well and includes a rare bench seat option.


The BMW was prepped for storage in 1978, which has helped keep its mechanical bits preserved as well. Although it hasn’t been started, the seller claims the engine will turn over and that the tank, carbs and engine oil all appear to be in great shape. Though there are some minor deviations from stock form, this is a highly original bike, right down to its Bosch headlamp and Hella tail light. The saddle bags are a nice touch as well.


If all-out speed is your priority, you might be better served finding one of the more sporting models, like the R69S mentioned above or even an R60/2, which has a bit more power on board and can do a better job keeping up with modern traffic. Bidders seem to like this bike regardless of engine size, as bidding is already to $6,601 and there’s no reserve on the auction. If it can be resurrected easily, this R50/2 will be a fun winter project.


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  1. hhaleblian

    Had a R69S, beautiful to view an absolute pita to start thus I sent mine down the road. Call me a wuss, but give me an electric start.

  2. Tirefriar

    I wouldn’t call a K bike a classic Beemer. For now, this title belongs to the airheads such as this one here. Sweet bike and a great ride, though not as fast but then it doesn’t need to be.

  3. David Frank David Member

    Oh my, I understand now about readers nostalgia for vehicles featured here! This Beamer certainly brings back memories of my R50, like coming out of the tunnel on 101 on the Gaviota Pass above Santa Barbara and finding a Red Tail Hawk on my left so close I could almost touch it. Moments like these you don’t forget! As for starting, this was one of the easiest bikes ever to kick, kind of the opposite of a BSA 441 Victor, for example, with 2 low compression cylinders versus 1 high compression cylinder. I guess riders these days need electric start, cruise control, intercoms and a stereo.
    Thanks, Jeff for the writeup!

    Like 1
  4. geomechs geomechs Member

    I always liked this version of Beemer. It goes back to a time when all bikes were relatively simple and riding down the road was a joy in itself. Too many gadgets nowadays. And David, you forgot the ATR.

    Like 1
  5. Mark S Member

    This beemer would be a great candidate for a vintage side. I’d clean it up and install a Ural side car on it as that is about as close to a beemer side car that you’re going to find. I’d paint the sidecar to match with single stage paint. This then would make a great city bike or single lane country road cruiser. This bike has already got the leading link front suspension which is also ideal for a sidecar rig. Nice find.

  6. Slim Chance

    Properly tuned these are one to two kick bikes. Bad coil and they’ll never start.

    Easiest bike you’ll ever work on that won’t ever need a lot of work.

    Like 1
  7. Alan Brase

    See that VIN tag? Leistung PS: 26.
    That means 26 hp DIN. Perhaps 30 SAE.
    You will know which way the wind is blowing. But a surprisingly light nice handling ride.

  8. Dave Wright

    My brother had a similar early airhead that was a gift from his neighbor that was a huge BMW motorcycle guy. It was freshly restored in ivory white…..a stunning bike but my brother also had my old R1200c that he rode a lot. The old bike scared him so much by comparison he rarely rode it……..the brakes, power, General handeling were so much better with the newer bike……he eventually sold the old one. Now he rides a brand new BMW that will do everything but brush your teeth. These old girls are wonderful to look at but the newer stuff is so much safer on the road that if you want to ride it a lot…..you are better off with a newer model. I rode an R90s…..I think that was the model…….for several years. As good as it was the R1200c was an entire different league, like comparing a model T to a new Corvette.

    • Tirefriar

      Good point Dave. This is definitely not a daily rider unless your ride is on quaint little streets to a coffee house and back. There were several occasions where I almost got sucked into buying an old Guzzi as my daily transport. I did end up with a Moto Morini 3 1/2 Sport which was a fun ride in the canyons but very nerve wracking in stop and go traffic on 101 freeway during 90*+ weather. I had to upgrade a front caliper on my 1990 R100GS just so I could stop the bike….

  9. Jwaltb

    I’m pretty sure that’s the stock seat. The option would be the solo seat. And trust me, you don’t want any sidecar on an R50. It wouldn’t be able to get out of its own way.
    Many years ago a friend had a 500 cc. BMW and I had a 600. When he picked up a sidecar we traded engines for a few months so he could pull it. When he sold the hack I got my bigger engine back and was a happy man again.

  10. Howard A Member

    While I like all bikes, some I like more than others, and this make I didn’t care for. Don’t get me wrong, probably the best bike on the rock, it’s just, I didn’t like riding it. The bike I rode was a R90S, and the handling quirks, made me uncomfortable. Plus the riding position was awkward for me. At the time, I had a GoldWing, with quirks of it’s own, but it was just a much more civilized bike. We never raced, but I thought my GoldWing had a little more steam. People that have these, love them, but I’d bet that Ducati Darmah would be a much nicer bike, for me.

    • Tirefriar

      Howard, both of the bikes you mentioned are great looking bikes especially in black and gold trim. I currently have 1german (bmw, of course) and 3 Italians ( 2 Bimotas and a Cagiva with a Pantah motor). It is really true what they say about the big cube R bikes (mine is an R11S boxer cup) – they do everything very well but nothing great in particular. I wish I could get an older GW but I’m already over the limit as it is…

  11. seth karpen

    Had one of these in college. Put on 10,000 miles in 6 months, mostly cross country.

    Like 1
  12. Bob S

    That bike looks like it only needs a clean and polish. Nice find.

  13. Peter

    I purchased my 1959 R60 in 1970 and still have it (it looks the same as the 1967 model featured here) . Performance wise, it is about the same as a 175cc Honda although it is a good cruiser on flat roads.

    Interesting things with this model are:

    (1) Front and rear wheels are the same and interchangeable with spline centres to fit the crown wheel.
    (2) Look at the front Earles suspension and you will see a second set of mounting holes. The second set is to move the front wheel forward for longer wheelbase when using a side car.
    (3) The crown wheel; drive shaft; gear box; and engine, all have their own oil filler and drain plug holes (4 in all)
    (4) There is a hinge in the rear mudguard to lift it up when removing the rear wheel.
    (5) There are a range of crown wheel ratios available – I think – 2.9 (mine), 3.13 (standard road) 3.4 (hilly option), 3.7, 4.1, and I think one other. The higher ratios were for side cars.
    (front and rear swing arms use tapered roller bearing.
    (6) There were three fuel tank sizes 3.75 gallons imperial (standard), 5 gallon, and 7.5 gallon known as the elephant tank
    (7) The crank uses roller bearings. Big ends use roller bearings with a split crank. I think R69 had needle roller little ends and R50/60 plain brass.
    (8) Clutch is as large single plate with finger pressure plate.
    (9) The issue with starting mentioned above is that the kick starter moves outward from the side as the crank is in line with the frame. When cold you have to stand at the side of the bike and if you overbalance, the bike can fall over. When hot, you can often start it sitting on the seat. The issue with the R69/69s starting is that the compression ratio is 9:1 but R50/60 are 6.8 and 7.5 to 1.
    (10) The clutch friction plate is a solid disc with no radial springs to absorb vibration and road shock. To compensate, inside the gearbox is a shaft with sort of, two raised sections (imagine a two tooth ratchet except the teeth are the shape of a sine wave) that fit into each other. They are held in contact with a large square section spring. Because they are a wave shape, they can move up along the curve and these absorb the road shock/vibration. I understand it is possible to raise the engine revs and drop the clutch and the raised gear or section will just ride over each other as a power limiting device. I guess you should be able to hear it click as it ratchets.
    (11) The engine has no oil filter but the roller big ends have oil slingers on them. The engine is supposed to be dismantled every 30,000 miles to clean the slingers. This job need some special tools which you can make.
    (12) Ignition is by magneto so you don’t have to worry about a flat battery.
    (13) The generator is 6volt, 60watt so lights at night are quite dim.

    If there is anything else, I will let you know as I remember.

    Like 1
  14. Peter

    Oh, yes, another item.

    The model type featured here (and my earlier cycle) finished in about 1968. At that time, a new R50, R60 and R75 were released (with telescopic front forks) and they later became R90, R90s, R100, R100s. Another similar range but more ‘mass produced’ were the R45, R65 and I think R80.

    If you look closely at the photo, the models up to 1969 have two chrome push rod tubes on the top of the cast iron piston barrels. This means the (gear driven)camshaft is above the crank. In this way, the engine mass was lower to the ground but a skilled rider could scrape the valve covers while cornering.

    The post 1968 models had the camshaft below the crank to raise the cylinders higher to increase ground clearance. As such, the push rod tubes are underneath the barrels. I am not completely sure, but I think some of the later models used a chain instead of a gear drive for the camshaft.

    The spare space at the top of the engine in these later models hid an electric starter.

    Also, on the earlier models, some used three piston rings on each piston and other used five rings. Just why, I don’t know especially with such low compression on the R50 & R60.

    • Paul R

      Correct, a chain was used to drive the camshaft.

  15. Leo

    Great job of covering all the merits of these bikes Peter. Talk about quality! These bikes have it in spades. Had an R50/2 i restored many moons ago. Wish i had never sold it. What a beautiful machine

  16. Peter

    Thanks Leo, but there is more:

    The R60 & R69 are the same engine capacity 600cc (72mm x 73mm) but the 69 had the engine extras plus 26mm Bing carbs in place of the R60 with 24mm. The R60 achieves 30bhp and the R69s 42bhp.

    I forgot but the R69s also has needle roller rockers in the heads to operate the valves plus the 69s has a harmonic balancer on the nose of the crank.

    Just to confuse things there is in fact an R50 & R60 plus a R50/2 and R60/2.

    It is hard to find out what makes a /2 but it doesn’t appear to be much. It seems only to apply to the crank. The shaft leading off the nose of the crank has the generator bolted to it. The shaft on the R50 & R60 is 17mm diameter and on the /2 it is 20mm diameter. The bearing that supports that shaft would therefore be one size larger on the /2.

    (I think this is also what delineates the difference between the R69 and R69s models).

  17. Doug

    Zen and the Fine Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. 5% of the book is what it’s like to ride one of these, 5% is about maintaining them, and the other 90%, well you have to read the book.

    • Alan Brase

      One of the best books ever. Yeah, like a brief education of history of philosophy and the struggle between the Sophists and Cosmologists. And thinking he saw Phaedrus behind him.
      Robert Pirsig was actually riding an early 1965ish Honda 305 Super Hawk, but the other couple (DeWeeses) was riding the BMW. Pirsig took the position that they rode the BMW so they would not have to confront technology unlike what he had to deal with adjusting the chain and other repetitive maintenance.
      Incidentally, I feel the early Honda 305 Super Hawk is one of the true milestone bikes of all time. First really capable Japanese bike, with electric start and it would go 100mph. Probably higher top speed than that R50. A guy needs one of each!

      Like 1
  18. doug

    Thanks for the good review Alan. I remember a man in England asking me years ago, when I had my bike, if I had read the book. He said it was about motorcycles but it wasn’t. I was always intrigued by that so I finally tackled it last week as my vacation book. I’m about halfway through it, but now I am back at the insanity factory, working stupid hours, doing stupid things. I guess some things never change.

  19. Alan Brase

    Perhaps I should start a Barn Finds thread from my own barn. I have a few more 305 Hondas, CA, CB and CL77, than I will ever get to. I’m pretty good on the engines and trans, having been coached by Jim Leer, a guy that worked at the dealer for a few years in the 1960’s, went on to become the Kawasaki dealer in our region.
    When I was about 13, my dad bought a 1960 BMW R27, similar bike to the R50/2, but only 1 vertical cylinder on a different case. (Likely the very same cylinder and head!)
    With 18 hp it was not nearly as powerful as a Japanese bike, but still would go 60mph on a good day.
    That’s the one I want now!

  20. Paul R

    I have owned 5 BMW air heads, the oldest was a 1970 R60/5. Excellent machines!

  21. Peter

    As I recall, the R27 with only one cylinder had rubber engine mounts to help absorb the vibration not experienced with a horizontally opposed engine. I also think that on the single cylinder cycles, whilst the frame looked the same it was made of a lighter tube. Some of those cycles had 6″ brakes but the bigger engines got 8″ brakes.

  22. Alan Brase

    R27 was rubber mounted, the main change from R26. The tubes might have been lighter. Dad let me ride it up and down the alley a few times when I was 15 or 16. (A few other neighbor kids did too.) Amazingly generous for 1965. I remember the R27 being surprisingly nimble despite its clunky demeanor, it probably weighed no more than a Triumph twin. It had a nice but quiet sound, also.

  23. Somer

    I used a R69S as a daily rider for years. This brought top dollar .R50 was probably the best engine they made. It was square eg. Bore/stroke same. Fast enough.
    However when they sit you have the issue of dried up seals, slinger needs to be cleaned . I still. Ride a 62 R-60 with 130,000 miles on it. Pulled it down and slinger was full. Redid bearings and left crank alone. Good for 200K now.

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