Concept 101: The spirit of the open road
Friday, May 22, 2015
Posted by: Wes Fleming
Some of BMW’s coolest bikes started out as concepts that nobody was sure would catch on. What immediately comes to mind, of course, is the R nineT, the retrorific roadster that appeals to a broad demographic of riders.
BMW’s last attempt at capturing the heart and soul of the American road-going public, the R 1200 C, wasn’t quite the success it could have been. The straight cruiser was beautiful, but underpowered for the horsepower-hungry US market. With the Concept 101, BMW may be signaling its intent to enter into another quintessentially American genre: the power cruiser. If it goes into production, the Concept 101 looks to be aimed squarely at riders enamored with Honda’s Gold Wing F6B and Valkyrie, Harley-Davidson’s CVO Road Glide, Kawasaki’s Vulcan Vaquero, and Victory’s Magnum X-1. As the Concept 101 is a riff on BMW’s popular power touring bike, the K 1600 GT, perhaps the Gold Wing/Gold Wing F6B comparison is the most apt model.
The heart of the Concept 101 is the 101 cubic inch engine – better known as the 1,649 cc lump that propels the K 1600 GT/GTL towards the horizon. The name also gets some of its provenance from Highway 101, a road not far from BMW Group’s Designworks office in Newbury Park, California, where the idea for the Concept 101 came into being.
“The Concept 101 opens up a new chapter in the history of our concept bikes,” said Head of BMW Motorrad Design Edgar Heinrich. “It is the BMW Motorrad interpretation of endless highways and the dream of freedom and independence – the perfect embodiment of ‘American touring.’ The Concept 101 is the epitome of elegance, power and luxury on two wheels.”
Ola Stenegard, Head of Vehicle Design for BMW Motorrad, added, “We had a clear vision when we were designing the bike: Under the motto ‘the spirit of the open road,’ we wanted to build a high-performance and highly exclusive six-cylinder vehicle that would make every ride a special experience – a bike that would make the moment so special [that] you would forget your destination.”
Baggers are very popular in the USA; many of them feature elongated, exaggerated and yet streamlined silhouettes that make them instantly identifiable and striking. The drop-shaped silhouette of the Concept 101 is typical of baggers, from the large-diameter front wheel through the stretched-out fuel tank and on to the sloping tail accented by seamlessly merged side cases.
The front of the Concept 101 is set off with its brushed aluminum trim and integrated headlight. The side panels give a broad-shouldered look, further highlighting the powerful stance of the 101. Each side of the 6-into-2 exhaust features three outlets to remind onlookers of the engine, which is blacked out and given a throaty exhaust note in this configuration.
One particular highlight of the Concept 101 is the unusual rear light cluster. Two LED bands frame the dark-colored rear section, and the design of the lights is reminiscent of road cruisers. At the same time, it reflects a fascinating technical and aesthetic style. Another highlight is the two-toned silver paint, brushed aluminum, carbon and – yes – oiled wood panels that up both the bagger and retro credibility of the 101 before it even starts rolling.
If you’re starting to wonder how on Earth BMW came up with this design, you might take another look at the R nineT. Clearly, BMW has some designers that are thinking outside of BMW’s usual boxes, and in the case of the Concept 101, they’re drawing some inspiration (and help) from motorcycle design wiz Roland Sands. Sands assembled the exclusive parts of the 101 at his workshop just an hour from Newbury Park. Sands’ familiarity with the scene and enormous expertise in custom building – combined with the possibilities and history offered by BMW Motorrad – make for an exciting partnership. Sands’ elaborate, hand-built individual elements like the clutch cover, timing chain cover and wheels bear his logo.
Combining Sands’ custom parts with the material finish and overall technical design, it’s easy to see BMW Motorrad’s fundamental concepts of precision and emotion laid bare for all to see in the Concept 101.