BMW's R 5 Hommage
Sunday, May 22, 2016
Posted by: Wes Fleming
Eighty years ago, BMW presented the BMW R 5, an exciting new technological development that influenced motorcycle construction into the 1950s. Inspired by the 500cc factory racing machine of 1935, it was one of the groundbreaking sports motorbikes of the late 1930s. To mark the 80th anniversary of the BMW R 5, BMW Motorrad is honoring this icon at the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2016 with a special model: the BMW R 5 Hommage.
The BMW R 5 Hommage brings the essence of early motorcycling into the modern era, combining the world of historical motorcycle design with the modern world of custom bikes.
“At its debut, the R 5 was not only a masterpiece of engineering, the clarity of its lines and the elegance of its proportions also made it stand out clearly from the masses. To this day, the R 5 remains one of the most aesthetically appealing motorcycles in BMW history in my view,” says Edgar Heinrich, Head of Design BMW Motorrad. “In my opinion, its fascinating and unique beauty lies in its sheer simplicity,” said Ola Stenegard, Head of Vehicle Design and Creative Director Heritage BMW Motorrad. “In today’s world it is very simple to keep it complicated, but very complicated to keep it simple. And the BMW R 5 captures the very essence of a motorcycle. Our aim was to transport its clarity and elegant aesthetic appeal to the modern era - creating a respectful combination of old-school and high-tech with a dash of high performance.”
The BMW R 5 Hommage shows just how well the world of historical motorcycles and the custom scene harmonize. At the core there is an original 500cc two-cylinder engine provided by motorcycle enthusiast Sebastian Gutsch. This boxer engine was damaged in a race and provided the starting point for creating the BMW R 5 Hommage. As befits a custom bike, the homage bike was elaborately hand-crafted from scratch. Ronny and Benny Noren were called upon to produce the parts according to the specifications of the BMW Motorrad Design Team: the two brothers have been building tailor-made customer bikes for more than 30 years.
The two-cylinder four-stroke boxer engine of the R 5 was a completely new design upon its release and had an output of 24 bhp at 5,500 rpm. Two camshafts powered by a timing chain took care of the valve drive. Thanks to the innovative frame made of electrically welded oval tubing, the light R 5 reached a top speed of 135 kph (84 mph), making it almost as fast as R 17 (which had a 750cc engine that put out 33 bhp) and was one of the reasons it was so frequently used for racing, just like the engine selected for the BMW R 5 Hommage, which was damaged during a race. For the homage bike, numerous components such as the valve cover and the breastplate of the boxer engine were machined from billet aluminum based on sketches: they give the historical core a dash of modern flair in a tailor-made custom outfit.
Two doyens of the custom bike scene, Ronny and Benny Noren, were the perfect partners for the BMW R 5 Hommage project when it came to providing a fitting outward appearance for the historical core and producing the missing parts for the engine and gearbox. The remaining parts gradually took shape in the Norens’ workshop; they based their designs on sketches by the BMW Motorrad Design Team. All parts such as the frame, fuel tank and rear fender are unique, elaborately hand-crafted components, making this a genuine custom bike. Most important of all: the newly fashioned parts clearly transport the original purist character of the R 5.
The result is impressive. Even from a distance, the proportions convey the timeless beauty of a consistent reduction to the essentials – entirely true to the spirit of the R 5 – and translate this idea into the modern age. The frame and fuel tank echo the elegant drop shape of the original, though in a more modern, streamlined interpretation. The steering head is slightly more tilted to give the R 5 Hommage greater presence and an expressive stance, while at the same time underscoring the fact that it belongs to the custom bike world. As far as the frame is concerned, the focus here was on the oval-shaped tubes which were such a striking feature of the original. Together the frame and fuel tank draw a continuous line from the steering head to the rear wheel hub, giving the side view a touch of elegance. The hand-made steel rear fender perpetuates the minimalistic layout.
A particularly defining feature in terms of the appearance of the original R 5 was the telescopic fork - new at the time - whose characteristic fork covers were aerodynamically shaped. The BMW R 5 Hommage invokes this element and interprets it in modern style based on the custom-made fork. The leading edge of the fork covers echoes the crease on the breastplate and valve covers with a suggested interpretation of the typical R 5 rib. The brake and clutch levers (activated from the bar ends) likewise blend the past with state-of-the-art technology: these custom-made components combine the look of historical reversed levers with the adjustment options of modern controls.
The heart of the BMW R 5 rests within the minimalist proportions of the homage bike. The technical highlight of the engine is the specially developed supercharger, which in the BMW R 5 Hommage now significantly boosts the output of the original 500 cc power unit of 26 bhp to achieve a contemporary accurate level. A completely newly built stainless steel exhaust system ensures that this increase in power is appropriately reflected in terms of sound.
Other contemporary accents are provided by the new rear wheel suspension, the modern piston brake system and the elaborately designed front and rear wheel hub. The latter combines the brake system and spoke mount in a single formal unit - a detailed reflection of the minimalistic concept embodied by the BMW R 5 Hommage.
The basic color scheme is typical BMW – black with white pinstripes, though interpreted in contemporary style along with the rest of the bike. In addition to the solid-color surfaces, the smoked finish on the fuel tank and rear fender allow the steel underneath to partially show through. In addition to the white pinstripes, the black finish on the fuel tank and rear fender especially comes into its own right, in perfect custom style, due to the metallic finish and a slight flake effect. The engine cases and gearbox in glass bead aluminum provide the perfect stage for the polished aluminum parts, such as the machined breastplate and the valve covers. The soft luster of the polished aluminum is especially reminiscent of the BMW R 5 originals. The overall image is rounded off with a hand-stitched, embossed leather seat.