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BMW K Series History

During the 1980's BMW were regarded by many motorcyclist as a manufacturer of "conservative" long distance expresses, perfect for traversing Europe at high speed, but not the mount of choice for a Sunday morning blast, that remained the domain of the GSX-R and its like. However, the unveiling of the K1 at the 1988 Cologne Show challenged that perception.

The new model utilised the existing K100 four cylinder engine, but added four valves per cylinder and twin cams working directly on bucket tappets together with a digital Motronic engine management system to the mix. The result was 100bhp at 8,000rpm, the then voluntarily imposed bhp limit for machines in Germany. In itself 100bhp was impressive but it would not deliver the performance required to elevate the machine to the "top table". In order to achieve this BMW looked to the models aerodynamics. BMW were aware that the aerodynamic drag of a motorcycle represented a ceiling that was hard to break, beyond a certain point vast increase in power achieved little in terms of increased performance unless the air flow was "cleaned up" and conversely better aerodynamics could offset lower brake horsepower figures.

The large all enveloping from mudguard, seven piece fairing and large tail unit that emerged as a result of the quest for aerodynamic efficiency not only endowed the machine with a striking appearance but resulted in a drag coefficient of 0.34 with the rider prone, at the time the lowest figure for any production motorcycle and one which, in combination with the 100bhp available resulted in a top speed approaching 160mph and a 0 to 60 time of 3.3 seconds.

Brembo brakes, partnered by an ABS system, Marzocchi forks measuring 41.7mm and a paralever suspension system adapted from that employed by the GS series machines ensured that the new model handled with a precision not normally associated with the marques products, whilst practical touches, such as the integrated "panniers" and pillion seat cover added to the motorcycles appeal.

The result was undoubtedly the finest handling and fastest BMW production motorcycle built, and served to highlight BMW's technological ability, however, the company's compliance with the voluntary 100bhp limit combined with a dry weight 234kg conspired against it. The result was arguably the finest "sports tourer" available, not an outright sports bike, which, together with a high showroom price resulted in only 6,600 being manufactured during the models five year production life.