Text from "Motor Cycling" magazine, April 19, 1956

Photos taken in 1999 by Elaine White-Vechorik feature Roy Carpenter's 1957 BMW R69, restored by Craig Vechorik of Bench Mark Works in June, 1999

Of all German machines, the undoubted leader in both technical design and detail finish is the BMW R69 which, being a 590cc o.h.v. twin is one of the few Continental designs which can provide a direct comparison with the many big British models. However, though the BMW may therefore be considered as probably the nearest equivalent to our popular 600 and 650cc vertical twins, several reservations should be entered. One is that it is designed as a luxury tourer, not as a sports machine. 1957 BMW R69
Only 2,954 were built during 1955 to 1960.

Such features as the now almost traditional h.o. engine and shaft drive make exact analogy with chain-drive vertical twins almost impossible, the design philosophy underlying the two schools of thought being entirely different, while one could buy two British twins for the price of one BMW and still have the price of a puncture outfit to spare!

The safest ground from which a tester can judge the latest in a long line of Munich-built flat twins is in comparison with earlier models of the same marquee. There can be no doubt that, with its swinging-fork front and rear suspension and fully enclosed transmission, the new BMW is a vast improvement over its predecessors, which themselves held an enviable reputation. The rear suspension systems is, of course, unconventional, the spring units being clamped into position at about their half-way point; and angular movement accommodated within the unit itself. The frame, too, more nearly resembles an only-type "loop" structure, but it offers great rigidity, and a solid anchorage for a sidecar.

On taking over the test R69 (kindly loaned for the occasion by private owner, Bill Potter, of Thornton Heath, Surrey) our man's first mental note was that the 600cc engine was slightly noisier, mechanically, than had been the previous 500cc job. That is to say one could, by listening really hard, just hear the valve gear in action! That frou-frou rustle apart, there was not a single mechanical sound audible.

Clutch action was smooth and sweet, the gear change (provided the rider's tactics were adapted to suit an engine-speed clutch) positive and easy. At first, the riding position gave signs of being just a little different from that to which a British rider would normally be accustomed. One is seated a little more to the rear (a result of the transverse engine). It took only a few miles, however, to become enthusiastic over the natural attitude provided by the BMW and it was with amazement that a tester normally finicky over control co-relationships discovered, after nearly 1,000 miles of riding, that the footrests were staggered by a couple of inches to suit the equivalent arrangement of the two big "pots." BMW R69

The riding comfort provided by a combination of sprung saddle and suspension impossible to fault was a revelation. With one possible exception, the R69 is the best-sprung machine in the rider's longish experience. Since the front end is made under Earles' license, part of the credit obviously belongs to Birmingham! Readily adjustable by means of a built-in tommy bar on each leg, the rear springing harmonized well with the front, giving superb road-holding under all conditions.

Though flexible enough to allow of 20 mph traffic negotiation in top gear, the big engine really reveled under open road conditions. There seemed no limit on one's cruising speed. "Poodling" at a touring 40 mph, or hurtling along the highway at over "90 per"--it was all the same to the R69. Seldom has the tester straddled a machine which made high-speed cruising so ridiculously easy! At 85 to 90 mph, with the suspension smoothing out the bumps, the engine vibrationless, and the exhaust note a steady drone, nothing but the whistling of the wind and the needle of the speedometer indicated one's speed. It was just like riding a big, comfortable car.

Acceleration--though not startling--was more than adequate for all practical purposes, the power coming in smoothly, without a flat spot, all the way up the range. Once the knack had been learned, quick gear changes could be made in either direction.

Steering was also first rate. Thanks to a low center of gravity, the R69 could be put into corners on any line the rider cared to choose, and it would hold to it tenaciously. It could be rapidly warped over from side to side, thanks in no small measure to an ideal riding position which enabled full knee pressure to be brought to bear, and was as handy as a lightweight when it came to maneuvering through traffic.
BMW R69 motorcycle

BMW R69 motorcycle With such attributes, it was not surprising that the tester came to regard it as an ideal machine for putting up averages. On one memorable morning, when Press schedules were tight and time short, the R69 conveyed a staffman from mid-Sussex to the New Forest and back between breakfast-time and lunch, with an hour or so's work thrown in! Over this tricky cross-country journey, measuring just over 90 miles on each stretch, the R69 responded nobly, doing what had to be done in the minimum time, but also with the maximum safety. Naturally, this required the best use to be made of the model's ability to cruise well up the scale, and it was frequently held with the needle at around the 90 mph mark, with occasional downhill sprints bringing it near the 100 mph. Under such conditions, fuel consumption naturally rose, but normally an overall 70 mpg could be expected on give-and-take going.

No small contribution to the R69 appeal was made by its excellent brakes. That at the front was of two-leading-shoe design. When the test figures were being carried out, the first two stops were both made in the allegedly "can't-be-done" distance of 26 feet, using the front brake alone! For fear of causing apoplexy amongst readers, attempts were thereupon discontinued. With both brakes in action, the best figure ever obtained in a Motor Cycling test (20 feet from a corrected 30 mph, the speed was 10% fast) was obtained in the two first tries. No more were made. 1957 BMW R69 motorcycle
The spark advance on the left handlebar is one of few characteristics that distinguish the R69 from other BMW twins manufactured between 1955 and 1968.

On other points, too, the machine earned full marks. The lighting was first-rate; oil-tightness as near absolute as made no difference; the silencing effective; subsidiary design neat; mud guarding good. A hyper-critical tester might have complained that the dipswitch was a little too far from the left hand for comfort; that the otherwise neat toolbox, with Yale-type lock, concealed behind the left knee rest was the Devil's own delight to repack and that no adjustment appeared to be provided for a gear pedal which, to be honest, didn't in this case need readjustment anyway.

But beyond those minor points of detail design, nothing adverse could be said, and certainly they count for little compared with the overall excellence of the layout, handling, performance and finish of this "100 mph plus" scion of a long line of foreign aristocrats. For a price of nearly 500 pounds one expects a motorcycle of nearly Rolls-Royce quality. It is to its manufacturer's credit that the BMW R69 provides it.


Engine: 500 cc BMW horizontally-opposed o.h.v twin four-stroke/bore 72 mm by stroke 73 mm = 590cc; cast iron cylinders' light alloy heads' valves push-rod operated; C.R. 6.5 to 1; claimed b.h.p. 35/7,800 r.p.m.; Bing carburetters.

Transmission: four-speed gearbox bolted-up to engine; car-type clutch; ratios 4.9, 7.8, 9.6 and 16.95 to 1; direct primary drive; final drive by enclosed shaft to hypoid gears.

Frame: of welded tubular construction' duplex main frame, with extended loop-type rear bearers.

Wheels: Light alloy rims carry Continental 3.50-inch by 18-inch tires.

Brakes: 7-9-inch, twin-leading-shoe front brake; 7.9-inch rear brake.

Lubrication: By gear pump submerged in engine sump.

Electrical Equipment: Noris 6-volt 60-watt generator, crankshaft driven, supplies current for Bosch battery; coil ignition; Bosch head lamp; Bosch tail lamp; Bosch horn; ignition an neutral warning lights; combined horn button an dip-switch control unit.

Suspension: BMW front forks, built under Earles license, with BMW hydraulically-damped suspension units. Swinging-fork rear suspension with adjustable BMW hydraulically-damped suspension units.

Tank: Of welded steel, 4 gallons capacity, locking tool box hidden beneath the left knee grip.

Dimensions: Wheelbase, 55.75 inches, ground clearance 5 inches, unladen seat height 28.5 inches, dry weight 445 pounds.

Finish: Black enamel with white lining; BMW motif in blue and white on tank; chromium-plated details.

General Equipment: Comprehensive tool kit; tire inflator; puncture repair outfit; steering head lock; tool box lock; 120 mph VDO speedometer mounted in head-lamp shell.

Price: 397 pounds

Makers: Byerische Motoren Werke A.G. Lerchenauerstrasse 76, Munich, Germany

Restoration of a BMW R69S

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