The BMW R26 is the motorcycling equivalent of the Citroën 2CV “less is more” theme.
This example -a 1957 model currently for sale- has survived for the last 63 years thanks to its careful previous owners and to BMW’s simple mechanical solutions that were largely established by Max Friz, who helped the company launch its first motorcycle in the early ’20s as BMW was forbidden to continue producing aircraft engines after WWI.
Τhe R26 is based on a simple and durable design. Everything is visible -from the frame and engine parts, all the way to the Bing carburetor and the numerous nuts and bolts that hold the bike into one solid piece.
Build quality is awesome as the motorcycle’s materials were made to last forever. The hefty looks are combined by a sure-footed ride that gives all the confidence you need to move around heavy traffic or cruise in motorways.
The R26 was BMW’s first US attempt -which only reached the country after WWII. Launched in 1955 as a successor to the R24 and R25, the R26 has a 4-stroke single-cylinder 245cc engine producing 15 horsepower. The 4-speed gearbox works well without clangs or any other surprises, and balances the characteristic operation of the engine with that marvellous exhaust tune that sounds like a lion’s roar.
A drive shaft transfers power to the rear wheel while a set of internal shoe brakes operate smoothly and safely.
The only problem with the R26 is that it came with no factory-fitted mirrors and indicators… If you want to keep it in original condition and preserve its authentic looks, this means that you have to sacrifice road safety in exchange of genuine character. However, such a choice might prove to be dangerous whenever one tries to turn using a hand signal (no flashers) or guess who is driving behind (no mirrors)…
I think that it would be preferable to overrule all the historic arguments of restoration and install a mirror and a set of indicators before it is too late…
✎ Savas Kalfas, Managing Director, automotohistory.com
© • Photos courtesy of the autobeauty.xyz & Auto Business Review artistic galleries