BMW has been producing motorcycles for nearly 100 years, believe it or not. It debuted its first two-wheeled R32 motorcycle at the Berlin Motor Show in 1923 and has been going strong ever since. Indeed, its Motorrad division had its best year ever in 2021, selling over 194,200 units.
BMW has never shied away from taking on new challenges, evolving its brand, or incorporating cutting-edge technology into its motorcycles. This was the case with the Futuro concept bike, which was unveiled in September 1980 at the Cologne Show. That was also the show where some legendary motorcycles made their debuts, including Honda’s CX Turbo, the Suzuki Katana, and Yamaha’s first V-twin engines. Even the most ardent fans may have difficulty recalling the Futuro among the motorcycle industry’s titans.
Nonetheless, despite being largely forgotten in the annals of motorcycle history, the Futuro was loaded with several first-of-their-kind features, and is widely regarded as the first proper “modern concept bike” by some. BMW’s motorcycle prototype initiative was developed in collaboration with car customizer Buchmann (B&B), as well as a number of research firms and parts suppliers.
The Futuro was ready for the future
BWM was attempting to demonstrate to the world that its tried and true four-stroke, 785cc two-cylinder “Boxer” engine was still worthy by equipping it with a turbocharger. This move came before the industry’s bandwagon jump to the turbo craze (via Visor Down), so it was foresighted. The Futuro had a top speed of 125 mph, but its most notable feature was its overall appearance and design.
The bike was completely encased in a one-piece, aerodynamic fairing made of Kevlar carbon fiber — the first of its kind. It was light enough to lift with one hand while still protecting the bike and rider. The motorcycle weighed only 397 pounds due to the use of Kevlar. In comparison, the “average” weight of a bike is around 700 pounds, depending entirely on the exact make and model.
Other notable features included full disc wheels, a wraparound cowling, integrated rearview mirrors, and a rear trunk that is said to have inspired Honda’s Pacific Coast motorcycle (via Moto-Collection). It also had a monocoque frame and parallelogram rear suspension, which would not become standard on BMW motorcycles until later.
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The advanced computer-aided electronic information system, also known as the “bi-directional multiplex system,” was the final dash of “future.” It not only kept the rider up to date on standard bike functions (fuel, temperature, speed, etc. ), but it also fed them “the latest traffic news.”
The Futuro only made one appearance, but it made such an impression that some of its technological features left a lasting impression on the industry.