With vintage looks and reasonable reliability, it’s little wonder classic BMW motorcycles have risen in popularity recently. But as is often the case, that increased appreciation comes with increased prices. Some vintage BMW bikes now cost just as much, if not more, than their modern counterparts.
However, that doesn’t mean all classic BMW motorcycles necessarily cost a fortune. There are several models that, according to Hagerty and Bring a Trailer, can be bought for under $10,000. And while classic bikes have their foibles, the 25-year-and-older models described here should be relatively easy—and inexpensive—to live with.
If you want affordable classic BMW motorcycles, look to the early Airheads
Among classic BMW motorcycles, some of the most desirable use the brand’s iconic air-cooled boxer-twin engines. One of them, the 1936 R5, was the inspiration for the 2021 R18 cruiser. However, although BMW bikes used air-cooled boxer engines for decades, not everyone calls the earliest models ‘Airheads.’
In general, the 1970 /5 Series bikes are considered to be the first ‘true’ Airheads, Union Garage explains. Available in 498cc R50/5, 599cc R60/5, and 749cc R75/5 form, these bikes have both a kickstarter and an electric starter. Plus, like many BMW bikes, they have low-maintenance shaft drives. And while they’re starting to appreciate, a good-condition /5 BMW is still a sub-$10K vintage motorcycle, Hagerty says.
In 1974, BMW replaced the /5 Series with the /6 Series. Visually, these later bikes are similar to their predecessors. However, they’re cheaper than the /5 bikes and offer several upgrades. For one, they have front disc brakes instead of drums. And while the R60 and R75 carried over unchanged, there was a new model: the 898cc R90/6. There was also the R90S, but we’ll get to that bike shortly.
The /6 Series only stuck around until 1976. And the following year, BMW introduced the /7 Series, the final classic Airhead motorcycles. These bikes enjoyed the longest production run: the last left the factory in 1996. As a result, they’re the most modern vintage BMW bikes. That especially applies to the later models, which have features like front-and-rear disc brakes and electronic ignition.
It’s worth noting that not every BMW /7 Series model falls within our $10,000 budget. The /7 Series also includes bikes like the 797cc R80 G/S, the iconic first adventure bike. And some of the touring-focused 980cc R100RT tend to cost more than $10K, too. But other /7 bikes are more affordable.
Can’t afford a BMW R90S? Get an R65 instead
As mentioned earlier, the BMW R90S is technically part of the /6 Series. But it’s often considered a separate model due to its design. That’s understandable given that BMW designed the R90S to change the public’s perception of the brand. And because of that design, which helped establish the sport-touring segment, an R90S typically costs more than $10,000.
However, there is a cheaper classic BMW sport-touring motorcycle: the 1982-1984 R65LS. It was designed to be a scaled-down, more affordable version of the R90S, RideApart explains. And while its 648cc boxer-twin engine is less powerful, it still makes a decent 50 hp. Plus, it has a relatively low seat height, comfortable suspension, and a large fuel tank. Combine that with some panniers and you have an excellent vintage touring bike.
It’s also an affordable vintage BMW touring motorcycle. Even a pristine R65LS typically costs less than $8,000, Hagerty reports.
The K100 and K75 make for affordable liquid-cooled classic BMW motorcycles
All the classic BMW motorcycles described so far have been air-cooled bikes. However, there are some affordable liquid-cooled vintage BMW bikes, too. Specifically, the K100 and K75, the earliest K Series models.
Nicknamed ‘the Flying Brick,’ the 1983-1992 BMW K100 earned that moniker because of its engine, Silodrome explains. Instead of a boxer-twin, the K100 has a liquid-cooled 987cc flat-four, BMW’s first liquid-cooled motorcycle engine. This fuel-injected engine would later make its way into the K1 sportbike. And BMW would use updated versions of this flat-four up until the mid-2000s, Motorcyclist notes.
Shortly after launching the K100, BMW introduced the 1985 K75, which packed a 740cc three-cylinder version of the K100’s engine. Although it wasn’t as powerful, the K75 lasted three years longer on the market than the K100. But both bikes offered similar touring- and sport-focused trims as well as features. And starting in 1988, those features included ABS.
While the K100 and K75 are liquid-cooled, these classic BMW motorcycles are known for their solid build quality, MCN says. And although they’re starting to be frequently customized, they’re some of the most affordable vintage BMW bikes. Even pristine examples rarely cost more than $6,000, Hagerty reports.
So, if you want the vintage two-wheeled BMW experience without breaking the bank, you have plenty of bikes to choose from.
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