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BMW is a legend in multiple forms of transportation. Between the cars and motorcycles, BMW has clearly earned legendary status. As the adventure and dual-sport bike segments continue to grow in popularity, old-school icons are now coming back into fashion. The Dakar-winning BMW R80 G/S gets a lot of love, but the BMW R75/5 scrambler deserves a lot of the credit as it paved the way for an entire line of iconic BMW motorcycles

1972 BMW R75/5 "scrambler" in a parking lot was the basis for the BMW R80 G/S
1972 BMW R75/5 “scrambler” | Mecum

What makes the BMW R75/5 Scrambler special

According to Silodrome, the vinateg BMW R75/5 Scrambler is one of the most important motorcycles for BMW Motorrad. As we mentioned, there are few bikers who haven’t heard of or seen the old BMW R80 G/S that defined the late 80s off-road racing event, the Paris-Dakar. However, far fewer riders know the bike that preceded the iconic Dakar bike. 

To be clear, the BMW R75/5 was never meant to run in the dirt. BMW was only making road bikes in the early 70s. Despite its weight, people started modifying the R75/5 to be more off-road capable. Not only was throwing a scrambler exhaust and knobby tires cool-looking, it actually made for a pretty good off-road bike.

In fact, between 1970 and 1972, Herbert Schek won the over-500cc German off-road championship three times in a row with his modified R75/5. So, it really worked. During this same period, Schek also won the coveted gold medal in the ISDT (International Six Days Trial, the toughest enduro motorcycle race in the world at the time) in 1971 and 1972. 

Make way for the King of Adventure Motorcycles 

front view of this custom 1972 BMW R75/5 that would later morph into a Dakar bike
1972 vintage BMW R75/5 “scrambler” | Mecum

Even though the G/S line didn’t exist yet, its spirit was certainly floating around the BMW factory in the 70s. The BMW R75/5 was not the only member of /5 BMW family; However, it was the biggest. The other two models were R50/5 and R60/5. The first two numbers of the model name specify the engine size in cubic centimeters (i.e., The BMW R75/5 was a 750cc bike.) 

While the BMW R75/5 was made for the road, people started modding them for off-road racing soon after they came out. Even some employees at BMW would later build themselves their own versions of the R75/5 ridden by Schek. Once BMW employees were into these modified off-roaders, the seed was planted to result in 872cc prototypes that would become the race-only GS80 model, not to be mistaken with the later BMW R80 G/S.

Now BMW had a bike that would compete in the over-750cc class. As noted by Silodrome, Richard Schalber rode a GS80 in1979 to win the German off-road championship (over-750cc class). A year later in 1980 Werner Schütz doubled-up the GS80’s championships while Rolf Witthoft won the European championship. 

All of these successes on the back of the BMW R75/5 and GS80 set the stage for the arrival of the BMW R80 G/S that would go on to take multiple wins in the grueling Paris Dakar Rally and establish the adventure motorcycle genre.

This little vintage BMW motorcycle made quite the impact

This genre would prove to be a massive success across the board but for BMW, in particular. The G/S line really blasted into the stratosphere once Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman used a pair of them to circumnavigate the globe for Long Way Round. 

The BMW R75/5 did more for BMW and adventure motorcycling than most people know. Meanwhile, the R80 G/S gets all the glory (it is way cool, though). Next time you see a bit kitted out 1200 G/S, tip your hat to the ol’ vintage BMW R75/5. 


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