BMW R5 Hommage Image: BMW Motorrad
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BMW classic: 1930’s R5 reborn for Villa d’Este

  • Hand-built replica for 2016 Villa d’Este concourse
  • Faithful to original – except for some safety components
  • ‘Original’s beauty lay in simplicity’ – .Ola Stenegard
BMW R5 Hommage
FAITHFUL TO THE ORIGINAL R5: However modern tech has gone into the brakes, suspension, exhause and engine finishes. Image: BMW Motorrad

MUNICH, Germany / CERNOBBIO, Italy – It was 80 years ago that BMW presented the BMW R5 motorcycle to the international public as a technological development that would influence motorcycle construction right through to the 1950.s

The motorcycle was, BMW Mororrad told The Corner in a long media release, was Inspired by the 500cc factory racing machine of 1935, one of the groundbreaking sports motorcycles of the late 1930’s with its new light frame. (There’s an image of an original at the end of the feature.)

So, to mark the 80th anniversary of the R5, BMW Motorrad is honouring this icon at the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2016 with a special model – the BMW R5 Hommage.

bmw hommage pos 2 325
MINIMALISM FROM THE 1930’s: BMW and the Noren brothers have done a great job on bringing the R5 back to life. Image: BMW Motorrad

“The motorcycle,” Edgar Heinrich, head of design at BMW Motorrad told The Corner, “translates the essence of motorcycling into the modern era, combining historical motorcycle design with modern custom bikes.

“At its debut, the R5 was not only a masterpiece of engineering; the clarity of its lines and the elegance of its proportions also made it stand out clearly from the masses.”

Ola Stenegard, head of vehicle design and creative director of Heritage BMW Motorrad, believes the original’s beauty lay in its sheer simplicity.

“In today’s world it is very simple to keep it complicated but very complicated to keep it simple. The R5 captures the very essence of a motorcycle. Our aim was to transport its clarity and elegant aesthetic appeal to the modern era – creating a respectful combination of old-school and high-tech with a dash of high performance.”

At the core of the show bike is an original 500cc two-cylinder engine provided by motorcycle enthusiast Sebastian Gutsch – a boxer unit damaged in a race that was the starting point for creating the R5 Hommage.

See more about vintage BMW motorcycles on the 2013 DJ run from AltMotoCult

As befits a custom bike, the modern machine was hand-crafted from scratch. Ronny and Benny Noren were asked to produce the parts according to the specifications of the BMW Motorrad Design Team: these brothers have been building tailored customer bikes for more than 30 years.

BMW R5 Hommage Image: BMW Motorrad
TAKING A SHINE TO THE PAST: Polished aluminium covers are a modern addition to the BMW R5 Hommage Image: BMW Motorrad

The twin-cylinder four-stroke was completely redesigned 80 years ago to produce 18kW at 5500 rpm with two camshafts driven by a timing chain. The frame was electrically welded oval tubing and the lighter machine could reach 135km/h, almost as fast as the 750cc R17 of the time that made 25kW – one reason why it was so popular for racing for racing, just like the damaged engine selected for the BMW R5 Hommage.

However, the modern version has a number of components such as the valve cover and the breastplate of the boxer engine which – as the images show – were machined from billet aluminium based on sketches.

They give, Motorrad says, the historical core a dash of modern flair.

The Noren brother were the perfect partners for the BMW R5 Hommage project when it came to providing a fitting outward appearance for the historical core and producing the missing parts for the engine and gearbox.

BMW R5 Hommage Image: BMW Motorrad
KEEPING IT CONTEMPORARY: The BMW R5 Hommage’s engine was based on a damaged original. Image: BMW Motorrad

The remaining parts gradually took shape in their’ workshop based on sketches by the BMW Motorrad design team. Parts such as the frame, fuel tank and rear fender are unique and hand-crafted – this is a genuine custom bike.

“Most important,” BMW says, “all the newly fashioned parts clearly transport the original purist character of the R5.”

The result, as you can see from the images, is impressive and, BMW says, “entirely true to the spirit of the R5”.


The frame and fuel tank follow the teardrop shape of the original, though in a more modern, streamlined interpretation. The steering-head is slightly more tilted “to give the R5 Hommage greater presence and expressive stance”.

The frame followed the oval tubing of the original and, together, frame and fuel tank draw a line from the steering-head to the rear-wheel hub.

BMW R5 Hommage Image: BMW Motorrad
FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL LINE: There’s a straight line from the handlebar, along the fuel tank and seat, right to the tail of the BMW R5 Hommage. Image: BMW Motorrad

A defining feature of the original R5 was the telescopic fork – new at the time – whose fork covers were streamlined alongside the the headlight. “The modern version,” BMW says, “invokes this element and interprets it in a modern style based on the custom-made fork.”

The brake and clutch levers, activated from the bar-end, also blend the past with present: the custom-made components combine the look of the original reversed levers with the adjustment of modern controls.

Stainless-steel exhaust piping make the modest engine sound louder.


Other contemporary accents are the new rear suspension, modern piston-brakes and the elaborate wheel hubs which combine the brakes and spokes mount in a single formal unit – a detailed reflection of the minimalistic concept embodied by the BMW R5 Hommage.

The colour paint job is all-BMW: Black, with white pinstriping, though in contemporary style. The so-called ‘smoke’ finish on the fuel tank and rear fender allow the underlying steel to partially show through.

The overall image is rounded-off with a hand-stitched leather seat with high-quality embossing.

AND A LOOK AT AN ORIGINAL: This Googled image was taken during a Durban-Johannesburg run in South Africa. The reg. no. is BMB391FS and we’d love to identify the owner and photographer. (We got the reply – See AltMotoCult)


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