1974-1976: The BMW R90S

This is perhaps the most iconic and collectible airhead ever made. It was among the first production motorcycles to come with a sporty bikini fairing from the factory; one of the first bikes to utilize twin front disc brakes; and in 1976, a bright orange R90S won the inaugural Superbike championship.


The 90S came in two striking gradient paint combinations that were hand applied and pin-striped by workers in the company’s West German factory—Silver Smoke, and Daytona Orange— and the bikes came in a performance spec to back up the flashy paint.

Notably, this was the only airhead ever to come from the factory without  the reliable-but-stodgy Bing carburetors. Instead, it got throaty 38mm Dell’Ortos with built-in accelerator pumps, which added a little juice. The model also got high-compression pistons, denoted by black cylinders, and dual ATE brake calipers helped handle all that extra snarl.

To be fair the 1976 Superbike-winning bike sported a heavily braced frame, a race tuned engine and other more subtle modifications, and even then the bike’s pure racetrack competitiveness would soon fade as the monstrous Japanese superbikes of the late 70’s began decades of dominance, forever displacing twin-cylinder air-cooled bikes on the podium.

And that was a fate that BMW seemed just fine with.

Produced only between 1974 and 1976 just over 9,000 R90S’s rolled off the production line. Although the 90S was the closest an Airhead ever got to the race track, it was still an airhead, with a Type 246 Frame variant that would fit all the standard BMW hard cases, and so many a R90S were pressed into duty as touring bikes, racking up long miles, brisk miles carrying full factory luggage.

Owners: Steve Horton, 1974 Silver Smoke R90S; Steve Bauer, 1976 Daytona Orange R90S

Click Here to go back to the Main Menu of the interactive BMW Airhead Show, or follow the links below to the other bikes in the collection.


1970-1973: The BMW /5
1974-1976: The BMW /6
1974-1976: The BMW R90S
1977-1992: The BMW R100RS
1978-1995: BMW R80RT and R100RT
1979-1987: The BMW R65
1983-1985: The BMW R65LS
1980–1986: The R80 G/S
1982-1984: The BMW R80ST
1987-1995: The R100GS
1992-1995: The BMW R100R