The author knows a lot about cars and motorcycles, especially older and more affordable ones.
Top Ten Coolest Vintage German Motorcycles
Recently, new motorcycles made to look vintage have become all the rage. This trend covers everything from cruisers to cafe racers to dirt bikes. While many of these bikes are really cool, they just aren't nearly as cool as the original. Here are what I consider to be the best vintage bikes of German origin.
1. BMW 1967 R60/2
This is my personal favorite vintage motorcycle. It may not be a speed demon, but it is a reliable workhorse. These bikes were made from 1960–1969. BMWs of this era were probably the best touring bikes available at the time. Many accessories were available including fairings, oversized fuel tanks, and luggage. Countless miles have been put on R60/2s, and they just keep going. The shaft final drive was quite unusual for its day, though not uncommon today. Parts availability for BMW motorcycles is generally good compared to more rare machines. These bikes are not too difficult to find today. I hope to own one myself someday.
2. Zundapp KS 750
Zundapp was a major motorcycle manufacturer in Germany and, in my opinion, this is the zenith of their production. After the war, they switched to mostly smaller uninteresting designs. These bikes entered production in 1940, and nearly 18,000 were produced. They featured sidecars with driving wheels and a locking differential giving true two-wheel drive when supplied to the Wehrmacht. Very cool in my opinion. These bikes were flat twin-engined and featured drive shafts.
3. NSU Fox
NSU was a giant in the motorcycle industry in the 1950s. For a time they were the largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world. They had considerable success with racing in the '50s, especially the Isle of Man TT races. They set many records and were highly regarded. The Fox isn't a super fast racing bike; it's a small city bike. It does have a nice look to it. I have a tendency to like sheet metal frames and springer seats though. It has a small 98cc four-stroke engine and was know for being reliable.
The Neander is a very rare bike; the company only produced around 2000 of them. It was a very futuristic bike for its day, and in my opinion is one of the coolest looking bikes I've ever seen. The company was formed in 1926 and ceased production sometime in the 1930s. The frame was of a very unusual design, being constructed of boxed duralumin. It also featured a very strange pivot on the fork.
5. Horex Imperator
Horex was a fairly obscure motorcycle maker. The Imperator featured a 500cc parallel twin with an OHC, not a common setup for the 1950s. As far as I know, the Imperator was in production from 1951 until 1960, when Daimler-Benz took the company over and halted production. I think I like this bike because it looks very similar to an old mid-60's Honda Dream I used to have.
6. BMW /5
BMW R50/5, R60/5 and R75/5
The line of BMW's commonly known as "Slash 5s" is legendary. These are one of the most dependable bikes ever made, with many having hundreds of thousands of miles on them. They came into production in 1970 and stayed until 1973 when the /6 appeared. These bikes were far more modern than the /2s they replaced. They featured 12 volts electrics, electric starters, and telescopic forks. The R75 was the fastest production bike available at the time with a top speed of 110 mph. These bikes were all produced in the Spandau suburb of Berlin, where BMW relocated all motorcycle production from Munich in the late 1960s.
7. BMW R90S
For those that don't know, the R90S is one badass bike. They are considered to be one of the first superbikes. While the performance would be considered mild by today's standards, these bikes were incredible in their day. Top speed was 120 mph. And with a few accessories like panniers and racks, they made competent touring bikes. They also featured distinctive two-tone paint jobs, with no two being exactly the same. These bikes were made from 1973 - 1976.
8. Hercules Wankel 2000
I only learned of this rare bike a little while ago. It almost looks like a typical 1970s Japanese bike until you get to the motor. It is the only Rotary powered bike I have ever come across, and that is good enough to get it on this list. It features a single rotor, air-cooled, 294cc rotary engine. Horsepower was only 25 or 27 depending on model year. For 1974 and 1975 engine lubrication was by manually adding oil to the fuel tank, but from 1976-on there was a separate oil tank with a pump.
9. DKW RT 125
This particular motorcycle is interesting because of its history. It started production in the 1930s and continued in one form or another to be built in Germany until the 1960s. As part of reparations after World War 2, the drawings and some tooling were distributed among the allies. Harley Davidson modified the design in the U.S. into what became the Harley Davidson Hummer. In the U.K. BSA turned it into the Bantam. the Soviet Union also produced a version. DKW also developed the Schnurle two-stroke loop scavenging process which made the deflection piston unnecessary and also developed a very good design for the transfer ports.
10. BMW R32
These bikes are extremely rare today. This was the first motorcycle made under the BMW name. It was the beginning of the legendary boxer twin engine and shaft drive layout that is still going strong on BMW's today. These bikes were only made from 1923 - 1926, so there are very few people living that have had the pleasure of riding one. The bike was fairly advanced for its day using a wet sump lubrication system while most others had the archaic total loss system still in place. It had a rather large for the time 486cc engine that put out 8.5 hp, which may not sound like much, but was good enough for 59 mph and 78 mpg.
Other Articles About Vintage Motorcycles
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Dan Brizendine on June 10, 2020:
During a search for restoration parts a few years ago, I learned the Horex Emperator was made until 1955 when the company folded. The design was sold to Zundapp , primarily because of the advanced unit engine / trans. They called it the Zundapp Citation . Only produced for one year, it was aimed at the American market and only came in metalic blue. Only approx. 225 units were imported before a legal fight between 2 distributors stipulated that remaining production be sold in Europe. Visit a website called Zundapp Fool for pics
Gerard Frederick on April 10, 2020:
Good as far as it goes. You missed the Maico Taifun, DKW SB-350, DKW RT-350 twin, the Dürkopp 200, the incredible Imme, The Victoria Bergmeister, the Adler SB250, the Tornax Black Josephine etc, etc. and the comments about the disappearnce of this entire industry are laughable.
Peter Fleischhacker on November 17, 2019:
Maico MC490 mega 2 is missing from the list.
Terry Schultz on January 29, 2019:
dkw 115 and 155 are among the 100 most interesting bikes ever produced. made in Germany 1961 to 1965. only 49 cc. yet styling
is one of most unusual, only 200 are reportedly produced. Never imported into the United States.
Lester Morris on July 04, 2017:
Let us not forget the 250cc twin-cylinder two-stroke Adler, the design of which was 'stolen' by Suzuki, later by Yamaha and just about every 250cc two stroke made once the German bike had gone down the gurgler with almost every other make on earth in the late fifties.
James West on May 20, 2014:
love to hear anything about the 1934 bmw R7 prototype never built, but brought to life in 2005
Gladys Hobson on March 25, 2012:
Thank you for these great photos and information concerning 1950's motor cycles. Just what I need for my research. The photographs are beautiful. Takes me back to when I rode pillion 1952 to 1956
jafruminc from Charlotte, North Carolina, USA on February 02, 2012:
Hey great photos and cool bikes also. I really love to look at vintage bikes. It reminds me of how much bikes evolved these days.
Doug Nassif on December 20, 2011:
The BMW with bar-end turn signals...the best!
So excited about these German bikes, I'm prepared to invade Poland.
josephine olarita on October 20, 2011:
nice picture i like it.
Jack Frost on May 28, 2011:
Excellent list with some very nice bikes. Like all great lists I believe this one should go to 11! What bike would I suggest for number eleven? Glad you asked, An Imme. Imme's were produced from 1949-51 in Immenstadt, they were designed by Norbert Riedel. They feature a 100cc two stroke engine, a single sided parallelogram fork and a single sided swing arm. The swing arm was also the exhaust! The Imme is my favorite bike from Germany followed by the Zundapp and the Adler.
tororobusto on January 02, 2011:
My first bike was an NSU Fox. A friend gave it to me when I was in 10th grade. In those days, you didn't need a separate motorcycle license or motorcycle insurance, but I never had a driver's license and never had it registered. The local Chief of Police caught me and my girlfriend riding in town and told me to walk it home - which I did until he was out of sight! The good old days!
earnestshub from Melbourne Australia on November 25, 2010:
The R60 BMW with Earls forks was a truly reliable workhorse. We had one for many years.
You could "tickle" the two Bing carburetors then start it by pushing the kick start pedal with your hand.
Bob on April 17, 2010:
The top speed for a 1974 R90S was 130 mph. I took a little while to get there but I rode 130 mph on mine. The speedometer was accurate at 60 mph so it was probably very close at 130 too.
ab420 from MA, USA on March 29, 2010:
Nice work, that Zundapp KS 750 is so ugly that it's cool!
Michelle Simtoco from Cebu, Philippines on September 26, 2009:
Wow travis so cool photos of these German motorcycles. Can you ride one of these and visit the Cirgue du Hubnuggets?? I sure hope so. As they have mentioned, you are a Hubnugget Wannabe! Check it out: https://hubpages.com/hubnuggets10/hub/cirque-du
Vote and promote! Have fun with the Hubnuggets! :)
rmcrayne from San Antonio Texas on September 25, 2009:
Congrats TTravis on your HubNuggets nomination. Great pics and summaries on the bikes. I think the BMW R32 is my pick.
ttravis5446 (author) from U.S. on September 25, 2009:
Thanks for the positive comments.
William Benner from Savannah GA. on September 25, 2009:
So Cool! You did a great job..I learned a lot about German bikes, thanks!
Duchess OBlunt on September 25, 2009:
Just wanted to pop in and take a look at your Hub as you have received a HubNugget Wannabe nomination. Lots of info here, and well written, I can certainly understand why it was chosen. Congratulations and good luck
Loveofnigjht Anderson from Baltimore, Maryland on September 24, 2009:
i love the look of them, makes me want to ride