If you’re a cyclist, a ‘bike’ has pedals and no engine. If you’re a motorcyclist, a ‘bike’ has an engine and no pedals. So, the ‘bike’ brand that has appeared in Tour de France photos the most and (quite probably) completed the most since the 1930s, is of course, The BMW motorcycle, or ‘bike’.
It’s the bike that has its two cylinders sticking out of each side of the engine horizontally, and its been the bike of choice for reporters, photographers and referees, and in some years, the race-following Gendarmes. Yes, there are other bike brands used, but not like the BMW has been over the years.
So why? The BMW doesn’t have the reputation as being the fastest, best handling or sexiest looking bike. The answer is: sit on one, either as a rider or a passenger and you’ll understand why. It is ‘cart horse’ stable, comfortable, reliable, easy to ride at different speeds. This is either crawling uphill, alongside sweating cyclists, or blasting down mountain passes trying to keep up with them.
Until recently, the perception of BMW riders by other riders was that they’re maybe a bit boring, the long distance touring types and not the Cafe Racers. Today, the story is very different with the brand being the top seller the world over when it comes to the big bikes. It’s also one of the most expensive, but that doesn’t appear to put buyers off. It also now has a cult following.
In the Tour de France, people don’t notice them. They’re just part of the circus. Tour de France photographers and camera people spend hours in the saddle so that our pictures on the TV can be beamed up successfully. They’re also used to carry spare bicycle wheels, water bottles, communication equipment and spares, because they have the space to carry them. They’ve got car technology, heated things, great rider protection and are ultra reliable.
The riders of these bikes do double the distance of the cycling peloton, because they’ll follow the race at bicycle speeds and then have to ride on to the next start point in the evening and in readiness for the next day. They have a big fuel range and have the flexible ability to get you down to the patisserie for a croissant or to take you across Europe. They’re that flexible.
Riding one of these trusty BMWs in the Tour de France must be like a combination of running with the bulls and threading it through the eye of a needle.
If I had a choice to be on the ‘Pinnarello bike’ or the ‘BMW bike’, I’d go for the latter.
To prove my point about the BMW brand and cycling, customised boxer twin BMWs are even used in paced track racing at the Berlin 6 day racing events as well.
Photo by the author