BMW and Germany were in ruins following the Potsdam Agreement and the end of WWII in the European theatre. With their hands tied, they were very limited on what they could design and build so they were largely relegated to pre-war designs for the postwar motorcycles. When the agreement was lifted in 1948, BMW’s first postwar motorcycle to be sold to the public was the R24 250cc single cylinder, which was essentially a pre-war R23. It was not until 1956 that BMW would introduce their largely redesigned R26 model. Fitted with a 250cc single-cylinder engine, producing 15 hp, bolted directly to the frame, the R26 also came with an enclosed drive shaft, rear swingarm and Earles type front forks. The little single cylinder bikes sold well, especially in Europe, where economic and reliable daily transport was much more important than here in America. The R26 would be replaced by slightly upgraded R27 in 1960. Over its 5-year production run, just over 30,000 R26 motorcycles were built, with most of them finding homes throughout Europe.
This particular 1959 BMW R26, chassis number 362283 and engine number 362283, is a numbers matching example with excellent originality and patina throughout. It is believed to be original paint and judging by the patina and character present on the bike, it is hard to argue otherwise. Not much is known on the early history of the motorcycle but for past approximately 2 decades it has resided in collections and has been well cared for and maintained in a running “project” type condition. According to the registration sticker, still affixed to the rear fender it was last registered in Pennsylvania in 1985. The bike currently runs and has a fresh battery installed although we were only able to get the bike running by bump starting it. The odometer currently states the mileage as 4297 but the accuracy of this cannot be confirmed. With a bit of additional service, this R26 could easily be made roadworthy and would be the highlight of any motorcycle gathering or an excellent conversation piece in any collection.
Included with the sale of this motorcycle is the original owners manual.
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Body And Paint
The bike currently wears what we believe to be all original paint with fantastic patina and character throughout. Give the original nature of the motorcycle, there are numerous area where the paint is chipped scratched and faded, all of which serve to add to the stunning allure of this motorcycle. The only piece that does not match the rest of the bike is the taillight nacelle, which was missing and replaced with a genuine piece, most likely original paint as well, but which lacks the patina found throughout the rest of the bike. The white pinstriping, for the most part, is still nicely visible except for the trailing edge of the rear fender where it has begun to fade. The body is in fairly good shape for being all original with minimal dings and dents to report. The rear fender does have a small crack in the side but is still structurally sound. The gas tank is clean on the inside and the correct air filter box and battery housing is present and in good shape. The battery box even has the original battery tie down located inside.
Glass And Trim
The Bosch branded headlight has crack free glass but there is a bit of dirt and corrosion behind the glass lens. The chrome headlight bucket trim is a bit scuffed and the chrome is scratched but nothing terrible and the look of it falls in line with the rest of the motorcycle. Additional rubber components such as foot pegs are in fair shape with some fading but no cracking or seperating.
The spoked wheels are in good condition, a little dirty but that about it. They appear to be structurally sound with tight spokes and straight rims but it would be suggested to have them examined further before deeming them road worthy.
Seats And Surfaces
The motorcycle is currently fitted with a correct style Pagusa solo seat that has a newer suspension spring underneath it. The spring mechanism is a bit shiny and obviously newer so it does not really match the overall patina of the motorcycle exactly but this is an easy problem to correct. Also fitted is a Denfeld Passenger seat with grab handle. The front of this seat is separating a bit but it is still structurally sound although care should be taken if attempting to ride two up (not recommended by us on this motorcycle!).
Functionality And Accessories
The headlight functions as it should, the ignition switch and corresponding indicator lights work, although it appears the connections for the ignition, located on top of the headlight bucket, are a bit loose as it does not want to stay on all the time and slight wiggle fixes this. The horn does not currently function. The speedometer in the headlight is clean and clear with colorful and bright graphics. It provides a reading but it was not verified that the indicated number is correct. Hand grip controls are of the correct original type. There is some corrosion present on some of the switchgear on the left hand but everything appears to move through its range of motion as it should.
The engine is in good original cosmetic condition. It turns over freely with the kickstarter and although we were not able to start the motorcycle utilizing the Kickstarter, it did bump start to life. Once running the R26 idled normally and sounded strong. Undoubtedly the valve clearances will need to be checked as well as the engine timing before and serious use would occur. The engine revs freely and settles back down to idle. The throttle controls are a bit sticky and need to be twisted forward to shut the throttle at times. A newer fuel line runs to the correct Bing type carburetor and it appears that the spark plug was recently replaced. Most of the wiring running under the tank and in the battery box appears to be original. Some of the wiring in the battery box has become frayed should be looked over before deeming the motorcycle road worthy. The exhaust has some surface corrosion but appears structurally sound and the cosmetic condition falls in line with the rest of the motorcycle.
The transmission shifts through gears freely as the bike is sitting. In our short time testing the motorcycle, while running it easily moved through first and second gear but the upper limits of the transmission were not road tested. The clutch engages as it should be will certainly need to be adjusted for a better riding nature. There was, however, no significant slippage and the transmission seemed to hold power fine.
Brakes And Suspension
The drum brakes are free and working but will more than likely need a sorting before any serious riding takes place. The brake lever actuates both braking mechanisms and brings the bike to a controlled stop but the braking force is not where it should be in order to be road worthy, even by the standards of late 1950's drum brakes. The suspension is ok, there is no major sag and it still rebounds as it should but the front end feels very floaty and the suspension should certainly be gone over before taking the motorcycle out on public roads.
The tires hold air and have tread but will more than likely need to be replaced due to age before making the motorcycle road worthy.
Although we were not able to start the motorcycle utilizing the side step style kickstarter, the bike was able to bump start into life. Once running, it idles well with a charachteristic single cylinder thump. With only 15 horsepower on tap, pulling away from a stop is a slow experience but once on its way the R26 is a relaxed and comfortable ride. For being a small displacement single, the controls don't feel cramped even to individuals tall in stature. The best part about the bike is undoubtedly the fantastic patina throughout though. Few motorcycles wear originality as well as old BMW motorcycles and this R26 is no exception. Its a gorgeously designed motorcycle made even better by a lifetime of added character and is sure to be a smash hit at any motorcycle event.