Baby Beemers have taken the Indian motorcycling world by storm. Bijoy reminisces the 1990s to rediscover BMW Motorrad's Indian innings
BMW IS THE TOAST OF THE MONTH AS magazines, blogs, vlogs and TV shows are brimming with the new G 310 R and the G 310 GS. They look good, the blue and white roundel has brag value and, of course, has the pedigree. Pricing cannot be faulted either, though 50K more for the GS version is simply riding on the tremendous brand equity of the big brother, the R 1200 GS. Guess that is alright! As far as I am concerned, GS is what is stirring my heart as we do now have an on/off roader/ tourer that can be picked up effortlessly without rearranging your vertebrae when you drop it. And if you use it properly, you will eventually drop it at some point or the other.
Though the performance on paper is adequate, I would have loved to have a little bit more power and torque than the available 33bhp and 28Nm. While that is wishful thinking, I think the GS has enough performance for our road conditions and anyone looking at motorcycle touring, whether you are young or old, should take a serious look at it. But what I am more interested in telling you in this column is about how BMW tried to enter the Indian market with a glorious motorcycle and failed miserably. Let us rewind 23 years back then!
Back in 1995, the BMW F 650 Funduro was radical for even traditional Bavarians. The big single built by Rotax sent its power to the rear wheel via a chain (look ma, no shaft!) and it was assembled by Aprilia. But when it came out, there was nothing quite like it not just in India, but the rest of the world. It was supposed to be BMW’s entry level motorcycle in Europe, but in India it was the biggest, baddest thing on two wheels that was on sale. The price was a princely `5 lakh at a time when the premium car from Maruti, the Esteem, cost er…the same. The 48bhp motor could take the motorcycle to 165kmph, in case you are interested.
It was too early for its time and there weren’t many takers. BMW had to sell off the stock at throw away prices and I do know quite a few lucky guys who still run them (Enough Hari Singh, it is time you send yours to Mumbai!)
It didn’t matter much to me though. Imagine the sheer happiness of getting one of those for a road test in those days when what was trending was the Hero Honda Splendor! I rode it all over the land and then some. I commuted for a week, learned to do power wheelies, tried to impress my wife with a 10-minute run from Goregaon to Bandra (it backfired, she hardly rode with me after that!), gave joy rides to everyone in the office and the works! In short, the fact that someone like BMW would trust me with a spanking new motorcycle for a week was affirmation enough that I had chosen the right career path. I did write glorious accounts of the motorcycle in Business Standard and later compared it to the Yamaha RD 350 (well, launches were not as frequent as they are today and we had to fill pages is one good reason). Well a lot of good things happened to the Indian automotive industry and myself, but it did take 23 long years for BMW to return and correct its mistake. Talk about burning fingers!
BTW, I think I like the red/silver combination.L
'The F 650 Funduro was supposed to be BMW’s entrylevel motorcycle in Europe, but in India it was the biggest, baddest two-wheeler
on sale then'