Review by Andy Saunders
[This BMW R90S book review was originally published in the July 2006 issue of Rider magazine]
Some motorcycles are instant icons: Triumph’s 1937 Speed Twin, Kawasaki’s 1973 Z1, Ducati’s 1993 916, and, of course, BMW’s mid-’70S R90S. It’s one of the few ’70S motorcycles that still looks handsome today (remember the Ducati 860, the first Gold Wing, the Suzuki RE5?).
Thirty years on, and you might be surprised that there’s a new book about the R90S. The reason? Just as the R90S was more than a mere motorcycle, this book is about more than just the bike.
Where to start, when you’re writing the history of one model produced only for three model years, 1974-’76? Why not at the very beginning? Ian Falloon does that, to explain its origins in detail, going back to 1915, eight years before the first BMW boxer motorcycle. And it’s complete with excellent pictures.
That’s the other thing that sets this book apart: BMW Mobile Tradition, the historical division of BMW, has co-operated fully with Falloon, supplying a great number of historical pictures from 30 years ago (yes, it was really that long ago).
Normally, I’m totally bored by the relentless march of details while reading books about motorcycles I don’t own. I really don’t care how wide the valve guides are, or how thick the wrist pins. Want to read that kind of material? Invest in a parts book—it’s much more useful, and at least you’ll know the part numbers when you have to order them. But somehow Falloon engages the reader’s interest, linking the progression of parts with the bigger story of the bike. With more than 20 previous motorcycle books under his belt, he knows how to keep the story moving along. A welcome talent.
Niggles? Quite a few typos, suggesting hurried review of the manuscript, and one wrongly captioned picture in the introduction that had me questioning the credibility of the book from the start (every later picture caption appeared to be correct, re-establishing trust).
Who will want this book? For anyone thinking about buying a BMW R90S, it’s a must-have. For anyone interested in the history of BMW motorcycles, ditto. And anyone interested in the race history of BMW (the first Superbike champion), this book includes a well-researched chapter. It was race victories, and that bright-orange paint, that launched the R90S to new sales records in the United States. Was that really 30 years ago?
For more information: BMW R90S by Ian Falloon, 128 pages, color illustrations, hardbound, $24.95 from Whitehorse Press, 107 East Conway Road, Center Conway, New Hampshire 03813-4012; (800) 531-1133; www.whitehorsepress.com