BMW motorcycles go all the way back to 1917 in the final years of the First World War.
The range now includes many types of motorcycles with a very loyal and committed fan base around the world.
The bikes are known for their prestige status, but not as much as some of their Japanese counterparts for quality.
This article answers the question: “How long do BMW Motorcycles last?”…
Here Is The Short Answer To: How Long Do BMW Motorcycles Last?
BMW as a motorcycle brand has been attacked a lot for its failure to maintain reliability. But the reality is that if you invest enough money and maintain the engine properly over its lifetime, most BMW motorcycles should last up to as much as 200,000 miles.
The main factor is maintenance costs, which are much higher than other brands.
This leads some to skip maintenance steps and leads to worsening quality and reliability in the bike.
Consumer Reports often place BMW in the very lowest rungs for its motorcycle reliability.
How Many Miles Can You Expect?
When a BMW is properly maintained and looked after, and it isn’t put too harshly through its paces, a rider could expect easily to get up to 150,000 or even 200,000 miles.
However, this would not be about the average lifespan of a BMW motorcycle, which is lower at 100,000-120,000.
This is because the annual maintenance expense of $1,800 or more proves too high for some, which causes crucial steps to be skipped and problems left unsolved.
These can then compound themselves into worse issues.
The engines in the BMW are actually quite well built, but they do require more investment in both cash and time to keep them that way.
For example, if the bike has a carburetor it will need cleaning very often, which if you have done professionally adds up in cost.
On top of that, the bike needs almost an entire rebuild after 100,000 miles, which adds massively to the cost of ownership.
How Reliable Are BMW Motorcycles?
On the whole, BMW motorcycles do not do well in reliability ratings because they have suffered through various recalls over the years.
They are also known for having generally quite solid engines, but then a lot of problems with the various peripheral components.
For instance, there have been recalls on the main forks, most notably in July 2017 when there was a global recall of water-cooled BMW R1200GS models and R1200GS Adventure models due to safety concerns over the fork stanchions.
The brand was hit again in 2018 with recalls of the G310 GS and the G310R because of problems with the side stand and frame.
Such a basic error from a prestige brand has been extremely damaging to the reputation of these bikes when it comes to reliability.
On top of that, there have also been many complaints about power loss issues, as well as issues with the kill switch, and leaking water pumps.
In fairness, outside of the recalls, some of the problems are compounded by owners not seeing them swiftly enough. If they are attended to quickly, many of the issues can be resolved.
How Long Do BMW Motorcycles Last Vs. Competitors?
To answer this question, we will compare BMW to Harley-Davidson and Honda.
BMW motorcycles suffer from a lot of conflicting information when it comes to reliability.
Many of their owners are true die-hard fans and despite any problems they have they almost seem determined never to switch.
Owners often talk about how reliable the bikes are and how long they can last, but it doesn’t seem to square with the bigger picture in publications like Consumer Reports.
The reports show that BMW suffers from a 4-year failure rate of just 40 percent.
This means that of BMWs bought in 2017, 4 years ago, only 60 percent likely remain on the road today or are in good working order.
This doesn’t bode well for the lifespan of BMWs on average.
With the equivalent of a new build being needed every 100,000 miles, it’s hardly surprising that there are so many other brands deemed to have better longevity overall.
Two of those are Harley-Davidson and Honda.
Detailed research on motorcycle longevity has found that despite suffering from some of its own reliability issues, Harley Davidson bikes are the ones that enjoy the longest lifespan overall, with about 75 percent of their bikes still on the road after 25 years.
This is more likely explained by the manner in which Harley bikes are ridden, most often as cruisers traveling at steady speeds.
They aren’t pushed hard like some sports bikes from Kawasaki, Suzuki, and BMW, which shortens the average lifespan considerably.
Honda bikes also enjoy decent longevity, with 45 percent of their bikes surviving after 25 years on the road.
What we see is an interesting phenomenon.
Far from just pure reliability, the key factor behind lasting longer is how the bikes are ridden.
BMW has a mixture of bike styles, including sport and adventure bikes.
It is these bikes that help to drag down the average BMW motorcycle lifespan the most.
The same is actually true of Suzuki and Kawasaki models, which enjoy higher reliability ratings overall than BMW.
Cheaper bikes like Suzuki and Kawasaki are ridden harder and with less care, which overall shortens their lifespan. It’s not the bike’s fault, but the owners’.
BMW’s adventure bikes still suffer this fate, even though they are generally higher in price and more premium in nature.
Which Are The Best And Worst BMW Models?
Arguably the best-ever BMW model is the BMW HP4 Race. It outputs 212 horsepower and comes with a steep price tag of $78,000.
The bad news, however, is that it was designed for racing use only and is not a street-legal model, much like the Kawasaki Ninja H2R.
This model is not exactly maintenance-friendly, either.
BMW recommends that the entire engine on the HP4 Race be replaced every 3,000 miles.
In terms of street-legal bikes, the firm favorite seems to be the BMW S1000RR.
It was first released in 2009 and has generally been considered as the best superbike model that the company has ever produced.
The only main drawback seems to be that the bike hasn’t been updated much since its first arrival back in 2009.
The consensus on the worst model seems to be that it is the BMW S1000R, which is interesting because it was based on the much-lauded S1000RR.
What was the main problem?
The S1000R inherited the gearbox, suspension, and frame.
The main problem was the powertrain.
The S1000R was cursed with a downgraded inline-4 powertrain which drastically affected its overall performance to a degree where people perceived it as among the very worst models they’d made.
Are BMW Motorcycles Expensive To Maintain?
The average annual cost to maintain a BMW is about $1800, which places it higher than many other popular brands, especially over the full lifespan of the bike.
How Long Do The Brakes Last?
A BMW motorcycle brake pad should last about 20,000 miles, but it could be even longer depending on your bike style and riding style.
The sports and adventure bikes will have the shortest lifespan on brakes because braking is often done harder.
Brakes are generally not a problematic part of a BMW motorcycle, not compared to the forks, camshaft, side stand, and certain other components.
How Long Do The Tires Last?
BMW motorcycle tires follow the more general industry trend of about 5 years of lifespan.
The more premium quality of BMW tires, however, often means they can last up to 8 years.
After 8 years, however, even if the tire appears fairly healthy in terms of tread, the tires should be changed because most tires have a lifespan that exists outside of being used or not.
How Long Do The Gearboxes Last?
The BMW gearboxes are generally of very good quality.
The main thing to watch out for is getting metal flakes in the oil. If this happens, you should have the gearbox seen as soon as possible.
The generally accepted lifespan of the BMW motorcycle gearbox is between 50,000 and 75,000 miles, putting it well in line with what an owner would likely cover in the whole period they had the bike.
How Long Do The Chains Last?
A properly maintained BMW chain will last up to between 20,000-30,000 miles.
The chains are generally of good quality.
The best news is that there are other alternative chains like the BMW Motorrad M Endurance chain for the BMW which they say is maintenance-free and doesn’t need lubrication.
What About The Insurance?
Basic coverage can cost you up to $612 per month. At the lowest end, it will cost $100 per month.
The high insurance costs are brought about by perceived reliability problems in the bike, and the expensive nature of damage to the bike.
The insurance premium, of course, also depends a lot on the rider and geographical location.
Best Tips To Prolong The Lifespan Of Your BMW Motorcycle
The first tip is to stick to the maintenance schedule. If you follow to the letter what the OEM-issued maintenance schedule says, then your BMW will certainly have a longer and more enjoyable lifespan.
It does mean more cost, but the results are worth it.
Second, you could invest in some aftermarket peripheral parts to better support the engine.
Very often, a solid BMW engine is left down by other components around it of a lower order in quality.
Swap some of these for more solid compatible aftermarket parts.
Finally, pay extra attention to your forks, camshaft position, and sensors, side stand, kill switch, and water pump since these are the five main components that are likely to have issues on any BMW bike.
That’s according to customer feedback.
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