Aircraft / Aviation Vehicles & Artillery Small Arms Warships & Submarines Military Ranks Military Pay Chart (2024) Special Forces
Land Systems / Battlefield


Medium-class Military Motorcycle [ 1935 ]

The German Army of World War 2 made skillful use of motorcycle elements throughout their ranks.

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 02/09/2018 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site.

The R12 was utilized by the German Army throughout the late 1930s and 1940s for communications delivery and reconnaissance duty. During this period, such fast vehicles proved ever-critical to the speed required in Hitler's blitzkriegs of European countries. BMW would deliver 36,000 R12s to the ranks of the German Army by May of 1941, making the R12 BMWs most-produced motorcycle up to that point. Despite her reach, the type was eventually replaced in German Army service by the military-minded R75 series from 1942 onwards. Along the BMW production lines, the R12 itself replaced the R4 of 1932 - the R4 being nothing more than civilian motorcycles purchased for military use.

BMW motorcycle frames of the 1920s, at least those equipped with the popular "touring" sidecars, proved prone to fracture from their simple connection welds. As such, research began on a new frame that eventually led to an all-new motorcycle design - the R11 series. The revised frame was constructed as two separate channels from stamped sheet metal with rivets connecting the two halves during assembly. The new formation helped the frame accept the weight and inherent stress imposed by the carrying of a sidecar. To power the R11, BMW devised an all-powerful line up of 750cc engines consisting of a 16-horsepower version as well as a 28-horsepower overhead valve (OHV) version. From these two engines were born the R11 "touring" and R16 "sports" models. New telescopic "forks" were devised during the early part of the 1930s and helped to revamped the R11 and R16 models in 1935. A new 4-speed, hand-shifted gearbox was also fitted and gave birth to the respective model designations R12 and R17.

That same year, the R12 was selected for production by the German Army to staff its reconnaissance and security ranks. By 1936, electric arc welding was gaining steam and BMW utilized the technology to address their joint stress problems to make for a more robust machine when employing a sidecar, helping to make the R12 series (and its R17 sister) a commercial success.
The German Army R12 was fitted with a BMW 2-cylinder, 4-stroke engine of 745cc, delivering 18 to 20 horsepower at 3,400 to 4,000rpm. Despite the weak output, the engine delivered the needed power to haul the motorcycle frame and its optional unpowered sidecar as required. She measured in at 2.10 meters, held a width of 0.90 meters (sans sidecar) and stood at 0.94 meters. Her weight was listed at 413lbs. Maximum road speed was listed at 62mph while range was out to 158 miles with its 14 liter internal fuel capacity. A passenger could be carried over the rear wheel fender on an optional seat positioned directly behind and slightly above the driver. Otherwise this position could be reserved for carrying supplies on a simple optional rack system. Saddlebags could be hitched to the sides of the rear fender. A rounded headlamp illuminated the area ahead for dawn/dusk operations. Characteristic of the brand was its wheel mud covers, straight horizontal handle bars, multi-spoke wheels and its broad, flat sprung driver's seat.

When in service with the Wehrmacht, the R12 was called upon to relay messages from point to point while also utilized as a fast reconnaissance element. She proved a solid, speedy and relatively reliable battlefield instrument. However, heavy mud and snow were quick to wreak havoc on the critical working components of the motorcycle, forcing the German Army to continue its search for a dedicated replacement system. The addition of a sidecar increased ridership to three persons (the typical operating number for German motorized sidecar elements during the war) and could offer light battlefield support by mounting either a MG34 or MG42 series 7.92mm general purpose machine gun on a special mount along the sidecar front facing. Motorcycles formed specialized motorized infantry regiments for the Wehrmacht and provided a critical punch in the early phases of the blitzkrieg where speed and coordinated overwhelming force was essential to any victory. The R12 series, therefore, went on to see service with the German Army along ever major front to that point in the war - from fighting in the deserts of Africa to the frigid cold of the East Front.

The R12 was eventually superseded in the German ranks by the BMW R75 series. The R75 was a purpose-built military motorcycle with fully-powered sidecar (including heating) that improved upon the frame, function and scope of the original R12. The R75 began replacing R12s during 1942 but she would never reach the production figures of the legendary R12.

The R12 remains a rare collector's piece today with very few in circulation around the world.©MilitaryFactory.com
Note: The above text is EXCLUSIVE to the site www.MilitaryFactory.com. It is the product of many hours of research and work made possible with the help of contributors, veterans, insiders, and topic specialists. If you happen upon this text anywhere else on the internet or in print, please let us know at MilitaryFactory AT gmail DOT com so that we may take appropriate action against the offender / offending site and continue to protect this original work.


BMW - Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany
Operators National flag of modern Germany National flag of Nazi Germany
Service Year
Nazi Germany
National Origin
1 to 3

Can conduct reconnaissance / scout missions to assess threat levels, enemy strength, et al - typically through lightweight design.
General utility-minded design to accomplish a variety of battlefield tasks, typically in a non-direct-combat fashion.

6.9 ft
(2.1 meters)
3.0 ft
(0.9 meters)
3.1 ft
(0.94 meters)
414 lb
(188 kg)

1 x BMW 2-cylinder 745cc engine developing 20 horsepower at 4,000rpm.
Drive System
62 mph
(100 kph)
Road Speed
158 miles
(255 km)
Road Range

OPTIONAL (w sidecar installed):
1 x 7.92mm MG34 OR MG42 general purpose machine gun.

Any personal weapons carried as well.
100 x 7.92mm ammunition (typical)

R12 - Base Production Series Designation

Military lapel ribbon for the American Civil War
Military lapel ribbon for pioneering aircraft
Military lapel ribbon for the Arab-Israeli War
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of the Bulge
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Kursk
Military lapel ribbon for the Cold War
Military lapel ribbon for the Falklands War
Military lapel ribbon for the Indo-Pak Wars
Military lapel ribbon for the Korean War
Military lapel ribbon for the 1991 Gulf War
Military lapel ribbon representing modern aircraft
Military lapel ribbon for the Soviet-Afghan War
Military lapel ribbon for the Spanish Civil War
Military lapel ribbon for the Ukranian-Russian War
Military lapel ribbon for the Vietnam War
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 1
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 2
Military lapel ribbon for the Yom Kippur War
Military lapel ribbon for experimental military vehicles


1 / 6
Image of the BMW R12
Image copyright www.MilitaryFactory.com; No Reproduction Permitted.
2 / 6
Image of the BMW R12
Image copyright www.MilitaryFactory.com; No Reproduction Permitted.
3 / 6
Image of the BMW R12
Image copyright www.MilitaryFactory.com; No Reproduction Permitted.
4 / 6
Image of the BMW R12
Image copyright www.MilitaryFactory.com; No Reproduction Permitted.
5 / 6
Image of the BMW R12
Image copyright www.MilitaryFactory.com; No Reproduction Permitted.
6 / 6
Image of the BMW R12
Left side view of the BMW R12 motorcycle sans sidecar

Disclaimer | Privacy Policy | Cookies

2024 Military Pay Chart Military Ranks DoD Dictionary Conversion Calculators Military Alphabet Code Military Map Symbols

The "Military Factory" name and MilitaryFactory.com logo are registered ® U.S. trademarks protected by all applicable domestic and international intellectual property laws. All written content, illustrations, and photography are unique to this website (unless where indicated) and not for reuse/reproduction in any form. Material presented throughout this website is for historical and entertainment value only and should not to be construed as usable for hardware restoration, maintenance, or general operation. We do not sell any of the items showcased on this site. Please direct all other inquiries to militaryfactory AT gmail.com. No A.I. was used in the generation of this content; site is 100% curated by humans.

Part of a network of sites that includes GlobalFirepower, a data-driven property used in ranking the top military powers of the world, WDMMA.org (World Directory of Modern Military Aircraft), WDMMW.org (World Directory of Modern Military Warships), SR71blackbird.org, detailing the history of the world's most iconic spyplane, and MilitaryRibbons.info, cataloguing military medals and ribbons. Special Interest: RailRoad Junction, the locomotive encyclopedia.

©2023 www.MilitaryFactory.com • All Rights Reserved • Content ©2003-2023 (20yrs)