This page is about the alloy rims on BMW motorcycle models R26, R27, R50, R60,
R69, R50/2, R60/2, R50S, R69S, R50/US, R60/US, R69US. Little of this
applies to the steel rims.
Steel or aluminum?
This is an attempt to explain some of the confusion concerning the choice of
rims used by BMW. BMW offered both chrome plated steel and alloy, or
aluminum rims. I only watched BMWs on the show room floors from 1962 and
later. I will only be guessing about earlier year production. Each
year BMW offered one type of wheel as standard and the other one was an
accessory that cost $25 extra. One may see this on invoices from that era.
Steel would be offered for a year or two and then alloy would be offered as
standard. For a year or two the sport models (R69S and R50S) were only
available in aluminum while the R50/R60 was steel as standard. Some
dealers kept new wheels in both types to offer up a choice to any buyer.
Owners would decide to change the type of wheels and buy new ones of the other
type. There are so many variables involved that without a series of
invoices of each year, we will probably never figure out what was correct for
any one year.
The question has come up concerning the year that BMW changed from using the
low lip alloy rim and started using the high lip rim. This is of interest
to restorers that care about getting it correct. The first years (late 55
thru early 57) the alloy rims were the high lip variety. Then they went to
the low lip rims for several years. Around 1961 BMW began using the high
lip rims again. The early rims have the
early spoke pattern and are now
Does your BMW motorcycle even have a Weinmann rim?
If your alloy rim isn't a Weinmann then it is not correct for a /2 BMW.
Some recent aftermarket rims, reportedly from Italy, are available. The
first one that I saw was as a result of taking a glance at a friends
restoration. His spokes weren't in the correct configuration and I
commented on it. He explained that it was caused by the incorrect rims.
The spokes touch each other and actually bend around each other slightly.
The correct rim for a BMW will have the spokes passing by each other with about
1 mm of space. If you don't have a Weinmann rim, this page doesn't apply
to your rims. The Weinmann rim can be laced up backwards, but the spokes
will have to bend around each other and be crooked.
A Weinmann stamped rim
A review of the two types of alloy rim.
The low lip rim The high lip rim
If you had one of each in front of you, it would be very easy to see the
difference between the two. I found it harder to photograph. I was
able to stand a dime up in the groove to show the difference in radius.
The dime in the low lip rim almost "fits" into the groove. The dime in the
high lip rim doesn't drop down into the groove, and allows lots of light come
through below it.
The low lip rim The high lip rim
Here you see it with a wire laying on the high center part of the rim.
On the low lip rim it has far more distance down to the lip. One the high
lip rim it is nearly touching the lip.
The date of Weinmann rim manufacture for BMW motorcycles.
The early series Earles fork BMW from 55-mid 57 has a different hub and spoke
pattern. As a result, the spokes are shorter. More useful info on
this issue. Some of the sport model R69, had a high lip rim. That
rim is different than the later high lip rim due to the spoke angle etc.
Little is known (by me) about this early high lip rim. It seems that the
high lip rim disappeared from mid 57 to around 61.
Low lip date 7/59 High lip date 3/65
The date of manufacture is clearly stamped on the inside of the rim across
the valve stem hole and in large numbers. The latest year, so far, of a
low lip rim is late 1961. Can someone find a later one? I think that the
earliest date of a high lip rim is around 60-61. Can you find an earlier
one? The high lip rim may have been introduced with the /2 series in 61, but I
just don't remember.
The size 2.15 X 18
The rim size is also stamped into the inside of the rim across from the valve
stem hole. It is much smaller than the date and harder to read. It
is of no significance to anybody. As far as I know, only one size was made
in alloy. Two sizes were made in the steel rim, one for solo and wide one
Other aspects of interest about BMW motorcycle rims
To restore a rim may be necessary because we just can't buy these old rims
today. A rim may seem to be pretty far gone and still be restorable.
I think that it depends upon your standards. I have "saved" some poor ones
and here is what I have found worked for me.
First I clean it off. Now we have some great cleaners and the one that
I use is Super Clean, by Castrol. This stuff is nuclear powered and can be
dangerous on some things, like your skin and respiratory tract. Use it in
an open place and rubber gloves are advised. It seems to be safe on metal,
but on plastic, I would first try it on an "out of the way" spot.
This takes off most of the road grime. Most rims are going to need some
major polishing. I highly recommend doing it by hand. You will get a
much better job and cause far less damage than the job done by a buffing wheel.
Some have reported the bumps for the nipples to have gotten polished down when
the polisher forced the rim against the wheel trying to get into the corners.
Expect to put 5 hours into the polishing part, maybe much more. I use
an old worn out Scotch Brite pad for gently cleaning the grime off. One
must be very careful on one aspect of cleaning. On the inside of the rim
where the sidewall of the tire contacts the rim (the seating area) is a series
of dents/scrapings pressed into the aluminum. This raises the metal around
the dent and makes a sharp protrusion to help grip the tire. This is to
help keep the enormous horse power of the /2 from spinning the rim within the
tire. That would cause the valve stem of the inner tube to get "ripped
out" and it happened to me on my first BMW and on my first long trip in 62.
More info here.
The knurling (serrations) for gripping the tire.
If these marks are still original then one can easily feel the sharp edges
with fingers. Be very careful to not sand/grind/polish them down to
smooth. These tend to fill up with tire rubber compound and seem smooth.
I allow the Super Clean to soak for a few minutes and then use a brush to clean
the cavities and seating area. Often one can see a large black marks on the
seating area where tire rubber has gotten stuck. It comes off easily and
should be removed.
One of the most common things for the alloy is for it to get pitted badly.
That can be cleaned off with CRL, a chemical for cleaning off calcium, rust and
lime. It is available in any grocery store. It will chemically get
the white stuff out of the pits. You may not want to see how deeply the
pits can go.
Dents and dings in a BMW rim
After 40 years it is almost impossible for the rim to have always had a
knowledgeable owner/mechanic change tires. This means that they didn't
know about the 5 dents and how important they
are. One must also pay special attention to installing the
Not understanding how to change a tire on a
BMW can be damaging to the rims and wheel bearings. It is very common to
badly damage a rim with the tire irons. Here is an example of what someone
has done to this high lip rim.
You can see that the rim has a very bad gouge in it. The rim is
actually bent out of its circle. The bend can be easily fixed with a press
or simply clamping it in a vise. One must do it slowly. A hammer
will ruin the rim. The high part can be filed, sanded and polished down,
but still a divot will remain. I have no experience with having someone
welding a spot to fix it.
Minor damage from hitting pot holes can also be pressed out of a rim.
It can often be done without removing the tire.
This is another view of the same ding. Here it doesn't look so bad.
This rim won't easily make a perfectly restored example. On my R25/3 I had
tire iron marks this bad and just decided to file, sand and polish it as well as could be
done. One can still find the dents by really looking closely.
One big disadvantage of the high lip rim is that they really catch water and
hold it. Once your rims are restored and you ride in the rain, be sure to
use a rag to soak up any water caught in the lip. That water sitting
around until it evaporates will ruin them. Many had to be tossed because
When polishing the rim, avoid much pressure on and around the Weinmann stamp.
It easily gets rubbed away. Also avoid a buffing wheel on the raised
places for the spokes, as they can be worn down. Spokes have been known to
pull through the thin rim easily after polishing.
Read about how to spoke, true and tune a BMW spoke