Bringing you the world's best cafe racers, trackers, scramblers, bobbers & custom motorcycles.

BMW R50 – Cytech


Posted on August 21, 2015 by Andrew in Classic. 21 comments

21_08_2015_bmw_R50_01

Written by Martin Hodgson.

Cytech of South Africa have one simple motto: “Never say die”. So when this 1955 BMW R50 came in on a stretcher with yellow skin, complete organ failure and no pulse they fired up the defibrillator and injected new life into this 60-year-old Bavarian.

21_08_2015_bmw_R50_02

Go for a ride with some true old timers and their machines of yesteryear and it won’t be long before they take a look at your fresh off the factory floor bike and with a dismissive tone claim “They don’t make them like they used to”. Twenty minutes later, with oil covering their jeans, pulled over at the side of the road… again, reaching under the seat for your factory supplied tool kit to find enough gaffer tape to keep their handlebars on. It’s part of the charm, it’s why we love ‘em, but new bikes are for the most part built better in almost every single way and all categories of bikes are covered and then some.

But the BMW R50 is one of the few exceptions to the rule, they simply don’t make them like they used to, it’s a level of sophistication and refinement that just doesn’t exist in modern touring machines, there is no modern equivalent and when first reviewed it was described simply as “gentlemanly” and praised because “the machine could be ridden in ordinary walking clothes without any fear of their becoming soiled.”

21_08_2015_bmw_R50_10

So it made sense when a Father and Son team brought the R50 to Cytech for a rebuild that it was done in a manner that would allow them to restore it to original, if and when they could find those rare parts. Starting with a pension aged, non-running condition, banana yellow painted R50 just goes to show the level of ability Cytech have to produce what you see before you.

The original frame has been cleaned up before being powder coated in satin black for a period correct, durable finish. The gorgeously simple swingarm received the same treatment and like the entire bike is held in place by Galvanised nuts, bolts and mounting parts throughout. To get it into a rolling state the aluminium wheels have been refurbished and rebuilt before being painted satin black and then wrapped in Kenda dual purpose tyres and tubes.

21_08_2015_bmw_R50_11

One of the key features to the level of refinement and exceptionalism that is part of the R50 experience is the ultra-smooth, pull from any revs, 500cc boxer twin. Cytech left no stone unturned in returning it to its original glory and that started with sandblasting the engine, gearbox and drive housing. The engine was then pulled down and totally rebuilt with new gaskets, bearings and wiring to support the also new 6V battery and electrical system. Fuelling comes courtesy of a set of new Bing carburettors that are fed by chrome induction pipes from a flat black painted air filter housing. To match the tappet covers, cylinders and kick-start lever were all given the same flat black treatment resulting in an uber clean look.

21_08_2015_bmw_R50_06

Just like the engine the suspension came in for rave reviews in 1955 with one magazine noting “The machine could be heeled over stylishly on slow or fast curves in the sure knowledge that it would follow the chosen line faithfully.” This at a time when most bikes had you leaving your tooth fillings scattered along the roadside, but for a little 21st century technology Cytech added a taper roller bearing to the steering head. The front and rear shock absorbers and Earles front fork suspension has all been completely rebuilt and the covers painted satin black. While the polished steering damper and polished shock caps and swingarm caps add a great contrast to the satin finish. The twin shoe 8 inch drum up front and single 8 inch rear brakes have been rebuilt and fitted with new shoes. While the outer front brake housing has been sandblasted and a new brake cable along with new clutch and accelerator cables fitted.

21_08_2015_bmw_R50_05

The mechanical features of the R50 alone make it a beautiful bike to look at but that doesn’t mean it can’t be improved upon with a thorough refurbishment. The fuel tank and headlamp shell were both panel beaten and painted matt black with stunning enamel BMW tank badges providing a rare hint of colour. New knee pads have been fitted with a toolbox behind the left pad and a polished aluminium tank cap to top the whole show off. Adding just the slightest bling to this elegant machine are the chrome headlight surround and chrome handlebars that are finished with Magura twistgrips and bar end mirrors for some safety on the African roads.

21_08_2015_bmw_R50_07

Riding high in comfort and style a gentleman finds his perch on a Pagusa single saddle seat that is mounted to the frame. And so Sir can enjoy the sounds of the Bavarian Boxer in all its majestic glory a pair of black cone mufflers attached to wrapped pipes are one of the few non-standard features. In the end Ray, Don and their team have completed one of the nicest R50 builds anywhere on the planet, a bike that can be ridden and not just sit in a Museum. That should come as no surprise, as Cytech not only build the best BMW’s in Africa they also ride them all over the continent and you can too if you join in on one of their magic tours.

21_08_2015_bmw_R50_08

[Photos by Ryan Roux]








  • Giorgos Spanos

    nice but you did sandblast to the
    engine…thats a big mistake my friend

    • arnold

      Does it start crying Black tears?
      Glass beads or soda a better choice?

      • foiled again

        Vapor blasting or soda, yes.

  • Bultaco Metralla

    Earles fork BMWs are nearly the purrfect motorcycle. Brother Frank had a R69s for many years, it was a sad day when severe lack of money forced him to sell it. A nice rebirth of a neglected masterpiece but it would assuage my old eyes if you’d put up a before photo so i could stop all my senses screaming “where’s the mudguards? Where’s the glossy black tank with white pinstripes?”
    It’s not that I think that all these bikes should be restored to pristine originality, god knows we modded them in their hey day, BUT they were so beautiful and so wonderful to ride.

    • Playskool

      +1 for the mudguards comment (they could have been a big bonus, functionally and aesthetically)… Otherwise, very nice (re)build!

    • foiled again

      Heartily concur. I have two, one a stock ’66 and the other a R75/5 conversion on a ’60 model. They are lovers.

  • JayDub

    Is there a build blog of this anywhere? I’d love to see progress pics of during the build.

  • nice job but think this site should be renamed Pipewrap

    • arnold

      Seems to me it should be renamed rattyxjr.com. and go to a 404 and let the rest of us praise the work displayed , rather than the absolute crap on your ‘pushed on us’ videos, bought paint jobs and inane comments.

  • These old Beemers always remind me how much I like the aesthetic of the rear plunger suspension. All the look of a hardtail with the luxury of (limited) suspension travel.

    • foiled again

      The plunger look without the plunger drawbacks.

  • foiled again

    Not unlike the Blitz /2 a few years back.

  • arnold

    The shop is too clean.
    The Bike is too good.

  • I love the hot-rod build philosophy of remove everything that doesn’t make it go. Nice, sanitary Bavarian bobber. It must be a hoot to ride.

    • guvnor67

      Thinkin the same, n really not hard to set up some ‘guards/ fenders for when the weather turns to crap, or just to change the look. 10 years after the end of the slaughter and devastation of WW2 and look what the Germans were building.