FORGOTTEN MOTOCROSS TECH: DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN BMW MADE A DIRT BIKE?
Motocross history is filled with examples of creative ideas that were heralded as groundbreaking, but, because of the rapid rate of change in development, sank into the swamp of forgotten technology. Although some are best left abandoned, others were truly innovative (if not ultimately successful). MXA loves to reveal motocross’ tech trivia. Do you remember this idea? The BMW G450X?
The MXA wrecking crew would love to say that all of the terrible dirt bikes were designed, built and forgotten 30 or 40 years ago, but that isn’t true. One of the world’s most respected auto manufacturers tried its hand at designing a dirt bike for American distribution in 2010, and then doubled down by making Husqvarna, which it owned at the time, take its failed ideas and use the engine for the next three years. BMW, for all of its automotive engineering prowess, knew nothing about dirt bikes—and it showed.
The hanger frame featured BMW’s coaxial Traction system, which meant that the swingarm pivot and countershaft sprocket were in line with each other. The clutch was mounted on the end of the crankshaft. Note that shock linkage is mounted on top of the swingarm instead of under it.
BMW’s engineers thought they knew more than everybody else, but they designed a bike that proved how little they really knew. The BMW engine was designed in Germany and built in Taiwan by Kymco. It had a closed-loop, fuel-injection system (that stalled easily). The countershaft sprocket was mounted in line the swingarm pivot (called a Coaxial Traction System). The engine was canted forward 30 degrees (the opposite of Yamaha’s reverse engine). The tiny clutch was mounted on the crankshaft (a la Hodaka). The engine was hung under a trellis-style hanger frame (where it was vulnerable), and the crank spun backwards (a la the Czech ESO). The bike was a disaster.
BMW even hired offroad ace David Knight to race the G450X, only to be embarrassed when he quit the team mid-season saying, “The guy who designed the bike wouldn’t admit that it was no good.”2011 Husqvarna TC449 motocross version, with it’s Taiwanese Kymco engine, was scheduled to be sold in America, but Husky North American stopped it from being imported in any numbers.
BMW got out of the dirt bike market at the end of 2010 but they owned Husqvarna at the time and had Husky use the Taiwanese engine in the TX449 from 2011 to 2014. For the 2011, BMW even had Husqvarna make a motocross version of the Coaxial Traction System machine called the TC449. Only a handful of the motocross models were brought to the USA before Husky canned the idea when the fast-spinning clutch, excessive squat, heavy overall weight and weird design convinced them to stick with enduro bikes. KTM bought Husqvarna in 2013, but didn’t want any of BMW’s intellectual motocross properties.