My life in bikes: Rudi Schneider

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Project leader for all four and six-cylinder BMWs talks about his superbike addiction, riding at the Nürburgring and tuning mopeds when he was a kid.

How did you get started with bikes?
All of my friends rode bikes so it made sense that I did too. When I was about 12 my first bike was a 50cc Hercules moped. I had a 50cc Zundapp moped too. We used to tune them a lot. It wasn’t legal for us to ride them on the road at all as we were all too young but we would ride them off-road and in fields near where I grew up in Erding.

The legal maximum speed for these mopeds was 25kph but we could get them to go 50kph because there was so much tuning work done by us on the engines. I wish I could have those mopeds back now. When I sold them they were worth nothing more than about €100 – now they are worth more than €1000!

When did you make it onto the roads?
It was legal to be on the road when you were 15 at that time in Germany so I had the mopeds to ride. When I was 16 I got a Hercules 80cc trail bike, but at 18 I got my first big bike which was a Kawasaki GPz500. Amazingly I never crashed this first big bike.

I replaced that with a Kawasaki GPz600 after one year and then a little after that I bought a Kawasaki ZXR750; the one with the vacuum cleaner hosepipe fake air intakes. I did a lot of track riding at the Nürburgring on that bike. I also had a Kawasaki ZX-7R.

And you had a Ducati obsession?
Ha! Yes. I had a 1994 Ducati 916, a 996, 998S, 999 and a 1098S all at different times. I used to buy bikes that had been crashed and then I would rebuild them back to like new. I liked to be able to do this. To rescue a motorcycle like this was very satisfying. 

What else have you owned?
I had an original BMW HP2 Sport in the world endurance colours but that was more of a collector’s item than something I rode a lot. I also completely restored a BMW R65/2 from 1952. I rebuilt that about 15 years ago. I also still have a 1967 Vespa 50N which I also completely rebuilt and that looks like new.

Did all of this superbike experience mean you knew what direction to take when you first began development of the first generation S1000RR?
It certainly helped. We set out to build a new superbike. We didn’t set out to be the first in the class, but we tested everything that was out there at the time for a long time to see what we had to do to be competitive.

When we started work on the RR it was the Suzuki GSX-R1000 K5 that was at the top of the class and I rode one of those a lot to get a feel for the bike. I have a 2011 BMW S1000RR in the garage, which is my bike.

So you get to ride all of the new BMW prototypes?
Yes, I ride all of them but I cannot talk about that any further! I ride a lot of bikes from our rivals too. I think it takes more than a few hours to understand a bike. I like to ride them for two or three weeks to get a complete idea of what they are like and to get a real feel for it. Unless the temperature is much below about 5°C then I ride all year round. 

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