Chicago Region BMW Owners Association

The History of the CR BMW OA

1969 marks the year Chicago’s own prestigious BMW motorcycle club entered into existence. Now, 50 years later, The Chicago Region BMW Owners Association boasts nearly 200 members, making it the largest and most active BMW Club in the region. We enjoy a rich heritage of accomplishments and history.

Ted Strobl’s garage in the alley behind his house was a meeting place to go have your bike fixed free of charge!… Photo circa 1972.

BMW motorcycle riders in the early days of the Association had a different attitude from the riders of other brands. The BMW rider consequently had to have a different motorcycle to express this difference, one that would distinguish himself from the bad boy image, and somewhat defiant personality traits of the motorcycle riders that so characterized the bikers of the sixties and seventies.

He also had to have a machine that could run for long distances and be very dependable, so in many cases he became somewhat of a loner, as BMW motorcycles made up to only one-half of one percent of all of the other riders at that time, and dealerships were rare in the Chicago area.

Some of the BMW riders however went to other brands to protest the lack of good BMW dealers and good service in the midwest in those days. At least 15% of the original members of the Association rode other brands of bikes–British and Italian motorcycles, Harley-Davidsons, Hondas, Yamahas and an assortment of other imported brands. After a few years, however, this all changed and the club became an association of BMW owners only.

The early days of camping with members proudly displaying the club’s new banner. Quite a few women riders were active Association members.

This organization began as a result of BMW motorcycle owners frustration with the lack of an adequate number of BMW dealers in Chicago to serve the rapidly growing numbers of BMWs in the area and the lack of qualified service technicians of these unique motorcycles. Even though BMW riders rode together years before the founding of the club there was a need for the riders to maintain and service their own bikes and to order parts directly from various manufacturers. The riders also wanted a club to be able to exchange ideas and information about other motorcycle related subjects, such as camping, bike accessories, coordinated rides, etc.

Over the years many technical changes occurred. Engine size capacities of 500-600 cc have grown to present-day levels of 1300-1600 cc; brakes from early drum types have evolved to double loaded disc brakes with vastly improved suspension systems. All of these improvements have enabled BMW riders to go farther and faster.

Today’s club member may have on his bike a computerized global positioning mapping system, satellite telephone, a built-in music system plus heated apparel. The new rider can access information on bike technology, rider destination information, global riding opportunities all via the Internet at his finger tips. All information now is also shared in our Association via the monthly newsletter, this web site and through individual dialogue from its many members.

In the beginning, a family of like-minded riders got together to formulate an Association that to this day plans rides, helps members maintain and service their bikes, plan touring and camping trips together, and enjoy monthly meetings and in these ways make new friendships with fellow riders who own BMWs.

Every Sunday BMW riders would meet at Hal’s Drive-in for coffee and ride together to parts of Wisconsin or Illinois. Hal’s was located at routes 22 and 41, and became Art’s later, then Gee-Gees and finally the Highland House where bikers of all brands would meet. Sadly, Highland House has also closed its doors, but riders now gather on Sunday mornings at the Full Moon Restaurant, a few miles north on US 41.

This is a unique and culturally diverse group of people, male and female, who celebrate the joy of living through such activities as rallies, presentations of members’ travel adventures, technical hands-on seminars, vintage rides, club picnics, social get-togethers, camping rides, the yearly BMW MOA National Rally, and a whole lot more.

The Chicago Region BMW Owners Association, in its first two years, helped the fledgling BMW Motorcycle Owners of America organize its national club by including our second club president as one of their directors and providing the technical sessions with our own CHITECH group.

To this day we support their National Rally each year by providing volunteers from our club. We take great pride in the fact that over the years we are not just members of a motorcycle club but good friends and riders with common interests… visit our monthly meeting, make new friends, and see why this club is so unique.