The BMW C1 was a safe and enclosed scooter, one of the stoutest of BMW motor scooters. There were several models of this motor scooter available, including the Executive, Family Friend and Executive Two. The engines in these little fellows were made by Rotax. You could also add accessories by BMW, including anti-lock brakes, a sophisticated music system, a reading light, an immobilizer alarm system and a lockable glove box. You could also order a “sun roof” (the normal top was called a hard top), heated seat and grips, luggage rack and a pillion seat.
The BMW name means quality, and it was very obvious in the after market pillion seat kit. It gave you a seat and also stickers for safety, foot pegs and a kit that let you adjust the angle of the headlights as the angle of the bike tilted with added storage or a rider.
This scooter felt like a car when you looked at some of its features. There was a wiper with fluid on the windshield, and the passenger and roof cell gave you a bike with a center of gravity that was higher than most other scooters. For ultra-safety, a four-point seat belt held the driver against the backrest of the seat. Because of this, it took a bit of experience in slow speed maneuvering, until you were accustomed to the restraint.
The Family Friend model of the BMW C1 had a storage box, and was made to appeal to riders who used their BMW motor scooters on crowded streets. The innovation allowed you to have a scooter’s convenience without many of the hassles and dangers associated with them. The BMW C1 had a great emphasis on safety. They tested this model in a head-on collision, and found that the C1 offered protection almost to the level of compact cars. BMW marketed the scooter as being so safely enclosed that the rider/driver didn’t need a helmet. They accomplished this by the use of two roll bars at shoulder height, and a crumple zone built around the front wheel. They also built a safety cell enclosed by the aluminum roll cage. The twin seat belts were reminiscent of the harnesses used in aviation, to keep the driver firmly in place.
Some countries where the BMW scooters were sold decided that the use of the seat belts on these models together with wearing a helmet were unsafe, since the strain on the neck could cause injury even at low speeds. In the UK, they wouldn’t waive the helmet law for these models, and they have shown low sales in that country. The designers of the C1 were sorry to find that the UK government was slow to see the change in the helmet law needed, when other countries were able to grasp the notion of an environmentally sound and convenient solution to personal urban transport. They felt that the pressure had been on manufacturers to develop transport solutions that were innovative, and which benefited the environment, and they wished that the legislators would have seen that a helmet and seatbelt system were not both required for safe commuting. The C1 sold over 10,000 units in 2001 but only 2000 in 2002, and they stopped making the C1 in October of 2002. Sadly for American aficionados, the C1 model of BMW motor scooters was never available in the United States.