While they’re a bit of an acquired taste for some, we love the GS family of BMW Boxer twins here at CB-Net, so we figured we’d look back at the generations of GS machinery from the first, right up until the dawn of the 1200cc version…All classics, now….
You may think that the off-road GS range from BMW can only trace its lineage back to the 1970s, but you’d be wrong.
The German marque has been involved in the off-road side of things since the 1930s – and all on Boxer twins, that means horizontally opposed cylinders. BMW supported teams would appear in a number of competitions over the decades, and by the late 1970s, BMW were even appearing in events such as the Scottish Six-Day Trial.
A few of the ‘higher-ups’ in BMW Motorrad GmbH clearly loved their off-roading and they needed little in the way of encouragement to look into a production off-roader for the street. Thankfully, they got that encouragement anyways when a BM won the 1979 German Off-road Championships. The off-road lovers in BMW reasoned that now was the time to build a homologation special, using all the off-road nous the Munich-based firm had learned up until that time.
Interestingly, back then most off-roaders/enduros were single-cylinder machines with chain final drive. Instead, by the time the R80 G/S was ready in 1980 it was a 800cc, flat-twin with shaft drive. Even back then, the G/S (which stood for Gelände/Straße or off-road/road) was doing its own thing against the opposition: here was – effectively – the first modern ‘all-round’ touring enduro bike, just perfect for circumnavigating the globe, if not a solid European tour, two-up…
In fact, as more and more long-distance riders adopted the R80 G/S, the quicker the word of the BMW’s toughness and strength spread. It’s fair to say that the G/S almost became the byword for and the only choice of the long-distance, round-the-world biker.
It wasn’t just that it was tough: the G/S was comfortable for all-day work, the suspension was compliant enough that it could be useful ‘off-road’ and the bike could be pretty much taken apart just with its tool kit. The motor was also plenty torquey enough both on the dirt and on the Tarmac, too.
It stood to reason that the bike would eventually end up competing in the Paris-Dakar Rally, which back then saw teams and riders make their way from Northern Europe all the way to Senegal in West Africa. A G/S-based BMW Boxer won in 1981 with French legend Hubert Auriol in the saddle. The team praised the bike’s efficient engine cooling, low centre-of-gravity and ease of maintenance: Auriol repeated the feat in 1983, while the 1000cc version (still heavily production based) won in 1984 and in 1985 with Belgium’s Gaston Rahier on the bike.
Out on the road BMW improved the original machine to make 1988’s R100 GS, finally dropping the slash between G and S (the S now signified ‘Sport’) and helping take sales to around 69,000 of both the R80 and R100 ‘air-head’ variants. Both the R80 and the R100 existed side-by-side for a while and was joined in some markets by an R65 version with the 649.6cc Boxer motor.
By the mid-1990s a new machine – the R1100GS was born, featuring a four-valve head to the Boxer twin’s basic engine architecture known as the ‘oil-head.’ From launch in 1994, the bike was lauded by the press as a real ‘street-sleeper’ being one of the quickest and most comfy A-to-B street bikes out there and still being able to tackle some off-road action while happily trundling around the world.
By 1999 the 1150GS was born – that single square headlight was now replaced by a quirky twin-round headlight set-up, giving the bike a truly unique visage. Under the hood, further improvements were made with the chassis and suspension as well as the addition of a sixth gear. The machine also benefited from advances with BMW’s Paralever single-sided shaft-drive and Telelever front fork suspension system. For those with wanderlust in their veins, the standard GS was joined in Autumn 2002 by the Adventure model, which was equipped with a bigger fuel tank, panniers and a host of optional parts as well as the ability to handle the sort of iffy, low-octane fuel you may encounter around the world. By now the legend of the GS was assured. It was the best-selling machine in Germany in 2003.
With the success of the 1150 model – helped in the UK at least thanks to A-list film star Ewan McGregor and pal Charley Boorman’s ‘Long Way Round’ TV-series and book (they were turned down by KTM) – the adventure bike was overtaking the sports machine as the most popular bike out on the street.
Just in time to take advantage of that fact, BMW released the 1200 GS in 2004 – that makes this first 1200 15 years old and therefore a ‘classic’ according to the VJMC… The 1200 GS was a complete overhaul: the only parts that remained from the 1150 GS were the brake discs! It weighed a huge 30 kilos less than the 1150 and the motor pumped out a16bhp more! Again, this model was joined by an ‘Adventure’ variant in 2006.
Between 1980 and 2005 when the new 1200cc machine came on stream, BMW had sold around 170,000 GS Boxer-twins to customers across the world with a further 100,000 1200 GS/Adventure machines being sold from 2004-2008… That’s pretty amazing and you know that these first 170K or so machines are a good used buy!
Let’s look at the R80 first… yes, it’s a bona fide classic – so you’re not going to find anything half-decent for less than five grand. Minters or special Paris Dakar versions can be up to £3000 more than that, while low-mile minters (weird for such a practical bike) have been seen for £13-£16,000!
The later R100 GS is more plentiful and we’ve seen them start at around £4000, but even these will rise to £8000-£11,000 for very clean/special edition models.
We love the 1100 and 1150GS models here at CB-Net and the 1100 kicks off around £2000 for abused ones and climbs up from there for lower mile, more sorted examples. The 1150 GS is available from around £3000, rising to £5000+ for better bikes. The Adventure often commands a premium of £1000-£2000 more, depending on state of the bike. The last model on our horizon is the best of all versions – the 1200GS. This again varies in price depending on condition/miles. The lowest price we’ve seen is around £3500 for a bike with around 60k on its clocks, rising from there to the newer models with fewer miles.
If you want the ‘unicorn’ model of GS – why not try and search out the late 1990s/early 2000s 850 model, which married the R850 R motor to the GS frame. Quirky, unique and strangely often seen at higher prices than the more capable 1100, simply because of its rarity value!
The BMW GS family – 1980-2005
1980–1987 R80 G/S
797cc – 50bhp
1988–1990 R65 GS
1986 R80 G/S Basic
797cc – 50bhp
1987–1996 R100 GS
980cc – 60bhp
1987–1996 R80 GS
797cc – 50bhp
1990–1995 R100 GS Paris-Dakar
980cc – 60bhp
1993–1999 R1100 GS
1085cc – 80bhp
1999–2000 R850 GS
848cc – 70bhp
or 34 bhp (learner spec)
1999–2003 R1150 GS
1130cc – 85bhp
2002 R1150 GS Adventure
1130cc – 85bhp
2004/2005 R1200 GS
1170cc – 100bhp