Ssshhh… don’t tell anyone, but – well – BMW motorcycles used to be a bit (ahem) dull…
They were generally ridden by former (or serving) police officers with either RoSPA gold riding awards or IAM riding medals. They’d take you to task for any riding misdemeanour as if they were still in The Plod before pulling away on their bikes: invariably ex-cop bikes in plain white…
Then there were other BMW owners. You know, the globe circumnavigating club… be they the GS or Boxer twin/Brick four brigade. Again it was all beards, boredom and pipes: and that was just the ladies…
Today BMW make some mighty fine and very sexy machines… they’ve transcended the (bad/dull) old days and now make sportsbikes to quicken the heart-rate and a wide-array of machines that are comparable with any Japanese or European bike.
So, the reason why we have brought you here is that – almost 20 years ago- this was the very machine which made BMWs almost sexy: this is the R1100S.
BMW worked a bit of magic or ‘sleight of hand’ with this bike, as the bits that made it weren’t special or different from any other Beemer sports-tourer of the time. The specs make for mediocre reading, really. It was the same ol’ 1085cc four-valve oil/air-cooled flat twin Boxer motor with around 98bhp, fuel-injection, six-speed gearbox with Paralever single-sided shaft drive and optional ABS. Up front was the strange but capable front Telelever suspension system. There’s nothing to see here, right?
Well, it wasn’t until you actually looked at the thing that it was starting to put some lead into your biking pencil. Oooh, look: under-seat pipes… very Ducati 916! Clip-on bars, rear-set footrests, a pillion cowl for the rear seat and some pretty psychedelic colour schemes. It was even light (ish, well, for a BMW anyways at 209 kilos) and it was also the most powerful Boxer twin then produced by the Munich concern.
But even all this was only half the story: the dry old Germans had even dialled in a little fun-factor into the 1100S. Ride one and you’ll see… OK, so this isn’t a sports bike even as we knew the term 20 years back, but….it was a big leap forward for BMW.
You still had quirks to get used to, and ones which – while they are still around today – are not on their sports machines. Things like the Telelever front-end, which reduces dive under the power of the superb servo-assisted brakes. We know that when they finally went mainstream they ditched Telelever for normal forks on the likes of the S1000RR and the daft indicator ‘left-right-and-up-for-cancel’. Thing is, both of these systems would be natural after a while when you got used to them. Telelever did feel a little remote compared to your normal set-up, but it soon became the norm: even the indicators. And, yes, 98bhp 1999 wasn’t going to scare four-cylinder superbikes but it was possessed of almost immediate oomph in its lower rev-range which got you up to the 100mph mark swiftly enough. This was a capable and swift motorcycle.
Quality was good, too even despite fuel-pump issues and seizing brake calipers. The good thing is that most BMW owners aren’t idiots… they’ve spun around to the sensible side of biking, so no used R1100S is going to be covered with tat: just find one with good factory BMW extras.
These things even spawned their own race series, with a ‘Replika’ machine being sold alongside as well as the (unfortunately titled) ‘SS’ model… The BoxerCup Replika aped the machines used in the race series that followed MotoGP around in the early 2000s. These had better suspension, a special paint scheme and belly-pan, while the milder-looking R1100SS had a wider rear-rim and the longer suspension of the Replika.
So what wonga are we talking about? Well, prices start at £1500 for the rare basket case, but really £2500 is the ground floor for something sorted. Expect to pay almost double that for the Replika and a little premium for the SS model: but the standard bike is sweet enough…
FOR – A sexy Beemer… the first since the R 90 S…
AGAINST – Takes time to master…
|Major changes||Fuel-injection changes 2003|
|Price when new||£8100 OTR late 1998|
VERDICT– As a bench-mark Beemer, these could be the cheapest….