This month marks 40 years since the very first BMW GS – an R 80 G/S – rode out into the wilderness and didn't look back, setting up a legacy of motorcycling.
BMW's GS series has become a motorcycle concept that is as legendary as it is sophisticated, now boasting a range of models from the entry-level G 310 GS through to the "party couch" R 1250 GS Adventure.
The adventure began in autumn of 1980 when BMW Motorrad presented the R 80 G/S, a market first which combined two the abilities of both off-road and on-road motorcycles into a single package.
Thanks to its (then) unique combination of road, touring and off-road capability - without compromising on everyday use - the R 80 G/S became the conceptual forerunner of the new motorcycle category that would become today's most popular category – the adventure motorcycle.
It wasn't just motorcycle adventures that were ideally suited for the BMW GS right from the outset; the R 80 G/S and its descendants quickly proved their stuff when it came to racing as well. In 1981 Hubert Auriol rode to victory in legendary Paris - Dakar Rally. This is just the first of the many motorsport successes that BMW Motorrad was able to celebrate with a GS.
Since the days of the R 80, BMW has utilised the GS platform as a cornerstone of the brand and the flag carrier of BMW’s heritage boxer engine tech.
To date, BMW Motorrad has set loose more than 1.2 million BMW GS models to customers worldwide with the current lineup the most expansive yet in both breadth and capability comprised of the G 310 GS, F 750 and 850 GS along with the range-topping R 1250 GS models.
BMW's GS Milestones
Moving through the years the GS range has provided plenty of motorcycling milestones for the BMW brand. Here are just a few – because we can't claim to include them all at risk of upsetting the incredibly loyal GS fanbase!
In 1993, the F 650 "Funduro" was the first single-cylinder BMW enduro to come onto the market. While this bike drew its riding dynamics from its low weight and the grunt of the 47 hp single-cylinder, the changing of the guard took place simultaneously on the BMW GS models with boxer engine.
With the debut of the BMW R 1100 GS, BMW Motorrad not only presented the first GS with a 4-valve boxer and 80 bhp output but also trod new paths with regard to suspension technology for large touring enduros. For the first time in an enduro, the engine and gearbox acted as load-bearing elements of the chassis, making a main frame superfluous. While the BMW Paralever rear wheel suspension system had already eliminated the drive reactions of the shaft drive in the models with the two-valve boxer years earlier, the BMW engineers had now created an innovative way of guiding the front wheels using the Telelever suspension. With the pitch compensation and highly sensitive response, they set new standards in this area. In addition, the new R 1100 GS was the first enduro ever to be equipped with ABS - a safety plus that is now standard equipment on all BMW motorcycles.
In addition to numerous new and further developments, including the F 650 GS (first single-cylinder with electronic fuel injection, catalytic converter and ABS), which was manufactured in Berlin from the year 2000 onwards, the F 650 GS and F 800 GS models launched in 2007 marked another outstanding milestone in BMW GS history. With their powerful, high-torque 2-cylinder in-line engine and torsionally stiff tubular frame, they interpreted the BMW GS theme in their own, yet very typical BMW way. With these new models, BMW Motorrad not only presented the successors to the extremely successful F 650 GS with its single-cylinder engine, but at the same time expanded the enduro offer in the medium range.
BMW Motorrad presented another highlight in autumn 2009 with the launch of the revised BMW R 1200 GS. Now equipped with the even more free-revving DOHC boxer with two overhead camshafts per cylinder, it offered 81 kW/110 hp and even more advanced riding dynamics. In the 2010 anniversary year, BMW Motorrad paid tribute to the 30th anniversary of the GS models and their successes in both production motorcycle manufacturing and motorsport alike with the "30 Years GS" special models of the BMW R 1200 GS, R 1200 GS Adventure, F 800 GS and F 650 GS painted in the BMW Motorrad Motorsport corporate colours.
BMW Motorrad continued the success story of the GS models in autumn 2010. With the BMW G 650 GS, BMW Motorrad added another attractive member to the BMW GS family. Thanks to its slender, wiry off-road stature, the new single-cylinder enduro looked bold, light and adventurous. At the same time it clearly stood out from its competitors in terms of quality, equipment and comfort. In combination with its comparatively low weight and the reduced seat height, it was the attractive entry bike into the world of motorcycling and into the fascinating BMW GS world of experience.
The dynamic development of the BMW GS theme continued unabated in the fourth decade. When BMW Motorrad presented the new R 1200 GS at Intermot in autumn 2012, interest was particularly focused on the completely redesigned engine. The air/liquid-cooled flat twin engine introduced cylinder heads featuring vertical flow; they had an integrated gearbox and a shaft drive on the left side from then on, supplemented by state-of-the-art chassis technology and electronic control systems such as ABS, traction control or semi-active chassis. With an output of 92 kW (125 hp), the new R 1200 GS also provided superior riding performance. Barely one and a half years later, in March 2014, the 500,000th BMW motorcycle of the boxer-engine GS model series rolled off the assembly line at the plant in Berlin - this was an R 1200 GS Adventure.
In 2016, BMW Motorrad presented yet another GS model, the G 310 GS. It transferred the core qualities of a BMW GS to the sub-500cc category and interpreted these in its own style. Extremely compact, yet fully grown and comfortable, it opened up a whole new world of experience in its segment and became unique in the entry-level segment, above all due to its versatility.
With the new R 1200 GS, BMW Motorrad expanded the GS portfolio not only with further product optimisations but also by broadening the motorcycle’s range of properties. For the first time, customers were able to give a BMW GS a more marked touch of enduro or distinguished style to suit its preferred area of use by ordering the style packages Rallye and Exclusive.
In the same year, a completely different interpretation of the GS theme came on the scene: the R nineT Urban G/S. The R nineT Urban G/S drew on the genes of the very first and legendary BMW R 80 G/S of the year 1980, transporting them into the modern era with contemporary technology in the form of a classic enduro-style BMW motorcycle with boxer engine. As with the other R nineT models, the powerful, air/oil-cooled boxer engine with 81 kW (110 hp) output in combination with a six-speed transmission was installed.
In 2017 BMW Motorrad continued to write GS history with the two completely redesigned F 750 GS and F 850 GS enduro models. BMW Motorrad consistently built on the typical GS strengths in the successor models to the successful 2-cylinder F 650 GS, F 700 GS and F 800 GS motorcycles with the aim of making good things even better.
As before, the GS abbreviation again represented a perfect synthesis of touring and long-distance capability combined with racing dynamics and supreme offroad performance. In short: A BMW GS is the perfect companion when it comes to discovering remote corners of the world by motorcycle. At the heart of the new development was a newly designed, powerful 2-cylinder in-line engine with two balancer shafts and 270/450 degrees ignition distance for optimised running characteristics and emotional sound. It generated 57 kW (77 hp) for the F 750 GS and 70 kW (95 hp) for the F 850 GS from 853 cc, thus providing superior drive power for both GS models.
In autumn 2018, BMW Motorrad once again introduced a radical upgrade for the boxer engine of the large GS models in order to further improve power and torque yield as well as reduce fuel consumption and emission values. For this purpose, BMW ShiftCam Technology was used for the first time in the serial production of BMW Motorrad engines: this allowed valve timings and valve stroke on the intake side to be varied. In addition, the intake camshafts were designed for asynchronous opening of the two intake valves, resulting in enhanced swirl of the fresh, incoming mixture and therefore more effective combustion. Other technical changes to the engine related to the camshaft drive – now taken care of by a toothed chain (previously a roller chain) – optimised oil supply, twin-jet injection valves and a new exhaust system.