THE BMW R1100GS
|A new generation of boxers first appeared in 1993 with the R1100RS. Everything changed including the engine which featured oil as well as air cooling. Although previous models also had both air and oil cooling they are called airheads. The new generation relies more on oil cooling and has smaller cylinder fins. For this reason these new generation boxers are often referred to as oilheads.|
The oilheads introduced new high-tech features including:
They also had refinements to previously incorporated features e.g.
- four-valve cylinder heads (engine type 259)
- fuel injection and engine management
- telelever front end.
- single-sided paralever (shaft drive) rear end
- ABS II brakes.
|The oilheads (except the R1100S) have no real frame but use the engine and gearbox as stressed members. At the front they feature Telelever suspension and at the rear paralever. Click the image on the left of the very similar R11RS to see it enlarged.|
Telelever is BMW's very successful patented front suspension. It separates steering and braking forces and virtually eliminates "brake dive". You have to look closely to see that it is not conventional telescopic forks. Pivoting on the front of the engine is a triangular subframe. This is attached to the steering and front suspension (single shock absorber). Take a look at the telelever drawing of an R1100RS.
The rear suspension uses paralever as on previous models but with the shock centrally mounted between the rear wheel and the engine. Bolted on to (and pivoting on) the gearbox is a rear subframe which attaches to the rear suspension and seat assembly. The rear wheel remains fixed by 4 lugnuts.
The R11GS was the second oilhead, launched in 1994. It:
The features that distinguish the R11GS from other oilheads are:
- is a fine all rounder able to ride twisties or tour all day
- has superb on-road handling
- has its own unique looks (some say they are weird, others that they are an acquired taste)
- has a torquey engine
- has a comfortable upright riding position which gives a commanding view ahead
- is heavy but well balanced and maneuverable
- is great solo or two up
- is not only fun but also practical
- has variable rider's seat height 33.1 or 33.9 inches (840 or 860mm)
- has a removable rear seat which exposes the complete rack underneath
- has offroad ability
- is a BMW so is quirky (ie has real character but is sometimes annoying)
- is capable of high mileages .
- retuned engine (more mid-range punch)
- spoked wheels (with patented cross-spoke design to allow tubeless tires)
- dual-purpose tires (although road-biased)
- bash plate
- adjustable small windshield (transparent in US, smoke everywhere else)
- rack under the (removable) rear seat
- black plastic inner mudguards (front and rear)
- wide rotatable handlebars
- switchable ABS
Bore x stroke:
Horizontally opposed twin with four valves per cylinder |
99mm x 70.5mm (3.9 x 2.8 inches)
Chain driven high cam/pushrod, screw gapping
One piece aluminum casting, separate gearbox
One piece forged steel, two plain main bearings, split shell big ends
Wet sump, high pressure, cartridge filter, oil cooler, splash feed gearbox
80 bhp (60 kW) DIN at 6750 rpm |
71.6 lb.ft (97 Nm) at 5250 rpm
Air and oil
Bosch Motronic 2.2 with fuel cutoff when coasting
Standard or optional (depending on country)
Final drive ratio:
180mm dry single plate with diaphram spring |
Enclosed shaft with two universal joints and integral torsional damper
Spiral bevel gears
12V, 19Amp/h |
14 V, 50 Amp
Single H4 55/60W quartz bulb
Capacity: metal tank |
Capacity when warning light illuminates:
6.3 US gallons (24 liters/5.3 Imp gallons) |
6.6 US gallons (25 liters/5.5 Imp gallons)
1.2 US gallons (4.7 liters/1 Imp gallon)
95 ROZ (85 MOZ)
Wheelbase (unladen): pre-96
Ground Clearance (unladen):
85.4 inches (2189mm) |
35.9 inches (920mm) (over mirrors)
59 inches (1499mm)
59.4 inches (1509mm)
7.8 inches (200mm)
Weight distribution: |
Unladen weight (dry):
Unladen weight (wet):
Gross weight limit:
Three piece (front and rear sections with load-bearing engine)
BMW Telelever |
Single gas-filled shock absorber with progressive coil spring
7.5 inches (190mm) travel
Preload adjustment (five steps)
BMW Paralever (single-sided swinging arm) |
Single gas-filled shock absorber with coil spring
7.9 inches (200mm) travel
Preload adjustment (continuously adjustable by handwheel)
Rebound damping (continuously adjustable by screw)
Brake pads: |
Resistant to fading in wet |
FAG ABSII - standard or optional (depending on country) with ability to turn off for offroad usage
Twin 12 inch (305mm) floating discs |
Twin four-piston Brembo calipers with angular pad wear compensation
Single 10.9 inch (200mm) disc |
Single two-piston Bremo floating caliper
Tires and wheels
2.5 x 19 inch patented cross spoke
4 x 17 inch patented cross spoke
- Front cowling: continuously adjustable within 13 degrees
- Front brake lever: four positions adjusted by handwheel
- Handlebar: adjustable for angle
- Height of rider's seat: two positions 33.1 or 33.9 inches (840 or 860mm)
- main and side stands
- bash plate
- black plastic cylinder protectors
- hazard flashers
- warning lights for:
- low fuel
- high beam
- low oil pressure
- low battery voltage
- right indicator
- left indicator
- ABS (if fitted)
- electrical output socket (fused)
- removable passenger seat
- helmet lock
- toolkit including puncture repair outfit
- lockable tool compartment under passenger seat
- removable grab rail
Top speed (solo): |
Top speed (two up):
50-74mph in third (80-120kph):
50-74mph in fourth (80-120kph):
50-74mph in fifth (80-120kph):
37-87mph in fifth (60-140kph):
121mph (195km/h) |
Constant 56mph (90km/h): |
Constant 75mph (120km/h):
51 US mpg (61.3 Imperial mpg/4.6 l/100km) |
39.8 US mpg (47.8 Imperial mpg/5.9 l/100km)
For model year 1999 BMW released its GS model fitted with the 850cc engine.
This was mainly to address the needs of novice riders in Europe. Restrictors can be fitted to limit power to the new European limit for some novices of 33bhp. However, some of those who have ridden the 850cc GS prefer its smoother, freer-reving engine.
Visually the R850GS is distinguishable from the R11GS only by the tank decals. The official specs and performance for the full-power 850cc and 1100cc bikes are identical (including weight) except for:
Final drive ratio:
848 cm³ (11GS - 1085 cm³) |
87.5mm x 70.5mm (11GS - 99mm x 70.5mm)
70 bhp @ 7,500rpm (11GS - 80 at 6,750)
77Nm @ 5,000rpm (11GS - 97 @ 5,250)
3.2:1 (11GS - 3.0:1)
Top speed (solo): |
185kph (11GS - 195kph) |
5.7l/100km @ 120kph (11GS - 5.9)
|The image on the left shows an R11GS fitted with many of the BMW accessories. Click on it to see the bigger picture. (Note that what is an accessory and what is a standard feature varies from country to country).|
The following order came from the Owner Survey, favorite first.
- Heated handlebar grips
- Black plastic saddlebags, 25 liters on exhaust side, 31 on other side (1)
- ABS (2)
- Multivario tank bag , up to 27 liters (1)
- Black plastic hand guards
- Rider's Information Display (RID) (2)
comprising four digital displays:
- gear indicator
- oil temperature
- fuel level
- Topcase, as K-series, 35 liters (1)
- Metal engine bars (3).
- Foam grips
- BMW alarm (4)
- For further details of luggage and some alternatives see customizing, luggage .
- ABS and RID are extremely popular - most owners have them. However in the survey they were treated as features not accessories.
- BMW engine bars must be removed to change the oil and filter! However they do not use the potentially weak area around the footpegs like a few aftermarket alternatives. (Some of which have to be removed to check the valve clearances).
- The BMW alarm was withdrawn for unspecified technical reasons during model year 97. It could be a coincidence but the few owners that had them reported several problems.
- The survey also has a list of least favorite accessories. Some accessories score quite highly on both the lists! For example for some owners BMW saddlebags are neat and good looking while others find them small and odd-shaped internally.
BMW slowly evolves models during their life, the R11GS is no exception. Some of the major changes are listed by model year.(1)
appeared at the beginning of 1994 available in:
and had yellow seats (with black as an optional alternative).
Marakesh red Avus black Alpine white
There is also a no cost black option - black front wishbone and engine covers. The red model has the black option, the others do not. Look under the tank for the black suspension strut and black engine (except cylinders). The picture of a 97 model offroad (by coincidence also red) shows the black option.
- lower black front mudguard extended
- new cylinder head gasket (to stop leaks)
- smaller cut-down bash plate
- some changes to the oil system (supposedly to make oil run back to sump faster when the engine is turned off so checking oil level is easier)
- new maintenance-free poly V (alternator) belt with increased service life
- after VIN number 311168 improved transmission fitted
- recall to fix problems found when riding offroad aggressively:
- Apply a stronger adhesive to the right-hand bearing pin in the swingarm
- Replace the lower flange nut on the front strut with one that self-tightens
- front suspension geometry revised; wheelbase increased 10mm (to stop ABS cutting in early)
- original Akront chrome plated wheels changed to polished (but not lacquered) aluminum made by another supplier
- low friction throttle cable with smoother action (especially at small openings)
|Marakesh red||Avus black||Kalahari yellow|
- white color bikes replaced by Kalahari yellow
- original white/yellow tank decals replaced by black on red and yellow color tank and red on black color tanks
- seat color changed from yellow to black with black color bikes having red seats (with option of black)
- plastic fuel tank replaced by metal due to problems with mountings and tank decals. Shape and size slightly altered (official capacity down from 25 to 24 liters)
- rear subframe attached to gearbox and its bolts beefed up (supposedly to stop frame breaking in extreme off road conditions)
- quieter 80db exhaust
- inlet and exhaust valves reduced by 2mm and stems by 1mm (to reduce surging or increase low end grunt?). No change in published performance specs.
Also a new oil control valve installed from black engine number 41956271 and silver engine number 41959303. It was an attempt to make oil level more consistent but at best only a partial success. Best advice to put on sidestand immediately after engine switch off and leave overnight before checking still applies to all R11GS models.
- revised gearbox
- simplified throttle and choke cable arrangement (only two cables connected to throttle body)
- final drive housing breather bore increased
|To mark the 75th anniversary of the first BMW bike, the R32, limited editions are available of all oilheads.|
As you can see from the picture, (click on it to see a bigger version) the R11GS 75th Anniversary model is Marakesh red with Alpine white stripes. Included in the price were:
- Heated handlebar grips
- Bags rack
- a "sumptuous" Anniversary folder containing:
- an authenticity certificate
- a valuable photo album of the BMW bike story (with pictures of the Anniversary-model and a place for a photo of the owner's actual bike)
- a leather key-holder
- a "75 years" pin
In August 1999 the final R11GS rolled off the production line in Spandau, Berlin. It had been the most successful model of the GS models with 39,104 examples produced since September 1993. The R850GS continued unchanged.
In September 1999 (i.e. the start of Production year 2000) the R1150GS began its production run. It is a major revision of the R11GS and features the following differences.Country variations
The following parts are shared by the R1100GS and R1150GS and so are interchangeable:
- Engine revised including:
- bore increased from 99 to 101mm with same 70.5mm stroke raises capacity 45cm³ to 1130cm³
- new magnesium head covers
- Motronic 2.4 engine management
- 5bhp more power and flatter torque curve.
- New slicker-shifting 6 speed gearbox from R11S
(1st higher, 3rd-6th closer and 6th (aka "E" for Economy) is an overdrive).
Gear Speed at 1,000rpm R1100GS R1150GS 1st 6.0 mph 6.9 mph 2nd 8.7 mph 8.9 mph 3rd 12.3 mph 11.1 mph 4th 15.3 mph 13.6 mph 5th 18.0 mph 15.7 mph 6th - 20.3 mph
- Revised front end featuring:
- lighter Telelever with R11S style forks and improved shock absorber
- twin asymmetric ("raised eyebrow") projector headlights (similar but different to the R11S)
- larger oilcooler from the R11RT
- redesigned upper front fender (2" shorter at front, 3/4" wider)
- new wider and higher windshield (removeable) with flip-up top edge
- new turn signal mounts that are more flexible so harder to damage and also easier to remove (can be retro fitted to the R11GS).
- new black inner mudguard and bash plate.
- New handlebars/controls featuring:
- 13mm wider handlebars
- new switchgear from R11S with all controls handlebar mounted including ABS switch, flashers, heated grips and warm up lever (choke)
- instrument layout redesigned
- hydraulic clutch (both clutch and brake reservoirs are very well integrated into the handlebars)
- new hand guards attached to bars inboard and to bar ends outboard with good coverage and a strong backbone.
- Revised rear end featuring:
- new exhaust pipe - smaller, lighter better tucked in but still requires a cut-out pannier
- new gearbox mountings including altered bracing for the Paralever pivots on the side above the footpeg
- shorter, lighter paralever from R11S to deal with longer gearbox housing
- new foot peg mounts
- new longer gear shift lever.
- Smaller 14Ah battery and 600W alternator (R11GS 700W alternator available as cost option)
- Revised sidestand switch that allows you to start the engine in neutral with the sidestand down. It only kills engine if you shift into gear before raising the sidestand.
- Overall 13 lbs heavier.
- Price increased slightly.
- New colors: black, mandarin yellow, metallic silver.
Impressions of R11GS owners when test riding the R1150GS:
- the rider and passenger foot pegs (but not the rider mounts)
- a lot of the the rear e.g. rack, bag mounts plate holder and black inner mudguard
- bags (all aftermarket R11GS bags e.g. Jesse, Givi are transferrable).
All in all, a nice evolution of the R11GS. You can jump off the old one and feel straight at home on the new one.
- looks cooler
- a bit faster
- a bit better handling
- smoother engine
- headlights significantly better
- much better shifting
- overdrive (6th or "E") is great for touring.
All US 49 State R11GS have as standard both catalytic converter and carbon canister. They meet the strictest emissions guidelines BMW expect any time during the current engine's production life. This includes new regulations to come from California's Air Resources Board.Production Year Notes
The specifications for other countries vary.
- Production for the new model year starts after the annual works holiday in August. The production model year runs from September to August e.g. model year 98 runs from September 97 to August 98.
However there is always a delay between production and registration. So not all bikes registered during that period are from that model year. For example some 98 models were registered during October 98 which falls within model year 99.
- Individual changes are sometimes introduced piecemeal during a model year. This means that a particular bike may not necessarily have all the changes listed for its model year.
- An individual bike may have pieces from a following production year retro-fitted by a dealer or owner.
The R11GS is not as agile offroad as previous GS models. Compared to them the R11GS is:
Also, the R11GS "frame" can break when used very extensively and heavily off-road. However, only a tiny number of failures have occurred, mostly in Australia. For more information, see Frame reinforcing kit and also David Loone's R1100GS page . However, don't get too worried, in the unlikely event that you do break your frame BMW will replace it.
- more powerful
- fitted with Telelever
- fitted with more durable shaft drive
- fitted with improved electrics
- better braked
- fitted with a smaller (19 inch) front wheel
- more road-oriented
- more sophisticated
- more expensive
Despite this, the R11GS retains real offroad ability.
Many owners take their R11GSs way offroad without problems and really enjoy doing so.|
The ABS fitted to the R11GS can be switched off when offroad. However on certain surfaces some owners prefer to keep it on.
An alternative bike many potential R11GS owners consider is the BMW R1100RT. They are mechanically very similar and both make excellent long-distance tourers solo or two up. S. Cary Littell Jr hosts the definitive R1100RT webpage.
Based on many posts from owners who own or have ridden both, here is a comparison of the two.
R11GS the triathelete:
R11RT the sports tourer:
Some have suggested that an R11GS with large fairing (Aeroflow or Parabellum) is more fun and more flexible than an R11RT unless you just want to tour. The fairing can be easily removed for twisties and when going offroad.
There are several new rivals to the R11GS apart from the R1150GS and R1100RT. Here is a comparison of basic specs:
- BMW R1100GS
Fuel injected engine (1085cc air/oil-cooled boxer twin) with telelever and ABS.
Claimed power: 80 PS (bhp)
Dry weight: 209kg (460lb)
Wheels: wire spokes
- Cagiva Grand Canyon
Fuel injected detuned Ducati 900SS engine (904cc 90 degree air-cooled V twin) with modern styling.
Claimed power: 72 PS (bhp)
Dry weight: 193kg (425lb)
Wheels: wire spokes
- Honda Africa Twin
742cc 52 degree V twin engine.
Claimed power: 60 PS (bhp)
Dry weight: 205kg (451lb)
Wheels: wire spokes
- Honda Varadero
Detuned Firestorm engine (996cc 90 degree V twin) in uprated Africa Twin frame.
Claimed power: 94 PS (bhp)
Dry weight: 220kg (484lb)
Wheels: three spoke alloys
- Moto Guzzi Quota ES
Transversely mounted engine (1064cc 90 degree V twin).
Claimed power: 68 PS (bhp)
Dry weight: 245kg (540lb)
Wheels: wire spokes
- Triumph Tiger
Fuel injected engine (885cc triple) in a re-designed frame with new plastics and luggage options.
Claimed power: 86 PS (bhp)
Dry weight: 215kg (430lb)
Wheels: wire spokes
- Yamaha TDM850
849cc 10 valve parallel twin in Deltabox frame.
Claimed power: 80 PS (bhp)
Dry weight 201kg (442lb)
Wheels: three spoke alloys
- Cycle World Dec 93 p46
- CA Bike June 94 p12
- Motorcycle Consumer News June 94 p7
- Motorcycle Consumer News Aug 94 p12
Comparison v Ducati E900 with dyno graphs
- RIDER Aug 94 p35 Test
- Cycle World Sept 94 p46 Test
- Street Bike vol 4 no 8 95 p40
Best bike for the loneliest highway in the world? (R11GS v Highway 50)
- RIDER Apr 95 p46
R11GS in Baja
- Motorcycle Consumer News Dec 95 p6
Long term Test - The Adventures of Conan the Bavarian
- Touring Rider 96 p14
Comparison v ZX-9R v GS500E v Royal Star v Electra Glide v ST1100
- RIDER Oct 96 p50
More R11GS in Baja
- Motorcycle Online
Comparison with Triumph Tiger on and offroad
- Motorcycle Consumer News Oct 98 p12
Comparison v Triumph Tiger.
- Streetbike R11GS review
- RIDER m/c August 99
Comparison v Tiger, both ridden through Death Valley.
- BIKE June 94 p60
Comparison v Tiger v Elefant
- BIKE Nov 96 p60
Comparison v Honda Africa Twin v Triumph Tiger v Cagiva Elefant
- BIKE Jun 2000 R850GS test
- Performance Bikes Dec 94 p83
Comparison v Africa Twin with dyno graphs
- SuperBike Sept 95 p30
Comparison with Honda RC45, Triumph Speed Triple and Suzuki Bandit 1200
- SuperBike Jan 98 p38
Comparison v Buell, Guzzi and Bandit 1200 with dyno graphs
- Motor Cycle International July 94 (110) p32 Test
- Motor Cycle International Apr 96 (131) Quick spin
- Back Street Heroes March 98 p84
Test - the gung-ho armchair
- Motorcycle News 21/6/95
Shootout - specs only
- Motorcycle News 6/4/94 Test
- Motorcycle News Oct 9 96 p12
Comparison on and offroad with Elefant and Africa twin
- Motorcycle News 31/12/97
Used Bike buying guide R11GS
- RiDE Dec 98
Comparison v Monster 900 v Buell S1 Lightning v T509 Speed Triple
- RiDE May 99
Comparison of secondhand models v Tiger v Elefant 750 v Africa Twin
- RiDE Nov 99
Comparison of secondhand models v ZX-7R v 900SS v CBR900RR
- RiDE Feb 2000
R1100GS v R1150GS comparison
- BIKE Apr 99
Comparison v Tiger v Varadero v Cagiva Gran Canyon
- Motorcycle Sport & Leisure, May 99
Comparison v Honda Varadero
- Superbike July 99
John Deacon compares the R11GS with Varedero, Cagiva Gran Canyon and Tiger
- Touren-fahrer 11/12 98 p26
Comparison with Moto Guzzi Quota 1100 and Cagiva Gran Canyon
- PS Nov 97 p8
Track and dyno test v Honda Blackbird v Kawasaki ZXR1100
- PS Oct 95
Comparison with Cagiva E900, Honda Africa Twin, Triumph Tiger
- PS Apr 94 Test
- PS Jun 94
- ENDURO Sept 98
Comparison with Moto Guzzi Quota 1100ES
- ENDURO July 94
Comparison with BMW R100GS
- Motorrad-fahre July 99
Comparison v Varadero v Tiger
- Motorrad-Magazin July 99
Comparison v Varadero v Tiger
- Motorrad 6 Mar 99 p12
Comparison v Tiger v Varedo
- Touren-fahrer Feb 99
Comparison v Varadero
- Touren-fahrer May 99
Comparison v R850GS
- Best Standard Bike 1994
Cycle World Oct 94
- Best Touring Bike 1995
RIDER June 95
- Best two-up tourer
BIKE Jun 97 p136
R11GS beats Honda's VFR750 into second place in top 10!
- Editor's choice for best bike of 1997
BIKE Dec 97 p83
- Secondhand Adventure Bikes - RiDE Best Buy
RiDE May 99 p82
A few quotes from some of the above articles.
- "BMWs have never been regarded as fun machines, but this one shatters the dull, Teutonic image"
- "the plushest, most beautifully finished trail bike ever"
- "build superb - everything beautifully manufactured and put together"
- "it's as much fun charging down country lanes as it is in and out of gaps in cities or cruising on motorways"
- "an accomplished tourer, passable trailbike and A-road scratcher par excellence"
- "it's about covering huge distances quickly in supreme comfort"
- "riding position is true armchair - wide bars, wide and deeply padded seat"
- "450 miles in a day two up without trouble"
- "pillion and luggage make zero difference to comfort, handling or performance"
- "massive improvement on old two valve boxers - faster, smoother and exciting"
- "quiet, low down, no messing pull"
- "crack the throttle open in first and it'll loop over backwards"
- "low down grunt is about as subtle as a smack in the face"
- "doesn't take much concentration, the ideal long-distance scratcher"
- "blisteringly fast from A to B"
- "maybe the fastest A to B bike ever"
- "steering is amazingly stable when cornering even on bumps"
- "handling is a gas. The harder I rode, the better she behaved. Yank the bars for a fast and late entry, lay her on her side, get on the gas."
- "try chicanes because feeling that huge bulk slew 90 degrees through the vertical within a couple of seconds has to be experienced to be believed"
- "leans to angles that are truly mad"
- "true sportsbike-stuffing capability"
- "out-cornered every FireBlade and Thunderace we came across" (ridden with passenger!)
- "can put up a respectable fight against a 916"
- "ABS is excellent on road and suprisingly good on hard dirt roads"
- "huge fun slamming on (ABS II) brakes at 80mph, hearing a moment of tyre squeal then coming to a fast safe halt"
- "at the moment of wheel lock there is no more than a slight pulsing through the brake lever, unlike on the K-series (ABS I) which tend to leap into the air"
- "anti-dive Telelever works well with the GS's long travel suspension"
- "the wacky suspension means you never, ever have to slow down over bumps"
- "torque reaction from the Paralever shaft is barely noticeable"
- "the most underrated bike you can buy"
- "nobody else makes anything else like it"
- "I could spend years owning and enjoying this motorcycle"
- "overdid a roundabout, flew up a kerb at 50mph then yelped across a gravel drainage channel and an 18" deep grass ditch. Front suspension soaked up an accident that would have cartwheeled any other bike. ABS stopped me on grass without a lockup."
- "utterly brilliant"
The following are stories from owners that have appeared on the BMW-GS email list. (Some of the stories have been edited down.)
The R11GS is just so completely different from my previous Japanese road rockets that it takes time to adapt and appreciate it. The local BMW dealer understood this so he gave me an extended test ride.
Immediately I liked the comfortable upright riding position and the view you get ahead. I did not like its looks nor its weight and the indicator switches were a disaster. Riding it through town and then out onto the highway was easy but it somehow felt odd. Those wide bars, cylinders sticking out below you and some funny noises. Like nothing I've been used to.
When I got home at the end of the day I sat down and thought about it. "Yeah its not bad, I like it now more than I did before riding it. But still there's no way I can buy one. It's just too, well, weird."
Next day I hit the twisties. Wow, this bike really rocks! It is just so easy and relaxing to ride, leans to ridiculous angles and eats up bumps. You can ride fast without trying.
And it's practical. The large tank gives a good range and the RID instruments tell you all you need to know. And it has so many nice touches e.g. center stand, rack for solo use and full toolkit.
On top of that the ABS is so re-assuring. As I headed (fast) towards a hairpin I felt a slight pulsing from the rear end. "What's that?" I asked myself. Then I realized it's the ABS operating on the rear. "Oh" was my only reaction. I remained totally unconcerned and relaxed, completely confident that the system would slow me down enough to get round the hairpin under full control. There was none of the wide-eyed, dry throat panic and tension I would have felt if I had been on my bike in the same situation and heard the screech of the rear wheel locking up.
Then there's the BMW build quality and the way they hold their value. Hell, I was even starting to like the looks! But above all else I enjoyed riding it, it made me grin. It's a fun bike.
Yes, of course I took the bike back to the dealer and jumped on the BMW bandwagon. That was well over 18 months and 30,000 happy character-filled miles ago. Never regretted it. Not once.
I've had the bike for 17,000 miles, put on one set of tires and brakepads at 11,000. Other than that, I have had no problem - I love it to death.
The R11GS is an able offroader, grand tourer AND canyon carver. Several mags give it 'best dual purpose' but really it needs it's own category 'best all arounder'.
I like the riding position and use the original seat but many change to Russell or Corbin aftermarket replacement.
I use the stock shield even though the wind hits the average size rider in the face and upper chest. Many tourers opt for Aeroflow or Parabellum aftermarket replacements.
Too heavy to be a dirt bike of course, but I take it offroad with confidence. Really eats up speed bumps at the local mall.
Can't park it anywhere in public without attracting admiring glances and comments. The most fun "thing" I've ever bought.
Jesse bags make it a round the world tourer and perfect Baja bike. Removal of the rear seat and bar leaves plenty of storage room. Absolutely the best bike in the world for extended camping/touring.
Can't think of a better bike if you only have one. I have only been riding one year but I keep up with my friends on sport bikes on mountain roads.
I can't stop riding it - have 2 cars with dead batteries because of it!
I was eating breakfast alone at a cafe one Sunday morning when a nice couple off a new red R11GS came in. I told him I've been eyeing his GS. He handed me his keys and said try it out. WOW!
Now that was 26,000 miles ago. I get lots of wind and it vibrates some. It eats dirt and gravel roads but loathes sandy river beds. As for the blacktop you can do it all - fun, fun fun!
Find a dealer that'll let you ride twisties for an hour or two - you gotta try one!
The R11GS is tall, heavy and a bear if it gets too far off center at a stand-still. But once in motion, it's like a weeble-wobble - very stable with a comfortable center of gravity.
Without the saddles, regardless of the amount of fuel in tank, the bike literally balances on the center stand with both wheels off the ground. I personally cannot take my eyes off her whenever I wander out to the garage.
Unless you're an experienced offroader, I'd take that in VERY slowly. It handles much differently than a lighter enduro (duh!) and sudden deceleration causes skidding. But udder'n'dat, my bike seems flawless and is pure joy to ride.
I have a 95 R11GS with 2,000 miles (all city!). As a former Honda owner who attempted to drive long distances while balancing on my wrists, I have found the R11GS to be quite a thrill. It's primary purpose in my life right now is as an urban assault vehicle and it works perfectly. No more worrying about Chicago potholes swallowing another wheel, and the roads are wide enough that pretty much one car and one bike can move along during rush hour.
I'd like a bit more wind protection for the quick trips in and out to good roads but other than that it
- goes well
- can haul a week's worth of groceries in the saddlebags
- can be parked almost anywhere.
In the two months since I bought my R11GS I have done about 4,800 miles. I use it for commuting from the high desert where I live, to Pasadena, 80 miles away. About 60 of the miles are freeway and the other 20 miles are street. Going home, I take the mountain route (when it is not raining or snowing) and have about 40 miles of twisties and 40 miles of desert highway. These are the best parts of my day!
The R11GS is an amazing motorcycle. You have the power and speed needed for the freeway/highway as well as cornering ability with balance. When you want to split lanes because traffic is moving intolerably slow, the bike is steady and stealthy. If you have a hankerin' for offroad, the bike is built for this also (albeit, you better have more aggressive tires than what comes with the bike). The ride is about as smooth as you are going find for a two-cylinder bike. Typically, my ride is about 1.5 to 2 hours in the morning and about 1.75 hours in the afternoon. My rear, however, does not feel like it has been on a motorcycle seat for that long!
After riding pure dirt bikes and pure sport bikes for years, I always kind of looked down on the GS style of bike. Finally, as I drove by Ginas BMW in Iowa, I decided to try a test ride on a R11GS.
Gina let me have her black R11GS demonstrator and said "Keep it under 4500 rpm and out of the mud."
As I threw my leg over the 'monster' it felt strange... the GS reminded me of my dirt bike, nice wide bars, good seat height and neutral balance. A two finger clutch and easy to read gauges made me feel right at home. BUT then I looked down and I saw those funky cylinder heads sticking out!
When I fired it up, I got my second big surprise. When I blipped the throttle the bike torqued SIDEWAYS.....!
I was nice to the bike for about 10 minutes. As I got more and more comfortable with it my smile got bigger and bigger. It:
Great Urban Assault Vehicle!!! But what was it like on the open road? I headed up toward Coralville to a nice set of twisties. No Problems!! This beast could lay right down through the apex of the curve, roll the throttle on about apex exit and BLAST. It didn't even mind that there were big rolling lumps of asphalt right in the middle of the curve. The suspension just soaked them up and kept my line.
- has wide enough bars to flick and steer in traffic
- has gobs of bottom end torque for when I'm in the wrong gear
- allows me to see over traffic
- absorbs potholes and expansion joints in the road with ease.
The cruise back to Ginas' was about 30 miles of Interstate 380, a steady 75 mph and a 30 mph crosswind were taken in stride.
Gina had a Marrakesh red one on the showroom floor. I told her to get it ready. I rode it home a few days later.
I have since done some 'fire roading' with it. It has done some 2 track jeep trail camping. It has cruised 500 mile days on the interstate and I have had loads of fun with it in my daily commute to work. Sure, I've nicked the cylinder heads and I've scraped the skid plate. I expected that.
As for getting the GS serious offroad... I won't do that, I didn't spend $14,000 US to smash it. I have a XR400 that is much cheaper, not to mention easier to pick up. As for my VFR, I traded it and have never missed it. The GS is by far the best motorcycle I have ever owned.
The R11GS, like all BMWs, is capable of doing very high mileages. The following are stories from owners that have appeared on the BMW-GS email list. (Some of the stories have been edited down.)
In the 10 months since picking up my GS I have done over 24,000 miles and she just gets better and better. She is my "horse" - my every day, do everything, commute/tour/carve canyons bike. FANTASTIC!!
Sure, I have minor complaints. But there's no bike on the market today which does everything, and I mean *EVERYTHING*, like a GS. I fully expect to do over 300K miles on her.
The GS is a most wonderful bike. 129,000 miles with an excellent dealer, nothing but sMiles. (Warranty took care of a few small problems quickly and easily).
My buddy here in Colorado has taken his 95 R11GS to Alaska, Copper Canyon and everywhere in between. He's done approximately 45,000 miles on it.
Copper Canyon the second time in the mud, waterfalls and rain was done two up with his wife on the back. In Creel, Mexico, I was on an Honda XR250R and he followed me into sewers, literally. He abuses the crap out of the bike. Examples:
Problems, well he needed to replace one of the BWM saddlebags. Went to Al Jesse bags because his riding style wasn't going to change. He just got back from 3,000 miles in one week to Corpus Chrisi. Now is this a testimonial to the R11GS or what? :-)
- 9,000 mile oil changes
- valve adjustments way beyond schedule
- three or more tipovers
In the 18 months since I buying my R11GS I have done 32,000 miles. Mine is:
My R11GS is nearly perfect. It will be perfect when I can afford to fit a replacement Aeroflow screen with lowers.
- a great urban assault vehicle
- reliable on long trips
- fine for light off duty work
- ideal for daily commuting (about 80 miles of highway round trip)
The R11GS suspension and high ground clearance make urban assaulting lots of fun! Only problem is that the saddlebags limited lane splitting. So, I mounted a Givi 50 liter top case and removed the saddlebags making the bike is nice and narrow again. And the Givi has lots of room!
The R11GS is certainly comfortable. I did one long-ish trip on it, San Francisco to Phoenix and back as well as a couple of 800 mile days along the way. Great bike.
I've done 36,000 miles in the last 17 months on my 96 R1100GS.
It's been a good ride. The only items I have had to replace on my bike, except for consumables like tires, oil, filters, fluids etc are:
I'm still using the original brake pads at 36K. One of the rear pads is a bit thin but still fine. I do ride the bike hard on the street. It gets about 5% offroad duty.
- Alternator belt at 31K as it squeaked on occasion. Old belt was fine. New belt squeaks too on occasion so this was not really necessary. Cost $10 or so for the belt (not sure on this) and about $15 to put it on.
- Clutch cable thinking it was going bad. It wasn't. Cost $20+ for the belt and $25 for the dealer to put it on.
- Clutch throwout bearing died at 33K. Replaced free under warranty. If not warranty I'd guess 2 hours labor and not sure of the part cost ($25?).
My bike is totally stock except for the addition of a Corbin seat, Piaa lights, and a Bob's Wrist Rest. The Corbin is just the front portion with a back rest. Nice for those long days. The PIAA 910's are excellent for finding those night critters. The Wrist Rest doesn't get that much duty, but is a nice addition. Oh yeah, I tossed the stock headlight bulb at Day 2 and went to 55/100W.
I've tried both the Bridgestone and the Michelin tires. My bike came with the Bridgestone Trailwings which were okay but didn't seem to last too long. The next 3 sets of tires were Michelin T-66's. Last long, handle well, make noise. I recently put a new set of the Bridgestones on as I was on the road and the remote dealer's prices on Michelins was astronomical and the Bridgestones reasonable. I'm not as confident on the Trailwing's though.
I have had my R11GS 15 months since buying her new and have done 23,000 miles. She's been dealer serviced and they have never had to do anything extra, nothing other than what's in the schedule.
I'm on my third set of Metzeler Enduro 4 tires which I like except for the front tire cupping. Tried the Michelins and Avons when I rode some other R11GSs but much prefer the feel, steering, quiet and grip of the Metzelers. I never ride offroad.
Apart from that, the only thing I've had to do is replace some bulbs (one headlight and three rears).
A great allrounder - I'm very happy with her.
An R11GS is usually a good buy secondhand even at high mileages. They are well-built and BMW has a good warranty and recall mechanism for updates.
Previous GS models suffered from poor drive shaft life and unreliable alternators/starters. The R11GS does not.
The original R11GS models had a number of failings but in typical BMW fashion most of these have been corrected by now so they are still a good buy.
Specific points to look out for:
- Check for a full service history. If at a dealer, try to speak to the previous owner. Even at high mileages, well serviced bikes tend to remain reliable.
- Check whether the tank is plastic or metal.
Lots of the plastic tanks were replaced with metal ones under warranty.
Check plastic tanks carefully - they suffer problems with their mountings wearing and paint/decals bubbling.
a) Check the mountings by lifting the front of the tank. Play of more than an inch is a problem.
b) Examine the decals (if there are any!) for bubbling.
- Don't be put off by strangely colored exhaust headers. All shades of blue/violet/brown are possible. It's good quality stainless steel. Only worry if there are holes!
- Early models suffered gearbox and occasionally shaft troubles although most have been sorted long ago.
- Check the spoked wheels carefully. Their unique design means the rim cannot be "pulled" left and right by spoke tension as with a normal spoked wheel. Only expert wheelbuilders can rebuild these wheels. Even spoke tightening/replacement is beyond most dealers.
For more details see wheels.
- Spin each wheel to measure the run out (i.e. how "bent" the wheel is). If it is more than 1/8 inch usually this means replacement (not cheap) or rebuild by a specialist wheelbuilder.
- Look for missing spokes. Up to three missing spokes per wheel can be replaced but this is not straight forward and sometimes the wheel needs rebuilding anyway.
- Gently strike all the spokes on both wheels. They should all "sound" the same. If not, replacement or a rebuild may be required.
- Models produced before Feb 1996 have a less robust rear rack. Examine the underside closely and look for cracks.
If it is cracked, dealers may fit the upgraded part (number 46 54 2 309 514) for free as per a service bulletin.
- On a test ride ensure ABS (if fitted) works correctly as faults are expensive to repair.
- When the ignition is turned on the two ABS warning lights should flash together.
(If they flash alternately, the ABS needs resetting).
- As soon as the bike travels a couple of yards both ABS warning lights should go out.
- When it is safe to do so, test the front and rear brakes separately to make sure the ABS works.
- UK's Motorcycle News 31/12/97
Used Bike buying guide R11GS
- UK's RiDE Dec 98
Comparison v Monster 900 v Buell S1 Lightning v T509 Speed Triple
- UK's RiDE May 99
Comparison of secondhand models v Tiger v Elefant 750 v Africa Twin
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Updated the 03 January 2001