BMW R1100GS (1994 - 1999) Review

At a glance

Owners' reliability rating: 4.4 out of 5 (4.4/5)
Annual servicing cost: £130
Power: 80 bhp
Seat height: Medium (33.1 in / 840 mm)
Weight: Medium (461 lbs / 209 kg)

Overall rating

Next up: Ride & brakes
4 out of 5 (4/5)

On the face of it the BMW R1100GS isn’t a particularly convincing motorcycle to drop your cash on. It’s underpowered, expensive, looks ungainly and the gearbox is, frankly, poor. However, if you had to bet the house and kids on a motorcycle to get to Timbuktoo and back again (and show you a good time en route) the R1100GS would be it.

Ride quality & brakes

Next up: Engine
4 out of 5 (4/5)

BMW persevere with their queer paralever/telelever suspension arrangement, which basically means a wishbone and spring arrangement up front, and a centrally-slung shock and single-sided swingarm/shaft drive arrangement. Whatever, it works well, almost eliminating fork dive on braking – and what awesome brakes – sublime. ABS is worth having as it adds resale value.

Engine

Next up: Reliability
3 out of 5 (3/5)

The BMW R1100GS's oil/air-cooled 1085cc Boxer twin struggles to make a genuine 70bhp at the back wheel, but that’s a figure almost equalled by the torque output. This, then, is a motorcycle for short-shifting not revving – a bike for punting you out of corners, not warp factor mph. With just five ratios the R1100GS is a bit buzzy in top, but other than a fantastical appetite for oil it's damn near unburstable.

 

Reliability & build quality

Next up: Value
3 out of 5 (3/5)

Essentially the BMW R1100GS is as good as gold. However, peer closely and the finish is average at best – the forks peel, as does the paint on the the cylinder heads. The Preload adjuster on the rear shock seizes, the gearbox is notchy and selection is indifferent even when new.

 

Value vs rivals

Next up: Equipment
4 out of 5 (4/5)

Buy your BMW R1100GS, rack up 20,000 miles and sell it for a loss of just a few hundred quid. That’s the power of the GS brand – it conveys unburstability, endurance and safe-as-houses investment potential. Find a BMW R1100GS for sale.

Equipment

4 out of 5 (4/5)

BMW R1100GS owners are kit fetishists, so go for one that’s got ABS, hard luggage, heated grips, fender extenders and extra road lights. You’ll only be sorry if you don’t. Compare and buy parts for the BMW R1100GS in the MCN Shop.

 

Specs

Engine size 1085cc
Engine type 8v Boxer twin, 5 gears
Frame type Steel spine
Fuel capacity 25 litres
Seat height 840mm
Bike weight 209kg
Front suspension Preload
Rear suspension Preload
Front brake Twin 305mm discs
Rear brake 200mm disc
Front tyre size 110/80 x 17
Rear tyre size 150/70 x 17

Mpg, costs & insurance

Average fuel consumption 45 mpg
Annual road tax £93
Annual service cost £130
New price -
Used price -
Insurance group 13 of 17
How much to insure?
Warranty term Two year unlimited mileage

Top speed & performance

Max power 80 bhp
Max torque 72 ft-lb
Top speed 122 mph
1/4 mile acceleration 12.7 secs
Tank range 250 miles

Model history & versions

Model history

1980: BMW R80GS introduced – 50bhp, 167kg, air-cooled, Boxer twin. The absolute daddy of the giant trailie genre.
1987: BMW R100GS released – now making 60bhp, weight is up to 187kg thanks to stronger frame, new forks and bigger, better brakes. Discontinued 1993.
1994: BMW R1100GS launched, discontinued 1999 (replaced first by R1150GS and then the R1200GS).

Other versions

BMW R1100GS ABS: Otherwise identical barring Advanced Braking System.

Owners' reviews for the BMW R1100GS (1994 - 1999)

5 owners have reviewed their BMW R1100GS (1994 - 1999) and rated it in a number of areas. Read what they have to say and what they like and dislike about the bike below.

Review your BMW R1100GS (1994 - 1999)

Summary of owners' reviews

Overall rating: 4.2 out of 5 (4.2/5)
Ride quality & brakes: 4.4 out of 5 (4.4/5)
Engine: 4.2 out of 5 (4.2/5)
Reliability & build quality: 4.4 out of 5 (4.4/5)
Value vs rivals: 4.4 out of 5 (4.4/5)
Equipment: 3.8 out of 5 (3.8/5)
Annual servicing cost: £130
4 out of 5 Utterly amazing bit of all round kit
17 April 2020 by Jim Kennan

Year: 1999

Annual servicing cost: £60

Only let down is the clunky gearbox. It's a very positive feel but if you're not used to it you'll be wincing a lot, especially on down shifts. I've got the knack of smooth changes going up the box but down the way is altogether a bit different

Ride quality & brakes 5 out of 5

Amazing handling. Far more than you'd expect just looking at it. Front shock is brilliant once your used to the set up. Rear shock is fairly adjustable too. Firm, compliant ride. I'd even say plush. It's been said for years but you can't believe how well these things handle until you ride one. Then, ride one in a spirited manner on some twisty back roads and be even more impressed. Brakes are combined and with ABS. Great feel, feedback and more than capable of hauling up a big old GS

Engine 5 out of 5

Only making 85-90 bhp but no more required. I'm sure the chassis could handle more but that would be missing the point. Lovely, torquey motor. Smoother than the 1150 version. Only gripe is the amount if rpm in top but that's the compromise. A sixth gear would be a fantastic option for cruising

Reliability & build quality 5 out of 5

My bike is a daily, all weather bike. Aside from the bare alloy wheels being hellish to keep clean and corrosion free it's held up well and everything is easily accessible to clean thoroughly. It has never missed a beat apart from blowing a headlight bulb today

Value vs rivals 5 out of 5

do all my own servicing. It's too easy. Plugs, oil, oil filter, air filter all easy to do in 1 hour. Apart from removing the plug covers, seat and airbox cover, there's no bodywork to remove. I'm using Smith and Allan Semi Synthetic 10w 40, NGK plugs and HiFlo filters. No issues at all. Just over £50 for that lot and my time is free. Metzeler Tourance tyres are £160 a pair. Front wears quicker than the rear but they're perfectly suited to the GS. 5k and the front is finished. I'd say another 2k to go in the rear

Equipment 5 out of 5

Heated grips, hazard warning lights and switchable ABS as standard. Would prefer the heated grips and ABS switches mounted on the bars as using them means a slightly awkward reach but it's only a small gripe. Better than not having them. A handle to assist with getting the bike on the main stand would also be a bonus but it's pretty easy once you know how to do it

Buying experience: Bought from MOTORWORKS. they gave me £800 for my completely nailed, 116k mile RT with all the consumables "consumed" , busted ABS, dodgy sidestand and main stand, blowing exhaust and I only put £1300 to the GS. Delivery was free and they took my RT away

4 out of 5 If Angela Merkel was a motorbike
25 July 2019 by Dizzy Lucas

Year: 1996

Annual servicing cost: £200

The R1100GS is a pretty honest bike. It's not about tech or gizmos it's more about having a dependable easy to live with bike with a dollop of quirk.

Ride quality & brakes 4 out of 5

Knotchy, slow, heavy but it's got grunt which, with a Remus, is just so rewarding. You can hear every beat as you grind up the hills.

Engine 4 out of 5

4 out of 5 for what? I guess still being there 82,000 miles on with no signs of giving up.... and of course the low low down torque.

Reliability & build quality 4 out of 5

I'm something like the 6th owner and there's 82,000 on the clock, everything still work, sometimes when it's not meant to (neutral light) and all the cracked bits are solved with tape, cable ties and bungies. It's the land rover defender of the bike world, left behind by all the competition, great fun to own and strangely desirable.

Value vs rivals 4 out of 5

Would be alot less if I had a Haynes manual and a garage.

Equipment 3 out of 5

ABS still worth a mention?

Buying experience: Bought from a friend of my girlfriend's parents which u determined my negotiating position. At £2000 I probably paid too much however it's such a fun toy to own I can't complain.

4 out of 5 My GS1100
14 July 2008 by stevecase

I love the sit up riding position but the injection makes what should be a good town bike not so good, the gearbox is w**k and its too heavy but the suspension flattens v.bumpy B-roads

Ride quality & brakes 5 out of 5
Engine 4 out of 5
Reliability & build quality 4 out of 5
Value vs rivals 3 out of 5
Equipment 3 out of 5
4 out of 5 this bike is a fantastic all rounder and improved no end by adding an after market exhaust
07 March 2006 by tishtosh

picked the bike up a year and a half ago with 9000 miles on the clock and added a remus exhaust which reduces the weight and makes it sound better than any bike on the road in my opinion.tried a taller screen as the standard creates a bit of buffeting around the head but didnt like the loud wind noise so now its naked with no screen and i much prefer it up to about 90mph. handles better than any other sports bike i've owned and gets 200 miles to a tank. holds its value well and never misses a beat.<br><br>Strengths<br><br>build quality,sound,comfort,handling.<br><br>Weaknesses<br><br>wheels and spokes corrode if not cared for.high bmw servicing costs.

Ride quality & brakes 4 out of 5
Engine 4 out of 5
Reliability & build quality 5 out of 5
Value vs rivals 5 out of 5
Equipment 4 out of 5
5 out of 5 A SuperMoto with Hard Luggage!
31 January 2006 by markk75

When I was a despatch rider, I owned an old BMW R100/7. The handling and brakes were poor but I loved the 1,000cc Boxer engine. That was my 1st reason for buying the R1100GS - I love Boxers; just something about the noise they make, the torque they produce and maybe also the fact that no other bike manufacturer uses that horizontally-opposed twin cylinder layout. Reason No 2 was the look of the bike. Love it or hate it, no other manufacturer has produced a bike so individually ugly-pretty since the first models were introduced in the mid-90's. Reason No 3? It HANDLES. Despite the 19-inch front wheel and limited choice in tyres, you can sling the thing around like a super-moto. BMWs demand a smooth riding style, but once you adapt to Ze German Vay, you WILL give anything else on 2 wheels a run for its money on A and B roads. The GS isn't a hard-core off-roader and it's no luxo-tourer either, but it was the 1st Adventure Sport bike, and it's still the class leader.<br><br>Strengths<br><br>Front suspension, ABS brakes, engine, versatility<br><br>Weaknesses<br><br>Poor finish, BMW dealer service costs

Ride quality & brakes 4 out of 5
Engine 4 out of 5
Reliability & build quality 4 out of 5
Value vs rivals 5 out of 5
Equipment 4 out of 5
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