BMW R1150GS (1999 - 2005) Review
At a glance
|Owners' reliability rating:|
|Annual servicing cost:||£300|
Overall ratingNext up: Ride & brakes
BMW’s R1150GS is heavy, pricey and relatively slow. It’s also an expensive, imperfectly finished motorcycle and the engine design is something Noah would recognise. On the flip-side the BMW R1150GS handles brilliantly, will run forever and will cheerfully see over 200 miles from the motorcycle's tank.
Ride quality & brakesNext up: Engine
For such a tall machine the BMW R1150GS is blessed with extraordinary poise. The wide bars give you total control over the motorcycle in bends (no need to hang off like a monkey, here), the tyres grip like a drowning man and the brakes are phenomenally good. In the wet there’s probably no better bike than the BMW R1150GS to be on, such is the motorcycle's balance.
EngineNext up: Reliability
Even really healthy BMW R1150GS' struggle to make more than 77bhp from the antediluvian air/oil-cooled Boxer twin. However there’s immense torque from this motorcycle – over 70ft lb, so hauling ass past lines of cars is simplicity itself, requiring no more than a twist of the motorcycle's throttle. That’s something of a blessing as the BMW R1150GS' gearbox is robust, but imprecise and agricultural.
Reliability & build qualityNext up: Value
Essentially the basic design of the BMW R1150GS means that, treated right, it’ll run forever. However, the paint on the motorcycle's cylinder heads flakes off, as does the finish on the forks, the petrol cap lets in rain, the downpipes go brown, the O-ring inside the oil filler cap breaks causing oil to seep out the seal and you really need to keep an eye on the BMW R1150GS' oil level.
Value vs rivalsNext up: Equipment
BMW R1150GS owners love their motorcycles. They dealer service them on time, ride them kindly and don’t tend to behave in a manner prejudicial to the motorcycle's longevity. Add in the cult of the BMW R1150GS and you can see why used motorcycles command such high prices. Find a BMW R1150GS for sale.
Factory options for this motorcycle such as ABS, hard luggage and heated grips are well worth seeking out and there’s a raft of aftermarket stuff for the BMW R1150GS from crash bars to race-style exhausts to bolt on. Compare and buy parts for the BMW R1150GS in the MCN Shop.
|Engine type||8v Boxer twin, 6 gears|
|Frame type||Steel spine|
|Fuel capacity||25 litres|
|Front brake||Twin 305mm discs|
|Rear brake||276mm disc|
|Front tyre size||110/80 x 19|
|Rear tyre size||150/70 x 17|
Mpg, costs & insurance
|Average fuel consumption||37 mpg|
|Annual road tax||£101|
|Annual service cost||£300|
13 of 17
How much to insure?
|Warranty term||Two year unlimited mileage|
Top speed & performance
|Max power||85 bhp|
|Max torque||75 ft-lb|
|Top speed||130 mph|
|1/4 mile acceleration||12.1 secs|
|Tank range||205 miles|
Model history & versions
1980: BMW R80GS introduced – 50bhp, 797cc air-cooled Boxer twin – the archetype giant trailie.
1987: BMW R100GS – 980cc, 60bhp, weighing 187kg. Bigger and better.
1994: BMW R1100GS – 1085cc, 209kg and 80bhp. Introduced the Paralever wishbone front end.
1999: BMW R1150GS released.
BMW R850GS: 848cc, 70bhp – essentially a BMW R1150GS with the BMW R850R’s motor.
BMW R1150GS ABS: Identical to the BMW R1150GS, but with switchable ABS.
Owners' reviews for the BMW R1150GS (1999 - 2005)
14 owners have reviewed their BMW R1150GS (1999 - 2005) and rated it in a number of areas. Read what they have to say and what they like and dislike about the bike below.
Summary of owners' reviews
|Ride quality & brakes:|
|Reliability & build quality:|
|Value vs rivals:|
|Annual servicing cost:||£300|
Annual servicing cost: £350
Remember this is now an 18 year old bike… for said age, this is a wonderful work horse. I use it for a 110 mile commute, rideouts and general work horsey stuff. Never let me down, but needs constant love and care (Eg oil topped up, plus servicing always includes something to be done)Very much an “analogue” bike due to its age, but this does also mean it’s cheaper to do everything on it For anyone needing a do it all but at a very low budget, this is a great choice
Surprisingly comfortable and stable. Suspension is great even when keeping a hard pace. Very stable at all speeds. Plush pillion seat. Made for comfort
Simple to do valve clearances, but compared to newer bikes it’s “ok” powered but saved by the great torque I gave it 4 out of 5 as it does have great torque and considering its age, in general I was able to keep up with mates on other adventure bikes (but note that any sort of sportsbike with a decent rider will fly away)
Compared to the many electronics failures my mates get on bikes that are 3+ years old, with preventative maintenance the old GS just goes on and on. The key is to stay on top of it all
Yeah at 18years old it drinks a fair bit of petrol, likes to drink a lot of oil and there is always something to be done here / there as a preventative measureStill love it though and considering how cheap it is to buy, I really don’t have an issue with the maintenance aspect
Yeah it’s a GS, huge top box and panniers, electrics perfect to add load of extras, heated grips etc, for a near 20 year old bike I am very happy with all its extras and more importantly how easy / cheap it is to add extras
Buying experience: Bought privately, retired Engineer who put in a brand new clutch
Version: Black Single Spark
Even though it’s only done 60k miles in 20 years, mine’s not in the best condition. It runs and rides well and I love how versatile it is but the paintwork on the engine/gearbox is in a sorry state! I’ll have to sort it out at some point. Apart from that and a bent subframe that needed replacing it’s been great so far. Easy to ride (and work on in some ways). My first BMW so it’s taking a while to get used to their way of doing things, dry clutch etc etcMunches miles, comfortable, carries your gear and a pillion no bother, fine on gravel tracks and easy off-road but heavy so I wouldn’t want to be picking it up very often.
Great all rounder. No fuss suspension.
Loads of character. This bike is all about the big boxer twin. If you don’t like that then you’re wasting your time
Like I say - the paintwork is screwed but other people’s bikes seem like mint after 20 years so I assume mine has been ridden on the ocean bed on a regular basis. What can I say - it was the only GS I could afford!The clutch slaves tend to fail and they’re in a really awkward place. After replacing mine (and the hose) I then discovered the the gearbox seal behind the slave had been ruined by the clutch fluid and that had to be replaced too. Probably a well maintained GS wouldn’t give you much bother. Clutch replacement will be very expensive compared to a wet clutch though.
In theory if there aren’t any problems it’s just the oil, filters, gear oil and final drive oil every 6k miles
Great luggage options and after market stuff in general very good. Great community too
Buying experience: Small time dealer. Could have been better. He described it as an entry-level GS
The 1150 engine is a peach and although on paper 85bhp doesn’t sound a lot, it has all the power and grunt in the right place and taking it down small twisty roads not much will keep up with it. Ok it may seem agricultural but that’s part of the charm. The handling is superb and confidence inspiring. The whole package works well.
Handling is brilliant and the brakes are good
A reliable motor which has been well engineered. Excellent engine breaking and enough power for most.
A really well make bike that will keep going and going.
It’s pretty simple to work on so servicing cost can be kept to a minimum. They hold their value very well
Remember it’s a 20yr old bike, the equipment was good for the time. No electronics which can be a blessing. Tourance tyres work well.
Buying experience: Bought private
Annual servicing cost: £200
Best bits - comfort, economy, reliability, keeps its value, surprising ability in handling qualities, heated grips, tank range. Worst bits - dealer servicing costs, expensive top box if you want to carry more than just helmets, corrosion if you don't use ACF50 regularly
Easy 2 hour comfort for both rider and passenger. Fill up, take a drink and do 2 more hours
Mostly low down torque so no need to rev it noisily. Occasionally go over 5000rpm, 6000+ starts to use more fuel noticeably. Quite smooth delivery once the oil has started to warm up.
Engine paint finish chipped in places. Otherwise reliable (non ABS version)
Fuel range 190 miles so about 45mpg with journeys 10 - 30 miles out of town
Standard Continentals that came on the bike wear well except when touring on straight roads. Rear tread flattens but still with good grip. Tend not to use full width of tyres when getting some mileage on them. Heated grips are a must, The standard hand guards are ok but when commuting in late autumn the grips have to go on. If you can't find one with BMW ones, but Oxford, they work OK but less integrated. I have a taller Givi screen on mine but the Adventure one should be better (more expensive) Outdoor temperature gauge very useful (aftermarket). Both sets of BMW panniers will not take a large helmet so fit an aftermarket top box but ensure that you fit the additional rack support or you will end up with a cracked frame.
Buying experience: Bought privately from someone who I knew had looked after the bike over many years. 1st owner was an F1 engineer
Version: Blue/white Limited Edition
Annual servicing cost: £250
Best bike I've ever owned and having ridden from age 16 until now (I'm approaching 70), I've had many bikes with which to compare. It is, as others have stated, a heavy bike but once on the move, the weight disappears. I can ride it all day, except for breaks and still be happy for more. Fuel consumption is reasonable and with any vehicle, it depends on how you ride. Would definitely recommend a GS
My GS is non-ABS but the brakes are very strong and controllable, even in the wet, which is probably attributable to the excellent suspension geometry as much as the Brembo brakes. Comfort is excellent, allowing long stints between breaks.
Not the most horses from an 1150 engine but so what! It pulls like a train from low revs and continues through the rev-range, although there is no need to take it to even near the limit as short-shifting is the way to 'make good progress' as our boys in blue would say.
Great quality. Yes, there are one or two areas where corrosion will appear if not kept in check but then I've not seen another brand that's any different in that respect. It has never broken down but I was aware that the original camchain tensioner was weak and if left unchanged it could result in expensive damage. So, a bit of work but not a lot of cash and the left cylinder no longer rattles at startup with the modified tensioner installed!
As an old fart now, my insurance is favourable, so my biggest outlay is road tax and rear tyres!
As standard, I found the original exhaust a bit too quiet! As an oldie, I'm well past needing to anger the neighbours with a raucous exhaust but I did want to hear a wee bit more of what the engine was telling me. So, I now have a Black Widow system which has not only a crisp (but legal) sound but the bike is now many kilos lighter, having dispensed with the catalytic converter. Tyres are Metzeler Tourance and seem to work well with the rest of the bike.
Buying experience: I bought privately and the seller had every piece of paperwork with respect of the bike. In addition, it had only 2 previous owners and with a genuine mileage of 23,000 miles for a 16 year-old bike, it was a no-brainer at £3,000 I may have been (slightly!) seduced by the fact that the bike is the limited edition blue/white, which I have hankered after since its release!
Annual servicing cost: £200
As an all round bike, the GS might surprise some riders. It can tour and hold its own on a Sunday afternoon ride out. It is a heavy tall bike for small riders but on the move no more difficult to manage than a much smaller bike. At 6'5" my feet are flat on the floor. As a 1999 bike, mine didn't cost much and the previous owner an old neighbour had looked after it for over 7 years. Buy one, I will be keeping mine for many many years.
I enjoy riding solo best, but 2 up touring has plenty of space and the ride is great if you up the rear preload accordingly. I ride up to 190 miles between stops for fuel and take a comfort break. When out with friends, it is usually them that makes the "I need a stretch break" calls.
I am used to more powerful bikes but on the GS I never feel that I should wind up the revs in lower gears. There is plenty of torque so I use that to enjoy sweeping lanes. The only weird bit is the choke ... on a fuel injected bike?... To say that BMW do their own thing is an understatement sometimes.
BMW quality but the alloy castings can corrode if you don't use ACF50 regularly. It has never failed me or the previous owner but be aware of the ABS valve springs wearing out, this could prove expensive at a BMW dealer. Mine is none ABS. Always buy genuine BMW parts if you can. They fit first time and tend to be very cost effective in the long run.
Use the very best oil. Change it more often than dealer visits, if you can do some yourself. They (or a BMW specialist) might find something you missed. Rear tyre tends to flatten off before it wears out if you do lots of touring.
It is basically a naked bike with a decent screen. The BMW panniers do not take my Schuberth flip front helmet so it is a bit inconvenient having to carry it into the office. I need to hint to the wife that a rack and top box are in order for my birthday. With hand guards and heated grips, regular usage for about 9 months of the year my commute is quite comfortable.
Buying experience: I was looking for a GS on eBay and Autotrader when I spotted a yellow model with low miles for sale and a local number. I sent a message to the seller in the hope that it was this bike for sale. As a youth motorcycle coach, I had trained this guy from the age of 13 and knew that he was fanatical about keeping equipment and vehicles in top condition. My prayers were answered and he knew I had to have it, although he did reduce the price a little. It came with a host of new BMW spares, bearings, brake pipes, exhaust workshop manuals, Bagster cover and paperwork. He went through all of the service items that had just been done, so all that was needed was plenty of fuel!!!
Annual servicing cost: £130
A 2 wheeled Land Cruiser? Very comfortable on long rides with power that is usable without losing your license. The handling is surprising and seems to grip to the point of dragging the cylinder heads (not really). Mine would benefit from the taller Adventure screen as I am 6'5". Tank range is about 190 miles before the warning lights come on, no need for the extra Adventure tank size as I rarely use more than that on one day.
Quite a heavy bike but the brakes are up to the task. Very little dive due to the design of the front forks. I rarely travel more than a couple of hours between cups of tea. My wife has not taken the pillion on this BMW but others do say that there is plenty of space and good cushioning
For some reason the bike always takes 2 presses of the starter from cold. It has a choke which is unusual for fuel injection. I prefer to keep the revs low and use the plentiful torque. It seems to run better on super unleaded.
Nothing falls off and outside of servicing my costs are minimal. Slight signs of corrosion on the edges of some magnesium parts but ACF50 should stop that from now on. Booking into the local BMW service department is sometimes a lengthy process BMWs success means 3 - 4 weeks wait.
Heated grips is a must. Don't put knobblies on unless you are going to use a lot of rough track riding, road biased ones are much smoother and better grip.
Buying experience: I was looking for this model on eBay and to my surprise I found this one which I knew the history of. It was owned by an old next door neighbour and he let me have it for £2500. It came with boxes of spares, manuals, oil and had been serviced prior to the sale.
Annual servicing cost: £650
Great bike,heavy at low speed but very nimble on the open road. So comfortable you can ride all day and still feel as fresh as when you started, running cost a bit high
Version: Non ABS
Annual servicing cost: £200
Full of character. Fun engaging and solid.
The seat is a bit harsh ( bad back) but a air hawk helps a lot. Wind blast is noticeable in a head wind but working on that. Brakes are soft on the front and harsh on the rear. Steel brake lines on order.
I’ve been told that it’s slow and heavy. To be honest I don’t care. It gets me to 70 easy. Keeps the speed easy and overtakes are simple. Twist and go.
Be aware of the engine paint but aftermarket items do help. Spoke wheels need TLC every few months, and keep a eye on the welding joints. Like most older bikes keep on top of the cleaning. Totally reliable and easy to work on.
Most jobs are done at home but once a year I will take it to Barrie Robson in York. Excellent service.
Top box and panniers. What more do you need.
Buying experience: Bought from Teesdale Motorcycles. Excellent service. Dropping off my bike and picking up my old one. 6 months warranty so that made the price a bit easier to swallow.
Annual servicing cost: £180
If you are looking for an all-round bike look no further
If it needs filling up, time for a break 180 - 200 miles? I commute 70 miles round trip so no chance for aches and pains to develop
If plugs, TB balance, valve clearances or fuel system cleaning required, fuel consumption and vibration might be noticeable. Do this at least every 6000 miles and the problem doesn't materialise. Use the correct oil and keep it at the right level. Some riders get over 100,000 miles without major repairs
After 20 years of use there is a tiny bit of paint flaking on the cylinders. ACF50 keeps this at bay. Otherwise everything looks like a 3 year old.
Most jobs can be done by an experienced bike DIYer
For me panniers are a must. Depending on your height, you might get better wind protection from a higher screen. Add heated grips if yours doesn't have them. Standard panniers will not take my helmet so I needed a top case.
Buying experience: Bought privately from someone I knew had cared for it. Advertised price was higher than average but the mileage and service records supported that. Similar bikes with the same mileage (newer) were being sold for higher prices.
Seat height is all that stops it being 5.
All round brilliance, great handling and performance. No, it’s not a sports bike, but it does everything really well.
Total reliability, could use a few more hp, but all you need for most occasions.
Seems to be bombproof.
Do my own servicing, only needed consumables.
Best road holding in the wet of any bike I’ve ever had, Metzeler Tourance tyres are great. Seat is a bit hard, and even on “low” setting is a bit on the high side, I’m average height.
Buying experience: Private sale.
I have had about ten 1150GS and 1100GS. I have tried lots of others but keep coming back to these. I'm 6'3 and like big bikes. When I'm not having one I miss the size, the engine, the shaft driver, the easy maintenance, package possibilities and the feeling that it can take me as far as I want. It's strong, big and reliable.
I can only afford one bike. I have had a couple of FJRs and Pans but the ergos with the GS beats them all. I really love the seating position. I can ride 7-800km/day and when I wake up the next morning I want to get right up an ride again.
The quality is great. When you are in the saddle with heavy rain, you're freezing, it's getting dark, I look down on the tank and see the BMW-emblem. It's a good feeling...
It's expensive to buy but cheap to own.
I love the boxer, but I miss about 30-40 horsepower for it to be perfect, to be honest. I think that's why I've tried the FJRs a couple of times. But after some months I long for the big GS again....
Annual servicing cost: £350
Great ride, handles well, you can ride for hours and hours in comfort , engine has lots of low down power, only fault gearbox clunky, still a great bike
Annual servicing cost: £500
The old girl has now passed 200k still on the same engine & gearbox, aiming for another 100k at least!