The 2018 BMW R1200GS Adventure

The legendary BMW GS began in 1980. It was then in southern France when BMW Motorrad presented the world with the first large dual-sport motorcycle, the BMW R80G/S. Two years prior to the release BMW worked on a prototype which attracted a lot of attention.

After BMW Motorrad GmbH gave the bike the green light and in under 21 months…enter the R80G/S. The evolution of the GS then grew at a fast pace. Between 1987 – 1996 the German manufacturer released the BMW R100GS, the R100GS PD and the R80G/S Basic. From 1994 – 2003, the R100GS was born. This became the first enduro bike with a four-valve engine, there after the BMW R1150GS and the BMW R1150GS Adventure came to life.

The journey then continued when in 2000 – 2007 BMW presented updated versions of the BMW F650GS and F650GS Dakar. Marking history once again in 1999-2000, when the GS became the first bike to cross the finish line at the Dakar.

Continuing to further imprint their mark in the industry, in 2004 BMW re-released the GS with increased power, capacity and torque. And in 2005 the BMW R1200GS Adventure was available for all the eager intrepid wanderers. As well as being the most diverse and rapidly developed motorbike in history, appearing on several TV series and travelling to the furthest corners of the world, the BMS GS is quite simply the most successful modern motorcycle on the planet.

The most iconic BMW GSs


The R80G/S, 'G/S' an abbreviation of Gelände StraBe or off-road/on-road in German, was developed out of a slightly crazy project between enduro rider Herbert Schek and BMW test engineer Laszlo Peres.

At the time, the pair created an 800cc Boxer dirt bike to compete in the German off-road Championship against smaller, lighter, two-stroke competition. After surprising success, the bike was used by BMW as inspiration for a new breed of road bikes.


The BMW R1100GS

  • Engine: 8v sohc, 1085cc air/oil-cooled Boxer twin
  • Max power: 80bhp
  • Torque: 72ftlb @ 5250rpm
  • Weight: 243kg
  • Seat height: 840mm
  • Wheelbase: 1499mm
  • Top speed: 122mph
  • MPG: 45

Launched in 1994, the R1100GS was revolutionary for BMW, using a new Boxer engine with a four-valve head for the first time. BMW also integrated the engine as a major component in the chassis’ design as well as abandoning conventional forks in favour of a Telever front end. Claimed to offer improved feel under braking, the Telever system looks like ordinary forks however the damping is taken care of by a central shock absorber.

Somewhat controversial to riders who aren’t used to such a set-up as it offers a different ‘feel’ from the front end, this system is still used today on the latest GS. In 1994 riders simply accepted this as another quirk of the already unique GS and instead relished the GS’s incredible versatility. The 25-litre tank could easily see 200 miles between fill-ups and has a relaxed riding position, ABS and LCD display. In short, the R100GS is a brilliant machine which unquestionable reliability with a solid, bomb-proof engine. And although only making 80bhp, the torque would happily pull you, a pillion and luggage all over Europe.


The BMW R1150GS

  • Engine: 8v sohc, 1130cc air/oil-cooled Boxer twin
  • Max power: 85bhp
  • Torque: 72ftlb @ 5250rpm
  • Weight: 249kg
  • Seat height: 840mm
  • Wheelbase: 1509mm
  • Top speed: 130mph
  • MPG: 46

The BMW R1100 model was facing tough times upon its release, facing stiff competition in the adventure bike market. It was then in 2002 the BMW R1150GS Adventure arrived. So, after having moved towards catering for road riders’ touring needs with the R1100s, this was the first time since the 80s where BMW moved back to raw adventure riding.

The R1150GS was created with a lowered ‘enduro’ gearing, beefed up suspension, a bash plate, extended mudguards, lever guards and a 30-litre petrol tank. This, was basically a GS that could take all over the world. And when Charley Boorman and Ewan McGregor did just that in the Long Way Round TV series, the GS’s reputation was cemented. The R1150GS was hard to fault in terms of practicality but this was the first time the GS started to show its age and was is need of a refresh.


The BMW R1200GS

  • Engine: 8v sohc (dohc), 1170cc air/oil-cooled Boxer twin
  • Max power: 100bhp
  • Torque: 85ftlb @ 5500rpm (88ftlb @ 6000rpm)
  • Weight: 225kg
  • Seat height: 850mm
  • Wheelbase: 1519mm
  • Top speed: 136mph
  • MPG: 47

In 2004, BMW unveiled the new R1200GS. This wasn’t simply a tweaked R1150GS, it was a completely reinvented bike. Sharper, lighter and more powerful than ever before the only parts carried through from the previous model was the front brake discs. The R1200GS offered loyal brand riders what they’d been demanding; agility and the ability to tour comfortably on their adventure bike.

The new machine got a new 1170cc Boxer engine, a new chassis, lighter swingarm, revised Telever system with sportier geometry and performed smoothly. The R1200GS came into the motorcycling world and changed the game forever. It has since been update with a 2013 model release and two new 2017 variations, see Model History for more.


The BMW F650GS

  • Engine: 8v parallel twin, 6 gears
  • Max power: 71bhp
  • Torque: 55ftlb
  • Weight: 179kg
  • Seat height: 820mm
  • Top speed: 120mph
  • MPG: 53

The successor to the F650, was the BMW F650GS, launched in 2008. The new entry-level machine came with a parallel twin engine, lowered seat, softened delivery. BMWs come with several optional extras and adding to this novice-friendly two-wheeler was the fact that there was an optional 765mm lowering seat kit.

The BMW F650’s F800 series-derived twin was a simple answer to more gentle and progressive power delivery, due to softer cams. With a heap of low-down grunt, the F650GS was still generally far better than most with no reported problems either.


  • Engine: 8v parallel twin, 6 gears
  • Max power: 71bhp
  • Torque: 55ftlb
  • Weight: 179kg
  • Seat height: 820mm
  • Top speed: 120mph
  • MPG: 53

A prime example of the BMW GS ‘offering the best of both worlds’ was the 2008 release of the F800GS. Unlike the 1200GS the F800GS is no beast - the 798cc powered GS is light, slim, perky and obtains enough overall to be credible off-road. It also has enough grunt and is comfortable to take across continents, should you wish to do so. BMW rules all over their build quality of the GS range and the F800GS is no different, the F800S/ST upon which it’s based proved mechanically reliable, solid and the engineering is proven.

The new age of GS

The BMW R1200GS Rallye

The BMW R1200GS Rallye was released in 2017 and bridged the gap between the standard GS and big Adventure. The ESA (electronic suspension) DTC (dynamic traction control) were also a massive step forward for the GS range. BMW G310 GS -

GS model history

  • 1980 – The original R80 G/S (Gelände StraBe) is launched. Powered by a 797.5cc 2-valve head Boxer engine with a single overhead cam and featuring BMW’s first monolever swingarm.
  • 1988 – The R100GS sees the GS increase in capacity to 980cc while the slash is dropped from the GS name.
  • 1991 – A new fairing sees the ‘beak’ replaced with a mudguard located between the forks. The engine remains unchanged.
  • 1994 – The R1100GS is launched with a new 1085cc Boxer engine with a four-valve head and single overhead cam. The forks are replaced with BMW’s Telever front end.
  • 2000 – A new millennium brings an increase in capacity to 1130cc for the R1150GS.
  • 2002 – The first Adventure model is launched, the R1150GS Adventure which features a huge 30-litre (or 22-litre as an option) tank and upgraded suspension.
  • 2004 – The GS sheds a staggering 30kg as well as gaining a new 1170cc engine and CAN-bus technology. The R1200GS is the most advanced GS to date.
  • 2006 – The R1200GS Adventure is launched with a huge 33-litre tank, engine protector bars and long travel suspension.
  • 2008 – The unique F800GS is released: a 750/800 class adventure bike that delivered the best of the road and off-road world, with solid reliability this GS was virtually faultless.
  • 2010 – The GS’s engine becomes double overhead cam for the first time, inheriting a version of the HP2’s motor with 8bhp more power.
  • 2013 – A completely new R1200GS is launched with a partially water-cooled engine, semi-active suspension and ride by wire with variable fuel modes for the first time.
  • 2017 – The next generations of GSs are born (the BMW R1200GS Rallye and BMW R1200GS Exclusive. Still hugely capable off-road, compliant with the Euro4 regulations of the time, including next generation ESA and DTC.

BMW GS rivals

In the early 00s bikes such as the Honda Varadero and Aprilia Caponord were starting to emerge delivering more power and therefore more competition for the almighty GS. Other rivals include, the Honda Africa Twin and Yamaha Super Tenere.

Watch our discussion on the 2018 Honda Africa Twin. Taking it to southern Spain this GS rival eats up the miles like never before, what do you think?

Also check out Triumph's adventure bikes, the Tiger 800 XCA and XRT and how we got on with the new 2018 models:

BMW GS: The brand

When you own a BMW GS it’s hard not to become encapsulated with their entire brand. You can buy an entire BMW GS-inspired wardrobe, including GS helmets. There is also opportunities to go off-road with GS in Wales at the BMW Off Road skills centre.

Here is our Online Editor giving level one a shot:

The BMW family also hosts touring trips and encourage new, returning and existing riders to obtain their licence and more experience at the BMW Rider Training school.

Most GSs, like say the F800GS come fairly basic but with the usual myriad of accessories and factory-fitted options available, there’s enough to spruce these bad boys up.

MCN BMW GS test on YouTube

We're are always testing various bikes on the MCN YouTube channel too. This time round Senior Road Tester Adam Child went to South Africa in 2013 to check out BMW's then all-new R1200GS. Hear what our MCN man had to say about the UK's best-selling big bike of 2012.

BMW GS used buyers' guide (up to 2012)

Our expert Jon Urry lends his opinion on the genesis of the GS family, and why you may want to consider a used one.

Read more here.

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