BMW have been using the GS suffix since the early '80s to denote bikes with off-road capability. By the '00s, GS model variants were dominating the newly formed adventure bike class.
There have been single-cylinder, parallel-twin and boxer-twin versions of the GS in a range of engine sizes both air and liquid-cooled over the years.
Whether you plan to commute to work, have a weekend blast, tour the roads of Europe or explore the trails of Africa, there is a GS for you. Here is a list of five different options.
- Engine: 1170cc air/liquid cooled, 4v boxer twin
- Power: 125bhp
- This one: 2005 - £4750 – 28,000 miles
The BMW R1200GS pretty much defines the adventure bike class. Tall, powerful, comfortable and agile (for a bike weighing 238kg) it set the standard for go anywhere machines.
The 2013 update was essentially a new bike, with changes made to almost every component. The result was a neater and more comfortable bike with better handling and more sophistication.
- Engine: 1130cc oil/air-cooled 8v boxer twin
- Power: 85bhp
- This one: £3495 – 39,500 miles
Adventure motorcycling got a shot in the arm in 2004 when Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman took a pair of BMW R1150GSs across the globe for the Long Way Round television programme.
This version of the GS is known for its superior handling, an engine that runs forever and a 200-mile tank range. It isn’t the most refined or powerful GS by a long way, though.
- Engine: 798cc liquid-cooled 8v parallel-twin
- Power: 85bhp
- This one: 2013 - £5995 – 6752 miles
The BMW F800GS is an attempt to combine the practicality of the 1200GS with the lightness and manoeuvrability of an enduro. BMW nailed it, and the F800GS can pretty much do everything.
You won’t be as comfortable over a very long ride as you would on the 1200 and there are better out-and-out B-road scratchers out there (KTM 690 Duke, Ducati Hypermotard), but not many bikes balance both quite so well as the F800GS.
- Engine: 1170cc air/liquid cooled, 8v boxer twin
- Power: 99bhp
- This one: 2011 - £6995 – 29,358 miles
Weighing in at almost a quarter of a ton, the BMW R1200GS Adventure is quite a handful off-road and not many owners will have ventured far from the Tarmac. The brakes are also too powerful to be much use on loose ground.
The R1200GS Adventure will hoover up miles of motorway in comfort and it is the perfect machine for touring when you don’t intend to do any serious off-roading.
- Engine: 798cc 8v parallel-twin
- Power: 71bhp
- This one: 2009 - £4500 – 16,986 miles
This GS replaced BMW's popular entry-level, off-road single, made up until 2007. Confusingly, the BMW F650GS that replaced it is neither a single, nor a 650.
Unsurprisingly, power is boosted considerably from the previous model and the twin-cylinder engine is more refined.
The more powerful and off-road focused BMW F800GS is the option to go for if you want to get dirty, but the low seat height and sedate tuning of the 650 make it a doddle to ride and a great option for less experienced riders.
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