The R Series GS isn’t just the model line that launched the adventure bike segment. It’s also arguably the most reliable used BMW motorcycle you can buy. But while a used BMW GS is undoubtedly a capable bike, not everyone wants or needs an ADV. However, if you’re looking for secondhand Beemers, a GS is by no means your only option.
The GS isn’t the only reliable used BMW R Series motorcycle worth considering
|Spec||1999-2005 R 1100 S||1999-2003 R 1100 R||2015-2018 R 1200 R||2005-2013 R 1200 RT|
|Engine||1085cc air/oil-cooled boxer-twin||1085cc air/oil-cooled boxer-twin||1170 air/liquid-cooled boxer-twin||1170 air/liquid-cooled boxer-twin|
|Power||98 hp||79 hp||125 hp||110 hp|
|Torque||72 lb-ft||72 lb-ft||92 lb-ft||Pre-2010: 85 lb-ft |
2010-2013: 88 lb-ft
|Curb weight||505 lbs||518 lbs||509 lbs||571 lbs|
It was the first adventure bike, but the BMW R80 G/S is also part of the boxer-powered R Series family. The ‘R’ designation dates back to 1923 when BMW launched its first production motorcycle, the R32. That bike, incidentally, established the shaft-drive boxer formula BMW still uses.
Plus, besides the ADV segment, the R Series also introduced the sport-touring motorcycle concept with the 1974 R90S. And whether you’re looking for sport, touring, or both, there’s a reliable used BMW R Series motorcycle you can pick up.
Used BMW R Series sport-touring and naked motorcycle breakdown
BMW entered the modern sportbike segment with the R 1100 S, though it’s more of a sport-touring bike than a track carver, Cycle World reports. But while it’s not blazingly fast, it’s a solid, all-around ‘gentleman’s express,’ Motorcyclist says. Plus, it’s comfier than its successor, the R 1200 S. And like all the bikes in the above table, it has a six-speed transmission.
In period, the R 1100 S offered Brembo brakes, optional ABS, and BMW’s then-novel Telelever front suspension. With these features, plus accessories like luggage and heated grips, this is a solid used BMW touring bike. And its boxer engine is “pleasant, flexible, and bulletproof,” MCN notes. Plus, it’s a stressed member of the frame.
If the R 1100 S is too old for you, the BMW R 1200 RT is also a solid reliable used sport-touring motorcycle. And it’s a bike that won Cycle World’s Best Sport-Touring Award multiple times throughout its production run. Like the R 1100 S, the R 1200 RT has Telelever front suspension and ABS. But it also has an adjustable windshield, heated grips, a wind-blocking fairing, and an optional heated seat. Plus, traction control, cruise control, and optional electronically-adjustable suspension (ESA). As a result, it’s still a “fantastic mile-muncher,” Bennetts reports.
Riders looking for a sportier reliable used BMW R Series motorcycle should aim for the R 1100 R and 1200 R. The former has the same solid powertrain as the R 1100 S, just in a naked bike body, MCN explains. It’s a similar story with the R 1200 R and the contemporary GS. However, rather than a Telelever system, the 1200 R has inverted forks, albeit with optional ESA preload adjustment.
While all of these used BMW R Series motorcycles are generally reliable, regular maintenance is a necessity. The air/oil-cooled bikes are simpler, so there are fewer things that can go wrong. In contrast, as with R Series GSs of a certain age, the R 1200 RT’s and R 1200 R’s ESAs can fail. If that happens, you need to replace the whole unit. And these more modern sport-touring bikes were part of the same fuel pump recall as the 1200 GS. Plus, as with some modern GS models, their clutch slave cylinders can fail over time.
From the creator of sport-touring come the BMW K 1200 GT and F 800 ST
|Spec||2003-2008 K 1200 GT||2007-2012 F 800 ST|
|Engine||2003-2005: 1171cc liquid-cooled flat-four |
2006-2008: 1157cc liquid-cooled inline-four
|798cc liquid-cooled parallel-twin|
|Power||2003-2005: 130 hp |
2006-2008: 152 hp
|Torque||2003-2005: 86 lb-ft |
2006-2008: 96 lb-ft
|Transmission||Six-speed manual||Six-speed manual|
|Curb weight||2003-2005: 628 lbs |
2006-2008: 635 lbs
Riders looking for reliable used BMW sport-touring motorcycles aren’t limited to R Series models, though. Although the R90S started the genre, by the 1980s the Beemer boxer was struggling to meet emissions regulations. In response, BMW created the K Series bikes, with fuel-injected, liquid-cooled flat-four engines. And because these engines were originally laid on their sides, the K Series bikes were dubbed ‘Flying Bricks.’
The BMW K 1200 GT started with this layout but went transverse in 2006. But regardless of which version you choose, you’re getting “one of the best sport-touring bikes around,” Cycle World says. Both versions offer solid handling, durable powertrains, and comforts like cruise control, electronically-adjustable windshields, adjustable footpegs, and detachable saddlebags. The 2006-2008 bikes, though, also offer ESA as well as standard adjustable seats and handlebars.
It doesn’t have a boxer-twin engine, and rather than a driveshaft, it has a belt final drive. But if you’re looking for a lighter alternative to liter-class sport-touring motorcycles, a used BMW F 800 ST is a solid choice. It offered the same level of accessories as its larger showroom siblings, Cycle World reports, but in a smaller, less-complicated package. And again, simplicity is arguably better for longevity.
That being said, 2007-MY F 800 STs were recalled for rear-wheel bearing failures. The 2008-and-later models supposedly don’t have this problem, Cycle World says. In addition, some riders recommend upgrading the front suspension with heavier fork oil and better springs.
Don’t want a boxer? The BMW F/G 650 GS single-cylinder bikes are also up for adventures
|Spec||2000-2006 F 650 GS and 2009-2013 G 650 GS|
|Engine||652cc liquid-cooled single-cylinder|
|Power||F 650 GS: 50 hp |
G 650 GS: 48 hp
|Curb weight||423 lbs|
BMW might be known for its boxer engines and shaft drives, but not all of its bikes use them. The F 800 ST has a belt drive and a parallel-twin, for example, while the S 1000 RR uses the new M Endurance chain. And if you want an ADV that’s easier to haul than an R Series GS, a used chain-drive BMW F/G 650 GS is a reliable single-cylinder motorcycle alternative.
Not every BMW F 650 GS is a single-cylinder bike, though, Motorcyclist notes. When BMW first launched the bike in 1997, it was called ‘F 650 GS’ and it had a carbureted engine. BMW gave it fuel injection in 2000—hence why, for reliability, that’s the earliest model year worth considering. But in 2007, the F 650 GS dropped its 652cc single-cylinder engine for a 798cc parallel-twin, though it kept the same name. Then in 2009, BMW resurrected the 652cc variant and renamed it ‘G 650 GS’; the modern G-Series bikes still have single-cylinder engines.
The naming conventions might be confusing, but the BMW F/G 650 GS is a reliable, lightweight adventure bike. Apart from age-related issues, the only major problems are fading engine paint and occasional regulator failure, Motorcyclist says. And even if you don’t get the Dakar model, with its larger wheels, you can still fit these bikes with accessories like handguards, skid plates, pannier bags, and so on. An F/G 650 GS isn’t as high-tech as an R Series GS, but as noted earlier, that’s arguably a benefit where reliability is concerned.
In short, if you’re after a reliable used BMW motorcycle, R and GS aren’t the only letters worth knowing.
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