BUYING A BMW R100GS PD - REVIEW AND VIDEO ROAD TEST

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BMW R100GS PD 1988 - 1995 (stills taken from video road test)

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MY VERDICT:

For

  • Massive petrol tank with a hugely useful range
  • Bullet proof mechanicals
  • Simple, 'fix-it-by-the-roadside' engineering
  • Great residuals
  • Comfy
  • Connoisseurs choice, it's cooler than the newer GS'
  • Car like charm
  • Shaft drive convenience
  • Great fun on back roads
  • Must be on the list of 'Top ten most practical bikes ever'

Against

  • Heavy controls
  • Not that fast
  • Not that economical
  • Boxer engine can cause the handlebars to wobble (if you ride non-handed!)
  • Electrics can be fickle
  • The shaft drive on Paralever GS can wear out due to the amount of suspension travel
  • Poor single front disk

INTRODUCTION:

The BMW R100GS was introduced in 1986 and featured the Paralever rear suspension to replace the Monolever. A few other detailed changes including a stainless exhaust and different wheels allowing for tubeless tyres. It was the last of the air-cooled bikes before the R1100 GS came along with it's oil-cooled heads.

WHICH ONE TO GO FOR:

Age is unimportant, this bike was a classic the moment it came out. Condition wins when it comes to prices. Fasteners and alloy parts can suffer, many owners cherish these bikes and so expect to see lots of stainless. Most of the running gear parts are cheap and easy to find but Paris Dakar tanks are frighteningly expensive. If you're not sure whether you want an R100 then think carefully, a R1100 or newer model will be a more practical and frankly, better bike.

RELIABILITY AND COMMON FAULTS:

Mechanical reliability is legendary, but they're not maintenance free. It's just that Maintenance is simple and accessible. The electrics can be problematic, maybe not enough to stop you in your tracks, but you will find various bits stopping working etc.

The rear shaft drives can last as little as 40,000 miles, which makes them as expensive as chains and sprockets, but a darn sight easier to live with.

MODEL HISTORY:

The R80GS and R100GS were launched in 1986 to replace the Monolever bikes. The new Paralever design used a dry shaft, instead of being run in oil. The forks were also updated with 40mm Marzocchi items.

The basic boxer design is as old as the hills and non the worse for it. It's still air cooled, although the R100GS does have an oil cooler on the crash bars. A stainless exhaust and a 17 inch rear rim were used, the clever positioning of the spokes allows for tubeless tyres to be fitted.

The PD came along in 1988 and ran in various guises until 1995, the final being the P-D Classic. The R80GS Basic was relaunched for 2 years between 1997 and 1998. The Classic and the Basic were never officially available in the UK though.

HOW TO AVOID BUYING A LEMON BY USING MY BUYERGUIDE BELOW

Before seeing the bike:

  • If it is a private sale make sure you view the bike at the sellers premises - this will help determine if the seller is genuine
  • Always ask the seller to make sure the bike is cold when you come to view it - warm engines can hide a multitude of sins

Find out whether the bike:

  • Has got an MOT certificate, is it taxed and for how long?
  • Has got a race can fitted and if so is the original included?
  • Has it ever been crashed?
  • Has got a current V5 and is registered in the sellers name?
  • Is there any outstanding finance, if you're in doubt buy a HPI report or similar?
  • Does the bike still have both original keys and the toolkit?
  • Does the bike have a service history, and if so is it a main dealer one?

How to check the bike:

  • On liquid cooled engines check for a film of oil in the radiator header tank before warming the bike up - the presence of oil would signify internal engine leaks or a blown head gasket.
  • Make sure the oil on the dipstick  or in the sight glass is smooth and has no bits in it or milky scum - again this could mean internal engine leaks.
  • On starting from cold make sure the engine does not turn over sluggishly - this could mean a worn starter motor and/or a defective battery.
  • Check for oil leaks around the engine and on the ground where the bike has been stood - any leaks could indicate expensive oil seal replacement or crash damage.
  • Check all the lights work and that both levers activate the rear brake light.
  • Run a finger up the fork stanchions and check for oil and rust - leaking fork seals are fixable, but it will cost you if the forks need re-chroming, also sometimes dismantling forks will damage the fork bushes and they'll need replacing.
  • Check to make sure the rear shock isn't leaking oil and that any shock linkage is moving smoothly.
  • Find out how old the tyres are regardless of their apparent wear - some old tyres can appear fine until the conditions get slippy. If in doubt, factor in replacement.
  • If the bike is a European or American import check to see if the headlight has been altered for UK use.
  • Check the brake disks for obvious signs of wear, hairline cracks between the vent holes can indicate critically thin disks. Check the brake pads to make sure they still have plenty of material left.
  • If possible spin each wheel off the ground and check for damaged rims and worn wheel bearings.
  • With the front wheel off the ground carefully move the steering left and right of centre and feel for any notches in the head stock bearings
  • Check the Engine and Chassis numbers match the V5, sometimes, especially on imports there will be no engine number on the V5 but this does not necessarily mean a problem, it's optional when you are registering the bike in the UK.
  • Check behind as many panels as possible for signs of repair. They may point to more serious accident damage, the quality of bodywork repair should indicate the quality of any other repairs. There's no substitute for orginal panels.
  • Check for bent levers, scuffed mirrors/bar ends/indicators for signs of a drop.

Road testing the bike:

  • Make sure the bike starts and idles easily, the tick-over may have been set high to cover up idling problems or a rattly clutch basket.
  • Check for smoke on start up, a bike in good condition that has been run regularly should be smoke free, unless it's a 2 stroke of course.
  • Make sure the brakes do not bind and feel for pulsing through the brake levers, this indicates a warped disk.
  • Make sure you can select all the gears easily and that you can find neutral when you come to a stop.
  • Check for a slipping clutch by accelerating hard in top gear from a lowish speed.

Finally, trust your instincts about the car and the seller and do not let your heart rule your head - if you are not happy just walk away!!

Want to see why the R100GS is a round the world travellers favourite? How far does it go on one enormous tank of fuel? What it's really like to ride and live with in the real world?  You can see the R100GS in action (warts and all) in our comprehensive and fully  independent video road test - simply click on the link below:

Download the video here

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