BMW GS Series – a brief history

BMW GS Series – a brief history

See also:
History of the BMW Roundel

BMW Motorcycle Name History

BMW Boxer Twins History

BMW R 1200 GS – The most successful BMW of all time

R1200GS Model Changes 2004 to 2007

R1200GS Model Changes 2008 / 2009

2010 R1200GS / R1200 DOHC

The GS timeline (courtesy of Geir Viksmo-Slettan,

The History of BMW GS Motorcycles – The GS over nearly 3 decades

It’s interesting to see how the BMW GS marque of motorcycles has developed over the years, nearly three decades now (27 years or so)! Here you will find a brief history of the GS series of motorcycles with links to other resources if you’re interested in more detail, technical specifications etc.
(I’m no expert so please let me know of any inaccuracies/errors – link at bottom of the page. Thanks).

More than 20 years on with more than 100,000 of the latest GS model, the R1200GS, having been manufactured in it’s various forms as at July 2007 and the R800GS due to launch soon, the GS marque appears to have plenty of life in it yet! 🙂

When the R80 G/S (Gelände/Straße or off-road/road) Boxer-twin was introduced to the world in 1980, it was the largest capacity enduro available and probably the most unique motorcycle of the time. It paved the way for an entirely new market segment of big touring enduros and was the first motorcycle to feature a Monolever single swingarm on the rear wheel.


BMW entered its new motorcycle in the most famous motorsport race in the world to prove its capability as a serious off-road machine – the gruelling Dakar rally desert race. After only three attempts, BMW succeeded and impressively won in 1983 with French desert specialist Hubert Auriol. Then Belgian Gaston Rahier continued BMW’s Dakar success by victoriously clinching a back-to-back win on the 1000cc machine in 1984 and 1985.

In 1987, BMW’s continued development of the GS resulted in the new R100 GS, which featured the first double-joint rear wheel swinging arm and BMW Paralever suspension. The following year, it became the best-selling motorcycle in Germany.



During the period 1987-1990 life time of the first version of the paralever GS, the first G/S version continued with a smaller 650cc engine , 27 hp – the R65GS. It is exactly like the R80G/S except for the chrome exhaust, the GS mirror and the battery


The R1100 GS was introduced in 1994 and featured Telelever front-wheel suspension, a 25-litre fuel tank and a comfortable twin seat for long touring rides.


The R850 GS (below) was visually identical to the R1100 GS (above). This model was launched mainly to address the needs of novice riders in Europe. Restrictors can be fitted to limit power to the European limit of 33bhp.


In 1999, BMW entered Frenchman Richard Sainct in the Dakar rally on a race prepared version of BMW’s single-cylinder F650. The same year, BMW’s large capacity twin benefited from an increased engine capacity – now 1150cc – and an extra sixth gear ‘overdrive’ ratio.


The following year, BMW entered four works riders in the arduous Dakar event and impressively secured the top four finishing positions. Frenchman Richard Sainct won on a F650 RR; followed by Oscar Gallardo on a F650 RR; Jimmy Lewis was third on a R900 RR; and Jean Brucy was fourth, riding a F650 RR.



Two months after BMW’s Dakar race win BMW launched its single-cylinder F650 GS which was based on the road-going F650 Funduro, but with significant design and engineering improvements.


In 2001, Britain’s best enduro rider John Deacon joined the BMW Dakar team and finished in an impressive sixth position in his debut outing on the factory R900 RR. German rider, Andrea Mayer raced a F650 RR and won the Ladies’ Cup in the Paris-Dakar for the third time in a row.

The F650GS Dakar colours of 2000 and 2002.

Then BMW’s R1150 GS Adventure was launched in 2002. It was designed with long distance travel in mind and engineered to perform in all conditions, on or off-road. This visually striking model is equipped with many special features as standard and a whole range of factory fit options and accessories that made it the ultimate long distance enduro machine.


The F650GS and F650GS Dakar variant of 2004.

With the release of the R1200 GS in 2004 and the R1200 GS Adventure in 2006, BMW once again redefined the industry’s benchmark for high performance, versatile, on and off-road enduro machines. It continues to be BMW Motorrad’s best-selling machine and the third best-selling motorcycle overall this year in the UK.

‘MKI’ BMW R1200GS 2004 – 2007
See also: R1200GS Model Changes 2004 to 2007



‘MKII’ BMW R1200GS 2008 – 2009
See also: R1200GS Model Changes 2008 / 2009



‘MKIII’ BMW R1200GS 2010 – ??
See also: 2010 R1200GS / R1200 DOHC



The HP2 version of the GS was launched in 2006 and the Mega Moto in 2007.

R1200 HP2

R1200 MegaMoto

BMW GS achievements:

Dakar successes
1983 – Hubert Auriol, R80 G/S – winner
1984 – Gaston Rahier, R80 G/S – winner
1985 – Gaston Rahier, R80 G/S – winner
2000 – Richard Sainct, F650 RR – winner
2000 – Oscar Gallardo, F650 RR – second
2000 – Jimmy Lewis, R900 RR – third
2000 – Jean Brucy, F650 RR – fourth
2001 – John Deacon, R900 RR – sixth
2001 – Andrea Mayer, F650 RR – Ladies’ Cup
2003 – Nick Plumb, F650 GS – finished in 65th position
2005 – Simon Pavey, F650 GS – finished in 78th position

Guinness World Record breaker
Kevin and Julia Sanders have broken two Guinness World Records. In 2002 the duo smashed the World Record for the Fastest Circumnavigation of the World by Motorcycle, taking 12.5 days off the previous record. The couple averaged riding 1,000 miles a day and rode 19,461 miles in just 19.5 days.

Then in 2003, the Sanders’ broke another Guinness World Record for riding The Trans-Americas by Motorcycle. This was the ultimate endurance ride through North, Central and South America. The journey started at Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, USA, deep in the Arctic Circle and finished in Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego in Argentina – the southernmost city in the world. The duo rode two-up for 17,000 miles, through extreme conditions in just 35 days – beating the current record by over 12 days.


The R1150 GS Adventure won the 2003 Bike of the Year award in The Sun newspaper.
The R1200 GS won Gold in the Industrial Design Society of America’s 2004 IDEA (International Design Excellence Awards).
The R1200 GS was named the Best Open Class Streetbike for its emphasis on comfort, versatility and real-world usability, by American magazine Cycle World.
At only six months old, the R1200 GS was the best-selling motorcycle over 1,000cc at March 2005 in the UK.
The R1200 GS won the MCN Best Trailie Award in 2004.

Global travel:

In 2004, A-list film star Ewan McGregor and friend Charley Boorman rode around the world on two R1150 GS Adventures. The pair documented their journey on film and in a book called the Long Way Round which has become a top selling book and DVD.

In 2007 Ewan and Charley travelled from John O’Groats, Scotland, down through Africa to the most southern point of South Africa, Cape Agulhas – the Long Way Down. As with the Long Way Round, they stopped off along the way to visit UNICEF projects to raise awareness and funds for children.

Every year more and more motorcyclists around the world have chosen a BMW GS to explore the globe. Couples, friends or solo riders are finding that the BMW GS is the best way to find adventure.

Links to more information:

BMW Group Archive:

Micapeak – THE BMW R G/S AND GS
Micapeak – THE BMW R G/S AND GS: Descriptive (specs) chart – BMW Motorcycle Throughout the Ages
Chronological listing with pictures and detailed specifications.

The UK Airhead Boxer Pages

Some nice cut-away Boxer Engine Pictures

BMW Motorcycle photos

The UK Airhead Boxer Pages

Some nice cut-away Boxer Engine Pictures

BMW Motorcycle photos