A Bigger Berm Basher: 1980-1986 BMW R80 G/S

Comparing the BMW R80 G/S with newer alternatives, the BMW R100GS and BMW R1100GS.

  • BMW had no dirt bikes in its portfolio, so in creating a dual-sport motorcycle it was logical for them to start with a street machine.
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Years produced: 1980-1986
Claimed power: 50hp @ 6,500rpm
Top speed: 102mph
Engine type: 797.5cc (84.8mm x 70.6mm) air-cooled OHV flat twin
Transmission: 5-speed, shaft final drive
Weight (w/half tank fuel)/MPG: 437lb/51mpg (avg.)
Price then/now: $4,800 (1981)/$4,000-$8,000

“The real difficulty in changing the course of any enterprise lies not in developing new ideas, but in escaping from old ones,” wrote economist John Maynard Keynes.

It was BMW that escaped from the “old” idea that dual-sport motorcycles should be dirt-bike based — which explains why many of today’s two-wheeled SUVs are really street bikes gone rogue rather than supersized scramblers in civvies. And the granddaddy of heavy-duty dual sports was BMW’s own R80 G/S.

BMW had no dirt bikes in its portfolio, so in creating a dual-sport motorcycle it was logical for them to start with a street machine. In doing so, they created the now vast market for adventure motorcycles and inspired imitators from almost every bike brand.

The starting point for the G/S was the engine and main chassis from the R80/7 of 1978. The 50 horsepower air-cooled flat twin was treated to a slimming program with new Nikasil-plated light-alloy cylinders, and almost 10 pounds trimmed from the flywheel. The rear subframe was new, with a single spring/shock controlling a single-sided swingarm (called Monolever), which also housed the final drive shaft. There was no rear axle; the spoked rear wheel was secured to the hub by three bolts, automotive style.

At the front, the G/S used the /7’s 28-degree steering angle, but with a longer fork giving 6 inches of travel hitched to a 21-inch spoked front wheel. Metzeler Enduro tires made especially for the G/S introduced the now-familiar “trail” tread pattern in 4 x 18-inch rear and 3 x 21-inch front. Brakes were a single-leading-shoe drum at the rear, and a single disc at the front.

1/17/2019 9:43:51 AM

Nice article, but I must point out that the R1100GS was produced from 1994 - 1999 when it was replaced by the more powerul (and, unfortunately, heavier) R1150GS which was produced until 2004.

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