Book Review: BMW GS Adventure Motorcycle

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BMW GS Adventure Motorcycle: A 30-Year Catalog
By Hans-Jurgen Schneider and Dr. Axel Koenigsbeck

Strictly speaking, it hasn’t been quite 30 years since BMW released the first of its now iconic on/offroad GS series. Although the GS was given the green light in January 1979, it was September 1980 before the first R80G/S (gelande-strasse, or  literally, “terrain street”) rolled off BMW’s production line. It’s a bike that, for a great many riders, made and continues to make perfect sense, combining the best attributes of a long-distance touring bike with the go-anywhere attitude of a dirt bike. It’s been so successful, it single-handedly launched the “Adventure” motorcycling category, spawning copycat models from companies as diverse as Kawasaki and Ducati. Almost 30 years later, we take the GS concept for granted, but BMW GS Adventure Motorcycle doesn’t.

Written by a pair of dyed-in-the-wool GS fans, this book is an unabashed celebration of the brand and the model. As such, it suffers a bit from a tendency to over glorify BMW’s successes and soft-sell its mistakes. But that doesn’t stop it from being an engrossing and hugely informative account, with blow-by-blow descriptions of every GS model ever made (including many we never received; ever seen a 1996 R80GS Basic?).

Tracing the history of BMW’s early offroad exploits, the authors of BMW GS Adventure Motorcycle show how the GS filled a natural slot in BMW’s lineup. BMW was very active in the 1970s European offroad scene, and built a number of factory offroad racing bikes for events like the International Six Days Trial. Those bikes led to several GS prototypes, including two built in 1977 under contract by Laverda in Italy, followed by BMW’s first real production-intended prototype, the Red Devil, in 1978.

There’s also a chapter covering BMW’s 1925-1966 vertical singles, models largely unknown in the U.S., setting the scene for a thorough examination of the F and G series 650 singles introduced in 1993 and 2006, respectively, and the F650 and G800 parallel twins introduced in 2008.

Motorcycle Classics Magazine
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