BMW GS Adventure Motorcycle – A 30-Year Catalog book116

by Hans-Jurgen Schneider and Dr. Axel Koenigsbeck

216 pages, $50.00

Paker House, 2009

by Victor Wanchena

The BMW GS is arguably the marque’s most iconic model. In the thirty years since its inception, the GS has come to define the adventure touring motorcycle. The basic layout of: tall suspension, light weight, and decent off-road manners, has been noticed and copied by many other brands.

This month’s book, BMW GS Adventure Motorcycle A 30-Year Catalog presents a serious dissertation about the GS history. Written by two very German sounding authors, Hans-Jurgen Schneider and Dr. Axel Koenigsbeck, they give a very thorough and precise account of the GS’s design, birth, and accomplishments.

They begin with a history of the BMW’s off-road exploits up to until 1979. For BMW fans the genesis of their off-road racing teams and development of competition models is fascinating. From there, the authors move to the origins of the GS. Code named the “Red Devil”. The GS part of the model name stands for “Gelande Strasse”, literally translating as “land and street”.

The first model in the GS line was the R80G/S. It was revolutionary in several ways. It featured a single-sided swing-arm, unheard of at the time, and was the largest displacement production enduro machine of the time. The competition in the four-stroke enduro market was largely dominated by the Japanese. Models like Yamaha’s XT500 were powerful, but hampered by unruly frames and cheap suspension. The GS redefined what an enduro could be.

This book continues with a full account of the model’s progression. The authors follow the GS model through its development. The R80G/S grew into the R100GS. That led to R1100GS, the first of the oilhead GS’s, and then into the R1150GS and finally, the R1200GS. They are not short on details, covering the small changes made year to year and all the minute details that will delight the bolt spotting crowd. Owners of the new F800GS and F650GS won’t be disappointed as they are covered as well.

The authors don’t forget about the single cylinder GSs either. The F650, and the new G models are covered with the same thorough discussion of the history and model progression as the original boxer motored GSs. And, if you get confused like me, BMW has finally straightened out its model naming. The boxer twins are the R model, the parallel twins are now the F series, and the singles are now the G models. Prior to 2008, the singles were known as the F series.

The book also covers BMW’s participation in racing. The GS is probably best remembered for its early dominance in the legendary Paris-Dakar desert race. The authors provide plenty of interesting historical and behind-the-scenes insights from BMW’s involvement in off-road racing.

For fans of BMW’s GS, this book is a must read. It thoroughly details the development and progression of the model. It’s like a baby book; GS parents can look back fondly at their child’s past and present. Other readers may be weighed down by the brand and model specific minutia, but Paris-Dakar and off-road rally enthuiasists will enjoy the historical perspective of BMW’s involvement.

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