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GS Take 2 – adding a BMW R1150GS to the shed

(by Guy ‘Guido’ Allen, Oct 2021)


Our second crack at adopting a big adventure tourer looks promising


A little while back we confessed to adding yet another money-pit to the shed, this time a 2001 BMW R1150GS. This is our second BMW adventure tourer, the first being a 1989 R100GS Paris-Dakar – effectively two generations earlier in the evolutionary scale.


That R100GS was bought out of the Northern Territory and ridden some 2300km home, which turned out to be a great trip. And it was sold some time down the track to help finance another bike purchase – namely a Ducati 860 GT.

Anyway, back to the 'new' chap. Blame the combination of lockdown boredom in Melbourne, too much time to look through classifieds and a tax refund. I did actually miss having an adventure tourer in the shed. Sure, I had another perfectly good tourer lazing around, arguably two, but this style of motorcycle is just so damn easy, comfortable and relaxing to ride on a long road trip. They turn their wheels to most other things reasonably well.


The 1150 was targetted because I wanted something more up to date than the R100GS. Lovely as it was, the brakes were marginal and I really wanted something that was a little more refined in the dynamics department. Plus, 1150s for the moment are great value. Anything from Au$5000 to $8000 (US$3700-5900, GB£2700-4300) will get you something ranging from solid through to excellent.


It's worth noting those numbers are for the standard GS. The Adventure version (above) with its bigger fuel tank and more serious Dakar-style ambitions comes at a significant premium. As the model that featured in the Ewen McGregor and Charlie Borman Long Way Round TV epic, you wonder how much of that is driven by fame.

I just missed one bike at $7500 with less than 40,000km (25,000 miles) under its belt and looking near perfect in the cosmetic department. In the end I settled for something that looked a little more used, with 78,000km (48,000 miles) on the odo for $5300.

The owner pointed out that he was relinquishing the bike due to medical issues and that he felt it would pass a test for a roadworthy certificate, once it was fitted with fresh tyres. Fair enough.


A sweetener from my perspective was the owner said he was about my height, so around 6'2" (188cm) in old measure, and had set up the bike accordingly. That included a much taller than stock screen (with the original unit boxed up) and a set of lowered footpegs. The 'drop' was just 15mm, but enough to make a welcome improvement to legroom.


Now here's the kicker, the paperwork that came with the machine revealed the first owner had gone in pretty hard with options: ABS, a full set of factory bags and handguards. Heated grips were standard. That lot set him back an even $20,000 back in 2001.

It appeared on a truck a week or so later and looked pretty much as promised. Closer inspection led me to suspect that it had been out in the weather a fair bit, with surface rust and faded black plastics being the give-away. Still, most of that could be easily dealt with a regular clean-up and liberal use of WD40.

As for it being roadworthy aside from tyres, it was close but no cigar. I spotted three issues: failed brake lamp, indicator lens taped to the housing and a throttle friction lock that would not release. The first two items took little effort to fix.


As for the throttle, it needs to snap back closed when released from any position. This bike had a Throttlemeister friction cruise control fitted (above – now out of business), which was out of adjustment. The fix was to play with the mix of washers in the internals until we got a bit more clearance. Problem solved.


Tyres? I rang industry stalwarts Pablo's for their advice. The first question was, how much off-road or serious dirt road are you considering? How does none sound? Mud-wrestling a rampaging 250 kilo road bike – even if it has got long travel suspension and wide handlebars – on some god-forsaken track is not my idea of having a good time. And I didn't want the tread noise you get from some aggressive dual purpose patterns, which sometimes makes your adventure tourer sound like a sixties Land Rover.


No, we wanted the max benefit for tar thanks, knowing that I'd manage perfectly well on the odd occasion we hit a dirt road. And the solution? Michelin Road 5 Trail, which claims to be excellent in the wet. We'll see, but early impressions are they'll do the job nicely. Cost was about $510 for the pair, plus fitting.


So, rubbered up and ready to roll, we dumped the bike with Mick at Glenlyon Motors in east Brunswick. He's a bike rider who does a lot of classic car work, and is life-support for a few of my tintops. All good, except the ABS warning lights were flashing and refusing to go out. What the...?

I popped round and fortunately they decided to behave, so we were all good to go. A little investigation later revealed the problem. The idle on this bike was set too low. So if the rider flamed out the engine (which was very easy to do when cold) and restarted immediately, the 'fault' would show. If however you reset by switching off the ignition, then on again and got it running, it was all good.


There is some idle adjustment available on the injection housing on each cylinder – a simple brass screw (above). A bit of cautious fiddling and we seem to have it sorted.

So what's next? Oil and filter changes. The owner, bless him, kept good records with the bike and passed them on, along with a couple of spare filters. A fresh start in that department means I know where we're starting the relationship from.

Of course one of the traps of trying to buy your way out of lockdown is that you can't actually use an adventure tourer for what it's good at, which is covering long distances with the greatest of ease. So, even with local restrictions easing, it looks like being some time before proper long trips, across the state borders that were slammed shut some 18 months ago, will be possible.

I did actually get to ride one of these things when they were new and it delivered on the hype of being a significant step ahead of the R1100GS.

Though hardly a rocket, with 85 horses claimed, it's quick enough to do the job, handles surprisingly well for a great lumbering praying mantis, and promises to be supremely comfortable. That will do for a start, won't it?

We'll let you know how we get on...


Numbers and backgrounder at Motorcycle Specs

Retro feature at Bennetts


More features here

See the bikes in our shed


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