published at 13.04.2012, 11:59

The birth of a legend, part VIII

It’s a GS but not a Boxer

A BMW motorcycle doesn’t need to have a Boxer engine to carry the iconic GS badge. In fact, a whole series of single and twin-cylinder bikes have proudly worn the GS nomenclature ever since the F 650 GS first made its debut at the beginning of the new millennium.

The new model couldn’t have had a better start to its life in the expanding BMW range. After all, here was a entry-level single-cylinder production enduro machine that promised fun and thrills – on and off-road. Its credentials were established beyond any doubt when BMW Motorrad Motorsport scored a four-fold victory on the Paris-Dakar Rally of 2000, with three of the four winning bikes being F 650 RR single-cylinder enduros.

The F 650 GS had a lot going for it. With its own take on the GS design cues known and loved the world over, underneath the panels was a complete makeover of the Funduro F 650, which had been produced since 1993. The new GS was the world’s first single-cylinder motorcycle with a regulated catalytic converter and was unveiled in two versions – a standard model and a ‘beefier’ Dakar version that was more focussed towards off-road use, with longer spring travel and extra ground clearance, hand protectors and special screen.

There was no boxer engine or shaft drive in the 650cc GS range, but this didn’t prevent these ‘small’ enduros flying out of dealerships worldwide. In fact, more than 18,000 of them were produced in the first year, with many customers finding them reliable, great for touring and equally at home on the tarmac or in the rough stuff.

More than 100,000 of the single-cylinder machines were sold between 2000 and 2008, making them a truly successful entry-level model series for BMW Motorrad.

The successor models were unveiled at the EICMA motorcycle show in the autumn of 2007. Two new enduros made their debut – an all-new F 650 GS and an F 800 GS – both using the new parallel-twin engine that had made its debut in the F 800 S and F 800 ST road bikes. Despite their different model designations, the capacity of both of these latest GS bikes was 800cc, although the engines on both models did differ in terms of their output and torque curves: the F 800 GS delivered 85 hp, while the F 650 GS had an output of 71 hp – still 21 hp more than its predecessor, not to mention the extra low-range torque!

The F 650 GS was designed to appeal to new riders and predominantly road riders, while the F 800 GS targeted endurance riders with a passion for off-road and long-distance travel. These differences were reflected in numerous differences in suspension, wheels, tyres, seat height, trim and screen protection. The two bikes attracted many new riders to the brand – including many globetrotters and especially those interested in trying adventure touring, but who had previously thought that a ‘traditional’ GS might have been too big and heavy for them. Not any longer…

The two bikes’ success was directly reflected in the sales figures, taking fourth and fifth places in the first year in BMW Motorrad’s internal sales top ten. 2008 also saw the debut of the International GS Trophy – an unforgettable event that saw some of the best amateur off-road riders from Europe, Japan and the USA travel to Tunisia for a week of special tests, teamwork challenges and problem solving. For this African adventure, every rider used a Touratech-prepared BMW F 800 GS machine. This unique GS adventure was repeated in 2010 and will also take place later in 2012, but this time in South America.

Late in 2010, again at the EICMA motorcycle show in Milan, BMW Motorrad unveiled another single-cylinder GS – this time called the G 650 GS. Produced in Berlin, this new enduro was a completely updated version of the original GS single-cylinder ‘thumper’ that was first introduced more than a decade earlier. The new liquid-cooled single is light, easy to ride with its low seat height, and is economical and comfortable, making it a perfect entry-level, value for money introduction to GS ownership. It looks every bit a ‘GS’ and will manage everything from the daily commute to light off-road use.

For those who are after a more extreme GS experience, the G 650 GS Sertão was added to the line-up in late 2011. Using the same liquid-cooled 652cc single-cylinder engine, the chassis has been adapted to provide extra off-road capability. Longer spring travel, 21-inch front wheel, wire wheels and tubed tyres offer the chance to venture further off-road with confidence, while engine protection, a higher screen, hand protectors and extended front mudguard help keep you and your GS safe from rocks, mud and other obstacles found out on the trail. Riders who want to kit their Sertão out for serious overland travel can add heated grips, panniers and top case, crash bars and a taller seat.

With the current GS range now featuring seven models – G 650 GS, G 650 GS Sertão, F 650 GS, F 800 GS, R 1200 GS, R 1200 GS Adventure and R 1200 GS Rallye – BMW can certainly claim ownership of the enduro segment that it invented more than three decades ago with the launch of the original R 80 G/S. Since then, this segment of the world market has grown tremendously and BMW, as a pioneer with each new model, has set the standard for a harmonious synthesis of off-road and on-road qualities. Thanks to this range of models and a pride in 32 years of GS achievement (and still counting…) BMW Motorrad can look forward with optimism at the future of the enduro market.