When BMW introduced the R80 G/S back in 1980, it was revolutionary and people wondered what the heck the Germans were thinking, building a trailbike that size.
The secret was that the machine wasn’t really a trailbike – it was the first machine of a new category, the adventure bike. BMW sold over 21,000 of those machines, and went on to develop bigger (R1200 GS) and smaller (F650 GS) machines for their lineup. Now, they’re announcing they built 500,000 of the machines, reaching that milestone this week.
If the original R80 owners could see where the lineup has gone, chances are they wouldn’t recognize much on the modern machine, except for those horizontally opposed cylinders; high-tech electronic aids now take care of much of the finesse of riding, and all the machines are liquid-cooled. There’s ABS, there’s electronically adjustable suspension, and you can buy them with cast wheels or spoked, depending how far from your local Starbucks you want to venture.
The days the seven-model GS series accounts for the majority of BMW’s motorcycle sales, and it’s no wonder; they’re competent on-road, and even the porkiest of the GS bikes still gets the job done on gravel and dirt. And the GS lineup isn’t going anywhere; as Marc Sielemann, head of BMW Motorrad’s Berlin plant says “Manufacturing half a million units underlines the fact that the boxer GS represents a cornerstone of our motorcycle production more than ever before.” In other words, long live the GS.