BMW PressClub has put out a long press kit celebrating the 30th Anniversary of the GS. Here it is in a multi post form. There is a link to a phot gallery of 53 GS pictures from BMW
1. 1980 ‘«Ű entering a new era in motorcycles.
Munich. The BMW team were all smiles as they presented the brand‟s new production motorcycle at the IFMA international bicycle and motorcycle show in Cologne in September 1980. Here, under the critical eye of industry experts and the astonished gaze of visitors, it was clear that the BMW product developers‟ latest creation had hit the bull‟s eye.
Click on image for slide show of 53 images or continue to read.
The brand new R 80 G/S ‘«Ű a bike designed to offer fun in spades with its ability to dive through the corners and clock up the touring miles ‘«Ű saw BMW Motorrad buck the established trend at the time towards specialist machines. The G/S in its designation referred not to ‘«£Gel?Ůndesport‘«ō (off-road sport) but rather its ‘«£Gel?Ůnde/Stra?Ée‘«ō (off-road/road) crossover skill set. 30 years ago the idea of the universal-use motorcycle appeared to be dead in the water. Clearly defined parameters of engineering and design were setting the tone for the mass market, but BMW resolved to swim against the tide.
The Munich-based company created a new breed of motorcycle with the R 80 G/S, one designed to reverse the prevailing trend. The boldness of the BMW decision-makers was to be rewarded with a wave of success which has now endured through three decades and shows no sign of petering out.
The R 80 G/S was the first volume-production machine to offer respectable off-road capability without asking customers to compromise when it came to road riding, touring and everyday practicality. Up to that point, motorcycles on which two people could travel in reasonable comfort were restricted to the established road network. At the other end of the scale, if you wanted a motorcycle that could handle Alpine gravel paths, Tunisian desert tracks and the sandy roads of the Finnish tundra, you would have to make do with a stripped-down off-road machine lacking touring ability, on-road performance, range and ride comfort.
Although growing in numbers by the year, the legions of two-wheel touring enthusiasts were forced to make do with stopgap solutions and unsatisfactory compromises. That was until BMW introduced the R 80 G/S, a new landmark in motorcycle design for both on and off-road use.
BMW‟s new boxer model offered the first convincing evidence that off-road capability, a high degree of active safety, cornering fun and touring comfort for two people and their luggage could be brought together in the same machine. The R 80 G/S paved the way for this new breed of ‘«£Reiseenduro‘«ō (touring enduro) motorcycles to conquer roads and showrooms around the world.
Set off, travel, arrive.
The German term ‘«£Reiseenduro‘«ō is an amalgamation of two nouns. ‘«£Reise‘«ō is a Germanic word originally meaning not only a change of location, but also ‘«£to stand up‘«ō or ‘«£to rise‘«ō. The word ‘«£enduro‘«ō, meanwhile, has its roots in a Romance language; the Spanish ‘«£duro‘«ō (‘«£tenacious‘«ō or ‘«£dogged‘«ō) also makes an appearance in the English verb ‘«£to endure‘«ō. A ‘«£touring enduro‘«ō is therefore a motorcycle with which you can set out for faraway destinations and reach beyond both your own limits and the boundaries of the familiar. BMW still represents the benchmark in this market segment today. Indeed, more than 500,000 customers around the world can vouch for the talents of the GS models and their incomparable boxer engine.
How was the G/S created?
The history of the GS models is actually grounded not so much in dramatic long-distance treks as in the energetic weekend entertainment enjoyed by two engineers and an off-road enthusiast from the BMW Motorrad testing department.
The early R 80 G/S can claim to have several different fathers. The role of icebreaker was played by BMW motorcycle testing engineer Laszlo Peres and his GS 800, which emerged from the BMW testing department in late 1977 to lay the groundwork for the later G/S models. Alongside Peres‟ purpose-built 800 cc sports machine, the motorcycle testing department had built privately ordered, close-to-series enduro conversions. These models showed that the boxer concept possessed off-road capability not shared by other large-capacity rivals. Indeed, even the /5, /6 and /7 models designed from the mid-1960s could claim a certain degree of off-road aptitude.
Early prototype trials had been taking place since 1964 as part of the German Off-road Championship. But come the 1970s, requests from customers had prompted the BMW developers to tailor the new model series more towards high-speed road use.
On 1 January 1979 a new management team took over in the corridors of power at BMW Motorrad GmbH. Their priority was to get the motorcycle business ‘«Ű which had been on the wane since the previous year ‘«Ű moving in the right direction again. The BMW G/S was launched in model year 1979 against a background of falling sales following nearly a decade of growth. The causes of the downturn were identified as the weak dollar, which was hindering performance in the main export market of the USA in particular, and an excessively conservative model strategy. Given its relatively small unit figures BMW Motorrad GmbH‟s sales at the time were a third of the levels you would expect today ‘«Ű BMW decided to retain its tried-and-tested modular system rather than develop a special drive unit for each model. The company‟s Japanese competitors took a different line, pursuing what could almost be described as an inflationary model policy.
Karl Heinz Gerlinger, then head of sales and marketing at BMW Motorrad GmbH, looks back at that period:
‘«£First you have to take yourself back to the situation at the time. The competition from the Far East was overwhelming. The Japanese manufacturers were the dominant force in world markets, both where motorcycles provided purely a mode of transport and where they were already being used for leisure purposes. ‘«£HOKASUYA Inc.‘«ō was the king of the market. The Japanese brands offered something for every taste, at every price level, and occupied every conceivable market niche. New products were rolled out in rapid succession, and the resultant sale of old stocks led to an extreme drop-off in prices. The motorcycle market was booming, but BMW could only look on from the sidelines as sales tumbled. For BMW dealers, it was like being left off the guest list for the biggest party in town; they were demoralised. BMW Motorrad was in danger of becoming a ‘«◊nostalgia brand‟.‘«ō
With its boxer models perceived as conservative, BMW was under massive pressure from its competitors. At this point, the three and four-cylinder K Series machines with their state-of-the-art engine technology were still three to four years away, the far-reaching project to develop a totally new model series having been launched just a few months earlier. The obvious course of action for the BMW product planners was therefore to highlight the virtues of the proven boxer engine to new customers and strengthen its popularity for a seventh decade, as Karl Heinz Gerlinger recalls:
‘«£Part of the solution cam from within the walls of the development department, where a BMW enduro quietly took shape. A boxer with a single-sided swing arm ‘«Ű what a wonderful new creation! However, the sense of excitement was tempered by a host of questions. Can boxers really ‘«◊fly‟? Is it possible to present such a large motorcycle to customers ‘«Ű credibly ‘«Ű as an enduro?‘«ō
‘«£Can boxers fly?‘«ō
The answer to this question was to be found in the sporting arena. In 1978 the German motor sport authorities introduced an over-750 cc class of off-road competition for the first time. Backed by the head of motorcycle testing, Peres ‘«Ű an experienced off-road rider ‘«Ű teamed up with two employees to create a registration-approved off-road machine powered by an 800 cc boxer engine and weighing just 124 kg. Peres rode the machine to the runners-up spot in the German championship, showcasing BMW‟s off-road potential. The brand went one better the following year, claiming the championship title in the large-capacity class with rider Richard Schalber. The BMW factory team delivered another show of strength in the International Six Days Trial in Siegerland, West Germany, in 1979; Fritz Witzel Junior and Rolf Witth?¬ft won a brace of gold medals in a competition attracting significant public interest. The Six Days Trial was very much the Olympics of off-road motorcycling at the time, a gold medal reflecting elite performance in terms of both riding ability and bike technology. BMW had made the breakthrough. The valuable knowledge the brand built up through its highly publicised involvement in sporting competition was channelled into the development of the new enduro. It wasn‟t only the endeavours of the competing machines that was so valuable here; the experience gained with the support bikes ‘«Ű based on the R 80/7 ‘«Ű also played an important role. These motorcycles had to be able to follow the competition machines wherever they went and yet remain as close as possible to a series production blueprint.