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Thread: BMW R100GSPD Ride in the NC Mountains

  1. #1

    BMW R100GSPD Ride in the NC Mountains


    At the end of July 2021, I carried my 1991 BMW R100GSPD “Airhead” to the mountains of North Carolina along with a Harley-Davidson XR1200X for a little riding.
    During my stay, I rode the GSPD on many dirt/gravel roads around the Bryson City and Nantahala area, up Hwy 209 to Hot Springs, the Paint Rock recreational area nearby and also through the scenic farm valleys and coves between Marshall and Canton NC. I also ran parts of the Blue Ridge Parkway as well as Hwy 176 from Hendersonville to Saluda. I had a ball and the 30-year-old BMW was fantastic.

    The Airhead BMW with its 9.24 gallon tank was a willing and capable horse for riding the rock-slathered curves and steep rises and falls of the fire roads and trails of this region. The smooth-running motor had lots of low-end torque to tractor me around precarious 180 degree switchback turns on the loose surfaces and then propel me quickly up the next run. Occasionally, the engine rpm would drop to the bottom of the well reserving the torque of the old Airhead boxer but, with a little bit of a shudder, the motor would save the day and pull me out of the doldrums to carry me forward with higher revs.

    My new Metzeler Sahara tires gripped well and made for a sure-footed ride in every condition. Splashing through an occasional creek that spilled over a forest road, climbing loose road beds up steep inclines and even sport riding on blacktop mountain roads was fair game for the Saharas.

    On curvy paved roads I have long been amazed at how well the Airhead GS handles itself. With lots of ground clearance, the bike has serious leaning capability and it always seems composed and steady as it polishes off curve after curve.

    The Airhead motor, despite its vintage era power, seems more than adequate for brisk acceleration and roll-on jaunts down any road. I certainly wouldn’t say the 30-year –old Airhead would outrun my newer water-cooled GS but, with a decent rider on the Airhead, it certainly wouldn’t be far behind on a curvy road.

    Every time I ride the Airhead I inevitably find myself comparing it to my much newer GS. The two bikes are 30 years apart in vintage. Quite often I have a difficult time concluding that the newer bike with its many advances and more than twice the horsepower is superior to the much older version insofar as the conditions in which I am riding.

    Yes, the brakes of the older bike could be better and they require some added forethought especially during sporty rides on paved roads. Yes, the newer bikes have ABS, traction control and other advances that can be argued to provide a safer ride. They also have a lot of other things that seem superfluous to me. Electronic gadgets to help you stop on a hill or shift without a clutch do things that I learned how to do a long time ago as a part of riding a motorcycle.

    Another thing is that these older machines are dimensionally much smaller than the more bulky newer machines. On this trip, I had a couple of well-heeled riders on new 1250GS Shift-Cam bikes come to me and ask if my bike was a 650. They had heard that BMW had made a 650 and they wondered if this was it. They had apparently never seen an Airhead and it looked small to them.

    They were amazed when I explained the bike and told them it was 1000 CC’s. They couldn’t believe it was so small and compact parked next to their standard water-cooled GS’s. They really croaked when I added that my tank held over 9 gallons of gas.

    The Airhead has as trump card that is lost to some of the later machines. It has character, a character that seems to have been engineered out of the more modern bikes. When riding at a less frenzied pace, meandering over hills and valleys to take in the scenery, the Airhead has a relaxed cadence and nature.

    You feel the motor and you hear the motor. You can sneak a quick look downwards, as I do from time to time, and see the simple beautifully finned cylinders sticking out on the sides. You feel the CV carbs gently delivering a smooth and modulated power curve under acceleration. It is a character much different from the electric motor/sewing machine feel of the modern super horsepower bikes. The Airhead with its old-school engine is a very pleasant machine to ride.

    Last edited by leafman60; 08-24-2021 at 01:30 AM.

  2. #2
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Aug 2018
    Dunlap, TN
    Nice! A true classic that is still on the road.

  3. #3
    Fortis Fortuna Adiuvat Omega Man's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Probably my favorite BMW…..the PD.

    Great report

    "You can do good or you can do well. Sooner or later they make you choose." MI5
    Mod Squad
    2009 F800GS 1994 TW200

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by leafman60 View Post
    You were just a few miles from my house…. I ride this road all the time.

    Ps-> if you like this report, the 2022 BMW RA Rally will be held in this same area… end of September! (2023, too… but I don’t know the dates)

  5. #5
    New_AlaBeemer HSVPhil's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2019
    Rocket City, AL
    A succinct & sublime ride report, Señor Leafman.

    Nuttin wrong with a "simple by design" 1000cc GSPD! In the olden days, they took us all over the country. We've become older & pickier as a nation. Some folks have resorted to Toy-Haulers, don't cha know. We just got our airheads out of the garage for Vintage bike night (on Tues). But I also had to make room for the GT, so I can dismantle and replace a defective 'air horn' somewhere under the Tupperware.
    You neglected to say how much saddle-time the HD got, since you implied U towed them to the country... Both bikes are a lot of fun for what they were intended for, I'm certain.
    Happy Trails Y'all on this Labour Day, circa 2021! We rode the Big BMWs to Clarksville, IN for a quick, covid-restricted family gathering, returning Sun.
    Phil & Karen

    Here's our Airhead fleet during the winter:

  6. #6
    One fairly easy and not too expensive way to improve the brakes on the R100GS (and PD) is to mount an oilhead 4 piston caliper on the front. There is a feller that does the machine work to make the 4 piston caliper fit. A discussion of this and more info can be found via the link below -

    Caliper and line.jpg

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