Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Decisions: The 1988 BMW R100 GS

A couple days after seeing my Consumption Therapy and Moto-Porn post Craig Kissell told me he would be taking a BMW R100 GS on trade and it would have my name on it should I want to buy it.  It seemed as if the universe was conspiring to have me become an owner of a BMW.  Who am I to argue with fate?

I took the afternoon off from work and despite the rain decided I would have to take the BMW (cover your ears Mr. Riepe) Airhead for a ride.  It had already passed the visual test.  All that was left was the road test.

After Kissell Motorsports mechanic Tom Christensen went over the bike and made sure it was ready for the road I left the Vespa and headed out in a light mist.  The bike was, well, amazing.  Started easily, idled perfectly, sounded amazing, and shifted with ease.  Sales Manager Nate Mattern said the transmission had been rebuilt and the circlip and other issues corrected.  You could tell it was ready to hit the road and ride for a long way.  After some experimenting with the brakes and controls I stopped on Skytop Mountain to make a picture.

The two aluminum side cases were sturdy and functional -- just like the rest of the motorcycle.  I was completely impressed by the mechanical feel of the bike and the sense of purpose and capability.  For a 1988 machine with 60K miles on it I would have thought I was riding a much newer motorcycle.

The BMW R100 GS is pretty.  As a photographic subject I could make use of it on Scooter in the Sticks.  It seemed like a natural partner for my Vespa and would lend itself to a new variety of riding.  Or so I was trying to tell myself.

Standing near this church I wondered how often I would fill those sidecases and take a long trip.  Or how often I would make use of the power and capabilities of the motorcycle.  Didn't much like the answers I was coming up with.

On the highway the power of the big boxer engine is apparent.  Even with the Metzler Enduro tires which were a tad too aggressive for a lot of pavement riding the bike was smooth and stable cruising at 70mph.  And there was plenty of throttle left.  If I had any concerns at all it would be the older brakes -- disc up front and drum on the rear -- I tested them on several high speed stops and while they worked well it's definitely not the same as modern braking systems.  It would not let this stand between me and the BMW though.

In dirt, mud and gravel the R100 GS was perfectly comfortable.  The bike feels heavy compared to the Vespa and takes a bit more manuevering to get around.  It was about this point in the ride that I began to sense something wasn't quite right.  Not with the bike.  There was something amiss in regard to my riding needs.

In a flood of recognition the following realities presented themselves:

1.  I ride to explore, look around, and take pictures.  This occurs at generally slow speeds, without destinations or geographical goals, and entails endless stopping and starting.  From this point of reference the BMW seemed like far more motorcycle than I needed.  And it is not nearly as functional in making quick stops, parking on the road in a manner than won't cause problems.

2.  The BMW would not be my first choice to ride to work.  Man, I tried hard to rationalize around this one -- imagining all the times I would ride it to work.  I couldn't.  Bottom line -- the Vespa is just too damn functional for my 8 mile commute.

3.  Last disappointing realization -- it would probably sit in the garage most of the time.  This motorcycle is designed to travel.  To ride.  And ride far.  Why else does it have a gigantic gas tank and all that luggage.  Who was I kidding? My long rides are in the 200 - 300 mile range.  That's scooter territory.  It would almost be embarrassing to this noble steed to limit it to such short jaunts.

With my head hung low and feeling sad (Irrationally I still want the bike) I ride back to Kissell Motorsports to tell Craig and Nate I am not going to be joining the ranks of motorcycle riders.  The BMW R100 GS is up for grabs now but others were waiting on my decision so I'm not sure how long it will last.  Better call fast if you need it!

It could have been a classic pair.  The temptation was strong but in the end I felt like Galadriel passing up the One Ring offered by Frodo.  I passed the test and will now fade into the West.
There is always something positive that comes out of this events and this one was no exception.  I learned something important -- I am not a scooter rider by accident.  I ride a Vespa because it is the right machine for me.  And if there is any purchases to be make it would more likely be to trade the GTS on another Vespa when the time comes.

On the way home I saw Kim making pictures.   The Vespa is quiet and and I was able to stop and make this picture without her knowing I was there.  When she turned around she made a picture. 

*NOTE FROM KIM*  Steve wants to believe this photo expresses my feelings about his machine which he described as "powerful and filled with machismo" but I am sorry to inform him:  the dark feeling is related more to the experience of all of the cars and trucks bearing down on my ass while I was trying to make pictures of the weeping willows. 

The last time I had seen Steve he was on his way to pick up a bumblebee.  How peculiar?  I figured the buzz didn't last very long.  That silver Vespa was already back on the side of the road and he was smiling in a way that seemed like relief inside his big shiny spacesuit.


Charlie6 said...


It's not too late to change your mind! But time is short, even as I type I am sure MacPac members are rushing over to Kissell's in order to be at the door when they open to snap up that very good looking Bumblebee GS!

Don't think of it as too much motorcycle and destined to be underutilized. Think of it as the steed of choice to take you farther afield and still stay within usual time constraints.

Come on, you know its a good've got the BMWMOA card already, now to have the motorcycle entry vehicle into the path of Teutonic Motorcycling Enlightment!


Redleg's Rides

Colorado Motorcycle Travel Examiner

Dan Leri said...

Good decision, Steve. Functionality is too close to your Vespa. When the time is right, you'll get an RT so you can travel longer distances with some comfort for both work and pleasure. Vespa, start and stop, start and stop. RT, ride Baby ride! You've exercised admirable discipline.

RichardM said...

You demonstrate a lot of self control. That bike looked great. As far as your short commute, the bike has only 60K on it which is less than 3K per year. The previous owner(s) didn't ride it much either. My commute is a paltry 5 miles though I rarely take the direct route.

Rogier said...

Hmmmm only 8 miles to work.
Rationalize a bit longer and you are walking and selling the Vespa to.

Craig Kissell said...

Steve, That 88' GS sure did make a nice prop in your's still here if you can't sleep over it. Craig Kissell

bobskoot said...


Listen to Craig. That bike looks beautiful and will take you farther afield, listen to DOM.

What happens when you use up all the photos in your small radius, then you will need the bumblebee to find more . . .

If we can't shame you into buying it then all I can offer is --> think "spare bike"

Riding the Wet Coast

VCS said...

I understand your decision, Steve.
That GS looks great, but it would probably sit in the garage 98% of the time. Specially when we realise how good is the Vespa. For commuting, riding. For photographs. For fun. And yes!... for travels too :).
I need my Vespa. I don´t need the GS.


Steve Williams said...

Dom: I've wanted to change my mind all day. I keep hoping I find out the bike is gone....

I know from first hand experience what farther afield means in terms of the bike. It means 85mph on the freeway!

The BMWMOA card is pretty nice to have. I can show off now.

Steve Williams said...

Dan Leri: You're right -- if I had a BMW I would never be allowed to stop unless it ran out of gas or the throttle froze and I eventually had to shut the engine off.

The Vespa is the right thing now. It's almost perfect!

Steve Williams said...

RichardM: Geez, of all the things to have self control why in this instance? I have none anywhere else.

Steve Williams said...

Rogier: One flaw in your thinking. Walking to work is no fun. Riding the Vespa, or the BMW, is fun.

So don't look for me to rationalize in the direction though it might be something to think about at times -- walk more and ride less. My doctor would agree.

Steve Williams said...

Craig: Please don't post again until you can tell me it's sold or you're inquiring about my birthday.

Sure is a nice bike. Some guys on the Adventure Rider site have inquired about it. Can't imagine it sitting around long.

If you can't get rid of it I can store it at my house if space is an issue.

Isn't it about time for us to compare notes on the Diavel?

Steve Williams said...

bobskoot: A lot of shaming has been coming my way but years of riding a Vespa, and a pink bike before that, has made me immune.

Spare bike? You only need those when your machines are breaking down. The Vespa keeps on running.

Steve Williams said...

VCS: You sound like the voice of reason here. Can't argue with you. Now I feel better.

At least until I look at the pictures again...

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Steve:

You did the right thing in walking away from the Beemer, again. First of all, the GS would only encourage you to ride farther, faster, and with a useless sense of elan. And you're right in that the bike will be more cumbersome to pull over and park. The new parking process would undoubtedly take you minutes to master. Furthermore, you would then discover you could pull over into any field without regard for the road surface.

I fully agree that it would just sit in the garage 90% of the time, unless of course, the Vespa ended up sitting there 90 % of the time. And then there is that 8 mile commute. I guess there is a law in your part of the country that says you can't get up up an hour earlier and add 60 miles to that commute... Or that you can't come home the long way, via West Virginia.

Who the hell wants a faster, more powerful motorcycle anyway. Especially a stupid German one that would accommodate all of your photography gear in three huge bins, amd satill have room for six bags of groceries.

And that's another thing... Can you imagine the shortsightedness of owning a bike that made it practical to do 10 days worth of grocery shopping? What a waste of time, riding a bike like that to the big supermarket 60 miles away, or to the post office three towns over, just to get better tasting stamps.

It probably will be gone anyway. And don't worry, I won't tell you again about the one posted on the Mac-Pac list. The one with less mileage, better brakes, and lighting that would give deer a tan.

My July story in the BMW MOA magazine will be dedicated to you

Fondest regards,
Jack • Reep • Toad
Twisted Roads

Conchscooter said...

People find the oddest excuses not to ride, perhaps it's raining, or threatening to rain, traffic is heavy, they simply don't feel like it. You've ridden in all weathers all the time and put in your mileage and the Vespa, as you say, works for you.I suspect flash low mileage superbikes don't actually work for their owners.But they need the self image boost of a motorcycle that feeds the rfgo not the ride.
I'm not wedded to brands or naming a lump of machinery. I just like to ride and for someone to have owned a superb motorcycle and put 60 thousand miles in twenty years seems like the bike isn't so easy to ride after all. Else why does it have such low mileage?
People swap bikes with absurdly low mileage on them and there are thousands of motorcycles out there with cute personal names and a history of sitting in a garage not being ridden. They all come up for sale sooner or later.
Take pride in knowing yourself so well. You should be pleased, not sad.

Steve Williams said...

Dear Mr. Riepe: Your exotic reverse psychology won't work on me. I've consumed the Kool-Aid and it has me thinking that Vespa is best for me today. That could change in the future. Take heart that I don't ride a pink Genuine Buddy scooter.

I can't imagine what you could possibly write about me that would be of interest to the readers of the BMWMOA.

Please don't do anything that will cause them to revoke my membership!

Steve Williams said...

Conchscooter: Thanks for the wise words. They run head on to my desire to own that motorcycle despite me being perfectly aware of how unsuitable it would be.

Some good has come from this consternation -- starting to get rid of unused stuff. On the block will be the seldom used Bell Angler canoe and perhaps my Leica M6 to start.

Keeping things simple...

Steve Williams said...

Conchscooter: Thanks for the wise words. They run head on to my desire to own that motorcycle despite me being perfectly aware of how unsuitable it would be.

Some good has come from this consternation -- starting to get rid of unused stuff. On the block will be the seldom used Bell Angler canoe and perhaps my Leica M6 to start.

Keeping things simple...

Poppawheelie said...

No need for a bigger bike. You may already be familiar with this site: Bigger is not always better. I've read that Moped Trip (to Alaska) over and over.
Reminder, I met you at the MotoQuest symposium. If you need something to put you to sleep, here's my Alaska trip story: