1999–2005 BMW R1100S | SMART MONEY

MC Garage tips for buying a pre-owned BMW sport-touring bike.

In the late 1990s, BMW was starting to feel a little sporty. And we're not talking the equivalent of a clubman bar on a toaster-tank /5. After the launch of BMW's Oilhead R1100RS in 1993, the company decided to get a little frisky. Dropped in between the RS and the roadster R1100R came the R1100S.

Powered by what was at the time the latest incarnation of BMW’s signature engine, the 1,085cc R1100S was no match in terms of all-out performance for contemporary sport-touring rivals like the Honda’s VFR or Ducati’s ST2, but its broad spread of torque and decent top-end poke provided sufficient entertainment on back roads to satisfy those who preferred their cylinders opposed rather than angled. Weight-saving measures included magnesium alternator and valve covers and a new hydraulic clutch that was teamed with a smoother shifting six-speed gearbox. And while the R1100S’s gearbox was better, it’s still not great by contemporary standards. Keep that in mind if you’re new to the Oilhead. Or BMWs.

The R1100S’s Paralever rear end, which pivoted on the engine on previous models, was instead attached to an aluminum subframe that bolted to the rear of the powertrain. The Telelever front end got a “Light” treatment with lighter components and machined fork sliders with a sporty USD look. Quicker steering geometry was implemented to compensate for the 58.1-inch wheelbase. Even so, it’s a large, relatively heavy motorcycle—let’s call it 540 pounds wet—that requires a fair amount of effort to turn, though it’s rock solid once set on a line through a corner. Still, it’s no hooligan bike by anyone’s standard. The term “gentleman’s express” is appropriate to describe both the bike and the riding style it rewards.

The seating position strikes a good balance between sporty and cushy, with a wide handlebar and a decent seat, but riders with long legs will quickly decide the pegs are too high. With factory options like luggage and heated grips the R1100S can travel far and fast and look great doing it.

The suspension deserves a close look on any used R1100S. The OE shocks will almost certainly be goners on bikes with significant mileage. The Paralever rear end is great when it works but expensive to repair or service; check the pivot bearings, and inspect the final drive for signs of leaks or wobble. Check the subframe above the footpegs for cracks caused by a crash or a tip-over. Scarred valve covers could mean anything from a parking-lot gravity check to a get-off at speed. All of the above and more apply to the Boxer Cup Replica R1100S, which was built to commemorate the Boxer Cup race series. It came with a special paint job, a belly pan, and upgraded suspension and exhaust.

Service records are a big plus with the R1100S. Parts and service can be expensive, and something as simple as a burned-out clutch could set you back big bucks at a BMW dealer. If you’re not sure the ABS is working right have a dealer look it over. Ask about outstanding recalls while you’re there. In all, the R1100S is a solid if somewhat rare machine that can be a perfect back-road companion for sport riders with a little gray in their hair.

Cheers

Shaft drive, no-dive front end, sane ergos. Doesn’t shout, “Look at me!” but they’ll look anyway.

Jeers

Pricey parts and service. Same if not more performance available cheaper from other brands.

Watch For

Paralever bearing slop, worn shocks, glitchy fuel injection, charging issues.

Verdict

A balanced package for two-lane connoisseurs. Sport-touring with flair.

Value

1999 | $4,130
2000 | $4,290
2001 | $4,485
2002 | $5,040
2003 | $5,325
2004 | $5,005
2005 | N/A

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