Airhead GS vs. current thumpers?

Discussion in 'Airheads' started by Mathias, Sep 7, 2010.

  1. Mathias

    Mathias Been here awhile

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    This might be the wrong place to ask this, with so many people being airhead GS converts.
    I'm noticing how much money a decent GS fetches on the market, and I can't help wondering, what do you get with one that you don't get with a current thumper?

    The obvious comparisons would be with the Suzuki DR650 and the Kawasaki KLR650. The horsepower on the thumpers are down by a few hp, but the weight is down by 50-100lbs. Seat heights are similar, as are the wheel sizes.

    However, a GS in good shape is close to twice that of a used recent thumper. How do they compare in areas such as comfort, off and on-road capability, reliability, useable power, etc?
    #1
  2. Sniper X

    Sniper X De Oppresso Liber

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    I'ts a BMW thing, most won't understand. I have had recent tech thumpers. I will say they are great off road, and OK on road. A GS is great on AND off road and can go round the planet after being prepped well and last forever. Sure a lot of current thumpers can do it too, but not many with a style and reliability and prowess of a GS Airhead. Plus, like I said, it is a BMW thing too. I know now what they meant. I have gotten two Airheads in the last month. Now I will never be without one.
    #2
  3. Jacubird

    Jacubird Adventurer

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    A GS is a pretty lousy dirt bike, but it is superb on the road and does pretty well on dirt roads, but if you want to have some serious fun in the dirt, you'll need a dirt bike. My problem with the Japanese thumpers is that they are severely limited in ways the Beemers are not. To begin with, even an airhead beemer's stock alternator puts out 280 watts, and can be upgraded to 450, which can power some serious electrical gear. The Japanese thumpers can't even reach the stock Beemer wattage. Next, the seats on the Japanese bikes will reduce your butt to tears in little more than an hour. Although the stock Beemer seats are only slightly better, the aftermarket provides some seriously comfortable seats that will keep you in the saddle for all day, if you want to ride that long. The luggage capacity of the Japanese bikes is severely limited to soft luggage, or perhaps Happy Trails -- and adding such weight to the poor little thumpers will seriously impair its handling, etc. The Beemers' stock luggage will get you far, but the aftermarket -- Touratech, Hepco & Becker, etc., can outfit you for the long trip. Finally, the stock fuel capacity of the Japanese thumpers (except for the KLR) will only get you a hundred or so miles before filling up, unless you get a larger aftermarket tank. The Beemers' capacity is at least 200 miles -- more with a PD or similar tank.

    The bottom line is that if you want to ride some really rough trails fairly close to home without having to ride very far to get there, the Japanese thumpers will be much better than the Beemers. If you want to ride the long trail, such as around the world, you'll need a more serious dual purpose bike. The only Japanese bike that currently fits the bill without major modifications is the KLR650.

    Of course, I'm a bit biased. I love my GS. The biggest advantage is personal. I've torn my bike down to the bare frame and put it back together. There is almost nothing that can go wrong with my bike on the road that I can't fix with the tool kit that came with the bike. The Japanese bikes simply cannot match that level of mechanical simplicity and durability. As the earlier poster noted, unless you've owned one, you wouldn't understand.
    #3
  4. Uncle Pollo

    Uncle Pollo Long timer

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    Even my plain-jane r80 did well on graded dirt roads with merely road tires.

    I was sightseeing ... so I was not in a rush to stop or start.
    #4
  5. McHaven

    McHaven Been here awhile

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    +1
    My 86 R80 has exceeded expectations on dirt, even with road tires. I'm sure if I had some knobbies, I could rip it up. However, I think I'd go for a KLR650 for anything serious. Cheaper to buy, maintain, lighter, as well as having better parts availability IMO.
    #5
  6. Uncle Pollo

    Uncle Pollo Long timer

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    If I could find a DR650 that was not a total rat for the right price, I would have one as a dirt dedicated/run around town kinda bike.

    But I know from experience that on the open road it is a dog.
    #6
  7. Airhead Wrangler

    Airhead Wrangler Long timer

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    Two of the guys who went down to south america with me rode DR650s and they did just fine and are definitely far more capable and easy to handle when the road gets hairy, but at the end of the day they're much more disposable than an airhead and not nearly as enjoyable to ride on the road. They will definitely get the job done, but without the richness of character that an old beemer has. That and as smooth as some people say their thumpers are, there really is NO comparison to a boxer. I let both those guys ride my R80 somewhere midway through Peru and they hated me from then on. "You've been riding this the whole time while I've been vibrating like crazy? I didn't even realize how much I was vibrating until I felt how smooth this thing is. F&%CK YOU!"
    #7
  8. Rucksta

    Rucksta SS Blowhard

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    There seems to be an assumption among many that a current model KLR is a trail capable bike.

    I've not riden one but have observed many on group rides and maybe it's the riders or maybe the bike or a bit of both but the KLRs are the bikes that make for great photo oportunities on creek crossings and big hills.
    They are also the bikes that need help over logs and eroded rock sections.

    Well set up DRs on the other hand fly in the hands of a capable rider but as soon as the track opens up to moderate to rough twin track the lack of power starts to show. Once the dirt becomes a road or the road becomes sealed the GS is all over the DR

    the GS and the G/S aren't for everybody but for those prepared to get the best out of them the are a genuine multi purpose motorcycle.

    Oh did you know you can shine them so they fit in (almost said look good but then you'd think I was on drugs) at the coffee shop. :D
    #8
  9. Airhead Wrangler

    Airhead Wrangler Long timer

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    The internet is full of morons confidently proclaiming that the KLR is the "best motorcycle ever made." Typically these people have only owned one bike and only for about 6 months.

    DRs are pretty decent on trails. XR650Ls are another order of magnitude better even over the DR.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gf1dbdNJMSc

    This jackass claims the KLR is the "Most powerful enduro motorcycle made" when in fact it's the least powerful 650 out there and definitely isn't an enduro bike at all.
    #9
  10. KhaoSanMan

    KhaoSanMan Airhead

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    I have always loved the analogy of the lighter that I read here on ADV.

    A plastic Bic™ lighter will work great the moment you buy it. Will strike every time and will take a beating pretty good. Unless thrown at the ground or run over. Just like a modern enduro bike. In some ways its the best lighter you can buy. In others, its a disposable plastic hunk that is doomed to die.

    A Zippo™ on the other hand comes with a history and has a "cult culture" of sorts. Its made of metal and has a distinctive shape, look and sound that no other lighter has. Many people are proud of their Zippos as they say something about the owner. The Zippo can also be rebuilt many times over. You can (and have to) refuel it, replace the flint, and maintain some of the wear items. However, with care, the zippo can last generations.

    That's what an Airhead GS is about, and that's why I am proud to own one.
    #10
  11. Cordless

    Cordless Two Wheel Addict

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    Now that is nicely put. Furthermore, no one ever inscribed a Bic lighter and placed in in a memorial to a fallen hero but RTW G/S adorn the display cases of many a BMW dealership.
    #11
  12. marksbonneville

    marksbonneville Been here awhile

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    I had a KLR prior to my GS and I prefer the GS off road over the KLR (felt top heavy to me). Of course the KLR had better fuel mileage but it always ran too hot for me plus I prefer a little more passing power on the road than a 650 thumper has to offer.
    I test rode a late model DR 650 and the seat sucked (made my buddies numb after 10 miles) and also lacked the passing power I wanted on the road.
    The GS has a lot more power and the weight is not all that noticeable to me, although mine is a standard GS not a PD, I also love the stock GS seat.
    However if I ever find a new owner for my GS I'll be looking at a F800GS next.




    #12
  13. Uncle Pollo

    Uncle Pollo Long timer

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    The poor DRistas did not know ... and ignorance was bliss for them.

    I can't wait to put avon distanzias on my bike.
    #13
  14. ChromeSux

    ChromeSux Un-plated and Unscrewed

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    I have both the DR650 and the R100GS, i will take the DR650 hands down over the GS, the DR will run 80 indicated all day on the interstate.
    The DR will go where you cant take the GS, steep hills suck for a GS, 500 pound bikes dont like the single track trails in the mountains of east TN, the DR is a hand full in some of these places.
    I had a KLR and some of the places i go i would go down 6-8 times in a day just trying to make it thru some nasty stuff, got the DR and some days i dont go down at all.
    There is no way a GS could make some of this without tearing the hell out of it. The bike uses the same tires as the DR/KLR and that equates to the same traction and then add the fact the GS is 150 pounds more, trying to make it up the hill is sometimes impossible.

    I guess the main reason i think the DR is a better all around bike is i never have to pass up a trail or jeep road etc. i just go explore, and still have had to tuck my tail and go home when it gets too rough, and the 4 lane is no problem.

    I do have the Sargent seat, its a must for a DR.
    #14
  15. Brian-M

    Brian-M Melting in GA

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    Donno. I've got an R100GS and as soon as I fix whatever the most current problem is, I'm parking it till it's sold. I haven't made it more than a thousand miles without some sort of money and time sucking problem with this bike. It'll be the last BMW I own (of anything sold up till now).

    A lot of the issue for me is that the GS is not a good "dirt" bike. I'd never ridden off-pavement (for longer than a driveway) before buying the GS, and after the 2 trips (one cut short by a blown-up transmission) I was able to take this year, I know I need something that is better off road. It's not a good road bike either, for the money, maintenance and parts premium required. I really wanted to like this bike, and maybe if it had not been a money pit I would have liked it for a little longer, but it's like any multi-function machine. Ok at lots of things, but great at nothing.
    #15
  16. Beemerboff

    Beemerboff Long timer

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    If you are a high mileage rider your choices are limited unless you plan on a complete engine rebuild every 18 monhs or so, and a top end redbuild at half that.

    Old donk in the Transalp is about the only thing around that lasts.

    And if you have a 30" inseam and arthritic shoulder most singles have a seat / certre of mass 6" too high.

    My G/S does not weigh 150 lbs than a 650 single with the same fuel & accessories- try 50 lbs. It is 150 lbs more than my B44VS , so I know the difference.

    But it isnt a dirt bike, it is a capable all roads / dirt track tourer , and it still fills a nitch that nothing else on the market seens to fill.

    The Transalp could get close , if Honda ever Honda got round to selling what people want to buy , at a price the want to pay.
    Seat 2" lower, weight 30 kg lower and price the same as the Wee Strom.

    But dont hold your breath.
    #16
  17. Gravytrain

    Gravytrain house husband

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    I have a R100GS and a XR650L and have been suprised how much the GS can do off road as well as the XR.
    If I get on the XR directly after I have been on the GS I don't like it nearly as much.
    I will always have an airhead GS. It makes my soul happy. Can't explain why but it for sure is more than the sum of its parts.
    #17
  18. Lornce

    Lornce Lost In Place

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    I've got all three - DR650, KLR650 and a GSPD BMW.

    If you never intend to do technical singletrack, get the BMW. It'll do everything else in greater style, comfort and aplomb.

    If you want to do a lot of technical stuff either of the thumpers will outshine the heftier BMW, though the BMW will handle "a little technical" stuff now and then.

    Basically comes down to how you plan to ride the majority of the time.

    The BMW is a lot more comfortable than either of the singles and a lot more road worthy with additional smoothness and power. Having said that, the singles are fun and with a decent seat can be made bearable for long trips.

    But they'll never be as armchair comfy as the BMW.

    imho, ymmv, fwiw,
    Lornce
    #18
  19. Solo Lobo

    Solo Lobo airhead or nothing

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    Sounds like your poor experience with one bike has colored your opinion of a brand. You should put some miles your GS now that things are fixed and re-assess. It is the rider more than the bike that makes something work in the dirt.

    Trans failures for boxers are sadly quite normal... that said once rebuilt by a real pro they may not need to be done again for 100K plus miles.

    My GS was a great road bike, and a very acceptable off-road one as well. My G/S is also a great road bike (more for solo riding tho) and a better off-road bike than the GS was. Is it a KTM 690 Hard Enduro? No, but the KTM will never be as decent a road bike as the GS...

    It's all about compromises, but opinions are like... (fill in the blank)
    #19
  20. Lornce

    Lornce Lost In Place

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    Don't know what your experience is but I sure wouldn't call a DR650 a dog. In fact, it's got pretty impressive throttle response, even at highway speeds.

    My wife's DR650 is stock except for a GSX-R muffler and a bit of carb twideling. That thing's a little hot-rod.

    It'll run down the highway at 120 or 130km/hr without any troulbe at all and still has sharp throttle response at those speeds. Much quicker than my KLR650. On twisty gravel roads the additional power also makes it a lot easier to throttle slide than the KLR.

    Certainly not a dog.

    :nah
    #20