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Old 09-07-2010, 03:05 PM   #1
Mathias OP
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Airhead GS vs. current thumpers?

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?
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Old 09-07-2010, 03:10 PM   #2
Sniper X
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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.
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Old 09-07-2010, 03:32 PM   #3
Jacubird
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Talking It all depends on what kind of riding you want to do

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.
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Old 09-07-2010, 03:37 PM   #4
Uncle Pollo
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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.
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Old 09-07-2010, 03:53 PM   #5
McHaven
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alejo
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.
+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.
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Old 09-07-2010, 03:59 PM   #6
Uncle Pollo
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Quote:
Originally Posted by McHaven
+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.
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.
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Old 09-07-2010, 04:23 PM   #7
Airhead Wrangler
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alejo
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.
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!"
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Old 09-07-2010, 04:34 PM   #8
Rucksta
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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.
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Old 09-07-2010, 05:05 PM   #9
Airhead Wrangler
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rucksta
There seems to be an assumption among many that a current model KLR is a trail capable bike.
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.
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Old 09-07-2010, 05:19 PM   #10
KhaoSanMan
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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.
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Old 09-07-2010, 05:38 PM   #11
Cordless
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KhaoSanMan
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.
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.
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Old 09-07-2010, 05:42 PM   #12
marksbonneville
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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.




Quote:
Originally Posted by Mathias
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?
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Old 09-07-2010, 06:19 PM   #13
Uncle Pollo
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Airhead Wrangler
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!"

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

I can't wait to put avon distanzias on my bike.
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Old 09-07-2010, 06:19 PM   #14
ChromeSux
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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.
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Old 09-07-2010, 06:38 PM   #15
Brian-M
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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.
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