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Our bikes - BMW R100GS Paris-Dakar 1989, part 2

by Guy 'Guido' Allen, pics by Ben Galli Photography

(from MT#356, Jan 2020)

BMW R100GS Paris-Dakar

Refurb Time

Guido gets to grips with the ‘new’ toy he rode home from Alice Springs to Melbourne

Don’t know about you, but there’s some weird reluctance to finalise things out after a big trip on a motorcycle. Maybe unpacking the luggage and sorting out the bike is an admission that the warm inner glow of the journey is finally over. That was pretty much the case with the recently-acquired 1989 BMW R100GS Paris-Dakar – it took a couple of weeks to get serious about curing its ills.

As you may have spotted in the previous story, I bought the thing sight-unseen out of Alice Springs in the Northern Territory, flew in and rode it home to Melbourne. And yes, there were one of two little wrinkles along the way. By far the most serious was the thing had a top speed of 110kim/h and was drinking petrol like a top fuel dragster. Even with a 35 litre (no, that’s not a misprint) tank on board, range was going to be an issue.

Then there was the appalling front brake, with a lever that went into the handlebars and did a less-than-convincing impersonation of an actual brake. There was plenty of clean fluid in the thing, so it would just have to do until we got home.

As for the performance issue, the bike was getting fuel, spark and air, which I guess explains why it ran at all, but something was badly awry. The fuel bowls in the carburetors proved to be clean, as did the main jets.

I made a quick call to Spannerman, who himself was on a road trip at the time. His prime suspect was the diaphragms on the CV carbs, the one thing I couldn’t get to immediately as the tops were stuck fast.

An overnight soaking in penetrating fluid sorted that, then the full horror was revealed. The diaphragms were indeed (to use the technical term) rooted. Given we were in Marla in NT, this was going to have to be jury-rigged to get us home.

The solution turned out to be some very dodgy repairs with some vinyl race tape I happened to have with me. Incredibly it worked, giving me a top speed nearer 160 (still 30 kay below par, but acceptable), a motor that now happily revved beyond 3500 and something approaching acceptable fuel consumption. Incredibly it lasted the additional 1800km home.


Along the way, I’d already started ordering parts online - ain’t modern communications grand? Replacement diaphragms of course at $26 a pair, a front master cylinder rebuild kit at $145 and a couple of spare indicator brackets (one had broken) at $44. Cheap. That lot was sent by air bag by a mob called Munich Motorcycles in WA and landed on my desk at work by the time I’d returned to Melbourne.

Replacing the diaphragms is a dead-easy job and, having already had a practice run in the NT, I was an old pro at this. What I have done since is order a spare set, which will live in the nifty storage compartment in the top of the fuel tank.


This was also a good time to give the plugs a clean and just go over the thing generally with a spanner. Something I didn’t attend to until after photo shoot was the rear shock ride height, which someone had set to minimum. I’ve since ramped it up to max, which has the bike sitting at a much better attitude – less like a chopper and more like it should be.


Just as shooter Galli and I were pulling apart the front master cylinder to fit the rebuild kit, Union Jack Motorcycles owner and old mate Phil Pilgrim rolled into the shed with a cousin of the GS. It’s a 1985 R100RSR he bought new, lost sight of for decades, and had just reacquired. A lovely bit of kit, and kind of a weird acquisition for someone who was forever slinging off at ‘Bavarian Money Wasters’.

No matter, we soon had him employed on helping to bleed the fresh brake, which came up a treat.


Really, the final icing on the cake was a fresh set of rubber, fitted by Pablos after the photo shoot. We went for Metzeler Touranz, which is as good as any offering out there. That did a lot to improve the steering, which had gone off as the previous set was worn out.

With a real working front brake, properly sealed carburetors, fresh rubber and suspension set where it should be for a rider my size, the old dear is turning out to be thoroughly enjoyable thing to ride.

It’s no rocketship. The 980cc twin is producing just 60 horses (44kW), or about 10 down on its RS sibling. However, as is sometimes the case in these situations, the milder tune produces a more a relaxed-feeling engine.


With reasonable midrange on board, big wide handlebars and a fair bit of suspension travel, it’s a lot of fun to swing through a set of corners on a backroad. It’s undemanding and steers with reasonable precision. Every now and then the suspension gets overwhelmed and you’ll get a bit of a weave, but it doesn’t feel life-threatening.

Braking is only so-so and I tend to avoid cutting things fine in that department. Fully loaded, it needs room to pull up and you have to get used to the dramatic front-end dive under brakes.


It’s fascinating re-engaging with a model you last rode when it was new, three decades ago. There’s no escaping the fact you’re now dealing with the 1980s dynamics, but it remains a thoroughly enjoyable bit of kit to ride and a reminder of arguably simpler times.





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