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Desirable Year: 1980 BMW R100RT


There’s something about fairings and mesh-style wheels on the motorcycle that make me want to go out and get my license, just so I can park something this handsome in my garage. The BMW R100 is a classic example of a grand touring sportbike and this 1980 R100RT here on craigslist looks like a straightforward restoration for $2,300. 


There’s some debate in the community as to which years were the best years for these bikes. Up until 1981, the bikes came with iron cylinders, points ignition and an under tank master cylinder. Later bikes were converted to Nikasil plated aluminum cylinders and electronic ignition. While some claim the pre-’81 bikes are the ones to get for less restrictive emissions equipment, both designs have their flaws.


Owners of the later bikes have found them to be prone to valve face plastic deformation, while the older bikes suffered from valve seat recession. In both cases, owners of these bikes recommend a head job with better components that resisted the urge to deform or recess. Some owners of the later bikes feel that the Nikasil cylinder are a better bet and the electronic ignition easier to live with.


No matter what your preference may be, this particular bikes looks like a worthwhile project for the price (even better if you can negotiate downwards). The seller claims it is a barn find he scooped up a few years ago and that the body is ready for paint. Suspension has already been upgraded to Konis and the tires appear fresh, but it doesn’t currently run. Does it seem like a good buy to you?


  1. Howard A Member

    I’ve had many bikes, and to be honest, never really cared for the BMW, but had nothing to back that up, until a friend bought a R90S. I had a GoldWing at the time, and after riding the BMW, I didn’t like it at all ( at least compared to my GoldWing) I mean, it was a nice bike, but awkward riding position, kind of funky handling, awful clutch, clunky shifting and for a 900, it surely didn’t have the steam. I’m sure, like any German product, prices for parts will be through the roof, but heard BMW kept a lot of parts, unlike Asian companies that destroyed their parts, so you’d have to buy a new bike. Cool find, just not for me.

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  2. Mark S

    I had a freind that bought this exact bike brand new. And he seamed to like it. As for the funky handling these were known for have torque steer issues due to crank shaft position. At the time I had a goldwing and they did not have torque steer issues. The beemers were still very nice bikes and an excellent platform for a sidecar as were the early goldwings. I currently own a 1977 gl with custom made sidecar and truely enjoy driving it. This beemer will need some work but it will be an excellent bike when completed. Nice find.

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    • wuzjeepnowsaab

      The torque steer from the driveshaft was/is minimal and very easy to “learn”

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    • Franque

      It’s not really “torque steer” per se… it’s called shaft jacking. The later (I think ’83-84) twinshock models got a rubber damper in the driveshaft that effectively worked like a cush hub, and a ‘big tube’ swingarm. The 83-84s are the ones to have, with the aforementioned upgrade, electronic ignition, simplified air filter design, a better shifter design, and better (iirc) front master cylinder design (also a lighter clutch/flywheel). There was the issue of bad valve seats, but removing the egr goes a long way towards helping this. Personally, I’d take all of that over valve seats, as everything else would almost require a parts bike to add it all.

      Also: regarding parts – they’re not more expensive than Honda parts (that is, the GL1100 and 1200 parts that aren’t NLA, like clutch components), they’re far easier to work on, and pretty much everything is still available from BMW. In my personal opinion, if one were to take Honda’s current design philosophy (consistency and reliability over performance and innovation) and teleport it back to the 80s, this is the bike they’d have been building, just liquid cooled and OHC, with those awful Comstar wheels.

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  3. wuzjeepnowsaab

    Wow. That’s a good deal on a great bike. When I was banging about on my 900SS Ducati, these big bore Beems were always tough to shake. Painlessly simple to work on, great handlers…and 2300 is a fabulous start. Too bad it’s 1600 miles away

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  4. mike young

    R100S first BMW to break the 1/4 mile in under 13 seconds. Not at all slow. Very light, S model under 400 lbs wet. Great bike. Front brakes not great but can be upgraded I’m sure. Or just ride…these old twins have a great sound.

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  5. Tim

    I rode a BMW R90 for a while whilst doing package deliveries in the 80’s. Loved the riding position – like sitting in an armchair, for mile after mile. Much better for long distances than all the Japanese sports bikes I owned at that time. Handling was OK for major road use, but it certainly wasn’t a canyon carver, nor was it designed to be. Gearchange was a bad as a Harley Davidson, clunky, noisy, and slow. You just couldn’t change gear quickly. The most alarming trait was the back end locking up the wheel and hopping if you changed down whilst going into a corner – a function of there being no slop in a drive shaft transmission, compared to a chain. Nearly spat me off a couple of times on wet Winter roads before I figured that one out! Definitely an acquired taste, but fantastic if you don’t want to ride like a hooligan.

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  6. David Skulstad

    I bought a new ’83 R80RT which is basically the same bike….just a little smaller engine. It was a rock solid m/c that in 1990, I rode all over the US, shipped it to Europe and rode in 13 countries. I lived on that bike for a whole year, putting on 35,000 miles in that year. I have never heard of anyone who actually rode one of these ever mention torque steer. How could that even happen? Dumb. I never had a bit of trouble. Changed the oil, put air in the tires, gas in the tank, pushed the starter button and I was gone. When guys in Europe asked me why I wasn’t on a Harley, I said it was because I wanted to get to where I was going without rebuilding it on the way. It always started, was easy to work on, comfortable, and had enough power to do anything I asked of it. It was not fast(duh), but I could adjust the valves on the side of the road, change the rear tire using one tool, and I didn’t have to take off a bunch of bodywork to see the engine to work on it. IMO handled fine and this fairing was fantastic! None better. The weight of all BMW air heads is very low, so I don’t know where the Goldwing riders talk about bad handling, when the GW was a tank compared the the BMW. If you ever dropped a GW, good luck picking it up. My R80RT was easy and the only thing that ever broke was a mirror if you made that mistake. If I could still ride, this is what I would have.

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  7. Zaphod

    I still have mine, two transmissions and a couple of ring jobs later, after 300,000 kilometers. Mine is a 1990 monoshock which, despite what “purists” think can be made to handle if you rework the tail piece a bit (drill out the holes and replace all the 6 mm bolts holding it together with 8-10 mm and never use Metzlers. Biggest problem is nose-diving but progressive springs and short pieces of tubing pre-loading them helps a lot. For traffic driving you MUST replace the voltage regulator with the “police” variant which starts charging the battery at 12.5 volts instead of 14.5. The only really touchy areas are the diode pack which overheats and needs re-soldering (same pack as on a Guzzi California) steering head bearings (weight of the faring) the clutch release lever under the gearbox which snaps off when the bushing seizes with all the crap it collects and, of course, that tractor PTO unit they call a gearbox. If ever a bike was let down by a main component it’s that one. I have an R 60, an R 80 GS, and a R 100 RT1, they’ve all had gearbox problems. By the way BMW motorcycles don’t have rear brakes, they have an auxiliary steering device located in it’s place. After many many years of BMW’s I started buying GL 1000’s from 1975 to 1977 – I have 6 now. Another world and a much better bike.

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  8. Rando

    I had a 2003 BMW K1200 LT – a whole different world from this. I bought it in late 2006 for $7200 I think. A $21K bike for 30% of new price at 3 years old with 6200 miles. BMW bikes do Not hold any resale value. that’s a nice thing. I was able to ride it for 24K miles and sold it a couple years back for $4800 I think So I did ok. But in NC, there are only 5 dealers in the whole state. Closest was at least an hour away. Dealer maintenace is terribly high. Bike rode pretty well. Parts were high and rarely available. Shifter linkage was butter. And by that it MADE from BUTTER, not operated like butter. Seasoned LT riders carry a spare. Final drives are pretty high consumption items. And so it goes. Headlight is not much brighter than a gas lamp. Only 1 -3 companies making rear tires that will work correctly at any given time. It is a beastly thing. Oh yeah, the fun one – the plastic quick disconnects for the fuel line. You know they have gone bad when it starts pi$$ing raw gas on your right foot. It still runs, but sprays gas on you. Nice touch.

    With that said, I did have many enjoyable trips on it. Cruise, power windshield, heated seat and grips, adjustable seat (!), plenty of stroage, other little things too. REVERSE gear like a Gold Wing, except not as well-sorted.

    I bought it because my former bike was totaled out for $7200 and this was affordable. Other party’s insurance paid for it. gold wings of same ag with 3x the miles were still over $10k. I have ridden a GW since as well. The seating postiion there is too short – makes my knees hurt worse than the BMW did. Seat itself was made for big old Amnerican butts, though. The GW pulls like a freight train but runs out of cornering clearance pretty quick I thought. Wind protection is pretty good on a GW without fussing with teh windshield adjustment.

    All said, I would no go back to a BMW mainly because dealer network is so sparse and service is what I consider prohibitively expensive. $120 oil changes and $200 batteries aren’t what I consider affordable. However, I did have a $58 UPS battery in mine that lasted over 3 years. I kept it on a trickle charger when not in use as the BMW had some residual drain all the time.

    These older ones would probably be like difference in a new chevy and an old one – easier to work on.

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  9. Svenskabru

    Hello! I am the guy who actually bought this specific bike. Yes, it is a great Barn Find. I can tell you the only thing that has seized is the right (front) brake lever, which cable actuates the master calendar under the tank. Everything else spins nicely. My only comment on the price negotiated is that the suspicions of this blog are correct.

    It isn’t my first or only BMW boxer. I also have an ’88 R100RS, which I bought new and is also in need of restoration. Those who know the marque know that the frame and suspension of the ’88 was evolved well beyond the ’80 but the powertrain was de-tuned as much. I will be grafting the better engine to the better frame, and the latter bits will also be married together. That is my point in conclusion.

    Barn Finds are best when you know what you’re looking at. Study, then live it.

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