At about 30000 miles, a leaking clutch slave cylinder was replaced and the motorcycle was taken apart for inspection. It did not need to be taken apart, but since the machine was new to me, and under the "while we were here" approach, it was looked over thoroughly to make sure it would operate correctly. Problems found: none (other than the mentioned clutch slave cylinder). While the transmission was taken out, a new clutch plate and throw out bearing were installed. The old bearing was OK and the clutch plate was at about 75%, but "while we were there" it was rather silly to use old parts with the amount of labor needed for it. Old clutch plate was put away as a spare part for possible future use. The machine was at 0 defect since then with minor exceptions:
At about 60000 miles a front brake line sprung a leak. All brake lines replaced with steel braided lines - 0 brake lines problems since then.
At 70000 to 80000 miles, the starter motor had to be taken apart a couple of times for cleaning. Simple job, but at 86000 miles I am thinking I'll replace the starter with a new unit. Cost - about $200 US for a new aftermarket starter (I'll probably do it this year).
Rubber on hand grips is showing wear - might replace the grips soon.
On the machines with EVO brakes, the rear brake pads might wear out faster (based on rider braking use/technique).
If you expect something along the lines of a Japanese in-line 4 cylinder sport bike - this is not it.
R1100S was in production from 1998 to 2004. It was built based on BMW's venerable R1100 Oilhead Boxer twin cylinder engine, but it was tuned for performance more than other models - better handling, more power and stiffer chassis set it apart from the rest of the boxer bunch.
When R1100S was built, it was BMW's idea of a sport bike. In reality it is a sport-touring machine much closer to the "Sport" than "Touring" side. With different size windshields, heated hand grips, factory side cases in 3 sizes available, as well as plenty of aftermarket options for luggage, this machine can be equipped for long haul. Ergos are fine, but could be fine tuned with some adjustments and/or aftermarket parts for handlebars and foot pegs re-positioning. Up to about 70mph the bike runs smooth, but at extra legal speeds some vibrations are felt through the handlebars.
The fuel tank size cuts into the "Touring" part of it quite a bit. With 4.75 US gallons of fuel on board you need to know how far it will take you with your riding style and plan fuel stops accordingly. In my experience range varied from just over 200 miles per tank to about 120 miles per tank. As I said: riding style will make a huge difference on how far those 4.75 US gallons will take you.
Performance is more than adequate for this type of the machine with factory claims of 98hp and 72ft-lbs of torque; both can be increased with some aftermarket mods. With a competent pilot on-board, it will give a lot of other machines a run for their money. To get the most out of it, it cannot be ridden like an in-line 4 cylinder engined sport bike, where horse power and high RPMs are the key. Twin engine pilots should focus on the torque curve to get the most out of a low revving engine.
The R1100S is more complicated, but it is still fairly easy to work on compared to other R1100/R1150 motorcycles from BMW. A good tool set, some special tools, a REALLY GOOD repair manual - and, if you know your way around a screwdriver and a ratchet wrench, you should be able do most of the work on it yourself.
ABS brakes were available on this model as an option throughout its production run. In late 2001 EVO brakes - a servo-assisted power braking system, was introduced. This brake system works exceptionally well. The system linked the rear brake to the front brake lever, so application of the front brake lever actuated both front and rear brakes, while application of just rear brake lever actuated just the rear brake without any effect on the front.
Keep in mind: Regular maintenance of this braking system (brake fluid change per factory recommendation) is a must to ensure proper operation. This work is very expensive at the dealer due to the labor involved, but can be done at home with proper knowledge and tools. Remember: those are your brakes! If you are not sure what you're doing, let the pros handle it! Failure of servo-assist means loss of power-brake function, resulting in MUCH more physical force needed for the brake application.
The R1100S is heavier than Japanese sport bikes of similar displacement. While this is a burden on the racetrack, it helps in the touring spectrum: heavier machines are more resistant to outside forces (such as wind gusts, etc), which makes for a less tiring travel. It handles fine on any road surface other than loose gravel/dirt roads, making it a very capable touring machine. It can carve canyons with GSXRs and CBRs, and it can take you to the far-and-away places in more comfort than your canyon carving buddies.
The rear shock can be adjusted for pre-load and damping.
Front suspension features Telelever system with single shock. This suspension system practically eliminates front end dive under heavy braking. The front shock is adjustable for damping only, which can be done while riding thanks to the adjustment knob on the top front of the fuel tank. I have found the front shock to be quite stiff for touring duty.
Two factory suspension option were available: standard (with blue springs) and sport (with yellow springs); out of those two, the sport option works better (I had both), but the R1100S truly benefits from proper suspension - like Ohlins, for example.
Fit & finish is typical of BMW of those years: top notch. The 2002 model reviewed here is a second R1100S I've owned (first, 1999 model, was wrecked after we were rammed at 50mph by a suicidal deer).
This is 2017, so buying a new R1100S is not an option. If you are looking to buy one, do not automatically reject a high mileage machine. R1100/R1150 engines (and bikes that run them) were built tough and will last a long time. Such bike might come fully equipped with high performance and/or touring extras, saving you some Yankee Greenbacks, and still have long life left in it. I suggest to bring a friend who knows his/her way around a BMW motorbike to be able to spot potential problems that might cost you dearly - not all parts are available from aftermarket and they might cost a bundle from the dealer. A properly maintained machine will give you good service for hundreds of thousands of miles (no, this is not an exaggeration) Mine has 86000 miles (it would be more, if it was my only bike) and runs the same as the day I got it - it should go well into the 6-digits, as I do not foresee any potential issues on the horizon. Maintenance of any R1100 or R1150 oilhead BMW is relatively easy, and there are ways to get around of high cost of it at the dealer.
Overall the R1100S is a fun and very versatile machine to ride. It feels at home doing track days, eating miles on a coast-to-coast tour, as well as ripping up your favorite twisty two-lane blacktop. Ride it as it was intended and you'll never regret owning one.
18th Nov 2018, 19:57
Thank you for a well balanced review. I'm presently looking at a 2002 R1100s with low miles. I've owned R1150RT and GS models, but was apprehensive of the more "sporting" bias. On balance I think I'll go for it.