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 BMW GS Essential Buyer's Guide - wBW Book Review

BMW GS Essential Buyer's Guide

The Essential Buyer's Guide: BMW GS
by Peter Henshaw
Paperback: 64 pages 
Dimensions (mm): 140 x 195 x 6.0
Publisher: Veloce Publishing; (Feb 2008)
ISBN: 978-1-84584-135-5
List Price: $19.95 (9.99)


wBWBook Review by "Burn"

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We have a ton of books queued up and ready to review in the webBikeWorld library. I've been having too much fun reading them and, as I'm sure you'll remember from your High School days, it's a lot easier to read a book (well, sometimes anyway) than it is to write a book review.

But I have to get cracking (by the way Editor, how did I become the Chief Book Reviewer around here??) so first up is this slim -- very slim -- guide to buying your first (or second) BMW GS motorcycle.

The "Essential Buyer's Guide" series has been popular in the UK for some time. The books are published by those wonderful folks at Veloce, who have brought us all sorts of interesting reads over the years. In fact, I also have a couple of other Veloce published books in the queue: "Moto Guzzi Sport & Le Mans Bible" and "The Ducati 750 Bible", both by the highly prolific author Ian Falloon.

The Buyer's Guide series mostly covers automobiles of various types (my favorite: "The Essential Buyer's Guide to the Fiat 500 & 600"), but they're starting to cover motorcycles also. Veloce has an Essential Buyer's Guide for the Triumph Bonneville and BSA 500 & 650 Twins, and probably others on the way.

I'll get to the "Bibles" soon, but in the meantime, I pulled The Essential BMW GS Buyer's Guide out of the pile for several reasons, not the least of which is that it should be an easy book to review because of its size!

The size of the book -- 64 pages, counting the index -- is problematic at the price they charge. I'm actually of mixed emotions on this one -- the list price seems very high for what is essentially (!) the same information one could probably glean from the Internet before buying one of these very popular motorcycles.

But here's the good news: many webBikeWorlders have suggested that we put a link to Amazon.com so they can buy a copy of the books that we review. We sort of resisted doing this for a variety of reasons, but starting with this review, you'll find a link at the top of the page where you can buy the book.

And Amazon is charging only about $14.00 currently for the GS Essential Buyer's Guide, which I think is much more reasonable, and at that price, you probably should definitely get a copy if you're planning on buying a GS...or even if you just want to learn more about the breed.

The Guide does condense pretty much everything you need to know into a handy size that you can take with you when you're looking at a used example, although you'll probably look a bit dorkish if you do. They even included little check boxes that the potential buyer is supposed to fill out: "Ex Gd Av Po" (Excellent, Good, Average, Poor), but I'd leave that for homework rather than doing it in front of the owner.

The BMW GS series (G/S = "Gelande Strasse", or "off-road/street") was basically dismissed by the rest of the motorcycling establishment when it first appeared in 1980.

But BMW doesn't make a decision to bring out a new model lightly, and they either got lucky or knew what they were doing, because I'd venture to say that the GS has probably saved the modern BMW company in many ways.

I've ridden an older R100GS but never owned one (and someday soon I might), although I've owned a half-dozen "Airhead" and "Oilhead" BMWs over the years. I know BMWs pretty well, so there really wasn't much in the book that was a surprise, but I could see where a new-to-the-GS rider would benefit by having everything from a brief history to a compendium of "What to look for" in one volume.

The Essential Buyer's Guides follow a standard format. For the GS, it starts with an introduction and a chapter on "Is it the right bike for you?", followed by "Cost considerations", "Living with a GS" and going on to help with choosing the right model and learning as much as you can "Before you view".

Some of the information is helpful, like the chapter on the "Fifteen minute evaluation" ("walk away or stay?") and the tips covering the various options that were available on the bike.

The way it works is that the Guide starts off with a quick "make or break" evaluation and then goes into the detailed specifics of what to look for, covering everything from paint and badges to suspension, engine and gearbox. Obviously, this isn't going to make you a Master BMW Mechanic in 64 pages, but I think it does provide enough information to get you going.

And by the way, about 1/3 of those 64 pages cover semi-filler (depending upon your point of view), like "Auction Pros and Cons", "Paperwork", "Do You Really Want to Restore" and "Paint Problems" and "Problems Due to Lack of Use".

I haven't used an Essential Buyer's Guide to actually purchase a vehicle, but I don't think this is all I'd use to arm myself with information prior to looking at a used example.

But here's the deal: I think that if you all of a sudden got a jones to buy a GS without having been a BMW owner or knowing little to nothing about the marque, the book would be a very handy and -- dare I say it -- essential guide to get you The Knowledge.

For example, if I really was going to buy one of those Fiat 500's -- or maybe a BSA twin, of which I know nothing about -- I'd probably shell out the dosh for an Essential Buyer's Guide to get me started.

The way I figure it, if I learned about one little quirk of a particular bike -- something that is really important to look for on a used example that may not be obvious unless I knew what I was supposed to look for -- it could save me the price of the book and more.

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