Every once in a while, a rare and beautiful BMW R80 G/S Paris-Dakar pops up for sale somewhere. Signed by Dakar legend Gaston Rahier and loaded down with special equipment, only 200 were ever officially made by BMW. Naturally, replicas abound, built out of an abundance of enthusiast admiration for what this bike achieved as it dominated over the years at Dakar. Still, that doesn’t tell you what it’s like to ride, does it?
Few of us will have the chance to ride one, which makes it especially heartening to see one owner of this legendary bike give us a taste via YouTube. Harry Metcalfe is a YouTuber and Instagramer who is well-known among car enthusiasts for his Harry’s Garage videos. His Instagram bio both gives you a chuckle and tells you all you need to know to get on board: “Farmer, buy cars & bikes, then forget to sell them. Create vids on both & post them on YouTube where they get 2-3M views a month. How did that happen?” #goals
Lately, Harry’s been posting a short video series on Dakar-winning bikes, and this beautiful R80 G/S is among them. As a farmer, he naturally has all the access to fields that you could want to test a bike with dual-sport capabilities like this. Through his narration, we all get more of a feel for what we’re seeing when we see one of these bikes. Somehow, even though we can’t actually touch it, it feels more real after learning some important things about it.
What kinds of things? In 2021, thinking about a BMW G/S means thinking about quite a big, heavy adventure bike. For smaller riders, such as myself, that can be a bit daunting. However, as Harry mentions, Gaston Rahier may have been a legend, but he was also quite short. Looking it up now, it seems he was only 5’5”. As Harry concludes, the R80 G/S is decidedly not a bike made for riders much over 6 feet tall, as it can be quite cramped for the lengthy of inseam.
Since it’s shaft-driven, there is a bit of shaft-jacking present as you get going. Nothing Harry can’t handle, but still a characteristic that a rider has to adapt to. Luckily, because of its low center of gravity and relatively light weight, it’s pretty easy to manage. According to Harry, the important thing is to move your body weight around and also not grip the handlebars too tightly. Instead, let the bike do its job.
The Metzeler tires fitted to it aren’t ideal for off-road use, and Harry says that he’d much prefer some big knobbies if he planned to do much serious off-roading on his G/S. However, he also says it’s wonderful on the road, since it’s surprisingly quick. It’s a delight to see someone riding one of these, and especially to get to go along for the ride via the magic of YouTube.