BMW F650 GS

Beemer_F650GS_15By Kevin Ash


Pictures: Jason Critchell, Paul Bryant





BMW’s new F650GS is neither a 650, nor is it much of a GS, which is a confusing introduction to the machine. But if the marketing people have been guilty of some convoluted thinking, BMW’s engineers appear to have known exactly what they were doing, as it’s a cracking good motorcycle, whatever the name.

 Beemer_F650_GS_01Click on image for galleryIn fact, the F650GS is such a capable bike it might just have spread more confusion by upstaging the F800GS it’s derived from, offering not a lot less motorcycle for a lot less money. The two bikes are closely related in fact, starting with the F650’s 800cc engine (see what I mean?), which is basically the same as the F800’s twin-cylinder, liquid-cooled unit, but retuned to produce 71bhp (72PS, 53kW) against the 800GS’s 84bhp (85PS, 63kW), with an easier delivery and more torque at lower rpm. The bike is called the F650GS partly to help distinguish it from the higher spec 800 (although you would have thought there are less confusing ways to achieve that objective), and partly because it’s meant to be the direct successor to the old F650GS. That was a single-cylinder machine of 652cc capacity which stood at the foot of BMW’s range as the company’s entry level machine, and pretty popular it was too.

BMW_F650_GS_06The new 800cc F650GS deserves to maintain and build on that popularity as it retains the old bike’s relaxed and easy riding qualities while adding more performance (but with no more intimidation for novices) and in particular being a much less fussy ride at low revs, around town in particular. Single-cylinder bikes don’t like being lugged in the bottom regions of their rev counters as the lumpy power pulses resonate through the transmission, causing the bike to jerk and shudder. The new twin though is happy to be trickled along at little more than walking pace with reasonable smoothness. Then turn the twistgrip and it pulls away smartly and predictably, moving into the strong midrange where it’s most comfortable. Like the F800ST (the original road bike derivation of the F800 platform) the response to small throttle openings is a little too immediate for novices, but it’s less in evidence on this bike than its relatives. Rev the GS hard and the power falls away and it feels flat, but there are plenty of riders who’d never explore this region of the engine’s performance anyway, good or bad.

Other differences between the 800 and 650 GS models include lower cost alloy wheels on the 650 in place of the 800’s spokes (spoked wheels are better for off-road riding) and a 19 inch instead of 21 inch front wheel diameter. But if the wheels do no more than merely nod at off-road ability (hence the uncertainty about the GS tag), they work better for the road riding these bikes will anyway be used for almost exclusively. The steering is light and natural and the bike has exceptionally good balance that makes it simple to manoeuvre at low speeds, while stability at a faster pace is fine too. The smaller front wheel means the seat is lower too, an easy 30.1 inches (765mm) from the ground.

BMW_F650_GS_04Other changes are relatively small, with a different exhaust system, no off-road type sump guard, one front disc instead of two and a different screen at the front, which takes some of the wind pressure off at speed but does little more than that. The sum of the changes is 15lb (7kg) less weight and a much more noticeable £1200 lower price. Look at it another way and you might well wonder if what you get for the extra £1200 the F800GS costs is worth that much more: it has off road ability that few people will use and more top end horsepower to which the same applies. Indeed, the 650GS’s engine if anything feels more lively and willing to spin lower down where it’s used the most.

The 650’s suspension is lower spec too than the 800’s but again, it’s not especially noticeable aside from a slightly choppier ride and reduced capability at dealing with bumps at speed, but while it’s lesser, it’s still not bad, and nothing you’d complain about. Start to push it harder and it will wallow gently over undulations, but really, at this level it’s all perfectly acceptable at worst.

BMW_F650GS_10As a mile eater the 650GS is pretty good, as the 3.5 gallon (16 litre, 4.2 gallons US) tank should be sufficient for a minimum 150 miles (240km) before it needs replenishing, usually more as the GS will easily exceed 60mpg (21.2km/l, 4.7l/100km, 50mpg US) and with gentle riding will do 70mpg (24.8km/l, 4.0l/100km, 58mpg US) or more. A shame the seat isn’t more comfortable though, it had me shifting about after just an hour.

The important qualitative factor to add is what a pleasure the bike is to ride. The motor is crisp, the handling secure but willing to change direction, the feel of the bike is wieldy and responsive and in all it’s plain fun. You’re supposed to move on and up from your first big motorcycle, and this is a good first big bike for many riders, but I suspect there will be plenty who once they’ve got a 650GS find they’re perfectly happy where they are.

£5,495 on the road.

Contact: BMW (GB), 01344 426565

www.bmw-motorrad.co.uk


www.i-bmw.com - USA-based BMW sport-touring forum site


Related Technical Features:
* BMW F800 engine balance system
*
Semi dry sump lubrication system

Specifications

shuggiemac
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Joined: 23/11/2008

An interesting read and an interesting concept from BMW to make the same but different.

You mention that the F800 would be better suited to off road work but would the 650 still handle some rough stuff with reasonable confidence? I am not thinking of competition off road riding but more the zero maintenace, unpaved roads/forest trails that can turn kind of nasty after heavy rains etc.

It seems like a lot of bike of for not a whole lot of money.

kevash
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Joined: 05/10/2008

Definitely you could do forest fire track stuff and the like on the F650 - some of the pics are off road and it was fine with that, I'd be perfectly happy on gentler stuff on it. You get a 19 inch front wheel instead of 21 inch, less suspension travel and skinnier forks but it's still not bad, and BMW even lists it as a trail bike. And I reckon it's nicer to ride a lot of the time too. A shame the seat's not more comfy though.

shuggiemac
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I think from the 1200 quid saving over the 800 model , I would spend the small amount required to get an AirHawk to solve the seating problem as it sounds like a pretty good all round bike.

kevash
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Seats do get better with time too! I've noticed on a lot of bikes, a couple of thousand miles in and the seats have softened and shaped themselves and can get a lot more comfy. Can't help thinking BMW have shot themselves in the foot with the GS650 being so much cheaper than the 800...

santacruz
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Joined: 13/01/2010

I recentley traded my kawasaki versys in for the 650 gs,im pleased with bike so far,there isn't much difference in power,i had planned to buy the 800,but after seeing these tests chose the 650,because its more road biasd,i got a good deal on a ex demo bike.
I joined one of the gs forums,and i have been amazed at the problems people have had with 650/800 gses,engine stalling,chains breaking,sprocket failure,etc,mine cut out twice when i slowed at junctions,weres my versys,have you heard about these problems kevin.

kevash
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<< have you heard about these problems kevin >>

I do keep saying that BMW reliabililty isn't good, this is another example of it, but the perception that somehow BMWs are ultra reliable just won't go away. And Kawasakis along with Hondas are the most reliable bikes you can get, so in reliability terms, you've definitely dropped quite a way down the table.

Having said that, if the problems don't affect you too much, the 650GS is great value and a good bike to ride too, and resale values generally are strong.

santacruz
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I agree,in over three years of ownership my versys was faultless,never had a problem,and on motorways was better than the 650 gs.but as you resale values aren't as good on
kawasakis.

santacruz
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I agree,in over three years of ownership my versys was faultless,never had a problem,and on motorways was better than the 650 gs.but as you say resale values aren't as good on
kawasakis.

georgeshaw
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Joined: 12/01/2010

Hi Kev, You mentioned relative reliability above, where could I find that sort of information?

kevash
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It's very difficult information to get, there's no direct source unfortunately in the UK, people like the breakdown services won't tell anyone for fear of upsetting their clients - they have some lucrative deals with various importers and don't want to spoil those by saying publicly the bikes aren't very reliable.

Mine comes from a variety of sources over the years, and was backed up recently by seeing some warranty return figures from the Italian market. These put Honda and Kawasaki top, Yamaha third, Suzuki and Ducati more or less equal fourth and BMW well below average. It's not an entirely straightforward picture, a lot of BMWs get above average miles put on them, and some manufacturers are better at honouring warranties than others, but these do offer a broadly accurate picture.

santacruz
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Rev the gs hard and the power falls away and it feels flat,
100% agreement with that quote,i can see me changing this bike real soon.

silvercub
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Joined: 01/04/2010

santacruz,
I had an 800 ST for about 6 months last year and also suffered from the stalling problem. It was utterly unpredictable and because it was intermittent, nothing was logged on the ecu. All the dealer could say was 'bring it in when it does it'; it never did on the way there but occasionally on the return journey!
My biggest concern was that the rear wheel would lock up when leaning over and changing down on approaching say a roundabout. It happened once or twice in the dry so was easily rescued - but what about in the wet?
It spooked me so much that I chopped it in for an Aprilia Shiver GT. More oomph, character, soundtrack, handling and reliability - a bit thirstier tho!

Ian47
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Joined: 27/11/2010

Low seat height, 19" front wheel, good low down torque. Sounds a boring bike.

Suspension is pretty basic & on top of that could do with another 20mm travel front & rear making it more GS like. Seat looks awful for extended stints in the saddle. That single front disc looks as if it's the bare minimum - it's the same as on my current bike (an F650GS Dakar) where it's OK but certainly doesn't represent over braking. And it's basically a big single (despite being a twin) with the attendant vibrations.

I've been looking around for something to replace the Dakar which has been a good reliable bike but frankly I'm not doing the off road riding - lots of poor quality sealed roads with nasty pot holes & some dirt roads (also occasional two wheel tracks where the Dakar is a bit of fun).

So I've been looking around for a replacement. The Triumph Tiger 800 looked a possibility but it lacks torque down low so I've rather gone off it. The F650GS wasn't on my list but at the moment, despite my reservations, it seems my best option. Perhaps I'll just stick with the Dakar.

Stacy
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Joined: 13/03/2013

Beautiful bike by BMW, my husband is thinking about picking one up this weekend or at least test driving it. Although I am worried when he goes for rides I love the way he looks on it. medford oregon jobs