BMW F650GS – review and opinion – Not in the same class as the 1200 but…

28 May 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on BMW F650GS – review and opinion – Not in the same class as the 1200 but…

Not in the same class as the 1200 but still a lovely bike

BMW had an image problem a few years back – whilst the bikes they made were fantastic, they tended to appeal to more mature riders, and had the reputation of being just a bit uncool.

Then came along two actors, who had some crazy idea about riding round the world, and the rest was history – or nearly.

The GS range of bikes had been around for about twenty years or so – they were big, heavy and expensive. Most owners harboured a fantasy that given the opportunity they too could take a few months off work, leave the wife and kids at home (note the male bias) and head off into the wilds with their best mate.

Of course is that in reality it never actually works out that way, but such is the stuff that dreams are made of.

You can still get a 1200cc version of the adventure bike ‘as shown on TV’ but they’ll cost you the fat end of Ј12,000, and whilst they have no inherent vices, you still have to be a ‘proper’ biker to handle one with any degree of competency.

The F650GS first appeared in the 1990s – and was a cut down version of the ‘litre plus’ version – initially it was a single cylinder model, but in 2008 it acquired the latest parallel twin engine (as opposed to the traditional ‘boxer’ twin of the ‘R’ series.

Whilst it calls itself a 650, in fact it’s really a 900cc engine ‘tuned down’ to match the performance of a 650.

Bizarrely, there’s also an F900GS which has ‘full’ performance, and a bunch of higher specification accessories, but that is, as they say, another story.

The F650GS has several distinctly ‘un BMW’ characteristics;

For starters it has a conventional chain drive (Bigger BMs have shaft drive) It also has conventional telescopic front forks (as opposed to the wishbone and monoshock setup on R machines)

It’s also a lot lighter, narrower, and above all cheaper, but the stylists have had their day, and from a distance, the bike looks surprisingly like it’s ‘big brother’.

I got a loan of a demonstrator from the BMW dealer when my 1200 was getting an annual service, and whilst my sister commented that she thought my bike was a different colour, she didn’t twig that it was an entirely different machine altogether!

Riding was an absolute delight.

Having ridden ‘conventional’ BMWs for about five years, the bike immediately struck me as being far slimmer and lighter than what I had become accustomed to.

Of course it lacked the awe-inspiring torque of the R engine, and it didn’t have the weight, but top end power certainly wasn’t lacking.

Climbing on board I was struck by the fact how small it felt, although it certainly wasn’t cramped.

Taking the bike down the Edinburgh Bipass I was quite impressed how freely it revved – it needed a bit more throttle than I was used to, but it more than made up for this when it got moving.


The lower weight emant that the engine didn’t have to work as hard to get to cruising speed, and it felt perfectly stable.

There’s a patch of semi-paved parking at my work, I’ve often used this to test semi-offroad bikes – whilst the surface is pretty uneven, it’s predictably so (it consists of two inch cubes at six inch centres) – the big wheels had no trouble negotiating the lumps and bumps, and overall it was surprisingly manageable.

On the return to the garage I hit a tailback on the bypass, and decided to take the backroads – the character immediately changed from Autobahn munching tourer to nimble footed commuter, and in no time I was cutting through stationary traffic.

The slender styling and ‘high up’ riding posture was well suited to the task.

It’s considered polite to refill the tank after getting a demonstrator out, however I was pushed for time – interestingly, instead of having the fuel in the usual position above the engine, BMW have placed the tank under the back seat – arguing it offers a lower centre of gravity.

In any case – the de-tuned 900cc engine was remarkably frugal and having only driven about 20 miles I doubt I could have put the ‘minimum amount’ into the tank. About 60mpg should be easily achievable, and that’s without being especially careful.

The bike has the ability to have usual range of BMW accessories fitted; drive computer, heated grips, ABS, luggage and so on – the grips were especially welcome in the middle of February (frankly, having got used to them now, I can’t understand why anyone would buy a bike in the UK *without* heated grips!)

The cost of such a magnificent machine? – to you, about six grand!

Would I buy one myself? well considering I’ve only just finished paying for my 1200, probably not right now, but if the truth be said, it’s actually a bit more practical, and what it lacks in power (and that’s only a relative term) it more than makes up for in terms of nimbleness and sheer fun factor.

When it comes to replacing my existing bike, I’ll certainly give this one serious consideration.

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