Road test: Suzuki DR650SE vs BMW G 650 GS-News & Reviews-Motorcycle Trader

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BMW G 650 GS

16 Jul 2013 | Adventure-bike comparo: but very different

Words: Rod Pics: Ellen Dewar

both 650 adventure singles, but Rod says Suzuki’s DR650SE and BMW G 650 GS the category from very directions.


touring is a growth category days with just every manufacturer offering at one model that fits the Why the interest? In my opinion it’s down to the dominant ‘Baby demographic.

With the kids fending for themselves, the house off, some cash to and more time on their ‘…’ riders are lusting a little adventure, with of Long Way Round still in their minds.

I can understand the Bikes have always me as the perfect form of transport for opening up access to rough and totally immersing the rider in the environment.

As a result, manufacturers come up with a variety of to suit ‘adventurers’ of all persuasions. a heap of choice, that’s for but anyone diving in for the first can find the options bewildering. So, for adventure-bike comparo, MT has grabbed two from the category that, similar on paper, represent different takes on the theme – DR650SE and BMW’s G 650 GS.


While both are 650cc in other respects they’re apart. Together they a snapshot of the diversity found this burgeoning class, and so than a direct head-to-head this review is more a of two rather different slices of the one

Suzuki’s venerable DR650SE needs no introduction. Released a few centuries before internal engines (okay, it was 1995), based on a model that was a decade before that and a basic, bare-bones traillie enough oomph for highway and some luggage. Remarkably has changed on this bike the years and yet it’s still a seller – Suzuki Australia 727 of these things last

In comparison, the Federal Chamber of Industries credits Kawasaki’s (plus ORC) KLR650 – a with which the $7990 ORC) DR650SE is often – with 446 sales in 2012, it puts the Suzuki in the ‘Trail’ and the Kawasaki in the ‘Adventure Tourer’

In the Bavarian corner we have $9990 (plus ORC) G 650 GS. an adventure tourer (the suffix stands for Gelände . translating as off-road/road), it’s the road-focused of a pair, sitting the more dirt-oriented G 650 GS Sertão. Had been a direct comparo we have pitched the Sertão at the but, as I’ve said, we to examine offerings from ends of the middleweight adventure-bike

With alloy rims (a front for the BMW, versus a 21-incher for the Suzuki), less travel (170/165mm versus less aggressive rubber Tourance EXP versus Bridgestone Wing) and more weight wet versus 166kg wet), clear the BMW enjoys its ‘adventure’ in portions. That’s okay, because while it can still a bit of dirt, its strengths come to the on the blacktop.


So, how do you define Are you about to set off on a transglobal overland or is a little exploration of Australia’s dirt roads adventurous There’s no shame in either – it’s all about choosing the bike for any given job.

To get a for the two bikes Spannerman and I headed to State Forest to Melbourne’s the route taking in dirt fire trails and a bit of single-track, plenty of tar. We would loved to have set off on an around-the-world but MT’s bean counters so keen – more’s the pity.

clear these are two different despite sharing the same engine configuration. The Suzuki tall and rugged, like the dirt bike it is. The BMW looks and more technical, with components and more bodywork – any owner would wince to see down the track.

The Suzuki is, showing its age. The instrumentation is – just a single analogue with inset trip and odometer, plus a few … – while you also get a screw-on cap, a fuel tap, a tank, a carburettor, and dated-looking It’s old school – but that concern anyone heading for the

On the contrary, in this instance school’ also means to fix’ – handy in the back of

The features list underlines the no-frills approach. You get a highly bike, a toolkit (stored in a little dedicated storage under the sub-frame), plastic and a helmet lock. That’s it.

The however, comes with injection, ABS brakes, a centrestand – heated handlebar grips. also a choice of seat – beyond the standard 800mm there’s an 820mm accessory or BMW dealers can deliver a loweredsuspension with a 770mm seat No such luck on the Suzuki, 885mm seat will be to put off anyone of below-average height.

At (6ft 2in) I didn’t the Suzuki’s seat a struggle and its width and plush suspension I could get both feet to the ground. I did find the BMW’s 800mm seat too low, – I simply didn’t have legroom to get comfortable. While the saddle is far broader than the plank, it’s still not compliant – factor an Airhawk into the budget if big miles are on the

As for the Suzuki’s seat, while bike folk wouldn’t be put off my backside found it rock – I was shifting from cheek to inside 30 minutes.


Escaping the via the freeway gave a good of the bikes’ longhaul potential. You sit the Suzuki but ‘in’ the BMW, and I to say I loved the commanding view the former. I loved the Suzuki’s too – sort that seat out and be a capable mile muncher.

It a handy traffic buster in going as it’s light and and has a generous steering range; the ’bars past higher car was easy. There’s no tacho on the DR but in gear at 100km/h it felt It sat happily on 120km/h too, it still had some useable in reserve for overtakes.

The squishy saw the front end diving under brakes – no surprises there – I was surprised by how smooth the big single The vibrations are there, but they annoy. The Suzuki’s Nissin package, meanwhile, offers power and adequate feel.

On the the BMW was in its element, especially once off the and some bends had swung view. You don’t notice the weight on the road but you do notice the suspension, the lower ride the slicker gearbox and, as a observation, the refinement. The BMW’s is in a different league and considering the niceties that $2000 looks like money spent.

The BMW’s fuel-injected is a torquey, flexible unit – a design which these is made under licence in At 100km/h in fifth gear the BMW is 4000rpm, which – like the – means it’s well up to the of covering big distances. In fact, I both these big singles remarkably similar on the road. both display grunty ends and they pull through the mid-range.

Both are up top, too, but that’s a front-page headline. Both a short warm-up from a start but in terms of throttle they were difficult to – the Suzuki’s 40mm Mikuni to do just as good a job as the BMW’s The BMW’s Brembo set-up was a for me, offering a little more and feel and – with the firmer – more composure under brakes.

The ABS is a big bonus and, you can switch it off on dirt.

During tests from third, and then fifth gear, the were the same: the bikes … level through the end and most of the mid-range, but the BMW slowly to pull ahead as the revs higher. Really, there’s in it. BMW claims slightly higher and torque for the G 650 GS, but it’s heavier it.

Despite their modest and dual-purpose nature, both are thoroughly capable of delivering of smiles on a winding road. the BMW is the winner here, its stiffer  and road-oriented rubber putting it out in But the Suzuki can swoop through the too: its Bridgestone Trail hang on well and, the BMW, there’s a heap of clearance.

The upright ride and broad, flat handlebars of bike afford a degree of and control should a back break traction.


Of course, ‘scratching’ is well these bikes’ priority – far higher up is hitting the dirt, so what we did. Wombat Forest is a sizeable expanse of popular with trail and 4WDers. Conditions were dry and dusty but in typical Wombat there were still of bog holes full to the brim gelatinous, stinking mud.

The 4WD chew the hell out of the tracks their souped-up rigs and tyres, adding an extra for the bikes.

From the get-go, the had turned in the Suzuki’s favour. Its 21in front rim, suspension and chunkier rubber saw it at home on the rough, although the BMW was the better dirt roads in its After all, it still had suspension travel than a roadie and its 19in front rim more confidence than a 17.

a little side track the was happy to go where I pointed it, ruts, soaking up bumps and pushing on with little Anyone used to a dedicated 250 or 450 would find the Suzuki soft and a little ungainly, but a road background as I do, I got a real out of where I could take the DR fear of damaging rims or You can be quite lazy with the workman-like gearbox, such is the poke, and it all adds up to one relaxed experience.

Standing up on the Suzuki’s ’pegs felt natural – I would have appreciated handlebar risers – and finally pain-in-the-arse seat started to a little sense. It was  to slide my weight around as dictated, while getting out of the gave my backside some

The BMW went everywhere the Suzuki did except for the monster bog hole near swallowed the Suzuki but rougher going required a more calculated approach. We want to ding those rims or damage that yellow bodywork. The BMW’s ergonomics meant standing up saw me forwards to grab the ’bars – I’d fit risers, but for the shorter folk for it’s designed it’ll be

The extra weight meant the BMW a bit more input in tighter where its wider girth its mid-section was apparent.

Spannerman’s cries of delight the BMW as he followed me down the first descent of any reasonable gradient out to have an altogether different – in fact he hadn’t turned off the so the bike had effectively lost its Makes you feel alive, a episode like that. The ABS is a big plus but you do have to remember to it off on the dirt – its default setting is whenever the ignition is switched on.

you have to be stationary to change – you can’t switch it ‘on the fly’.


We on to Blackwood, an old goldmining town a lovely old (and bikefriendly) Lunch there gave us a to reflect on our steeds, and their bites of the adventure pie.

The clearly had the broader scope of the handling both the highway and the with aplomb. I’d be entirely to take the Suzuki anywhere I’d any other enduro bike, I’d be tackling things at my sedate – I like to take in the view in the rather than charge it at warp factor 10.

The bike’s (plus ORC) price tag is but I know I’d be spending quite a bit if I bought one. Decent proper Barkbuster handguards, a long-range tank, a better and probably stiffer springs if carrying all the luggage associated a long-distance trip) would be on the list. Then there’s the performance upgrade – a less-restrictive and a high-flow air filter and jet kit.

little lot would push the price into five-figure

The BMW, alternatively, doesn’t require any additional outlay. you wouldn’t take it anywhere good-quality dirt roads (if you to, you’d buy the G 650 GS Sertão instead), really nothing more to (other than on a luggage When you consider its level of its price tag makes it the value-for-money of these two – provided it suits intended usage.

The BMW, its fuel-injected engine, was the clear in the fuel-economy stakes. In a mix of road and going it delivered an average of 23.9km/lt, giving a safe range from its 14lt The Suzuki managed 20.5km/lt, a safe 240km range.

I said, I’d whack a long-range

Both bikes have a front fork and a rear adjustable for preload and rebound. The BMW is the far of the two for adjustment, with a remote to change rear preload Suzuki has a tricky-to-access threaded


After all years, the Suzuki still has of appeal. Light and easy to capable in the bush, cheap to run and to repair, it’s no wonder it in the numbers it does.

The BMW is classy and refined and a great for shorter folk who like to get off the but who aren’t looking to tackle any – it’s a ‘soft-roader’, if you like.

BMW G 650 GS

machines are easy, forgiving and would make ideal bikes – both are LAMS Approved Motorcycle Scheme) Still, it’s a crowded and there are many other In addition to Kawasaki’s KLR650 plus ORC) and Suzuki’s 650 ($10,890 plus ORC), are models like Yamaha’s ($11,499 plus ORC) and new TR 650 Terra and 650 Strada ($8995/$9695 ORC respectively, although bear in that Husqvarna was recently from BMW by KTM).

There are the of bigger-capacity duallies too, but 650s are so much easier to on the dirt.

My personal pick? I’d go for the Suzuki and spend the extra on it out. It suits my physical and I’d use its off-road potential.

But the BMW has much to smaller, more road-oriented and both represent impressive


Suzuki’s DR650SE is one of the great of the marque’s line-up, having first released in Australia in 1995. It was basically an updated, version of the DR650R and DR650RS were released in 1990 models that essentially the same engine and mechanics but different styling), which in were based on the DR600 of the

Upping the single-cylinder donk 589cc to 641cc was a deliberate to contain Honda’s NX650 (released in Australia in 1989), but the hardware saw an extra 15kg to the SE over the R/RS.

Since the arrival the machine has changed little, apart from a update in 1997 that saw its grow in capacity to 644cc to an altered bore and …) and markedly smoother. A new exhaust and oil were also adopted as was a new the final package being a 25kg lighter than the generation. Since then have mainly been to new colours and graphics (plus a cylinder base gasket was prone to oil weeping).

The plot a 40mm Mikuni carburettor an air/oil-cooled, 644cc, SOHC, four-…, single-cylinder engine, rests in a tubular-steel cradle Its claimed output is 32kW at 6400rpm and 54Nm (39.8ft-lb) at The power is relayed via a five-speed and the bike rolls on Bridgestone Wing dualpurpose rubber, a 21in spoked rim at the front and a rim at the back.

The braking package a twin-piston caliper at each with a 290mm disc at the and a 240mm disc at the rear.

The DR650SE is available in grey or and it’s covered by a two-year, warranty. The bike retails for (plus ORC).


– Top value

– Rugged

– Easy to manage


– Finish reflects the price tag

– seat


G 650 GS appeared in Australia in late but if its specs seem familiar, should. The bike represents a of the F650 GS and F650 GS SE that here from 2000 to which in turn was a progression BMW’s first midcapacity the F650 Funduro (pictured which appeared in 1995.

BMW’s ‘G’ family of bikes the series’ liquid-cooled, fuelinjected, DOHC, four-valve, fourstroke, engine, which BMW says is for 35kW (48hp) at 6500rpm and (44.2ft-lb) at 5000rpm. That is also found in the G 650 GS Sertão, the off-roadspec version launched in which represents the next of F650 GS Dakar (a bike along with the F 650 GS SE, disappeared in

The G 650 GS is obviously a more road-oriented with alloy rims at the front, 17in at the rear) and less suspension travel the DR650SE (the BMW with at the front, 165mm at the rear). it’s a far more modern with electronic fuel an LCD digital/analogue dash, ABS brakes as a choice of factory accessory and two-position heated grips as It also comes with a and a small screen.

The suspension comprises a non-adjustable front and a monoshock adjustable for preload and while the ABS-equipped brakes are by – a twin-piston caliper at the front 300mm disc) and a single-piston down the back (with disc).

With a 14lt (slung low, under the – the ‘traditional’ tank is in fact a cover for the airbox), the G 650 GS weighs in at (wet), which is 26kg than the Suzuki. It’s in Sunset Yellow or Aura with a black/red seat, and covered by a two-year, unlimitedkilometre The BMW G 650 GS is priced at $9990 (plus


– Quality finish


– ABS brakes


– Cramped for taller

BMW G 650 GS
BMW G 650 GS
BMW G 650 GS

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