BMW G 650 GS
Just Right, On And Off The Road

by Tammy Wanchena

I don’t believe in love at first sight. That being said, I should not be so surprised that when I finally found my ideal motorcycle, it was one I had never looked twice at. The BMW G 650 GS has won me over as the one true love of my garage. Well, there may be more than one…

Readers of MMM with too much time on their hands and a memory for insignificant facts may recall I had purchased a BMW F800ST, having been seduced by its beauty and speed. (see MMM #107) As it turned out, she was too much bike for me to handle. In top gear she handled like a dream. In first and second gear, she was even more skittish than I am after my twelfth double espresso. Desperate to rid myself of low gear angst, I headed back to Moon Motors, where my husband convinced me to test ride the GS. Twenty miles later I was in love. I returned to the dealer only long enough to tell my husband and the salesman I was going out again.

My favorite thing about my GS is that I, the rider, am in full control. The throttle responds smoothly to my command. The brakes stop the bike at the power I request from them. Cornering caters to my abilities. Smooth and predictable. The bike does not have a life of its own. I have more control over this relationship than I do in my marriage!

The looks that only a mother could love have actually grown on this proud mother over the past summer. Being a dual sport bike, it has a both high front fender and an additional low, hugger fender; a look I have never cared for. I had many friends who rode GS’s and I always found them hideously ugly, while my husband drooled over them. It reminds me of a Great Dane with grass stuck to its ass; with super long legs in the front and a droopy backend.

The GS comes standard with spoked wheels and two rear pipes; one is the muffler; the other, the catalytic converter. The bike I bought was red, and being a redhead, I look lousy in red. Let’s face it, girls care about such things. Clashed with all of my riding gear. But as I said, one ride and I was so in love I drove it home. My previous bike had every gadget and gizmo known to man, having purchased every possible option the bike had to offer. With the stripped-down simplicity of the GS, I actually felt a freedom unknown to me since my days of rat bikes. Standard, the bike comes equipped with no storage beyond a tiny glove box beneath the seat and a small rear rack. I loved having no bags and the lightweight ease at any speed, but I did add a trunk case fairly quickly. The trunk came with mounting hardware and it was unbelievably easy to mount to the rear rack.

I am a wine buyer for a living and I can not tell you how many times I am offended by being pitched a wine “designed for women”. Light and fruity, pink wines that I would not serve to any women I know. I want to make it extremely clear that the GS is not a bike “designed for women”. The 650GS is a bike that any man or woman, of any size or stature, should be able to handle easily, on road or off, at any speed. Being fuel injected, there is no choke to monkey with and no hassle getting started. Being so low to the ground and lightweight, there is no struggle to reach a higher speed for comfort and control. There is no fuel petcock. The fuel light simply comes on when the tank needs to be refilled. Clutching comes easy and shifting between gears should be deliberate for perfect control. It is, quite simply, an easy and reliable bike to handle.

I love the riding position. I sit upright, with my arms extended in front of me without any elbow strain. I do not experience the numbing effect in my hands and wrists that I experience with other bikes, even after fairly long rides. I purchased the low suspension, low seat model; an option that came at a ridiculously low price ($175) compared to most lowering kits which can cost a thousand dollars or more. The low suspension option drops the seat height to a managable 29.5”. This is the first time ever that I have been able to touch my feet flat to the ground at stop signs. The rear suspension preload is both easy to adjust and easily accessible; no tools required. The adjustment knob is located near your right knee.

The ride is very smooth, and you won’t experience heavy vibrations, even on gravel roads. Cornering is a breeze and the bike feels very lightweight and manageable at 425 pounds with an almost full gas tank. The weight is very evenly distributed. I would probably raise the bars a touch if I was going on an off-road adventure since I do have to bend my knees quite a bit when standing on the pegs.

The displacement is 652 cc and the engine design is a fuel-injected, liquid-cooled, four-stroke single-cylinder with a chain final drive. Standard equipment for the BMW G 650 GS includes ABS brakes with the option of turning them off, four-way hazards and heated grips. Options include a center stand and the already mentioned low suspension, as well as a variety of luggage. And, unlike some behemoths, I found the GS very easy to get on and off its center stand. Gauges are simple and easy to read and include the speedometer, tachometer, low fuel and oil lights, a clock and normal indicator lights. It has one electrical accessory plug, but it is awkwardly placed down by the motor. The fuel filler is brilliantly placed at the right rear of the bike and very easily accessible. This means no fumbling with a tank bag at fuel stops.

Just as it is important to fall in love with a partner who is reliable, trustworthy and loyal, it is important to find a bike that holds these same truths. While I was not seduced by the initial appearance of the G 650 GS, I have eyes for no other bike. I am loyal to this machine and can not imagine a bike better-suited for me. All of my riding needs are met with this one amazing bike and I long for warmer days where we can continue to build this devoted relationship.

by Bruce Mike

I have to say my favorite time of the year for riding is in the fall. The trees changing, the different smells in the air and not dripping with sweat while geared-up make it all very pleasant. This past fall I found myself on what may be MY perfect dual-sport. I got to spend a few days riding a BMW G 650 GS. It was great fun.

My co-reviewer liked this bike so much she bought it. I picked up the red beauty at her house and headed out on the highway. I quickly got up to highway speed and was cruising along comfortably in traffic. It was really easy to slice through heavy traffic and the bike accelerated and decelerated really well. This particular GS had been lowered and it accommodated my 30-inch inseam to the point where I could be flat-footed at a stop. I brought the bike home and was looking forward to some “dual-sport” riding the next day.

I headed out on a bright, sunny, fall day with my sights set on some great Washington County gravel roads. I was so comfortable on this bike that in my mind I saw myself really tearing it up. I had visions of flat track racing, left leg extended, sliding through the corners at 100 mph, counter-steering my ass off; it was going to be great. I’m sad to say, none of this happened. My fantasy was directly related to how simple this bike was for me to ride. It’s small enough to encourage my over-confidence but well equipped enough to compensate for it.

I spent a couple of hours exploring the back roads. I rode some of the more twisty ones several times. Each time through the corners I got faster. There was some deep sand and loose gravel which added to the fun. The wide handlebars and upright seating position allowed me to get the bike to do what I wanted. Standing on the pegs had me feeling a little bent over which made it necessary to bend my knees more than I wanted. Handlebar risers would resolve this issue. The ability to disable the ABS is a great feature for riding off the asphalt.

I spent a little time on a single-track trail and the bike did better than I did. My off-road experience is all on 125-250cc dirt bikes and the GS is a whole different kind of motorcycle. I never felt out of control and the bike performed exactly like it was designed to. I don’t have any real “dual-sport” experience. When I rode off-road they were called “enduros”. I should mention that I was much younger when I was out tearing it up on those smaller bikes. I also had a tendency to wad them up. I hate to admit that with my increasing age my riding skills may have diminished. I like to think I’m just wiser and less willing to take unnecessary risks. That, and it takes longer for me to heal (see MMM #124).

I commuted with the GS for a few days and I really enjoyed it. It comes standard with ABS and heated grips. BMW does both of these accessories really well. In my opinion this bike is better on the road than off. This is due to the bike’s 424 lbs. wet weight.

The BMW carries this mass low and runs nicely down the highway. It doesn’t get pushed around by the wind. The motor in the G 650 GS is a 652cc fuel-injected, liquid-cooled, four-valve, DOHC single, which produces 50 bhp and can run at 70 mph all day long. Fuel economy is between 60 and 70 mpg, so with its 4-gallon fuel tank, 250 miles between fuel stops is easily doable.

After riding the bike I decided to do a little research on the GS line. I knew K bikes were in-line fours (and triples. Ed) and R bikes were boxers, but the family tree of the BMW singles reads like a hillbilly family reunion. (see sidebar)

When I was given the opportunity to review this bike I was pretty excited. I’ve been on the hunt for a dual-sport bike for the past year and this one was in my top five for consideration. The bike fits me really well and is extremely comfortable to ride. I don’t fit on either the Kawasaki KLR-650 or Suzuki DR-650, so this is the logical pick for me if I want a bike that will take me pretty much anywhere I want to go. Not to mention I can get one pretty well decked-out for around $8,000. While I thought it was a little heavy for trail riding, it was a great bike on asphalt and gravel. I’m going to do a little more research and riding on our extensive network of off-road trails we have here in Minnesota before I make a decision, but right now, the G 650 GS is still on my short list.

If you’re in the market for a great all-around bike, take the time to check out the BMW G 650 GS. The bike definitely has the components to be ridden anywhere and its base price, which includes ABS and heated grips, allows it to compete with others in its class. BMW has a done a great job building an affordable, durable, easy-to-ride bike for us vertically-challenged folks.

Review Sidebar

BMW G 650 GS. What’s in a Name?

by Kevin Kocur

The BMW 650 single has been around a while. Originally called the F 650, it was available in two versions: the street-oriented ST and the somewhat Dual Sport-ish “Funduro”. As unfortunate as the name Funduro is, it would not be BMW’s last blunder in naming their 650s. Originally built for BMW by Aprilia, the F 650 shared many components with its sister bike, the Aprilia Pegaso. Too bad it didn’t share its name.

In 2001, the F 650 GS was introduced. In addition to a much better name, the F-GS was a much better bike. BMW decided to build the bike in-house, but still sourced the motor from Rotax. Nearly every element of the bike was changed, most noticeably the bodywork and moving the fuel tank to under the seat. Fuel-injection was added and ABS was available. 2001 also saw the introduction of the F 650 GS Dakar. In 2002, the more street-oriented CS model was introduced. Things went pretty much unchanged until 2004, when all 650 singles received an additional spark plug.

In 2006, the G 650 X-Challenge was introduced, followed by other G models.

In 2008, BMW introduced the F800 twin cylinder motorcycles. Originally there was an S, followed by ST and finally, the much-anticipated F 800 GS. And this is where things get weird. Borrowing a page from Marketing WTF 101, BMW names a more street-oriented version of the F 800 GS the—wait for it—F 650 GS. In 2008, all 650 singles are now called G-series. Why BMW didn’t just call the twin-cylinder machines “G-series” to begin with still baffles me to this day. At least they didn’t resurrect the Funduro.


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