Posted: 26 Feb 2013
While today’s most loved motorcycle genre is adventure bikes, you have to remember BMW was making off-road-styled bikes for road use way before Ducati and its Multistrada hit the motorways. Not just with the Bavararian R1200GS but also with middleweight mini-adventure bikes. The most famous being the F650GS, the R1150GS look-a-like.
Powered by a 652cc single-cylinder engine, the F650GS delivers ample torque and power in a short rev range that will not worry anyone. For this reason the F650GS made an excellent spring board from learner ranks to bigger adventure-based machines. The funny thing is most owners of F650GS kept them to use as an everyday commuting tool when trading up to bigger capacities. Yes, the little BMW is that good.
Key points of the F650 engine is it has very frugal petrol consumption – not as good as modern BMW middleweights but back then 50mpg+ was worthy of a smile. Being a single-cylinder machine it does object to being revved hard with vibration and an early dive at the rev limiter. More than an hour spent with the F650GS is enough for riders to learn that most of its punch is concentrated low down in the rev range.
It’s not uncommon for the F650GS to bang its way up and down the gearbox but can be quietened down with a correctly tensioned final drive chain. This isn’t as easy as it sounds because the suspension is quite softly sprung and suspension travel quickly reduces any slack in the chain. Another result of soft suspension is the poor feel for what the tyres are doing and substantial dive with front brake use. The use of a low-slung fuel tank helps make the F650GS a doddle to ride at low speeds – particularly when dodging traffic queues.
You’d think being a BMW the F650GS is a robust unit. Mechanically it is fine but corrosion on and around the swingarm and frame is not uncommon, and stone chips on the fork lowers can leave them looking like chalk if not sealed as soon as possible. You can tell when a GS been looked after because it’ll look cared for despite the lack of any protective bodywork.
Comfort is also a strong point of the F650GS. In excess of 250 miles can be achieved without any real aches but all riders will benefit from a taller screen to ease upper body pressure and that’s from a bike where the rider sits in the bike rather than on top of it. Because of the F650GS length of service there are reams of aftermarket accessories still available. Panniers or topbox are the most common items and make a welcome addition when it comes to buying a F650GS.
BMW Motorrad also kitted out as standard some F650GS models with lowered suspension. There was also a Dakar version of the F650GS and is highly sought after by those in the know because its taller suspension and wire-spoked wheels (21in front) meant it was also a dab hand at forays off-road.
+ points – good all-rounder with pleasant, economic thumper engine.
- points – can look a hound and a half if not looked after. Eats chain and sprockets.
Power: 49.7bhp, 44.2ft lbs
Kerb weight: 139kg
Seat height: 780mm
Colours: Yellow, blue, red etc