BMW G650GS (2011 – 2017) | Buying guide

Jon Urry
By Jon Urry
Experienced road tester, bike hoarder and all-round top bloke.

 

In a nutshell

Taking over from the hugely-popular F650GS after a slight hiatus, the G650GS uses the same basic philosophy of a single-cylinder motor in a lightweight trail bike, but updated for a new generation of rider. Sadly for BMW, where the F650GS captured the public’s imagination, the G650GS flew under the radar and lasted just six years until it was discontinued. Why did it fail? In truth it was nothing to do with the bike’s performance or ride, more a victim of the financial crisis and the fact BMW launched the parallel-twin F-series bikes with their enhanced practicality and improved rider-assists. If you like the old single-cylinder F650GS, the G650GS is much of the same, only newer!

 

BMW G650GS (2011 – 2017) | Buying Guide

 

The tech

Engine:

The G650GS’s single-cylinder is effectively a re-engineered version of the F650GS’s motor, however where the F650’s lump was built by Rotax in Austria, the G650’s was built by Lonchin in China. Boasting a capacity of 652cc, the engine has four valves with a double overhead cam design and fuel injection. Producing a claimed 47.3bhp with 44.3ftlb of torque, to allow it to meet EU licence laws, a restrictor could be retrofitted to detune this to 33bhp. Designed to run on poor quality fuel in markets outside Europe, the G650GS has a twin-spark head with a closed-loop catalytic converter and was claimed to deliver economy figures of 88mpg at 55mph. To stop the liquid-cooled single shaking your teeth out, a counter balance shaft suppresses vibrations while the gearbox only houses five ratios, a throwback to its roots that stretch back to 1993 and the original F650. Interestingly, as BMW assumed the bike would be take off-road, the G650GS runs relatively short 16/47 final drive ratios, which isn’t ideal for motorway miles!

 

BMW G650GS (2011 – 2017) | Buying Guide

 

Chassis:

Like the old F650GS, the G650GS uses a steel bridge tubular frame to give it a rugged look with the sub-frame a bolt-on unit to allow it to be swapped should you park it upside down in a hedge… Again, just like the F650GS, the G650GS’s petrol tank is located at the rear of the bike to give the GS a narrow waist and low centre of gravity, however the G650 is even leaner around the ‘tank’ area to make it easier to get on and off the bike for shorter riders. Aimed at the new rider market, the G650GS came with three seat height options – 780mm (standard), 750mm (low) or 820mm (high) – and features wider bars than the F650GS to improve comfort levels. The swingarm is constructed from steel to save costs. Unlike the F650GS, there was never a Dakar version of the G650GS, however the 2012 Sertao came with more off-road orientated narrower wheels (21-inch on the front, 17-inch on the rear) and longer travel suspension pushing the seat height up to 860mm (900mm as an option).

 

BMW G650GS (2011 – 2017) | Buying Guide

 

Suspension:

The G650GS’s suspension is fairly basic non-adjustable 41mm conventional forks with a monoshock at the rear that features adjustable spring preload and rebound. Due to its off-road focus, the Sertao has longer travel suspension than the stock GS with the front given 40mm more travel and the rear 45mm more than the stock bike’s 170mm front and 165mm rear, which is actually identical to the F650GS vs the F650GS Dakar. Although in many ways this shouldn’t be too much of a surprise…

 

Brakes:

There isn’t a huge amount to shout about when it comes to the G650GS’s stoppers and the budget nature of the bike sees it armed with a single 300mm disc that is gripped by a two-piston sliding caliper at the front and a 240mm single disc with a single-piston caliper at the rear. ABS was a factory-fit optional extra and featured the option to be turned off completely for off-road use.

 

BMW G650GS (2011 – 2017) | Buying Guide

 

Electrics

Aside from optional ABS and a fuel-injection system, the G650GS is pretty basic in terms of gizmos. The all-new LCD dash has a digital rev counter with an analogue speedo and features two trips and a clock but lacks a fuel gauge, instead just having a fuel warning light.

 

Riding position:

There is a lot to like about the G650GS’s riding position and thanks to the variation in seat heights available it can be tailored to suit most shapes and heights of rider. The off-road styling ensures a relaxed stance and the screen is moderately effective.

 

Pillions:

Just like the F650GS, the G650GS’s luggage rack has two grab handles, making it a decent pillion bike. The single isn’t the most powerful motor out there, and the GS’s suspension is a touch on the soft side, but it’s ok for short two-up hops.

 

BMW G650GS (2011 – 2017) | Buying Guide

 

What’s it like to ride?

 

Then:

As an introduction to adventure bikes, the G650GS is an ideal choice because it carries the same styling cues as its bigger brothers, but comes with the benefit of a lower insurance rating from the smaller, single-cylinder 652cc engine.
The 650GS isn’t built for all-day cruising, but 70-80mph isn’t a problem and will return a healthy fuel consumption figure while doing this. However ride harder and the engine will announce its objection with severe vibration and the need for frequent oil level checks.
While not particularly powerful, the engine is ok for commuting by being responsive enough to deal with the cut and thrust of traffic and further aided by the wide handlebars and skinny tyres. It’s also fine at light green-laning antics, where the soft punch of the single piston can help you out of sticky situations more than it will get you into them. Just remember the standard tyres are road-biased and buying a set that has better reputation for being all-rounders are worth the investment. BMW also built the small fairing screen to be easily removed for off-road work.
Distance riding isn’t a problem if you can put up with the fact there isn’t a great deal of fairing protection on offer. The upright seating position gives a good view ahead and is comfortable. The chassis is designed for pillions and luggage but, if you are considering a lot of two-up riding you may be better off looking at one of the parallel twin or bigger capacity GS models as the G650GS’s single will struggle, especially in hilly areas.
Bennetts Bike Social Review, January 2013.

 

Now:

While the G650GS is never likely to blow your skirt up, it is a very satisfying workhorse and on that basis a decent bike for hacking through traffic or a bit of light green lane activity at the weekend. This is a bike bought on a budget and while obviously it isn’t as cheap as the F650GS it replaced, locating one for under £3000 is easy and that’s not bad value for a starter bike for a new rider that can also turn it hand to commuting mid-week. It’s a solid, no-frills bike for plodding along and very economical to run and in an era of complicated electronics and expensive machinery, there is a lot to be said for that.

 

BMW G650GS (2011 – 2017) | Buying Guide

 

Check for:

Much like its predecessor the F650GS, the G650GS is a solid bike that delivers no-frills motoring and as such is a reliable workhorse. When buying used your major concern is how it has led its life and tired commuter hacks are easy to spot and best avoided. What you ideally want is a bike that has been bought for a new rider and used on a limited basis - they are out there, so search them out.

When it comes to mechanical issues, the single-cylinder is reliable but does drink oil when thrashed so check its level and watch out for any smoke on start-up from cold. There shouldn’t be any rattles either, so treat a mechanically-noisy motor with caution.

Generally with a G650GS it is the bike’s chassis you need to focus your attention on. The steel swingarm likes to rust from the inside out if left outside, so have a very good look around the chain adjusters for any signs of pitting in the paint and if possible, loosen the axel nut and move aside the blanking plate that contains the chain adjusters to inspect the inside of the swingarm. While you are at the back end, wobble the rear wheel to see if the cush drive rubbers are still intact as the G650GS does eat them and also inspect the chain and sprockets for life.

With a budget bike such as the G650GS you need to inspect areas such as suspension linkages and the suspension for wear and tear as these are costly items (in relation to the value of the bike) to get refreshed if they require it. Bounce the shock to check its damping, look for leaks on the fork seals by wiping a bit of kitchen towel around them and check the forks aren’t twisted in their yokes, something that hints at a crash and is often overlooked. A few owners complain about hot-starting issues, but this seems less of an issue in the UK.

 

Updates:

The G650GS was never updated, however it was joined in the range in 2012 by the Sertao, which was more off-road orientated. Featuring longer travel suspension and skinnier spoke wheels (the front is a 21-inch with a 90/90 tyre while the rear is a 17-inch with a 130/80 tyre) the Sertao also has a taller screen and brush guards as standard.

 

Prices:

Prices for an early G650GS start at under £2500 for a well-used model, however if you want a keeper spend in the region of £3000 for a tidy example that will probably have a top box included in the sale. Push the boat out to £3500 and you can get an ex-learner low mileage example with the top limit being £4500 for  very late model.

 

BMW G650GS (2011 – 2017) | Buying Guide

 

BMW G650GS Specs:

Engine

652cc, water-cooled, 4v DOHC single

Power

47.3bhp @ 6500rpm

Torque

44.3ftlb @ 5000rpm

Weight

192kg

Seat height

780mm (optional 750mm or 820mm) (Sertao 860 or 900mm)

Tank size

14-litres

 

Servicing intervals:

Minor: 6000-mile – expect to pay in the region of £150

Major: 12,000-mile – expect to pay in the region of £250

Valve clearance: 24,000-miles - expect to pay in the region of £350 (£100 more for an ABS model as it includes servicing the ABS system).

 

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