A riding report of the BMW F650GS, in which we look for properties which are valuable for people who just got their riding license, or for motorcycle riders who didn't ride for several years.
What you find here is a first impression; we will give a followup later, after a longer test ride.
Er is een Nederlandse versie:
Getting on: seat height
Standard seat height
The F650GS is not extremely high, and the seat is formed in such a way that you don't need long legs to get both your feet on the ground while sitting on it. A wide or narrow seat contributes to the length of the legs you need, while often only the seat height is mentioned.
The F650GS is available with a lowered seat as well. Of course, you give in on comfort.
The centre of gravity of the bike is fairly near to the ground. When you can't reach the ground with both your feet at the same time, you will not have trouble to keep the bike upright.
So, if you think your legs aren't long enough for the standard seat height, first take a long test ride to check whether you really need a lower seat: when you can reach the ground with your toes, it is enough.
Lowered riding height
When a lowered seat is not enough, there is a lowered version of the bike. But in this case, you will give in on the suspension, which means for instance that the weight that the bike can carry will be lower than in the case of the standard version.
So, again, check if you really need it.
Low centre of gravity
When you can't reach the ground with both feet at the same time, you need a bike with a low centre of gravity to be able to keep it upright at a red traffic light.
The F650GS has a low centre of gravity, caused by, among other things, the place of the tank below the seat, instead of at the place where the tank is in most other motorcycles.
Because of that low centre of gravity, the bike performs better in keeping itself upright than bikes with a higher centre of gravity.
So you in traffic in the city, where you will have to come to a standstill often, you will not be handicapped by short legs.
The same low centre of gravity is an advantage when you have to ride tight corners when doing a U-turn or to reach a parking space.
The dashboard and the mirrors
The clocks for the rpm's and the speed have the form of an analoguous clock, so you can read them in a fraction of a second.
And of course, there are warning lights for the blinkers.
To the right of the round clocks is an information display, on which you can read which gear you are in, how much petrol you still have on board, the temperature of the oil, of the coolant, an indication on the number of kilometers you can do with the current amount of fuel, and a time display.
On the left handlebar, you find a knob to choose between different functions.
The mirrors are too low with respect to the rather straight up sitting position. They are positioned at the height of your elbows, which means that you can't see moving objects from the corner of your eyes: you have to conciously shift your eyes and move your elbow to get a glimpse from what's visible in the mirror.
When you do so, you have a clear view of what's moving in either side of you, but it's very difficult to see anything behind you.
For riding schools, this is ideal, because instructors will be able to notice the movement of the head of the pupil (or the absence of that movement), but in other conditions, you would like a better placed mirror.
A positive side, is that they are vibration-free, especially when you are used to mirrors on a one cylinder.
Starting and riding
Where should I put the key?
You will find the lock in an unfamiliar place: on a spot where most motorcycles have their tank. The place is an obstruction for tankbags, unless you buy the tankbag from BMW which is specially made for this bike. So the bike has the disadvantage that you are bound to the BMW tankbag.
On the other hand, an advantage is the little plug next to the lock, for - for instance - an electrically heated vest, or a loader for a GPS system.
Starting the engine goes without troubles.
With the earlier F650 models, you got the advice to keep the starting knob pushed in for a while, because the engine would fall dead otherwise. The engine of this bike keeps running when you push the button in a split second.
The riding position is straight up. The handlebars are wide apart, and your legs have fairly ample space: you don't have to fold them them double.
It feels as though the bike has been made especially for you. The handles for the brake and the clutch are adjustable for the size of your hands.
The only problem is the BMW-manner to use the blinkers: a pushbutton for your thumb on the left handlebar to sign that you are planning to turn left, a pushbutton for your thumb at the right handlebar to turn right, and a pushbutton on the right that you have to move upwards with your thumb to turn the blinker off. At the same spot on the left handlebar is the button for the horn.
So it's understandable that you see many BMW riders with their blinkers on while riding straight, or using their horn after they turned left...
Therefore, the F650GS now has the feature that it turns your blinkers off after a while.
When you start riding, it is remarkable that the engine is able to accelerate the bike from very low rpm's. You can let the clutch go almost immediately.
That is a huge difference with the big brother of the F650GS: the F800GS. That bike needs a slipping clutch to start riding.
Reaction to the throttle
From the start on, you will also notice how direct and predictable the F650GS reacts on the throttle.
There is no point where the torque tumbles in, and there is no point where there seems to be a turbo: the reaction is constant, through all the rpm's.
Torque and power
The F650GS has a two-cylinder engine, and optimization was not for power (to get the topspeed as high as possible), but for a flat torque curve, (see our page about torque and power).
When riding, you can really feel the difference. For the test ride, I rode in a group of F800GS riders, and the F800GS has the same engine but then optimized for power, and it was noticeable that the F650GS was quicker while riding away from a standstill.
More than enough
In daily riding conditions, high torque at low rpm's is more valuable than high power combined with low torque at low rpm's. So the setup of the F650GS engine is exactly what you need on the street.
The most important: cornering
The handlebars are wide apart: getting the bike into a corner by pushing against the handlebar into the direction you want to go (see our about cornering on a motorbike).
The direct and predictable reaction on the throttle is valuable while riding corners. It makes it very easy to ride through a corner with the throttle opened a bit: no unpleasant surprises.
The other way around: when you close the throttle, the behaviour is predictable and constant as well. In practice, you can ride for long stretches without ever touching the brakes, adjusting your speed by closing the throttle in time.
Suspension, shocks and brakes
Suspension is very important for riding behaviour in corners. In the case of the F650GS, the suspension is rather too stiff than too soft. It may have a negative effect on off-road behaviour, or comfort on bumpy roads, but the effect on cornering behaviour is positive.
The rather stiff suspension also has a good influence on braking:
the front will not lock up easily because the front will not easily
suspension travel while diving.
In a follow-up we will test the ABS as well; during this short test ride, we didn't engage it.
The F800GS has the same engine as the F650GS, but it has longer suspension travel, and a bigger front wheel.
With a few parts its looks are very different from the looks of the 650; in our eyes (and in the eyes of most of us, we think) its looks are much better.
The F800GS has also a higher torque and more power, so you would think there is no reason to look at the F650GS, aside from the price tag.
But that's not the case; the F650GS has more advantages than the price only!
F800GS: less agile
The F800GS is designed to ride through sand and other nasty stuff. That's why he has got the bigger front wheel (21 inch while the front wheel of the F650GS is 19 inch).
The bigger wheel makes it easier to ride over rocks and thick branches (just imagine how difficult it is to ride onto the curbstone with a shop trolley, and how easy that is with a big bicycle wheel, and you will understand why a big wheel helps).)
But a disadvantage of a big wheel is that it is less easy to enter a corner: a rotating
wants to keep its direction, and the bigger the wheel, the more difficult it
is to disturb its balance (and that's what you actually do to lean into a corner).
The suspension travel of the F800GS is longer, and the front wheel has a bigger trail (see What is trail?).
Those characteristics makes the bike stable while riding straight through the sand
(and anyo9ne who tried to do that knows how much you need it!).
But at the same time, it makes it much less easy to forve the bike into a corner. So, the F800GS is, in short, much less agile than the F650GS, on the road.
Fun in the corners
So, for real fun in the corners, you want the F650GS!
Previous F650 models
The naming of the F650GS is somewhat misleading. In the first place because its engine counts 800 cc's and not, as the name suggests, 650. In the second place because it predecessors, also named F650 and F650GS, have a one cyclinder engine, with 650cc, while the current F650GS has a two cyclinder 800cc engine.
The first F650 was made in 1993, and was called the Funduro, and it was a 650cc one cylinder.
We test rode it a couple of times, and there are huge differences with the F650GS: Funduro's
buckle below 3000 rpm, and only run well from about 4000 rpm. The suspensions are rather soft and saggy,
which you will notice when you hit the brakes: the bike dives, and will easily reach the bottom,
which will result in a blocking front wheel.
Extensive information on the F650 Funduro is on the Funduro pagess of MenK.
From the same time is the F650ST (from Strada, street). It had an 18 inch front wheel (instead of the 19 inch fron the Funduro), and the hanldebars were a bit less wide.
F650GS and F650GS PD
The F650GS from 2001 (still the one cylinder engine!) had injection, did run a bit better, and
seemed to feel a tiny bit more happy at low rpm's.
The PD version had longer suspension travel and a bigger (21 inch) front wheel, and both versions dived easily and deep while braking (with the rather big risk of a locked front wheel). The PD ith its longer suspension travel was best in diving ;-).
The Scarver, F650CS
The Scarver, also from 2001, had the same engine as the F650GS and the F650GS/PD, but it had a belt
instead of a chain, it had a 17 inch front wheel, and shorter szpring travel. The S means
If anybody wants to add facts, we would like to hear them! firstname.lastname@example.org.
The F650GS specifications
|Water cooled, single cylinder, 4 valves per cylinder,
|Bore x stroke
|82 mm x 75,6 mm
|52kW (71pk) at 7000 tpm
|75Nm at 450 tpm
|12 : 1
|3-way catalytic converter, emission norm EU-3
|about 185 km/u
|Fuel consumption at 90 km/h
|1 (litre):27 (kilometers
|Fuel consumption at 120 km/h
|Unleaded regular grade fuel, minimum octane rating 91 (RON)
|400 W three phase alternator
|12 V /14 aH
|Multiple disc clutch in oil bath, mechanically operated
|Constant mesh 6 speed gearbox integrated in the crankcase
|Endless O ring chain with jerk damper in the rear wheel hub
|Telescopic fork, diameter 41 mm
|Cast aluminium dual swing arm, central spring strut,
spring pre-load hydraulically adjustable
(continuously variable) at handwheel,
rebound damping adjustable
|Steering head angle
|2,5 x 19 inch
|3.5 x 17 inch
|110/80 19 59H
|140/80 17 69H
|Single disc, diameter 300 mm, double-piston floating caliper
|Single disc, diameter 265 mm, single-piston floating caliper
|Option (can be switched off)
Dimensions and weights
(low seat: 790 mm
lowered suspension: 765 mm)
|Inner leg curve
(low seat: 1,780 mm
lowered suspension: 1,710 mm)
|Weight, road ready, fully fuelled
|Permitted total weight
(lowered suspension: 349 kg)
(lowered suspension: 150 kg)
|Usable tank volume
|of which reserve
|Height (without mirrors)
|Width (including mirrors)