One year ago I bought my first motorcycle. Without much experience you aren’t sure you’re making the right choice of course. So here we are, with 20,000 km more on the odometer. Time to evaluate my BMW F 650 GS.
The short story: I’m very pleased with my bike. It’s an excellent learning machine, both for first-time bikers as for first-time off-road riders. It can handle about anything and has proven very reliable.
You prefer the longer story? Here you go:
It wasn’t love at first sight and I still think the BMW F 650 GS isn’t a dazzling beauty. Luckily looks aren’t critical to me.
During my search for a first motorcycle, the 650 GS was praised regularly as the ideal bike for beginners. Which isn’t a lie. It’s perfect to learn maneuvering. It’s not too heavy, not too aggressive and gives confidence quickly.
The 650 GS is also a good learning bike for those who want to pick up off-road riding with an allroad bike. It has enough power and its weight (176 kg dry weight) is easier to handle than for example a 1150 GSA that weighs 60 kg more. It’s also robust enough although the plastic parts get damaged pretty easily.
I knew I was going to do lots of highway commuting and lanesplitting with my bike. So a good sitting position was pretty essential. On the 650 GS you sit upright and the seat offers plenty of space to move around so your back won’t hurt quickly.
The knees are fairly bent but it doesn’t get annoying or painful. Just a question of getting used to.
On daily commutes some protection against wind and rain comes in handy. The 650 GS hasn’t much to offer to be honest. The wind screen is tiny and there’s hardly any fairing. For instance an RT would be a better choice but it can still get worse. Like the Iron 883 for example, which really is a good weather only bike.
After a few months with my 650 GS I began to feel the need for some accessories. Such as panniers. Would be more comfortable than riding with a backpack every day. Happy I found a set of secondhand BMW Vario panniers.
The windscreen offers very limited protection. I’ve been thinking about getting a bigger one but in the end I decided it’ll have to do.
I also thought about extra lights. Especially for being more visible in winter. But (falling a lot when) off-road riding would probable ruin the lights during the first ride. So no fog lights.
The mirrors have a quite large blind spot. But again, it’s something you get used to. So I didn’t get other mirrors. And you can always get worse (yes, the Harley again).
The BMW F 650 GS has a chain drive so you need to grease it regularly. Takes about 2 minutes. That’s all you need to do. The rest can be done during the inspections at the dealership, like an oil change or replacing wearing parts such as brake pads and the chain set.
The 650 GS certainly isn’t a racer but with its single cylinder, 652 cc and 50 hp, it’s remarkably snappy. Its powerband is spread out nicely and it doesn’t feel short of breath in high revs.
At 120 km/h it does 5,000 rpm which is pretty high. Lower would feel more comfortable but in the end it’s something you get used too.
My colleague Nicolas, who owns a Triumph Street Triple, was sure that I would change my 650 GS for a more powerful bike within a year. I’ve proven him wrong.
The 650 GS perfectly meets my needs, mainly because I’m still a learner, especially off-road. A heavier bike would only make things more difficult, so I don’t see why I would get rid of my little GS any time soon.
It also copes well with my daily commutes. In fifth gear on the highway you feel you’re nearing its peak, but if you stick to the traffic rules you’ll never reach those limits.
So for now my BMW F 650 GS is here to stay. To be continued!