BMW F650 GS (2000 - 2008) review

Pay £5300 OTR and this jack-of-all-trades brings the dream of winning the gruelling Paris-Dakar that little bit closer to reality.

Ben Cope's picture
By Visordown on Sat, 1 Jan 2000 - 12:01

Details
Manufacturer:
BMW
Category:
Adventure
Price:
£ 5300
Overall
3
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A true on/off road bike that is easy going and a lot of fun whatever the surface.
The motor is a bit gutless and runs out of power quickly. Also the gearbox is a bit notchy.

It seems everyone wants a piece of Paris-Dakar glamour these days.
And few bikes hanker after it as much as BMW’s new, Dakar-styled dual-purpose F650. Gelaende ‘off road, street’ – and when it was launched in 2000, the F650 was acclaimed as the world’s most technologically advanced single.

Testament to this are its fuel-injected motor, electronic management system and catalytic converter, lightweight and switchable optional ABS and the fitting of the 17.3-litre fuel tank under the seat in the traditional airbox location for better weight distribution (the oil is stored where the fuel tank ordinarily is). Yet for all its sophistication, the F650 range has always been simple, both to maintain and to ride. It’s an entry-level bike to introduce riders to Beemers.

The new bike gets the environmentally friendly twin-spark ignition system, along with with re-styled front mudguard, screen and headlight. The remaining tweaks are BMW taking heed of customers’ comments, hence the very narrow span of the new adjustable levers, improved luggage rack and a jump-start point and power socket to access the battery without having to take the bike apart.

The standard GS is so user-friendly it practically greets you with a hearty ‘Güten Tag’ as you insert the key, with its 780mm seat height that can be further lowered by 30mm or raised by 40mm. The more focused Dakar version gets a rally-cool paint job, 870mm non-adjustable seat height with 210mm front and rear suspension travel, extended front mudguard, higher screen and a knobbly-friendly 21-inch front wheel compared to the GS’ road-biased 19-inch.

Both bikes are very comfy, and the seating postition gives a good view of the scenery and road ahead. The mostly analogue instrument panel is a bit of a disappointment. On a bike where you’re encouraged to wander off the beaten track miles from the closest services, you’d expect a petrol gauge. Instead you get a measly fuel light, but with mpg averaging 60, it shouldn’t come on too often.

Thumb the starter and the engine rumbles quietly to life; flick up the large, brilliant-for-soggy-terrain sidestand, clonk it into gear and the engine pulls smoothly from 2000rpm. Power delivery remains predictable and glitch-free until it starts to tail off just before the 7500 rpm redline, where the limiter kicks in with a judder. The strong and torquey motor chugs along from low down happily in every gear and only stalls if the revs drop very low. There’s none of the wheelie-happy surge of power you get from the big single supermotos – it’s very user-friendly and unintimidating – and the balancing shaft does a great job of damping out vibrations.

In true Beemer tradition, the five-speed gearbox is clonky, and although clutchless upshifts are feasible, the bike doesn’t like ’em much and lurches forward, which is a bit unsettling, especially on rugged terrain.

Steering feels heavy at low speed, but pick up the pace and the bike feels planted as it glides through the twisties. The bike excelled on the narrow Brecon Beacons country roads we were riding – mud and gravel on the apex? Pah! The ‘rally’ in the GS loves it, while the excellent production suspension soaks up bumps and imperfections.
As you’d expect from a big trailie, you do suffer from some wind buffeting if you dare to venture much faster than 80mph, and it doesn’t manage much over the ton anyway – but the GS isn’t about top speed, it’s about being at one with your surroundings.

Unfortunately, we didn’t get to test the ABS system, but the single disc with dual piston calipers produced good progressive stopping power with no alarming bite. If you choose to fit ABS for the additional £360, you can switch it on and off as you please – a true mark of the bike’s dual-purpose intentions.

With a switch to half-decent road legal knobblies and screen, indicators and mirrors whipped off, it was time to set off in South Wales’ vast BMW trail park under the expert guidance of Team Dome BMW’s Simon Pavey and Nick Plumb. And as we found out, not only does the GS do off-road, but it also does it pretty well.

It’ll happily take you anywhere except the seriously muddy ruts and bogs, and while 650ccs would normally be a handful in the dirt, the Beemer doesn’t deliver them in the fierce manner of a dedicated off-roader. Instead, it’s gentle, easy-going and manageable, albeit at the expense of optimum traction. It even crashes well, with its off-road style plastic tank, panels tucked in neatly out of harm’s way.

This is in no way an entry-level bike into the world of green laning. You’d have to be an expert to ride the GS hard on the trails; it’s heavy and hard work compared to a nimble dirt bike and 175.4kg of dry weight crashing down on you is not a rosy prospect. But whether you bought this bike for commuting, weekend riding or adventure touring, it’d be unforgivable not to occasionally kit it out with road-legal knobblies and hit the firmer trails and fire roads.It seems everyone wants a piece of Paris-Dakar glamour these days.
And few bikes hanker after it as much as BMW’s new, Dakar-styled dual-purpose F650. Gelaende ‘off road, street’ – and when it was launched in 2000, the F650 was acclaimed as the world’s most technologically advanced single.

Testament to this are its fuel-injected motor, electronic management system and catalytic converter, lightweight and switchable optional ABS and the fitting of the 17.3-litre fuel tank under the seat in the traditional airbox location for better weight distribution (the oil is stored where the fuel tank ordinarily is). Yet for all its sophistication, the F650 range has always been simple, both to maintain and to ride. It’s an entry-level bike to introduce riders to Beemers.

The new bike gets the environmentally friendly twin-spark ignition system, along with with re-styled front mudguard, screen and headlight. The remaining tweaks are BMW taking heed of customers’ comments, hence the very narrow span of the new adjustable levers, improved luggage rack and a jump-start point and power socket to access the battery without having to take the bike apart.

The standard GS is so user-friendly it practically greets you with a hearty ‘Güten Tag’ as you insert the key, with its 780mm seat height that can be further lowered by 30mm or raised by 40mm. The more focused Dakar version gets a rally-cool paint job, 870mm non-adjustable seat height with 210mm front and rear suspension travel, extended front mudguard, higher screen and a knobbly-friendly 21-inch front wheel compared to the GS’ road-biased 19-inch.

Both bikes are very comfy, and the seating postition gives a good view of the scenery and road ahead. The mostly analogue instrument panel is a bit of a disappointment. On a bike where you’re encouraged to wander off the beaten track miles from the closest services, you’d expect a petrol gauge. Instead you get a measly fuel light, but with mpg averaging 60, it shouldn’t come on too often.

Thumb the starter and the engine rumbles quietly to life; flick up the large, brilliant-for-soggy-terrain sidestand, clonk it into gear and the engine pulls smoothly from 2000rpm. Power delivery remains predictable and glitch-free until it starts to tail off just before the 7500 rpm redline, where the limiter kicks in with a judder. The strong and torquey motor chugs along from low down happily in every gear and only stalls if the revs drop very low. There’s none of the wheelie-happy surge of power you get from the big single supermotos – it’s very user-friendly and unintimidating – and the balancing shaft does a great job of damping out vibrations.

In true Beemer tradition, the five-speed gearbox is clonky, and although clutchless upshifts are feasible, the bike doesn’t like ’em much and lurches forward, which is a bit unsettling, especially on rugged terrain.

Steering feels heavy at low speed, but pick up the pace and the bike feels planted as it glides through the twisties. The bike excelled on the narrow Brecon Beacons country roads we were riding – mud and gravel on the apex? Pah! The ‘rally’ in the GS loves it, while the excellent production suspension soaks up bumps and imperfections.
As you’d expect from a big trailie, you do suffer from some wind buffeting if you dare to venture much faster than 80mph, and it doesn’t manage much over the ton anyway – but the GS isn’t about top speed, it’s about being at one with your surroundings.

Unfortunately, we didn’t get to test the ABS system, but the single disc with dual piston calipers produced good progressive stopping power with no alarming bite. If you choose to fit ABS for the additional £360, you can switch it on and off as you please – a true mark of the bike’s dual-purpose intentions.

With a switch to half-decent road legal knobblies and screen, indicators and mirrors whipped off, it was time to set off in South Wales’ vast BMW trail park under the expert guidance of Team Dome BMW’s Simon Pavey and Nick Plumb. And as we found out, not only does the GS do off-road, but it also does it pretty well.

It’ll happily take you anywhere except the seriously muddy ruts and bogs, and while 650ccs would normally be a handful in the dirt, the Beemer doesn’t deliver them in the fierce manner of a dedicated off-roader. Instead, it’s gentle, easy-going and manageable, albeit at the expense of optimum traction. It even crashes well, with its off-road style plastic tank, panels tucked in neatly out of harm’s way.

This is in no way an entry-level bike into the world of green laning. You’d have to be an expert to ride the GS hard on the trails; it’s heavy and hard work compared to a nimble dirt bike and 175.4kg of dry weight crashing down on you is not a rosy prospect. But whether you bought this bike for commuting, weekend riding or adventure touring, it’d be unforgivable not to occasionally kit it out with road-legal knobblies and hit the firmer trails and fire roads.

It seems everyone wants a piece of Paris-Dakar glamour these days. And few bikes hanker after it as much as BMW’s new, Dakar-styled dual-purpose F650. Gelaende ‘off road, street’ – and when it was launched in 2000, the F650 was acclaimed as the world’s most technologically advanced single.

Testament to this are its fuel-injected motor, electronic management system and catalytic converter, lightweight and switchable optional ABS and the fitting of the 17.3-litre fuel tank under the seat in the traditional airbox location for better weight distribution (the oil is stored where the fuel tank ordinarily is). Yet for all its sophistication, the F650 range has always been simple, both to maintain and to ride. It’s an entry-level bike to introduce riders to Beemers.

The new bike gets the environmentally friendly twin-spark ignition system, along with with re-styled front mudguard, screen and headlight. The remaining tweaks are BMW taking heed of customers’ comments, hence the very narrow span of the new adjustable levers, improved luggage rack and a jump-start point and power socket to access the battery without having to take the bike apart.

The standard GS is so user-friendly it practically greets you with a hearty ‘Güten Tag’ as you insert the key, with its 780mm seat height that can be further lowered by 30mm or raised by 40mm. The more focused Dakar version gets a rally-cool paint job, 870mm non-adjustable seat height with 210mm front and rear suspension travel, extended front mudguard, higher screen and a knobbly-friendly 21-inch front wheel compared to the GS’ road-biased 19-inch.

Both bikes are very comfy, and the seating postition gives a good view of the scenery and road ahead. The mostly analogue instrument panel is a bit of a disappointment. On a bike where you’re encouraged to wander off the beaten track miles from the closest services, you’d expect a petrol gauge. Instead you get a measly fuel light, but with mpg averaging 60, it shouldn’t come on too often.

Thumb the starter and the engine rumbles quietly to life; flick up the large, brilliant-for-soggy-terrain sidestand, clonk it into gear and the engine pulls smoothly from 2000rpm. Power delivery remains predictable and glitch-free until it starts to tail off just before the 7500 rpm redline, where the limiter kicks in with a judder. The strong and torquey motor chugs along from low down happily in every gear and only stalls if the revs drop very low. There’s none of the wheelie-happy surge of power you get from the big single supermotos – it’s very user-friendly and unintimidating – and the balancing shaft does a great job of damping out vibrations.

In true Beemer tradition, the five-speed gearbox is clonky, and although clutchless upshifts are feasible, the bike doesn’t like ’em much and lurches forward, which is a bit unsettling, especially on rugged terrain.

Steering feels heavy at low speed, but pick up the pace and the bike feels planted as it glides through the twisties. The bike excelled on the narrow Brecon Beacons country roads we were riding – mud and gravel on the apex? Pah! The ‘rally’ in the GS loves it, while the excellent production suspension soaks up bumps and imperfections.
As you’d expect from a big trailie, you do suffer from some wind buffeting if you dare to venture much faster than 80mph, and it doesn’t manage much over the ton anyway – but the GS isn’t about top speed, it’s about being at one with your surroundings.

Unfortunately, we didn’t get to test the ABS system, but the single disc with dual piston calipers produced good progressive stopping power with no alarming bite. If you choose to fit ABS for the additional £360, you can switch it on and off as you please – a true mark of the bike’s dual-purpose intentions.

With a switch to half-decent road legal knobblies and screen, indicators and mirrors whipped off, it was time to set off in South Wales’ vast BMW trail park under the expert guidance of Team Dome BMW’s Simon Pavey and Nick Plumb. And as we found out, not only does the GS do off-road, but it also does it pretty well.

It’ll happily take you anywhere except the seriously muddy ruts and bogs, and while 650ccs would normally be a handful in the dirt, the Beemer doesn’t deliver them in the fierce manner of a dedicated off-roader. Instead, it’s gentle, easy-going and manageable, albeit at the expense of optimum traction. It even crashes well, with its off-road style plastic tank, panels tucked in neatly out of harm’s way.

This is in no way an entry-level bike into the world of green laning. You’d have to be an expert to ride the GS hard on the trails; it’s heavy and hard work compared to a nimble dirt bike and 175.4kg of dry weight crashing down on you is not a rosy prospect. But whether you bought this bike for commuting, weekend riding or adventure touring, it’d be unforgivable not to occasionally kit it out with road-legal knobblies and hit the firmer trails and fire roads.

Length (mm) 2175
Width (mm) 910
Height (mm) 1265
Dryweight (kg) 176
Seats 0
Seat Height (mm) 780
Suspension Front Telescopic fork, stanchion diameter 41 mm, fork stabiliser
Suspension Rear Box-section dual swinging arm consisting of steel profiles, central strut steered via lever system
Adjustability Rear Spring pre-load adjustable to continuously variable levels by means of hydraulic handwheel, rebound damping adjustable
Wheels Front 2.50 x 19
Wheels Rear 3.00 x 17
Tyres Front 100/90 S 19
Tyres Rear 130/80 S 17
Brakes Front Single disc brake, diameter 300 mm, double-piston
Brakes Rear Single disc brake, diameter 240 mm, 1-piston float
Tank Capacity (litres) 17.3
Chassis Bridging frame consisting of steel profiles with rear frame fastened with screws
Length (mm) 2175
Width (mm) 910
Height (mm) 1265
Dryweight (kg) 176
Seats 0
Seat Height (mm) 780
Suspension Front Telescopic fork, stanchion diameter 41 mm, fork stabiliser
Suspension Rear Box-section dual swinging arm consisting of steel profiles, central strut steered via lever system
Adjustability Rear Spring pre-load adjustable to continuously variable levels by means of hydraulic handwheel, rebound damping adjustable
Wheels Front 2.50 x 19
Wheels Rear 3.00 x 17
Tyres Front 100/90 S 19
Tyres Rear 130/80 S 17
Brakes Front Single disc brake, diameter 300 mm, double-piston
Brakes Rear Single disc brake, diameter 240 mm, 1-piston float
Tank Capacity (litres) 17.3
Chassis Bridging frame consisting of steel profiles with rear frame fastened with screws
Cubic Capacity (cc) 652
Max Power (bhp) 50
Max Power Peak (rpm) 6500
Torque (ft/lb) 44
Torque Peak (rpm) 5000
Bore (mm) 100
Stroke (mm) 83
Valve Gear DOHC
Compression Ratio 11.5
Valves Per Cylinder 4
Cooling Water cooled
Fuel Delivery Electronic intake pipe injection
Stroke Type Four Stroke
Drive Chain
Cubic Capacity (cc) 652
Max Power (bhp) 50
Max Power Peak (rpm) 6500
Torque (ft/lb) 44
Torque Peak (rpm) 5000
Bore (mm) 100
Stroke (mm) 83
Valve Gear DOHC
Compression Ratio 11.5
Valves Per Cylinder 4
Cooling Water cooled
Fuel Delivery Electronic intake pipe injection
Stroke Type Four Stroke
Drive Chain
Top Speed
Top Speed
Score Breakdown
Overall
3
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