First Ride

First Ride: 2002 BMW F650CS

I wasn't sure about the styling of BMW's new baby the F650CS when I first saw it, but the style loving Italians loved it. Wherever I parked the BMW in and around the launch city of Florence it drew admiring glances and comments.

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I think BMW are trying to create a new niche for this model. I reckon it will appeal to riders trading up from a scooter who need something practical around town. Light, nimble and able to carry much more luggage than a convential bike and more importantly, to fashion conscious youngsters, bags of funky chic. To compliment the wacky styling the normally constrained Germans have come up with some weird colour combinations - metallic gold with a hint of blue and metallic blue with a hint of gold, the third colourway is baby blue. Other details that are worthy of a mention are the translucent rubber grab handles/luggage rack and the handles on the dummy tank for use by the pillion should the need arise for some heavy braking - no more head butting the rider.

The other group of riders the F650CS could be aimed at are new to biking commuters who don't like the idea of a scooter, but need the freedom and convenience of a two wheeler.
BMW reckon 40% of sales will be from people who aren't even bikers. I might be totally wrong, I think it should appeal to existing bikers.

The CS is certainly happy in town with its low seat height (30.7" or even lower as an option of 29.5") and high handlebars, it has a real 'sit in' feel about it. The positioning of the footrests create a very relaxed riding position which means prolonged periods in the saddle pass without aches or numbness. The BMW has a fair turn of speed for a 650 single,- 200kph on the speedo which equates to around 120-125mph, so it's not just a town/city bike you could go scratching around your favourite twisties or touring and you could easily convert your bike to suit your needs. In fact the steering is so quick that I found myself turning in too quickly and having to pick the bike up and tip in again! There is very little physical effort required to change direction - just think about the corner that's approaching and you're round it in an instant.

Whilst the handling is light the gearbox requires an assertive boot up and down the ratios, it's not a problem but, depending on what you are used, to it may seem a little crude. Neutral is easier to find when still rolling switching down from second.

BMW have a unique new compartment where the fuel tank would normally be. It's situated under the seat to keep the c of g low. The bike comes standard with a soft bag which fits in the storage space or, if you prefer, a hard storage box is available or even a CD player and twin speakers! Also standard are a couple of steel reinforced straps which has a lock attached - this enables you to lock you crash helmet onto the bike.

Another unique feature or as BMW say 'A world first achievement in motor cycle construction' single sided swinging arm with toothed drive belt. BMW has a tradition of maintenance free drive to the rear wheel with shaft drive on all models apart from the F650 range - according to BMW the belt should last twice as long as a conventional drive chain, it requires no lubrications so it's clean and doesn't need adjustment because it has a tensioner located near the gear box drive wheel. The theory is great but the size of the rear drive gear seems comically huge - never the less it works, smooth and relatively snatch free drive. The aluminium single sided swing arm is slightly wasted because the rear wheel is hidden from it's post viewing side by the exhaust silencer which houses a 3-way catalytic converter and oxygen sensor. It's not surprising you can't see the wheel with all the gubbins in the way.

As on all BMW's ABS is an option, the bike I rode was equiped with abs. The front brake has instant bite and surperb feel right up until the ABS kicked in, the rear ABS seemed to kick in quite early leaving black spotty stripes down the road. Another feature that the CS has in common with scoots is that the suspension is not adjustable, but from my experience of the bike and it's handling it doesn't need to be.

A joy to ride in town and out of town definately a serious rival for the big scooter market or medium size commuter.

A stylish alternative to a big commuter scooter and all with BMW build quality




PRICE NEW - £8695


POWER - 50bhp@6800rpm

TORQUE - 37ft.lbs@5500rpm

WEIGHT - 189kg



TOP SPEED - 120mph

0-60 - n/a