The BMW F650GS is a really nice practical motorcycle and I was surprised how much I fell in love with it.
With my BMW F800S in the garage for a rear-puncture, I thought the highlight of my day was going to be road-testing the BMW S1000RR which is BMW's brand new 195BHP sports bike. So when I had that sense of relief of handing back the sports-bikes keys, I was offered the BMW F650GS for the night because they were having problems 'balancing' the tyre of my BMW F800S.
The lady seemed to think that this was a step down – but for me the BMW 650GS is the first bike that I've road tested that I've actually wanted to own!
To give you a flavour of my viewpoint, the BMW 1200GS was too heavy (I want a reverse gear!) and damaged my wrist getting it off the side-stand, the BMW K1300S was almost perfect but was too quick for day-to-day use (30MPH felt like watching paint dry) and the BMW S1000RR would have shredded my license so quickly that it would be money (and self-esteem) down the drain.
But the BMW F650GS was just great fun, had lots of torque and was a bike I could seriously feel relaxed with and enjoy the thrill of being on two wheels. Some people may call the 800cc engine 'gutless' but for me, it was a relief to be able to have fun using the entire rev-range at fast but not insane speeds.
With faster bikes like the BMW S1000RR, you would go from 0-70ish in a couple of seconds which was good fun, but I had this constant niggle in the back of my head that I was only using a fraction of the bikes capabilities. Unless you are a track racer or never remove it from its box, you'll probably find that just a tad depressing.
The BMW F650GS was just good practical fun and I appreciated not feeling stressed about going faster-faster. I was having a brilliant time just poodling along in traffic without feeling the need to overtake. From the high-riding style, I had a good viewpoint over the cars so passing when the time was right was easy and controlled.
I liked how versatile this bike was. From its impressive turning circle and stress-free commuting to speeding along country lanes and zooming along the motorway, I thought this bike had all angles covered.
However, BMW could have certainly invested in a bigger, more comfortable seat! In this one respect, I thought I was being punished for not having chosen the bigger BMW 1200 GS.
Riding any bike like a Segway is most enjoyable on long tours and the BMW F650GS is more than capable of obliging. It was nice to be able to stand up vertical on the foot pegs and stretch out any cramp without having to stop for rest-bites. On my tour of Europe in 2009 I sorely missed this feature on my BMW F800S!
I've read other reviews that didn't like the clunkyness of putting the bike into first gear, yet I quite liked that solid sound of stamping your foot down like you are riding a Harley.
The equipment list was good on my test bike (well it's a BMW) and I don't think I could go back to a bike without heated grips and ABS ever again. Not unless I became a fair-weather rider first!
Equipment wise, my only complaint was with the side-stand that seemed to be in an awkward position to kick it out. They seemed to have tucked it in under the bike so well that a background in gymnastics is useful for manoeuvring and coercing the thing out from its hiding place. Some may say that after a long ride I was too tired, or just haven't got "the knack" yet – but for me who was desperate for a cup-of-tea and to blog about this bikes grin-factor, it was just a little bit too fiddly.
So – in conclusion, I would recommend this bike to anyone who wants a practical machine for day-to-day use.
For me, I felt this bike was almost perfect – yet the seat and side stand makes me wonder whether the BMW F800GS would be more my cup of tea. All the more reason to go for another test-ride me thinks!