BMW Test article

By Lance Rothschild 9 August 2011

The first time I rode a 650GS BMW was during a trip through Lesotho with some friends in 2002. Back in those days I was a little dismissive of the 650GS, particularly as it was a lot slower than my crotch rocket. What did impress me was its never-say-die attitude. By LANCE ROTHSCHILD.

The BMW G650GS is not an entirely new member of BMW’s GS bike family. In many ways it is a rebirth of the previous generation of the F650GS, the model that outsold just about everything else on the SA market for many years. Thankfully, BMW has brought back the 650cc liquid-cooled single-cylinder engine as an entry into dual-purpose biking.

Classed as an Enduro bike, the G650GS is intended to be equally at home on tar as it is on dirt. Aesthetically pleasing, it has an understated appearance, a little lower than many models in this category, but although somewhat lean and wiry, this is an adventurous and cheeky machine.  Its low seat and light weight easily recommend it as an entry-level option. It is easy to ride, and easy to handle, yet it can get its mojo on and propel you to speeds in excess of 160km/h. In short, it has enough power to get you out of trouble when you need it.

The G650GS is powered by the tried and tested 652cc liquid-cooled double overhead camshaft single-cylinder engine which develops 35kW at 6,500rpm. With electronic fuel injection, a high-geometrical compression ratio and a closed-loop catalytic converter this is one efficient baby. At a constant speed of 90km/h, BMW claims fuel consumption of 3.2 litres/100km. However, even with some slightly more aggressive riding, I managed just over 4.7 litres/100km. This would translate to a range of about 300km per tank of fuel.

The bike has a very slick 5-speed gearbox and a really huge torque range. It pulls off gently and can be ridden at quite low revs through the gears, however, when the need for acceleration arises, a simple twist of the throttle delivers, and from about 2,500rpm, the bike really has a long useable torque curve.

It has a comfortable seating position and the small screen deflects most of the wind away, however, a larger screen is available as an option and I would go for this. The adjustable suspension was primarily developed for off-road usage, but with the steel-tubing chassis and bolt-on framework tail, the G650GS is really agile and handles fantastically on-road too.

On twisty roads the G650GS shows its personality. I was always on the lookout for tight turns to see the bike’s road-holding ability and it never stepped out of line. The bike builds confidence and this augurs well for the beginner.

Bringing the G650GS to a halt was never a hassle, and the test bike that I was riding had the optional ABS system fitted. A single-disc brake on the front and one on the rear do their jobs effectively. For off-road riding, a push of a switch de-activates the ABS braking. I would like to see a 21-inch front-wheel version in the future. The magnesium alloy wheels look great and were quite adequate in the dirt, but I would prefer spoke wheels for serious dirt-road adventure.

The optional heated grips were a godsend, particularly on really cold snaps. Hand-guards are available as an optional add-ons. I liked the centre- as well as side-stand on the bike.


The instrumentation console is a little Spartan although the gear change light was quite interesting – albeit that it plays a role in ensuring that you inflict the minimum possible abuse on the engine. The trip meters really come into their own when you are navigating without the aid of a GPS, and they convert to counting up your mileage when you hit reserve, enabling you to determine how far you get on reserve.

If you are looking for a great starter bike or you’re returning to biking after the years, the G650GS is a great option. The build quality is great, as can be expected from BMW and this will hold a good resale value. DM

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Key features of the G650GS:

  • Reliable, high torque, and low consumption single-cylinder engine with 652cc displacement.
  • Engine power 35kW at 6,500rpm and maximum torque 60Nm at 5,000rpm.
  • Tried and tested suspension concept with bridge frame and swinging arm of steel, telescopic forks, and monoshock (spring travel front 170 mm, rear 165 mm).
  • Cast light alloy wheels in new design. Diameter front 19”, rear 17”. Wider rear wheel rim for better riding stability.
  • Stable brake system with single brake disc at front and rear and OFF/ON BMW Motorrad ABS (optional factory-fitted equipment).
  • Redesigned body scopes incl. windshield with GS moulding and two-tone seat.
  • Lean and ergonomic 14-litre tank.
  • Three different seat heights: standard 780 mm, low slung 750 mm (as optional factory-fitted equipment), high seat (black) 820 mm.
  • Sporty cockpit design with asymmetrical headlamp and instrument panel.
  • Luggage carrier with lockable storage compartment.
  • Smoky grey indicators.
  • New handlebar fittings.
  • Extensive optional accessories with the familiarly high BMW Motorrad standards.


The Suggested Retail Price is:

  • R73,000.00 – Base Price
  • R81,271.71 – Includes ABS & Heated grips (As Tested)

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