BMW Motorrad’s always had confusing motorcycle nomenclature, but the F 650 GS has to be among the most difficult of BMW bike names to understand. In a nutshell, this parallel-twin isn’t a 650, but a 798cc bike.
The baby GS is now available in India through Navnit Motors, and we've just hopped off after a short ride. As expected of any BMW, the 650 is a top quality motorcycle that looks the part – a capable and aggressive adventure bike, even if it comes with alloy rims instead of wire-spoke wheels. The F 650 GS is a tall bike, not much smaller in feel than big brother, the R 1200 GS, even for a six-foot tall rider. The front end is BMW signature, with an offset headlamp unit. The bike switches and adjustable levers feel very BMW, along with unique turn indicator operation buttons, and an oddly located front brake master cylinder unit that bobs around in a position too high for our liking over the handlebars. Instruments are nicely laid out, a mix of analogue and digital display counters with all the essentials in place.
To keep the F 650 GS’s pricing affordable relative to the more premium F 700 GS, also shortly to come to India, there’s slightly less premium body cowls, including a different front fender, apart from standard suspension instead of BMW’s more high tech kit. All said and done however, you won’t miss anything, and the F 650 GS offers exceptional fit-finish and fine attention-to-detail.
The F 650 GS’s four-stroke, parallel twin puts out the most intoxicating, gruff and loud exhaust tone, from its massive single exhaust canister, located unconventionally to the rear left of the bike. This BMW makes 71bhp at 7000rpm, pleasingly delivered with a gentle, easy-to-learn power curve, and supported by healthy low-end grunt that’s always handy when cruising along in crowded city riding conditions. Clutch feel is just right, well weighted and gears shift seamlessly whether going up or down the six-speed transmission box. The F 650 GS comes with slightly tall gearing that helps make this a really relaxed motorcycle to pilot when cruising at high speeds around 140kph. Acceleration is brisk and first gear good for an indicated 100kph. The F 650 GS makes for a very novice-friendly and forgiving big bike experience, yet with enough high speed performance to be versatile enough as a good touring motorcycle.
Speaking of touring, there’s few big bikes this comfy to sit astride, and handle in India, provided you’re not too short. Getting both feet safely planted could prove problematic for those of a slighter build, but it’s not as heavy or intimidating as the larger, full-sized R 1200 GS. The F 650 GS feels secure on the road, handles with a soft feel, and steers with a delightfully light feedback from the front. Telescopic forks work well in the front, as does the fully adjustable rear monoshock, working in tandem to deliver firm, yet comfortable ride quality that effortlessly soak up all the broken roads you can throw their way. The well padded seat, commanding rider view and comfortable ergonomics make this a motorcycle you can ride for long distances without fatigue raising its ugly head. And Brembo, ABS supported disc brakes work flawlessly at both ends.
Although the F 650 GS is clearly soon to be overshadowed by the F 700 GS in India, it is a better priced bike at approximately Rs 11.5 lakh (ex-showroom, Mumbai) and just as versatile and potent an all-round motorcycle as you could ride everyday in Indian conditions. Full story coming soon in Autocar India’s July 2013 issue.