2009 BMW G650GS

Value Added

By Jamie Elvidge, Photography by Jonathan Beck

These days we can all appreciate getting a little something extra for our money, and bmw is playing that timely card with the introduction of a new entry-level dual-sport model. Fundamentally, the G650GS is a revalued replacement for the popular F650GS single, as well as its taller, sportier dakar variant.

True, there is also a new F650gs, which we were originally told would be the replacement for the entry-level gs, but this is not the case. That bike, with its detuned, 798cc parallel-twin engine, will be grouped with the other offerings in the F800 stable: the adventure-touring GS, sporty S and sport-touring ST.

Easier to digest was the value-added angle bmw pitched to us at the G650GS's press introduction in san diego, california, last december. At $7670 it's not a cheap entry-level motorcycle by anyone's standards, but for buyers sniffing around the german engineering tree, it's a bargain. Especially when you learn the '09 GS comes equipped with bmw's new-generation partial integral ABS, heated handgrips and all the convenience amenities (clock, digital readouts) you won't find on a bare-bones 650cc dual-sport. And more so when you consider the old F650GS sold for $7525 with none of that.

Seeing how the G650GS is certain to attract smaller beginning and returning riders, it's a good thing the bike works so well and is so easy to ride. We departed the city on a day-long street ride that put the bike through all its conceivable paces: stoplight-to-stoplight commuting, highway trolling, poorly maintained single-lane roads, fast mountain twisties and a long, fast-paced freeway grind. We didn't do any off-roading, as BMW is clear this isn't the GS's primary intention. Like its F predecessor, the G is up for a little soft-core exploring--especially with the right tires. But there will not be a price-inflating dakar version, so if you want a middleweight adventure-tourer that's got the dirt thing down pat, it's the F800GS you're looking for.

Our G650GS testbike was set up "standard," with regular-height suspension and the lower of the two optional seats. So equipped, it's the only adventure-minded motorcycle with a seat height of just 30.7 inches. If that's not low enough, order one with the factory-installed low suspension ($175) and you can get the seat down to 29.5 inches.

At 5-foot-10, I'm average height (for a man, if not a woman), so the G650GS was comfortable and easy to manage. But I was notably cramped by the end of the day, partly due to the forward-canted saddle and swept-back handlebar. Of course, this is exactly what bmw intended: a rider setup to make the bike viable for enthusiasts who usually have a difficult time with roomier enduro-style ergos. And sure enough, shorter riders were very comfortable on the bike. Its claimed dry weight of just 387 pounds will further encourage riders slight in stature and/or confidence.

There are no surprises to contend with. The engine is a big-bore thumper, so it feels and acts like one. It's got enough power to hurry you through the five gears, but not enough to get a new rider in over his or her head or overwork the bike's capabilities. As expected, there is some engine-induced vibration, most noticeable through the seat when you're riding toward the top end of the powerband. The vibes also distort the mirrors at highway speeds. This latest single feels exactly like the rotax version that was manufactured in austria for many years, but it's now being produced in china by an independent contractor (not in taiwan by kymco, as rumored) to shave some expense. It's built to the exact same specs as the rotax, though, so it should prove just as reliable.

The standard ABS (usually a $900 option) works brilliantly, and can be easily disengaged for off-road use. Braking power from the single front and rear discs is not impressive, but gets the job done. Suspension also proved more than adequate.

As a traveler, the G650GS will make a great mount for small- to medium-sized riders. It has nice standard amenities, and was designed to accept all the neat accessories available for the previous F650GS, including the centerstand and expandable saddlebags. Those looking for a well-equipped dual-sport or a low-buck adventure bike would do well to consider it.

By Jamie Elvidge
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