BMW G650GS | First Ride

No step stool required

By Ari Henning, Photography by Joe Neric

Vertically challenged adventure-tourers lamented the loss of the F650GS from BMW’s lineup in 2007, but the model returned two years later as the G650GS. Welcome to BMW’s new nomenclature that designates all singles with the letter G, parallel-twins with F and Boxers with R; but aside from that prefix no other significant changes were made.

Not until this year, when the G650GS finally got a facelift. The bike’s round, soft appearance has solidified, bringing its look in line with the rest of the GS family. The bulbous headlight and curved windscreen have been replaced by an asymmetric cluster and taller screen. The all-analog dash was swapped for a more compact hybrid display, the wire-spoke wheels were replaced by cast-aluminum mags, and the bodywork was reshaped with sharper lines.

The G’s sloping saddle isn’t new, but it’s the bike’s most prominent feature and one of its biggest selling points. If sky-high seat heights have kept you from enjoying adventure/dual-sport riding, the G650GS is your ticket to off-road adventure. With a low standard seat height of just 30.7 inches, even 5-foot-tall riders can plant both feet firmly on the ground at stops and dab a toe while negotiating a tricky trail. The bike is also available with a lower, 29.5-inch seat height or a taller, 32.2-inch setup, although even the latter option is unlikely to provide enough legroom for riders approaching 6 feet.

Other features that make the G650GS attractive to short, new or returning riders are a torquey and tractable single-cylinder engine, stable handling and the most affordable price tag in the GS lineup. Equipped with ABS and heated handgrips, our testbike still rang in at less than $8500.

Out on the road the 650 feels agile and balanced, although the footpegs touch down as soon as you start enjoying the twisties. The engine has enough steam to get you where you’re going, but is far from powerful and produces quite a bit of vibration at high rpm. The brakes are effective, although the ABS is overly cautious. Disable the system by holding down the button on the left switch cluster and your stopping distances will improve. In the city, the bike’s low center of gravity makes slow-speed maneuvers easy, and the soft suspension soaks up potholes and rough patches. A dial by the rider’s right knee lets him adjust shock spring preload to suit weight or compensate for luggage and/or a passenger.

Leave the pavement behind and the loping single shines with tractor-like torque. Ground clearance is nowhere near as good as on the bigger GS models and the stock Metzelers are decidedly road-biased, but the 650 holds its own and is plenty capable of satisfying your desire to explore dirt roads.

The 2011 BMW G650GS isn’t designed for transcontinental adventure-touring, but it’s certainly up to the task. And for riders short on inseam, it’s the only option.

Tech Spec

Price $8499
Engine type l-c single
Valve train DOHC, 4v
Displacement 652cc
Transmission 5-speed
Claimed horsepower 48 bhp @ 6500 rpm
Claimed torque 44 lb.-ft. @ 4500 rpm
Frame Steel twin-spar
Front suspension Sachs 41mm fork
Rear suspension Sachs shock with adjustable spring preload and rebound damping
Front brake Brembo two-piston caliper, 300mm disc with ABS
Rear brake Brembo single-piston caliper, 240mm disc with ABS
Front tire 110/80R-19 Metzeler Tourance EXP
Rear tire 140/80R-17 Metzeler Tourance EXP
Seat height 29.5/30.7/32.2 in.
Wheelbase 58.2 in.
Fuel capacity 3.7 gal.
Claimed curb weight 423 lbs.
Verdict 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Like a hammer, it’s not the most inspiring tool, but you can get a lot done with it.

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Okay, I have a 07 F650GS and love it, blah-blah-blah...what I want heard loud and clear by BMW is the wasted space designed into the exhaust system. The 2011 still uses the cross over-fakey exhaust. BMW, give us something useful here, why not go with an exhaust on the left, where it should be, and a nice toolbox disguised as an exhaust on the other? Imagine the amount of EASY access room that this area has! Just something I ponder each time I have to remove a seat to get to the tiny wrap of tools, well, maybe not because I pack the in my Zega-Pros by
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