1997–2013 BMW F/G650 Singles | SMART MONEY

MC Garage tips on how to buy a used BMW adventure motorcycle.

If you're looking for a BMW for your bucket-list around-the-world ride, odds are you'll start by checking out the company's boxer-twin adventure-touring models. But if the size and weight—never mind the price—of a big GS shrinks your horizons like jumping in an icy lake, check out the F/G-series singles, in which you'll find a smaller, lighter, and more economical way to circumnavigate the earth or just hustle down a twisty road.

The first F650 came to the US in 1997—it was introduced in Europe in ’93—and had several stamps on its passport by the time it got here. It was a joint venture between BMW and Aprilia, built by Aprilia in Italy with an Austrian Rotax engine. The company’s first single since the R27 in the 1960s, the carbureted F650 was also the first BMW with chain final drive. It came in a dual-sport version, the Funduro, and a more street-oriented model. In 2000 the Funduro—along with its silly name—was replaced by the fuel-injected F650GS, which was now strictly a dual-sport, with a taller, more off-roady Dakar variant sporting a 21-inch front wheel instead of a 19-incher.

The GS got a catalytic converter, an underseat gas tank (the faux tank housed the dry-sump engine’s oil tank, as well as the battery and the airbox) and a dual-plug cylinder head. BMW also brought assembly back to Germany but retained the Rotax engine. In 2007 the single-cylinder F650 was axed, replaced by an 800cc twin called, to universal confusion, the F650GS. It wasn’t until 2009 that BMW revived the 650 single and renamed it the G650. Its engine was assembled from Rotax parts by Lorcin, in China. The latest G650GS is available in a standard model and the off-roady Sertao.

The bike’s lineage might be hard to follow, but all you need to know about buying a used F/G650 is that in all its iterations it’s harder to kill than a cockroach. Low insurance costs, great gas mileage, and ease of maintenance leave you lots of dough for your dream ride. The few problems common to the series include worn steering-head bearings, blown fork seals, and, rarely, regulator failure. The first two could easily be due to riding off-road, while the third seems to be one of those things that pops up randomly. Carbureted models are more prone to rough running and hard starting. The engine paint is no match for the otherwise good build quality of the motorcycle, flaking and fading even on pampered bikes.

You’re unlikely to find extensive engine mods on used F/G650s, but it’s a rare one that isn’t sporting hand guards, a bash plate, or panniers; the aftermarket is thick with adventurous necessities, as is BMW’s own accessory catalog. None of it is particularly cheap new, but it shouldn’t add too much to the price of a used bike—if it does, move on and look elsewhere. Either way you’ll be getting a country-hopping adventure bike that rivals the big GS for versatility at a price that won’t stop you at the border.

Cheers

Small, tough, reliable, and easy to pick up. (Listening, Ewan and Charlie?)

Jeers

Underpowered for heavy loads or with a passenger. Boxer GS riders might not invite you to tea.

Watch For

Leaking fork seals, rough running (carb models), imprecise steering.

Verdict

Single cylinder, multiple virtues. The Goldilocks adventure bike.

Value

1997 / $2,010
1999 / $2,175
2002 / $3,545
2007 / $5,015
2010 / $5,775
2013 / $6,865

Also Smart...

1987–2014 Kawasaki KLR650

The dual-sport dung beetle. You can't kill it, and you might not love it, but there's no lack of respect for Kawasaki's long-running thumper. Pretty much all maintenance issues are known by now, and aftermarket support is legendary. Not the fastest or most nimble machine in the category, but it will get you there and back again.

1996–2014 Suzuki DR650

Suzuki's air-cooled, four-valve single is a simpler, less powerful option to Kawasaki's liquid-cooled engine, and makes the DR lighter and easier to manage off road. Especially compared to the latest KLR, the Suzuki lacks on-road comfort and range, so it's a matter of how much dirt you want to put under your knobbies.

2013 Husqvarna TR650 Terra

Do you take your chances with this one-year wonder? Designed and built while BMW owned Husky, using a BMW-based engine similar to the G650's housed in a steel frame. Constructed in Italy, sold by BMW dealers, now an orphan. A shame, because it's a really good motorcycle.