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Thread: Bike Review: 2001 BMW F650GS

  1. #1
    Moderator/RiderCoach 10,000 Posts! Clair's Avatar
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    Bike Review: 2001 BMW F650GS

    Here's my review of the 2001 BMW F650GS I have recently purchased.



    [Missy version ... ie cliff's notes]

    Overall a VERY fun bike. Gets great mpg ... upper 60s easily. Has power to do highway speeds (ie 75 mph) easily. Throttle is beginner friendly, hard to get into trouble with the bike. ABS system engages in a friendly manner. For a "dual sport" seat height is friendly, under 30". Would make good Beginner bike and VERY GOOD second bike.

    Pros:

    Lightweight bike (435-ish pounds wet). Fuel Injected. ABS brakes. Very smooth ride, particularly for a thumper. Windshield keeps brunt of wind off of chest but body receives a lot, so great during hot weather. Easily reaches highway speeds of 75 mph (GPS'd) with room to spare. Friendly powerplant, difficult to get yourself into danger with the throttle. Good beginner bike and VERY good second bike. Gas mileage is upper 60's easily (I had 69.8 mpg on my 240 mile ride). 4.6 gallon tank means nice range. "Dual Sport" aspect enables bike to handily go off road, forest service roads and such. Mirrors barely vibrate at speed (common problem for handlebar mounted mirrors and knobby tires).

    Cons:

    Lots of wind against the body, so in cool/cold weather makes rider colder faster. Light weight makes it more succeptible to wind gusts. BMW engineering makes doing any maintenance a royal pita! Not prohibitive but very much a pita to do anything on the bike easily. Tubed tires more of a pita to change. No fuel gauge (just idiot light for "reserve") or engine temp guage (just idiot light letting you know you're screwed). Horn and turn signals are reversed from most bikes. Not a real dirt bike so not good for real dirt riding but can probably handle it. NO storage on bike so a tank bag or top case is a must at least. Mirrors close to body so more of a head check is needed to look into them. Small headlight throws out minimal light at night.



    [Clair version ... ie long winded, lots of words, great for insomnia ...]

    So, once you own more than one bike or have ridden more than one bike it is difficult to review a bike without comparing it to your other bike or others you have had. In this case I have a 2001 Honda ST1100 sport touring bike. THe ST is a heavy beast built for touring. It's designed to go miles and miles in comfort. It's a Lexus. The F650, on the other hand, is more like a Jeep Wrangler. Rough, boxy, designed for fun on and off road. The two are very different bikes (which is one of the reasons I got the F650) so some of my points herein will need to be taken with a grain of salt.

    So, my 2001 BMW F650GS came with ABS and 41K miles on it. It does not have heated hand grips (I'll add) or a connection for a battery tender (I'll add). It came with a Dakar seat ... stock seat ... that will be replaced as well. Not a bad seat for a 4 hour ride but by that time my butt was beginning to complain. FOr me, soft seats are a negative for long rides. Anyway the bike was in good condition other than one fork seal weeping some oil which I'll get fixed soon.

    The Ride: It's taken a while to get used to the ride of the F650GS. I'm very used to the ST which is a very smooth comfortable quiet ride. Again, think Lexus. The ST has wicked power and a quiet ride ... a 1/4 inch turn of the throttle has you accelerating quickly yet you barely know it. The bike will easily and quietly do 55 mph in 3rd gear without any complaint. That is what I'm used to. Now the F650 ... on the other side of the spectrum. The bike is a thumper whereas my ST is a V4. For a thumper it's a very smooth ride. No complaints really, just not the ST smooth. However nothing to bother you about as I rode it for 5 hours without issue. Doing highway speeds on the bike the mirrors are stable and do not vibrate much. Good visibility out of them.

    Where the ST can accelerate quickly with barely a turn of the throttle the F650 needs you to wind it. You need a lot of throttle to get going, but get going you will! As the RPMs climb over 3000 the bike growls more and the power becomes evident. I have no trouble accelerating to reach traffic speeds with the F650 ... it's just nowhere near as easy/fast as the ST. Different bikes of course. The power plant is tame, so it would be good for a first bike for the right rider. You do need to work the throttle to get going so it's friendly for the beginner. You can accidently goose the throttle and not get into too much danger. On the other hand, bump the throttle on a bike like hte ST and well ... not so good. lol But, doing 75 mph (GPS) on the F650 the bike is stable and comfortable with room left over. It is not at it's limit here and I've had it up and over 80 mph easily.

    The body position on the bike is good, works good for me. Mind you, tall people may be cramped on it but I'd say anyone 6' and under could easily and comfortably ride the F650 with no issue. Handlebars are at a comfortable height and width. Clutch is a cable clutch but works fine. Brakes are hydrolic and single ABS roter front and rear. On my bike the rear brake pedal has too much play in it before engaging, I'll try to modify that but it's one piece so not sure how much I can modify. The ABS engages quietly and smoothly (I've intentionally locked the rear) which is good to know. The stock seat is like any stock seat ... ie it'll need to go! lol Rear passenger / pillion seat is adequate but when you have the comfy saddle on the ST there's no way Deb will do much distance on the F650. LOL

    Guages ... speedo and tach are adequate. Everything else is just an idiot light. All my previous bikes ahve included a gas guage and engine temp guage. I've gotten used to that so it'll take a while to get back to tracking mileage and watching for the idiot light that indicates "Reserve".

    Neutral is easy to find when stopped. Unlike the ST you can't start the bike with it in neutral and the side stand down. CLutch needs to be squeezed in to start the bike. With the ST as long as it's in neutral you don't need the clutch squeezed in. Not a biggie just something I learned. Being FI the bike starts easily enough but sometimes needs a twist of the throttle. Probably some FI adjusting needed.

    BMW has a reputation of over engineering everything and making things harder than they need to be. This reputation is dead on. There are THREE, count them THREE places you have to drain oil from to change the oil. WTF is up with that? So maintenance on the bike is a huge PITA to do even the most simple of things but can still be done. Todd, Chuck, and I will have an enjoyable time learning how to wrench this bike. Much swearing will occur I think. lol
    Ride safe, ride smart, ride ATGATT because sweat dries faster than scars heal

    Rider since June '03 ... Bikes: '11 Triumph Tiger 800XC ... '09 Kawasaki ER-6N

    * If you love your bike set it free. If it comes back to you, you've High Sided
    * Electrons have Mass? I didn't even know they were Catholic!



  2. #2
    Moderator/RiderCoach 10,000 Posts! Clair's Avatar
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    Ride report: After bebopping around town for about 50 miles getting used to the bike I invited Chuck (Testcase) to do a ride with me last Friday. We opted to ride our fun out and back of East Canyon over to Trappers Loop and then up and over Monte Cristo, then home. Monte is a fun sweeper rode, speed limit of 40 mph (which we um ... yeah, we obey that). This will be my first real ride with the bike in twisties and sweepers.

    The first thing I had to do was learn to ride this bike in the corners. I'm very used to the ST, how it rides, accelerates, descelerates, and moves in the turns. I'm now on a bike about 400 pounds lighter with a shorter wheel base and way more prone to wind gusts. East Canyon was the learning bed really, getting to know when I needed to down shift, how I needed to lean to get the bike to do what I wanted, and so on. VERY different from the ST. Not a bad different just different. Again, think of taking your favorite roads on a Lexus and then on a Wrangler.

    On the back side of East Canyon we pulled over so I could put on my rain jacket. The F650 gives the body a lot more wind than the ST does (gee, go figure) and it was cool out and my Airglide jacket was being to airy! lol I needed wind protection to stay warm. On we go with CHuck just enjoying the ride behind me on his Viffer. UP and over Trappers we go, the bike handling the climb just fine, no lack of power going up to probably 7500 feet or so. Being more confident with the bike I am able to do my usual speed (um yeah, the speed limit, yeah) and my lines are good. This is a fun bike to ride in the sweepers! On the downhill side of Trappers I notice that the F650 does not accelerate as much as the ST does ... the ST being heavier and smoother just picks up more speed with gravity) so I didn't ahve quite the pulling sensation as I took the downhill curves.

    On to Monte. Friday's are the day to ride Monte .. no other traffic, no LEO's!!! The bike took the road fine, climbing to over 9000 feet with no issues at all, no loss of power. I worked on my body posture through the corners (kiss the mirror) and worked on my lines. I found I was able to easily take the road at the same speed I do on the ST (again at the um .. yeah ... speed limit). The bike very easily took the corners and I was having a blast on it! It's responsive and enjoys carving.

    The down side to the F650 is it's light weight and lack of wind protection. The ST is a touring bike, heavy and fully faired. Wind doesn't bother it, it just goes through it, stable as can be. The F650 on the other hand ... holy crap I felt every wind gust and the bike MOVED with the wind. Up on top it is always windy and on this day the wind was blowing good! I had to work the bike a bit more relaxing into the wind, leaning forward a bit more, anticipating a lane shift because of a wind gust. Didn't take away the fun but it was very different and noticible from teh ST. I got a lot more wind. I can see taht being much more tiring than on the ST, it's just lots more work.

    Coming home was just as fun. NOw letting the bike flow in the sweepers, ready to adjust to the wind as I was more used to the bike and how it handled wind. On top of Trappers we saw heavy rain in the direction we were going to do. Being behind schedule Chuck and I opted to head west and slab it home to make better time. Not fun but it was faster. This put us on I-15 doing 75-80-ish mph with traffic and a VERY annoying head wind. SOB that was a pita. Again, with the ST wind is not a problem. On the F650 it's work! I tucked further forward to work the wind, but of course that limited my view of the mirrors. However the bike rode that speed just fine.

    We encoutered rain in the Salt Lake valley. No biggie as we had previously suited up for rain. The bike handled the rain and wet road fine. Turning my helmet side to side wiped the water off of the visor adequately. I got more wet on the F650 because it is more open, whereas the ST is more protective. Different bikes.

    When I got home I filled up the bike. I had roughly 240 miles on the bike and the mileage came out to be 69.8 mpg! Holy Crap! That included probably 55 miles of 75+ mph riding. Can not complain about the bike's economy! It has a theoretical 4.6 gallon tank so that means a range of 200 miles between fill ups is very manageable. Impressive!

    Conclusion: VERY fun bike! I like it. I have some things I need to do to my bike. GEt the fork seals replaced. I'll replace the throttle and clutch cables just cause. Chain and sprockets are less than a year old and under 3K miles on them so they are fine. I'll do an oil change to learn how. Tires will need replacing by summers end if not earlier. I'll want a top case for it at some point too. But other than that ... VERY FUN BIKE! WIll it replace my ST1100? Oh hell no! If I have to go back to just having one bike it's the ST. The ST1100 is an amazing bike, smooth, powerful, a blast to ride. I can easily do 2-up on it in comfort. But as a sister bike, as a little sister to the STeed, the F650 is a very fun bike. Touring will still be done on the ST. Commuting will still be done on the ST for the most part, but I can see me commuting with the F650 once the temps are in the 80s and up. Getting more wind has it's pluses.

    Would I consider the F650 a beginner bike? For some people yes I would. The throttle needs a lot of twisting to get the bike really going so it's friendly in that way. The bike is light, has ample power but in a friendly and tame delivery. It's weight makes it manageable and it has a comfortable seating arrangement. It would surely make a great second bike but I can see it as a fine first bike too.
    Ride safe, ride smart, ride ATGATT because sweat dries faster than scars heal

    Rider since June '03 ... Bikes: '11 Triumph Tiger 800XC ... '09 Kawasaki ER-6N

    * If you love your bike set it free. If it comes back to you, you've High Sided
    * Electrons have Mass? I didn't even know they were Catholic!



  3. #3
    Contributor We've stopped counting... MsPotatoPotatoHead's Avatar
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    One thing I saw that's weird. My bike - same year, same model - will start with the clutch out and the sidestand down if the bike's in neutral. It will, however, refuse to go if you put into first gear with the sidestand down and start to let the clutch out.

    The other thing that I wanted to comment on is that I find this bike the wind-friendliest bike I've ever had. Of course all my other bikes were cruisers with giant "sail" windshields, so perhaps that's why I notice the wind less on my GS. Yes, it moves around in the wind, but when I tuck down behind the windscreen it's much less noticeable. Still moves around some, but never feels like I'm being blown off the road, and never get any buffeting because the windscreen is very effective. But then I'm a little shorter from the hips up than you are, so not as much of me sticks up above the screen.

  4. #4
    Flirting With The Redline 3000 Posts! taylorcraft07's Avatar
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    Thanks for the review. I am looking for one to replace the Ninjette. Max BMW has 4 used ones in stock with about 500 miles on them. None of them made reserve on EBay this week. I will probably end up finding one in the 20-30k mile range to get one in my price range.

    If only the kids were a few years older (and out of school).

    Dave

  5. #5
    Flirting With The Redline doctor_al's Avatar
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    Great review. I was particularly interested in your thoughts on 1) wind protection and 2) cornering, because IMO those are kind of weak points on the GS, or at least my GS. I've got what I think is the "Dakar" windscreen with a little flipped up bit at the top that IMO makes windflow worse and more turbulent, replacing that is on my to-do list. And cornering, this still doesn't feel as stable in corners as the ninja, which it probably won't ever, but I suspect my suspension is still a little too mushy for the corners, at around-town speeds the rear feels like it sort of wanders.

    But the upright ergo's are great, particularly for commuting. And the mirrors, probably too close to the rider, but they're huge, I can see way, way more than on the ninja (which mostly just show my elbows).

    I covet the wind protection and smoothness of your ST. There was one at the dealer when I was helping my wife get her bike. Someday...

    2007 Vstrom 650

    Gone but not forgotten: BMW F650GS, Yamaha TTR225, Kawasaki EX500

  6. #6
    RiderCoach 10,000 Posts! NoCo Gal's Avatar
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    I hated the stock windshield on it. Got too many bugs on my jacket and helmet, so I replaced it with a Cee Bailey.

    The GS responds best to a shift in body weight or position for cornering. If you're not doing that, it may feel like you have to really press to get it to corner well. I find that body position, light press and roll on in the corners plants it beautifully.
    ~Teri

    Quote Originally Posted by CodeInVB View Post
    I tried this "kissing the mirror" technique as I was turning onto an on-ramp today. I was surprised at how big of a difference just a little bit of movement made, even on a cruiser. Thanks for the advice...maybe it's time for me to go back for the next rider course.
    2013 Triumph Tiger 800


  7. #7
    Moderator/RiderCoach 10,000 Posts! Clair's Avatar
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    WInd protection ... you gotta take into account the bike. The ST is designed for long distance touring so it's faired nicely and I have several shields depending on the season. I'm now running my shorter summer shield (laminar lip) which allows more wind. For fall/winter riding I go to my larger clearview shield which provides more wind protection. The GS however is not a touring bike so by design it lacks the protection of a touring bike. I do get a LOT more wind on the GS but I expected that, just have to get used to it when coming from the ST. I can see that wind being great for commuting in the summer heat ... some times wind protection is not your friend! lol The bike took more wind buffeting up on Monte but a lot of that is weight. THe 800+ pound ST will handle wind with more stability than a 400 pound bike will. The only real issue I had with the wind was the 75-80 mph slab ride while running into the strong head winds. This is just a difference in the bikes, one with good wind protection one with minimal. It was no biggie but noticeable. The GS is more work in wind like htat, but that is to be expected. That's why I'd still "tour" with the ST.

    As for cornering ... I think the GS cornered very well. I've tightened up the dampening quite a lot, it was too sloppy for me when I first got it. Riding Monte at the speed I was running it at ... posted Speed Lmit is 40, we were probably running it at 70+ ... the bike cornered just fine. I was confident on the turns and the bike leaned and carved them fine. Different from the ST but again, different bikes with different styles. However I did not find the GS deficient in any way while riding Monte even at 9000 feet. For the type of bike it is I felt it cornered just fine.

    The hardest thing is not to compare the two bikes too much, because they are two very different bikes. As your Ninja would be. That was my challenge, to not compare everything to the ST, but let the GS be it's own bike.

    Have you tightened up the suspension on your GS?
    Ride safe, ride smart, ride ATGATT because sweat dries faster than scars heal

    Rider since June '03 ... Bikes: '11 Triumph Tiger 800XC ... '09 Kawasaki ER-6N

    * If you love your bike set it free. If it comes back to you, you've High Sided
    * Electrons have Mass? I didn't even know they were Catholic!



  8. #8
    Having the "twin" F650GS I have to say that the it (09 and up) is definitely not a beginner bike. Very twitchy throttle and lots of torque. Takes quite a bit of finesse to master. Fuel injection is abrupt and if your not used to chain drive then "whoa nellie" I'm dying to do a lil wheelie and be a stunta!!
    VERY quick to 100 mph and lots of throttle to spare and pulls haaaaaard. Handles like a dream to me. Light, quick, nimble, agile and just f'ing fun!!! Just falls into a curve and with the right tires this bike can corner with the best of 'em.

    Wind protection is minimal but I am using the F800GS stock shield with a TT Spoiler. Perfect!!! Stock seat sucks. Still looking into correcting that issue.

    I would love to ride the single and see what it's like compared to mine. I'd be willing to bike swap for a bit.
    Resident Hillbilly!


    ==o&o>
    09 BMW F650GS

  9. #9
    Moderator/RiderCoach 10,000 Posts! Clair's Avatar
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    I'd love to have gotten the twin but just too $$$$$. Yeh, we'll have to meet in the middle somewhere and swap bikes for bit so I can try the Twin and you can try the Thumper. lol
    Ride safe, ride smart, ride ATGATT because sweat dries faster than scars heal

    Rider since June '03 ... Bikes: '11 Triumph Tiger 800XC ... '09 Kawasaki ER-6N

    * If you love your bike set it free. If it comes back to you, you've High Sided
    * Electrons have Mass? I didn't even know they were Catholic!



  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Clair View Post
    I'd love to have gotten the twin but just too $$$$$. Yeh, we'll have to meet in the middle somewhere and swap bikes for bit so I can try the Twin and you can try the Thumper. lol
    I /so/ want the twin. I keep looking at my 401K losing money and think 'you know, I bet a BMW is a better investment...'
    --
    M.I.T.G.C #11

    Current bike: '11 Ducati MTS1200S, '08 WR250X
    Bikes I have owned: '06 Sprint ST, '06 KTM 950 SM, '03 KLR 650

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