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.
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).
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