100 mile review of the F650GS

Yesterday was my last day of vacation, so I put it to good use by trying out the new bike.  

I was a little apprehensive at first since I wanted to head to the city for some bridge shots, but break-in procedure states to keep the bike under 5000 rpm.  That wound up being no problem — I'd forgotten (how? dunno!) that the twin has SIX gears instead of the thumper's five.  Highway cruising at 75mph in 6th gear kept the bike happily under 5k rpm.

Obviously this isn't an ideal freeway ride review since I did have to watch the rpms, but I can confidently say that the bike will work out for those inevitable long hauls.  Downshifting into fifth had enough power to pass people with ease and cruising in sixth was comfortable.  Once the bike can go over 5k rpms, it'll go all day at 80mph, by which of course I mean the safe and legal freeway speed.

I had a little bit of wind buffeting — not as bad as the taller riders whose reviews I'd read — but I'm going to hold off on that because I do have a F800GS windscreen on order from the dealer.

30 miles of freeway later, I was in sunny San Francisco.  Time for 19th Avenue and the "stop and go traffic" test! 

Once again, the bike did great.  No overheating (or even warming), no complaints from my clutch hand, no problems putting a foot down every block on the San Francisco hills.

And then I was at Fort Point; time for bike porn!


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After a few dozen pictures, I had some unintentional U-turn practice as I got hopelessly lost in the Presidio.  This happens every time I'm in the Presidio and you'd think that I'd remember my way out eventually, but no.  However, I can now say for certain that the twin F650GS is good at parking lot U-turns. 😉

Can't complain, though, as the Presidio district gives photos like this:

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Baker Beach:

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OK, enough Golden Gate Bridge!

I turned southwest, towards the Sutro district, to pick up the Great Highway south along the coast.

There's not much to review about this bike from this section of road; it's about 40mph and fairly straight, with enough stop lights tossed in to make you have to watch the traffic.

I did entertain myself at said stoplights by spotting myself in duplicate in the F650GS's cockpit.  Hey, look, it's me!  Hi, me!

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The Great Highway does, of course, offer more opportunities for bike porn.  So here ya go.

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I need to do a separate entry about the onboard computer on this thing — one of the "non-optional options" that hiked up the MSRP.  I'm a gadget lover, so I confess to loving it, but I swear the thing is probably smarter than I am.

I do wonder why they gave the largest amount of real estate to the single most useless piece of information.  Does anyone ever really need to know what gear they're in?

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Not surprisingly, the F650GS handles long sweepers really frickin' well.  The Devil's Slide area was pretty free of traffic and toodling along at about 50mph was fun and easy.   The bike holds a line really well in these conditions and I barely had to think about lane placement at all.  Yum.

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Lunch at Cameron's in Half Moon Bay: spinach and artichoke soup with garlic fries.  Nom nom nom!

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Time to hit some tighter twisties!  I kept going down the coast for a while, then peeled inland at San Gregorio to hit Stage Road.  Time for some one lane, 1st or 2nd gear curves!

Once again, the bike did great.  There were some times that I wanted "1st and a half" gear, but I think that was mainly because I was still keeping the bike under 5k rpm.  If I could have gone higher in 1st gear, I don't think I would have even noticed the gearing "problem".  Clearly I'll just have to go back to Stage Road over and over to retest. 😉

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Along this section, the bike also hit triple-digit mileage! Woo!

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I kept on the one-lane curvy theme back up through the Santa Cruz Mountains, turning onto Old La Honda and winding and weaving over the summit back towards Portola.

Once again, the bike was a ton of fun to ride…..and to photograph. 🙂

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The forested portions of Old La Honda even gave me some wet-and-pine-needly curves to play on.  Not a slip nor a slide from the Beemer!  I didn't take many photos of this section as the lighting was bad and there were just enough cars so that I didn't want to block the road, but here's the idea.

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So that was my shakedown ride of the new bike.  I really had no complaints at all — none that won't be nonexistent once I can go above 5000 rpms, at least.  

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17 Responses to 100 mile review of the F650GS

  1. Carla King says:

    Thanks for posting these impressions of the F650. Next time you’re up my way give me a jingle, twitter, or skype, I need some “bike porn” shots too 🙂 I’m still pretty happy on my K75RT, since I don’t do much off-road. Will be taking the adventurous.com motocross for bikers class May 2nd in prep for Morocco off-road stuff which is inevitable. Last time I did offroad I was 16 and immortal. Well, then I did one at 42 and freaked out on a shale hill, went too slow, broke my toe, waah.

  2. Alex says:

    What an absolutely gorgeous bike too. I can only imagine how much fun it is to drive. Compared with the thumper, it must be liquid smooth. I’ve heard some scant rumblings about the computer system/electrics, but most of that has been fixed. Can’t wait to hear how it does on the dirty stuff. I presume you have a long list of goodies on order too? (centerstand, pannier racks, etc etc). Regarding the gear indicator, I still (even after tens of thousands of miles) will always look for that seventh imaginary gear on occasion… Thanks for the review (and the bike porn). I simply must have one in 800 trim.

  3. dave says:

    beautiful bike, I am sure that you will have mile and smiles of fun – even with the cast wheels…

  4. Red says:

    Great writeup! Great photos! Now I want one!! 😛

  5. -april says:

    Great write up and bike porn! Did you post this write up at avrider and in the journeys section on dgrin.

  6. Mark says:

    Great review and nice photos go along wiht it. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Kevin says:

    Just out of curiosity, did you look at a KLR650? I am seriously looking at one, but that Beemer looks sweet.

  8. Snarfdog says:

    Sounds like a lot of fun. I’m jealous.

  9. Patrick Johnson says:

    Wow, Carolyn is writing about motorcycles again. Congratulations, it’s a beauty. There is some lesson here for dealers–gosh if people get to demo a bike they might buy it. I did ride your bike at Sport Touring Northwest last year. The BMW factory demo truck came. It felt a lot like my VStrom 650 (great) so I did not have to buy one. But KTM might get me this year at STNW with one of those rascally demo rides. zzo

  10. Perry Libre says:

    Congratulations on your new bike – and many thanks for sharing your budding, “first 100 miles”, love affair with such a lucky bike! Your enthusiasm for motorcycle riding is infectious and I should like to wish you “happy trails” for the next million miles. It’s a joy to read your narratives of your journeys and your affection for your bike. I shall look forward to your future accounts of your riding adventures!
    Incidentally, we are planning a trip to Alaska this summer. Should you be interested, just drop a line. Cheers!

  11. Anna says:

    Wow, great looking dash (and bike) I want one soooooooooooooooo bad.

  12. moto says:

    I drove BMW F650GS but also F800GS, the F650GS is full of Laziness and old school, but BMW F800GS deserve to replace the mighty Honda Africa Twin

  13. carolyn says:

    The F800GS is pretty awesome. In my next life I’ll be taller and can ride it. 😉
    Did you ride the twin F650GS or the thumper? I agree that the thumper is pretty “old school” (which is one reason why I liked it) but the twin has only 10 horsepower less than the 800 and works pretty well for us shorties. 🙂

  14. Hawktane says:

    Great review! Great pics! Keep it up.

  15. Misty Harris says:

    I just found this blog post this morning. I’m wondering how tall you are. My husband wants me to get this bike. I’m 5’1″ with a 29″ inseam. We’ll have to make a road trip for me to sit on one. Rural Mississippi is not BMW dealership territory.

  16. carolyn says:

    Hi Misty! I got your email as well and will reply there too in case you don’t see this. Sounds like we’re the same size — I’m also 5’1″ with a 28″ or 29″ inseam (honesty, I don’t remember offhand…I just know it’s more than 27″ and less than 30″ 🙂 ).
    I have the low suspension model and it’s very doable with the Daytona Ladystar boots, which give me over an inch of additional inseam (I’ll email you the URL and more info).
    The thumper (pre-2009) F650GS might be a little more beginner-friendly, I think — might be my own misremembering but I seem to remember it having a lower center of gravity and, IMHO, the ergos were better. The reach to the bars in particular is much better for shorties on the thumper. But the ’09 or ’10 model can certainly be made to work!

  17. Kris Jacobson says:

    I loved reading your story and enjoyed the “bike porn” shots. Today, I’m getting ready to leave my house in a couple of hours to go pick up my “new to me” 2007 BMW F650GS thumper in Eugene, Oregon. I can’t wait and I feel my heart “thumping” in my chest in total excited anticipation. Didn’t get much sleep last night…

    Last time I even rode a bike regularly was in the late 70’s when I was a very young 17-20 year old young woman and was too young and too poor to afford a car. That was a 1976 Honda CB360T. Or was it a 1979? Anyway, I grew up in the East Bay and loved tooling around on that bike back in the day. I went all over the place on that 360.

    I recently decided it was time to start riding again and signed up for the Oregon MC Safety Program class last month and got my endorsement. After much research, I found the next love of my life through a local dealership and I her today!!!! Reading your blog just made my heart beat that much harder and faster! Thanks for the great read and the great pics!!!!

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