1997 BMW F650

Early on in my quest for a suitable motorcycle, I had liked the original F650 styling and specifications, but there didn’t seem to be a lot of them around and I thought I really couldn’t count on being able to get one. I had moved on to other bikes and was particularly drawn to the Royal Enfields. As it turned out, when my wife and I were actually looking for something to buy, there was a Craig’s List posting for this bike. It had 3800 miles on it, and was owned by Tristan Finch, a pleasant young man with possibly the best name ever, who had owned it a couple years and put 2000 miles on it himself. He was interested in a faster street bike.

Tristan suggested a price. It was completely reasonable. As we three stood there with me trying to absorb what I was seeing and hearing, my wife said, “Are you going to buy this bike or am I?”

Technically, she has always controlled the motorcycle money, so she was the one buying it in any case, but I was able to come up with, “Okay, we’d like to buy it.”

BMW classic F650

My 1997 BMW F650 with top box.

Many car engines have smaller cylinders than the big single F650 Rotax engine with, interestingly, two carburetors, two intake valves, and two spark plugs. The redundancy increases performance and reliability. The single cylinder eliminates the need to synchronize the two carburetors like you would do on a boxer twin, for example. But a big single vibrates. Initially, the engine vibration disappointed me a bit, but I have adjusted and am actually rather fond of it now. One odd deception is that you imagine it vibrating more than it is. Almost no vibration comes through the handlebars and foot pegs. The front of the seat gets a little. At certain gear/rpm/loading combinations it is more noticeable, but it’s temporary and helps you sense what the bike is doing and when to shift and how handle the throttle. At 4000 rpm the vibration increases, but then smooths out from 4300 to 5100 and then increases again above 5100. It’s doing about 75mph at 4900. Red line is 7500 rpm.


I can’t resist tuning on these photos. 1997 BMW F650.

My intent has been to use the bike as transportation and I have put 2200 miles on it in 5 months on a lot of short, local trips. Storage is essential and the top box has worked well. I’d like to get a bag to sit on the rear seat in front of the box.

It’s easy to get parts from BMW and I have replaced the o-rings, gaskets and float valves in the carburetors. The o-rings appeared to be original and would break instead of stretch. One of the main jet venturi tubes was clogged. It still surges a bit on the idle circuit and I’m going to see if the charcoal canister and related valves have something to do with that. I like the idea that I can maintain the bike myself.