2012 G650GS

I enjoyed taking a spin on a 2012 BMW G650GS, essentially the latest and final version of the F650 line that started back in the early nineties. My own bike is a 1997 F650.

The engine is pretty much the same with the notable exception of fuel injection. I looked for the enrichment lever to start the bike and didn’t find one. Give it a little gas, press the start button and it fires right up!

It has the same characteristic big-single vibration in the 4000-4300 rpm range although a bit more subdued. Nothing in the bars, a little in the pegs, nothing in the seat. I think it has slightly more power in the 3000-5000 rpm range. I rarely use anything higher than that.

The sound is different with more of a growl. The exhaust pipe feeds into what appears to be dual mufflers, but they are connected in series and the exhaust exits from the one on the right.

The geometry and dimensions of the G are identical to the old F, but it felt a bit more nimble, maybe because the fuel tank is under the seat. Or maybe the rear tire had less of a worn flat center section than my Metzler Tourance tires with almost 8000 miles on them.

The suspension is identical as far as I can tell and, by the way, having gotten used to 6.5 inches of travel front and rear, I don’t think I would be happy with the couple inches you typically get on something like a Sportster.

The gnarly headlight works for me and I like the idea of running tubeless tires on the cast rims. It was a cool day and I enjoyed the luxury of heated grips.

Overall, the G has that contemporary BMW feel of substance. It’s a great bike and could last a lifetime with the remarkable support BMW has for older bikes. But this one is essentially brand new with less than 6000 miles on it.

The G650GS got me to the local SlashBurger restaurant very nicely, but I felt like riding it further.  Say, to Deadhorse, Alaska.

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A borrowed 2012 BMW G650GS and Bell helmet and my new Sedici jacket

 

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Serious Riders

There are several MAX BMW dealerships in the northeast, but the one closest to me is in North Hampton, NH on the old scenic Route 1 that hugs the coast from Fort Kent, Maine down to Key West, Florida, making it the longest north-south road in the USA. It’s no accident that BMW Motorrad would show up on a long road.

I buy my 1997 F650 parts from MAX BMW and I’ve had a bunch of deliveries over the past couple years, but I had never actually been in the dealership. Until Friday. I don’t consider myself part of the BMW scene, but I was curious to learn more about it.

It was the best day so far this spring and I headed for the coast by way of National Powersports Distributors in Pembroke, NH on Route 3.

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National Powersports Distributors. About 2/3 of the showroom.

At NPD, I was looking for the DR650 they had for sale, just to sit on it and check the suspension sag with my 155 lbs on it. Curiosity. Well, I think the 35 inch seat height may not be as bad as it sounds. You can routinely drop it to 33 but is it really necessary? Don’t know. But it was under deposit and not on the showroom floor. They sell Royal Enfield and Triumph new, but most of the inventory is pristine pre-owned bikes from all the major brands. And…mostly cruisers. Lots. I like this place. You can sit on everything from the smallest Ruckus to the largest Goldwing.

I continued south on Route 3, then east on Route 27 through a bit of the heartland to Raymond, NH.

As it was today, the New Hampshire heartland is often a huge shiny semi-tractor parked beside a small faded double-wide, a patch of grass with a few flowers in a modest circle of white rocks, and a tiny pink bicycle laying on the gravel.

I stopped for lunch at a lonely Subway and then continued on 27 to Route 101 and over to Hampton, then north on the famous Route 1 past the massive Seacoast Harley Davidson dealership.

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Seacoast Harley Davidson

MAX BMW was just ahead.  I had checked GoogleMaps on my iPhone a couple times to make sure I was headed right. Easy.

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North Hampton MAX BMW Dealership

The picture above is deceiving. This is a substantial dealership with over 100 BMWs on the property, most of them new or nearly new inventory. The building goes very deep on the site, with service taking up the back half of it.

I chatted amiably with a couple of the staff and discovered they only had one G650GS in house and that one only because it was damaged in shipment and needed a special part. The F650 style engine like mine has finally come to the end of the production cycle that started in Europe in the early 1990s. No more 650 engines in the lineup for the near future, at least.

The new G310R won’t arrive in the USA until after this riding season and they wouldn’t say anything about price. But they are going to offer a scrambler version of it that sounds interesting. That means a high pipe and knobby tires, plus some other more nuanced modifications.

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G310R Scrambler

The big machines like the K1600 are amazing and overwhelming but one “smaller bike” that caught my eye was the RNineT. By the way, they mentioned a scrambler version of this bike coming as well.

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It’s not apparent in photos, but when you approach the bike, you are struck by the massive engine. In fact, up close the bike looks to be all engine. The cylinders are huge and protruding. About 600 cubic centimeters each. It’s a modern production version of the very appealing custom cafe racers built from older K100-style and boxer-engine bikes:

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A new RNineT lists somewhere in the vicinity of $15K.

I bought a quart of concentrated coolant for $8.

Well, the BMW motorcycle offerings are expensive, matching Harley Davidson dollar for outrageous dollar, but beyond price the BMW culture begins to diverge from HD, and one of the clues jumping out at me is the difference in riding apparel.

I wanted to look at the riding gear at MAX BMW, specifically jackets, and what they had was armored riding suits. And boots. $1100 and $450, respectively.

While I was there I saw a customer leaving on his bike and I was struck by the scene. A guy in a Shuberth helmet, BMW riding suit and boots guiding a big adventure bike out into traffic. His gear had some miles on it but was in great shape. He looked like a serious rider. A lot like this rider:

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Typical? BMW Rider.

Think Ewan and Charlie in The Long Way ‘Round.

By contrast, Harley riders in New Hampshire often wear no helmet, lightweight clothes, and no gloves. This spring, though, I typically see jeans and a conventional leather jacket.

I think Harley riders are American riders and BMW riders are more European. On a recent trip to France and Spain I noticed the motorcyclists tended to take their riding pretty seriously. Traffic moves fast on difficult roads and both the gear and the bikes were high end. Their licensing system tends to support that theory. You just don’t ride a big bike over there without being really into it in every way.

BMWs are around-the-world machines, much more so than Harleys, both in presence and distances traveled. I want to say the riders are serious without detracting from the American style of riding, which is more iconic, relaxed, and leisure oriented.

Certainly there are posers, people who fancy an expensive motorcycle and gear, with whom the sport never rises much above a dalliance. But I think generally the BMW motorcycle culture in the USA is much more than that. Riders committed to safety while pursuing real adventure, whether it be the enjoyment of practical all-weather commuting, long distance travel, or off road exploring. After all, the R1200GS is the worldwide gold standard of adventure bikes.

North of Portsmouth I picked up Route 16 towards the White Mountains, but switched over to Route 125 to avoid the tolls. I had a vision of dropping the F650 at the booth trying to pay with my gloved-lined mittens. After Rochester, Route 11 took me to Alton and then back to Gilford.

Incidentally, on a motorcycle on a warm spring day, the view along the west shore of Alton Bay looking north to the mountains ranks among the finest scenic experiences anywhere.