Strike up the brand
BMW has finally gone learnerfriendly, writes CRAIG DUFF
LEARNERS looking for a new bike can finally add BMW to the list. The one-pot G650 GS fills a hole in the company’s range — entry-level bikes are a good way to create brand loyalty — and at $12,000 with anti-skid brakes as standard, it’s definitely worth throwing a leg over.
The GS designation indicates to anyone who knows BMW that this is a dual-purpose design, while newcomers will work it out from the knobby tyres.
It’s a fact that crossover bikes like the G650 are a compromise: not as smooth on the tarmac as their road-going stablemates and lacking the outright bush bias to compete with true enduro machines.
BMW, though, has made a business out of building bikes that do just this, with 500,000 GS models sold to date.
More importantly, GS owners are fiercely proud of their machines’ ability to cope with any terrain.
It’s this link to legendary machines such as the R1200 GS that will turn heads in the G650’s direction.
And if the learner model is anywhere near as rugged as the R1200 — and it looks it — then reliability and longevity shouldn’t be an issue.
Enough of the hype — how does it handle? The bike was picked up on a wet day and dealt with a slippery freeway — complete with standing water in the gouged-out line markings — without a wriggle.
That’s impressive considering the rubber it’s riding on. So much so I had another go, this time cracking the throttle hard and early.
There’s enough grunt to break traction, but the knobby tyres claw back grip very quickly. It is in these conditions that you also — reluctantly— appreciate the heated handgrips.
Riding is meant to be about roughing it, but it always helps when you’ve got enough sensation in your fingers to actually feel the throttle and levers. A 15km foray on to hardpacked gravel highlights the G650s off-road ability and the value in being able to switch off the anti-skid brakes.
High ground clearance and a low seat height make it an easy bike to cruise along the trails. You can pick the front wheel up with little effort and the bash plate wouldn’t be out of place on a military-spec Hummer. Personal experience shows BMW’s GS models survive a fall better than I do and the only obvious targets on the G650 appear to the mirrors, which is why you can screw them off in seconds.
BMW says the G650 GS is more off-road oriented than the parallel-twin F650 GS.
‘‘We see great potential for this bike in Australia, it really is a true all-rounder,’’ BMW Motorrad general manager Cameron Cuthill says.
Given the LAMs target market, BMWwon’t shift a heap of G650s. Those they do, though, will help develop demand for the more powerful GS machines.