Strike up the brand

BMW has fi­nally gone learn­er­friendly, writes CRAIG DUFF

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Front Page -

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.

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