BMW brought back its off-road version of the single-cylinder G650GS for 2012 and calls it the Sertao. This new GS is a fresh version of the previous Dakar model. Starting with the standard G650GS, BMW installed longer-travel suspension wire spoke wheels, a 21-inch hoop on front and aggressive styling.
A 652cc Single cranks out noticeably more power than the Kawasaki, but not as much horsepower or torque as the Suzuki’s V-Twin. The engine works best when revved into the upper rpm range and the power delivery is fairly soft until surging into the top end. The Sertao holds its fuel under the seat to help lower the weight as much as possible. However, it only holds 3.7 gallons, which gives it the shortest range despite an excellent 55 mpg average. All of our riders were unimpressed with the gearbox. Like the Kawasaki, the five-speed transmission needs another gear, but the BMW’s shifting quality is very low as well. It’s notchy and false neutrals lurk between every gear.
Like the engine, the suspension and chassis work best when pushed aggressively. The BMW is the best at carrying a high pace in the dirt, but it takes a lot of effort to do it. A tall seat makes it tough to reach the ground at times, and the comfort level isn’t up to par with the other bikes. It offers the least wind protection but the handguards help and and the heated grips are great.
The double-piston front caliper and single-piston rear provide enough stopping power, but the ABS system feels archaic. Engagement is abrupt and too aggressive for our taste. The ABS hurts braking performance more than it helps when using knobby DOT tires on the street. Combined with the vibrating engine and rigid suspension the German motorcycle feels much less refined than we’ve come to expect from the Bavarian brand.
Riders looking for aggressive off-road performance in a BMW dual sport will appreciate the Sertao. But, when ridden with the other machines in this 650 Adventure Touring test, the Beemer is rough around the edges and requires the right type of mindset to be a favorite.