2012 BMW G650GS Sertao First Ride

January 9, 2012
Ken Hutchison
Ken Hutchison
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The ulcers keep piling on for the warden of the MotoUSA asylum. With the inmates running rampant around the globe, Hutch has opted to get in on the madness more these days than in years past and is back in the saddle again.

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Ride along with Motorcycle-USA as we put this entry level adventure touring bike through the gauntlet on the street and in the dirt in the 2012 BMW G650GS Sertao Video.

BMW has brought back its single-cylinder 650 dual sport motorcycle, formerly known as the F650GS Dakar, for the 2012 model year. With its roots running back to 1993 and the original single-cylinder F 650 Funduro, the G650GS and G650GS Sertao represent the next stage on the evolution of the BMW GS lineup. Like the original, the Sertao is more than a dual sport because it’s aimed squarely at the burgeoning adventure touring segment, and more specifically, the entry-level adventure touring rider. BMW had hoped the twin-cylinder F800GS would fit the bill these past few years, but the demand for a low-cost, even less-intimidating ADV bike helped facilitate the return of one of our old favorites.

The Sertao is one of the ultimate multi-purpose motorcycles. It’s designed to handle off-road conditions, starting with its 21-inch spoke front wheel and 17-inch rear. The OEM Metzeler Tourance EXP tires aren’t necessarily the greatest for off-road, but they are great on the street and did an admirable job in the dirt. The G650GS is tall with a 33.9-inch seat height, (low by German standards perhaps, so an optional 35.4-inch seat height in available for taller riders) and offers pretty decent ground clearance, plus it’s relatively light at a claimed 426 pounds. A beefy steel skid plate protects the front of the engine and frame rails. Hand guards keep brush and the elements away from the rider’s hands. The tall

Powered by the venerable 650 single cylinder engine most recently used on the X-series motorcycles  the Sertao provides an excellent price point adventure bike that rings in at  8650.
The 2012 BMW G650GS Sertao is a slick little single-cylinder dual-sport intended to draw in potential GS-series consumers interested in entry level adventure touring motorcycles.

windscreen offers a fair amount of wind protection but the narrow bodywork leaves the rider’s legs exposed as we found out on a particularly cold stretch of during our road test.

The most apparent difference between the old Dakar and the new Sertao is the appearance. The new version features the now familiar BMW asymmetrical headlight arrangement, as well as the GS-style bodywork made popular by the F800GS and R1200GS. The dash houses an analog tach with a clean LCD screen that offers speed, dual trip meters and a clock – plus a trip meter that tracks how many miles you’ve gone once the bike hits its one-gallon reserve. Curiously, there is no fuel gauge.

At the heart of the Sertao is a counterbalanced, twin-spark 650 Single. The fuel-injected engine churns out an ultra-mellow 50 horsepower and 44 lb-ft of torque. The powerband is linear, with no real peak or surge, so it is ideal for new riders and works very well off-road. BMW claims the 650GS is capable of getting 74 mpg if you keep the speed at 55 mph. that would equate to about a 270-mile range. We would expect it to be in the 50 mpg range at normal speeds but we will have to wait to confirm all of that later when we conduct a full test.

The riding position is comfortable even if its on the tall side  despite its relatively low 33.9-inch seat height.
The BMW G650GS Sertao is all about comfort: Wind protection from the tall windscreen provides great protection for the rider’s upper body and the standard-issue hand guards provide a measure of relief from cold air as well as branches and roost.

Now, in case you missed the memo, all BMW motorcycles come with ABS as standard equipment these days. Since the Sertao is designed specifically to explore off the beaten path and in the dirt – it is good to see that BMW made it very easy to turn the ABS on and off. Simply toggle the ABS switch on the left handlebar when the bike is stopped and the rider can be ABS-free.

Obviously the ABS is a great piece of safety equipment when riding on the street, and BMW is keen to point out it is the only manufacturer to offer the system on its entire line-up. ABS is particularly handy on the rough and dirty back roads that the Sertao rider is supposed to be exploring, as well as the slick mean streets of commuter-ville where the majority of these poor bikes will likely end up.

Whether the roads are rough or not the G650GS is a nimble handler despite the softly sprung suspension. It soaks up all the road imperfections with Cadillac-like style yet still can be a blast in the canyons. The 41mm Showa fork is soft, no doubt, but works well enough for a wide range of riders. The front sticks are preload adjustable, as is the rear shock.

The new dash features a new digital bar-graph tachometer and analog speedo as well as a clock  dual trip meters and a clock. It looks tidy and tucks into the cockpit area.
The new headlight is true to the GS look.

All in all the G650GS Sertao is very comfortable with plenty of leg room and ergos that should accommodate a wide range of riders. Even though the seat height is tall for some riders, it is not intimidating. The bike is thin between the rider’s legs and the upright position, combined with a comfortable seat, should make it easy to log many miles during your adventure ride. We blasted canyons, dodged pot holes and generally hauled butt on our street ride and the Beemer was stable and offered decent feedback from the tall, skinny front tire. The axle boss appears to be really beefed up these days and there is a fork brace to help alleviate any of the squirminess inherent to these tall, spindly bikes. The rear suspension is a lever-linkage-equipped single shock. Both front and rear components offer over eight inches of travel and some pretty decent ground clearance for riding off-road.

During our time riding in the dirt, the Sertao proved a capable handler as well. In fact, it climbs pretty steep hills and tackled the associated descent better than expected. We had a bunch of river crossings, some of which were technical because a few riders had a tough time making it through the obstacles without issue. Ruts, rocks and gravel didn’t cause us too much trouble at a moderate pace, where we found the bike well equipped to handle the conditions. In fact, it is a heck of a lot of fun. Riders will be surprised how far into the unknown they can trek on a Sertao.

The bars are wide and comfortable too  offering plenty of leverage for muscling the little GS around in the dirt or in quick transitions on the street.
The bars are wide and comfortable, offering plenty of leverage for muscling the little GS around in the dirt or in quick transitions on the street.

We traversed lengthy Jeep roads, mild trails and steep hills during a couple hours adventuring at the BMW-supported RawHyde off-road training center. These were all a part of our off-road experience, as was the slick So-Cal mud. Combined with the stock street-biased dual sport tires, it made for some slippery situations. But the BMW handled it all well. The mild-mannered engine makes it easy to modulate the power and the capable chassis offers the confidence to put the front wheel where it needs to go. We suspected the G650GS Sertao was going to be a good motorcycle heading into this test, and the ride affirmed it.

The original Dakar was one of our old favorites and the $8670 2012 BMW G650GS Sertao is a refined, better-looking version of that bike. If you’re a new rider or interested in joining the adventure touring ranks, you now have an inexpensive option with the ultimate ADV pedigree. The 2012 BMW G650GS Sertao: It’s the do it all motorcycle that were glad to see back in the BMW stable.

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