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2009 BMW G650GS First Ride

Tuesday, December 16, 2008
2009 BMW G650GS
We first laid eyes on the 2009 BMW G650GS at the amazing Grand del Mar resort. We were equally intrigued by both.
Standing on the lawn of the Grand del Mar resort can alter your perspective on what constitutes “impressive.” The exquisite lodging for the 2009 BMW G650GS press launch contrasts the more utilitarian nature of the Beemer. Yet this little single-cylinder dual-sport still puts a gleam in my eye. BMW has re-entered the large-bore DS market, or small-bore adventure, however you prefer, with a new-but-familiar model.

The first order of business is figuring out exactly what this bike is called, and why. The ‘09 G650GS ($7670 plus $495 freight) is a replacement for the old F650GS and Dakar models. There is a current F650GS, which is also new this year, but it has nothing to do with the popular old model.

Multi-use adventure and dual-sport bikes from BMW are held in four classifications, G (single cylinder), F (Parallel Twin), R (Boxer Twin) and HP2 (High Performance). That means that the bike we tested is a 652cc Single, while the F650 is actually the 792cc motor shared with the F800GS. That’s why the G650GS is the replacement for the old F650GS rather than the other way around – they’re both Singles. Get it? Simple enough once you get your head around the categories and forgive BMW for its confusing naming convention.

We’re not here to evaluate nomenclature, but it’s necessary to understand this bike’s place in the BMW order so that it can be viewed from the proper angle. With that in mind, we flew to San Diego to evaluate how much fun and practicality the G650 can offer. The answer is “a lot.” Our day of testing brought a 200-mile loop from the coast, over Palomar Mountain and through winding two-lanes before heading back into the metropolitan’s urban landscape. The trip sufficiently put the smallest GS through exactly the type of terrain it was designed for. Our day didn’t include any dirt, but after only a couple dozen introductory miles, it became clear that wouldn’t be a disappointment.

2009 BMW G650GS
Women riders looked much more comfortable on the G650GS. Taller riders were a bit folded up.
The rider cockpit was very low. At 5’11”, stopping had both of my feet flat on the ground and knees bent. Once the light was green, raising my boots to the miniscule pegs wasn’t uncomfortable for our morning run through commuter traffic, but by the end of our all-day trip, even with several stops to stretch, the cramped position was starting to become noticeable.

The 30.7-inch seat height is extremely easy to mount with its stepped design, and the optional 29.5-inch setup (seat and suspension mods $175) even more so. We didn’t get to sample the lower suspension option, but expect it would be very cramped for even average-sized male riders. Our test bike was a blend of the two versions with standard suspension setup and the lower seat. This is how bikes destined for America will be delivered unless ordered otherwise. The handlebars are low and relatively close to the rider which left my elbows flapping down by the faux fuel tank. Working through the field of professional peers, it was obvious the other men were dealing with similar issues, but the women looked absolutely fantastic in the saddle.

The bike isn’t uncomfortable, even with the small stature. Zipping around town or doing a few hours of canyon riding is completely realistic, and the 650GS does an amazing job of both. The 19/17-inch spoked wheel combination increases the off-road capabilities a bit, but is more important in creating very quick steering, as does the dirt bike-levels of bar rotation. Maneuvering the bike for photo shoots or turning around in tight situations was ridiculously simple. Smaller riders, who are obviously targets for this BMW, are going to love how easy this bike is to handle. Mannerisms on the road are also very agreeable. Metzeler Tourance tires are a great match for what the bike’s motor, chassis and suspension are capable of.

Highs & Lows
  • Standard ABS and Heated Grips
  • Newbie Friendly
  • Most Affordable GS
  • Compact for Larger Riders
  • Non-adjustable Fork
  • Seat Slopes Forward
I didn’t waste any time before tinkering with things. The standard grip warmers work well and the new analog ABS system is very, very good. Turning it off/on requires coming to a stop and pushing a single button located in front of the handlebar crossmember. I accidentally left it off after playing around in a patch of dirt, and once on the pavement again I felt so vulnerable to rider error that I had to pull over and turn the system back on again. The more I use ABS, the more I appreciate it – and it’s a standard feature!

This new brake system returns to older technology by switching from digital to analog actuation on the inlet valves. It isn’t a step backwards in performance, however, since digital provides a very “on/off” feel, the analog system is less detectable when operating. Downshifts while aggressively on the brakes trigger slight pulsing as do mindless brake stomps. Otherwise, it’s hard to tell if the ABS is enabled without checking the small indicator light. Another benefit of the redesign was shaving three pounds to help reach a claimed 387-lb dry weight. The 300mm front rotor and 265mm rear are squeezed by a double- and single-piston Brembo calipers, respectively. Nothing overpowering, but the brakes provide a good match for the weight and capable speeds.

The shock is adjustable for preload and rebound. Spring tension is tuned via a hand knob located under the rider’s right knee. I even adjusted it on the fly, but found that my personal favorite was with the spring tightened as far as it would go. The ride height difference isn’t all that noticeable, but I felt more confidence in the front end and bump absorption from the 41mm conventional fork remained excellent. Potholes, rumble strips and rough pavement are no problem with the G650GS. High speeds and sudden dips led to a few G-outs, but nothing serious. A passenger or luggage will definitely create a need for greater damping, but for a single rider it was fine.

2009 BMW G650GS
Slicing through the curves is easy on the nimble G650. Keeping the motor in the right rpm and pulling strong is fun as well, but takes only slightly more effort.
The motor feels pretty standard in its role as a competent 650 Single. Without having other bikes on hand for a direct comparison, I’d say that the Beemer mill is slightly stronger than the unofficial class king, Kawasaki’s KLR650. Vibration levels are the usual with few transferred through the seat, and most felt in the weighted handlebar. BMW engineers are on site at the Chinese manufacturing facility to ensure quality control on what is essentially the same Rotax-designed, fuel-injected, DOHC motor as found in the G 650 Xchallenge.

With 53 claimed horsepower at 7000 rpm, (you’re in the red zone at 7500) most of the ride was spent within 2K of redline. Wringing the 650’s neck brings a smile, but not necessarily a big surge of power. The best power is definitely mid- to top-end, but typical use, especially in the city, will likely be less high-strung. The G650 BMW uses gearing to give the motor some life off the bottom. A low first gear makes launching easy, but runs out quickly. We didn’t prefer second-gear starts, but still found the 650GS quicker off the line than our metal-encased neighbors.

The paved strip of heaven across Palomar Mountain had us tapping through the gears, mostly second and third. The shifting is typical BMW, somewhat notchy and requiring definitive action from the left foot. Entering a right-hander, I tried to slip in a last-second, toe-tapping downshift, found false neutral and nearly soiled my Scorpion pants. Keep the input solid and positive and it actually shifts well.

I was anxious to see if the five-speed had enough legroom on top but am pleased to report that I was comfortable riding at 80 mph without subconsciously lifting my left toe like some nervous tic. Part of the reason might be that the buffeting from the minimal wind protection helps keep your mind off of the engine rpm. A small windscreen atop the single headlight is sufficient for legal city and country road speeds. Guard against weather will be slim, however.

Hilde's BMW G650GS Gearbag
2009 BMW G650GS
One of the reasons we feel so comfortable giving the G650GS a shiny review is that for riders looking to get a full-sized (not mega-sized) BMW for regular off-road use, they can go purchase an F800GS which acts entirely different. This bike has a lot of the same characteristics in terms of capabilities as the standard R1200GS does, just on a smaller scale, which makes it perfect for women in particular. Don’t get off anything more than a gravel road and enjoy the bike’s surprising handling at speed. The G650GS is no more, and no less, than what BMW honchos claim. “The bike is a dual-sport, but lends itself to an urban-type commuter,” says Communications Manager, Roy Olliemuller. This little Single is a street bike first and foremost, and it plays that role very well.

If there’s one way to describe the new machine, it’s “easy.” Recalling every situation throughout the ride and the difficulty to negotiate them revealed a surprising conclusion. I hadn’t struggled with the bike a single time or in any way. All aspects of riding the GS require virtually no effort from the rider right from the start. Slinging a leg over the seat is easy even for short riders, the bike fires right up and jockeying out of a parking space is cake. Low-speed handling is much lighter than on a KLR650 thanks to the under-seat fuel storage and extra turning radius between the handlebar stops. Comfy ergos, adjustable clutch lever and competent, ABS-equipped brakes keep the ride safe and manageable. The suspension is well-mannered, chassis stable-yet-responsive and the motor is willing with a usable spread of power.

2009 BMW G650GS
It isn't much for dirt, but the BMW G650GS makes a great entry-level dual-sport motorcycle for a wide variety of people. The affordability, ease of use and forgiving size makes this machine a player in the market.
BMW expects the G650GS to hit the ground running with the former sales success of the F650GS and Dakar models (109,800 sold between 2000-’07). They specifically designed it so that the accessories for those original machines will fit directly onto the new G650; a huge advantage for previous owners and for an established support network around the globe. The stature, price and performance make the bike a potential fit for all of BMW’s target consumers: First time buyers, those returning to motorcycling and riders jumping ship from other brands. Everyone initially balks at the MSRP, but the G650GS brings fuel injection, ABS, heated grips and ultra-low seat height – all things that are unheard of in the 650 dual-sport market.

“It should appeal and apply to everybody,” Olliemuller says.

We think it should too.
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2009 BMW G650GS Specs
2009 BMW G650GS
Type: Liquid-cooled, 4-valve single-cylinder
Displacement: 652 cc
Bore x Stroke: 100.0 mm X 83.0 mm
Horsepower: 53 hp @ 7000 rpm
Torque: 44 lb-ft @ 5250 rpm
Compression Ratio: 11.5:1
Fuel Tank: HDPE, internal pump and external filter
Battery: V/AH 12 Volts 12 Amps/hour
Clutch: Multiple plate in oil bath
Gear Box: 5-speed
Brake System: Single front disc with ABS
Front Brake: Two-piston floating caliper, 300mm fixed rotor
Rear Brake: Single-piston floating caliper, 265mm fixed rotor
Front Wheel: 2.50 x 19 wire-spoke
Rear Wheel: 3.00 x 17 wire-spoke
Front Tire: 100/90 x 19 tube-type
Rear Tire: 130/80 x 17 tube-type
Overall Length: 85.6 inches
Overall Width: 35.8 inches
Wheelbase: 58.2 inches
Seat Height: 30.7 inches
Dry Weight: 387 lbs.
Fuel Capacity: 4.0 US gallons, 1 gallon reserve
Standard Equipment
-Heated Hand Grips
-ABS - Partial Integral
Available Equipment
-Low Suspension: $175
-Center Stand: $150

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brettrodgers421   November 14, 2011 03:11 PM
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Andy Lyas -G650GS  January 23, 2011 06:30 AM
I picked up my brand new G650GS from the Melbourne Southbank dealership on Wednesday and have had a smile on my face ever since. This motorcycle is very very forgiving even to a newbie like myself. Having said that I can imagine that someone who is experienced would love this ride also. The top box and luggage roll are the go ( for me anyway ) and I took it down to Point Lonsdale over the weekend and it loved being on the road as well as on the gravel! It seems to me that where ever you look where you want to go, the bike follows. It loves the twisties as much as the highway....all too easy and comfortable. Thanks BMW
KB -2009 F650GS cooling problem!  July 15, 2010 08:32 AM
Anyone have an idea why my GS twin would overheat? I commute 30 miles each way daily, but was on a short tour in mid-atlantic states cruising Hwy 17N during recent high temps here when I noticed coolant boiled over after stopping. Fan comes on so I assumed thermostat is OK, and got an emergency red light after slowing in city traffic. Tried to replenish fluid but the overflow tank was already full to the brim and I had not even added any coolant. Only thing I can think of is a clog...maybe the water pump isn't moving fluid, something is clogging the line, or thermostat is not opening. Bike is in the shop, just wanted to check with other wrenches out there. I LOVE the bike for weight, mileage, and utility...Cheers!
Trac in Alaska -june 12 2010  June 12, 2010 10:18 AM
Ive had my g650g for less than a year now and love it. Its not the off roader the Klr 650 is but its also alot lower.I get 69-70 mpg on a regular basis if you keep the speeds reasonable. The only problem ive had it fork seals leaking and this bikes never been riden hard on the dirt. I have 3 others so ive only put 3k miles on it so far but i love it. Wish the seat was a little more padded though, im short so i have to take the bad with the good i guess.
Todd -Rider  February 5, 2010 10:02 AM
There should be more bikes built like they did in the 70's, light, powerful, low seat height for ease of getting over muddy roots and rocks climbing a hilly trail, or throwing your girlfriend on the back seat saddle without a major production. Something that could take you where you wanted to go without a lot of excessive weight or height or plasticky do dad's screwed in all over the bike. I think the little BMW shows promise, but I'd like to see it evolve more towards the naked look, and less Flash Gordon plstic ...
Todd -Rider  February 5, 2010 09:51 AM
Ural (ST) ! It's Russian , but tough, and low to the ground, proven BMW motor...
Chris -Rocks!  December 25, 2009 09:49 PM
I've had my G650GS for a few years now, putting over 15,000 miles on it. Zero complaints here. I ride her hard too. To those of you who are second guessing the motor for being built in the orient, DON'T. It is just as reliable as any bike I've ridden. Of course there will always be the crowed of the old F-650's who will try to pull the elitist card and claim the motor is crap for not being built in Austria. Get a life.
Dennis Newland -KLR 650  August 10, 2009 06:23 PM
I have ridden my KLR 650 now for just over 22k this is quite good because it has shared my annual mileage with kwaka 1200. I just got back from a trip into the Pilbarra here in west australia. First this involved a 1200 kilometre ride in rain and wind all the way to Mount Newman. I left at 06:30 arrived at 7:30 pm despite travelling half of the distance with a lean of about 35 degrees to combat the wind. Cheap heated grip elements from KLR650.com saved my bacon. Did a lot of back roads and some 80k of nutty/sandy/gravelly road round the back of Mt Meharry largest pimple in WA at around 1200metres.
Used to ride with three others mounted on BMW GS650's but the pace got a little to much for them they tended to prefer tar. BMW has got underseat fuel tank but has battery and other electrical bits mounted beneath false tank right at top! So much for weight transfer which unlike fuel is permanently there. KLR has excellent range and gives you that secure feeling but a fuel guage would help as head winds can an do affect any bikes consumption. Why talk about economy achieved at 90 clicks per hour (BMW) when bragging about more power the two do not equate. Came back from Exmoouth on the North West Cape 1300 kilometres left at 06:30 home by 7:30 pm. Stayed around 125 nearly all the way except fuel stops. Only complaint was that I was bloody cold on the last 300k. (seat was fine) 2006 Klr headlight sucks but high beam with 100 watt globe is an improvement. Again 2006 weight is better than 2008 and it shows. But the seat height is overly tall on mine. Generally the only time I fall off is when coming to a stop on a deep rutted road or fully loaded whan nature calls.
KLR 650 is reliable and excellent value for the money and puts a smile on your face on every ride. Seriously considering sell the 1200.

Dennis West Australia
Mario Pacheco -Impressive Motorcycle  July 16, 2009 04:18 AM
I am very happy with mine! and also impress on how well the Motorcycle behaive. Once I red the for knowing the limits of this Motorcycle you should know yours, I liked the frase, but then I realized on my personal experience. I could not be more happy with my G650 GS. Early this month I took a trip with a group, most of them had R1200 GS and my G650GS behaive as well as theirs. Surprised with the Made in China engine, but I have no complaint about it at all.
JimR-2006 f650gs -Cooling fan  June 3, 2009 11:27 AM
Hey Mike, when your fan went out did you have any warning? When the main engine fuse blew did the engine stop running? Were there any warning signs, a cough or a sputter or a warning light? Were you on the freeway? Did your dealership give you a hard way to go as far as the warranty work. Did they tell you why the fan motor died? Was it the fuse or was the fan motor toast? How long was your bike out of service? When you found that others have had the same problems were they 2005-2007 machines? I agree with you that the machine is not a dedicated tourer. Yes, I too would like factory fork gators. A company called Touratech sells radiator guards. Are there any other problems with the machine? Any information you can relay to me would be very helpful. Thanks Jim.
MikeAL -2007 F650GS  June 1, 2009 12:24 PM
Cooling fan went out @ 6,000 miles, then main engine fuse blows. Bike does not have rubber fork protectors or radiator guard. Bike is NOT a touring bike what good is that? Found others have had same problem DON'T take it out of town on a hot day without a pannier full of 15 amp fuses or an extra fan. JUNK!
JimR -2006 f650gs  April 27, 2009 11:10 PM
My girlfriend and I each have a 2006 f650gs that we took to Calif. from Ohio. We left Columbus on Sat. morn and arrived Sacramento on evening of day five. We had one 547 mile day and it was murder. We kept it to 400 miles a day or less for the rest of the trip. Whole trip was 21 days and 6,549 miles. We consider these bikes great for "off pavement" riding, dirt roads, gravel roads, fire breaks/roads, and cart paths. As far as an "off road" bike I think it's a little fat. Our rule of thumb is if a bulldozer has been there we can ride it. No problems with either bike on the trip and mine was very overloaded. My machine now has 30k on it and the left hand warmer stopped working(warranty) and I have replaced both sprockets and the chain and tires. No other issues.
Tim Braun -MADE IN CHINA  March 19, 2009 06:38 PM
One would think BMW would be the last ones to build their engines in CHINA.Hope it dos'nt come back to bite them in the BUT.
Simon Moore no longer confussed -BMW G650GS  January 29, 2009 02:02 AM
Well this unit is still avaible to the US & some of Europe. In South Pacific regin at least is history. Replaced by the F650GS(Twin), and the 3 G650 x challenge,country & moto. I have riden my mates old G650GS Dakar on extended sections on many a trip & found it to be a good all rounder, just hugely underpowered. The new F650GS(Twin) is just so much better. This bike along with the G650 are hugely popular here despite the high prices. (here being Australia)
JC -Chinese Rotax Conundrum  December 23, 2008 03:28 PM
Just for clarification, the motor is not an actual Rotax engine. It is manufactured in the Loncin factory using blueprints from the Rotax design. Also, for some extra trivia, the frames are manufactured in Berlin.
Simon Moore -A little Confussed?  December 21, 2008 04:21 PM
I'm not sure but I was under the impression BMW pulled this version from the line up. The G units being the only ones to carry this engine. The only new F650GS I'm aware of is the twin (de-tuned 800) which is selling extremely well.
Mike in Medford -G650GS  December 21, 2008 03:36 PM
"So, where is the "Rotax" engine from? I hate to call all of East Asia China." The real Rotax motor is made in Austria, and a great engine company. "Anyone know how BMW squeezed 3hp more out of the same motor?" They redesigned the cylinder head. "I suppose the g650gs could lose a half a gallon and still have a useful range." Losing 1/2 a gallon of fuel would decrease the average range of my F650GS from 240 miles to +/- 200 miles
Randy -g650gs  December 21, 2008 08:14 AM
Logical suggestion for the names David. I suppose the g650gs could lose a half a gallon and still have a useful range. Clearly BMW is trying to bring back a good selling classic at the lowest possible price, so nothing much in the way of upgrades is possible without crowding the F650GS and F800GS. Maybe I'm old fashion but I've always like the concept and look of the X650 Country - if it just had another gallon... So, where is the "Rotax" engine from? I hate to call all of East Asia China.
David -F/G650  December 19, 2008 09:32 AM
It wasn't mentioned that the G650 GS lost a half gallon of fuel capacity in the update. Overall I am a bit disappointed that there is very little updated here besides the China made engine. Suspension and weight have long been the Achilles heal of the F/G 50GS. I would have thought sourcing some of the suspension updates from the other G models would have been appreciated. Overall this model has always been a much more practical model than the other G650s and I am not surprised that the Xmoto and Xchallenge have disappeared from the line up. Now if BMW would just change the name of the 650/800 twins to an honest F800 GS and F800 GS Adventure respectively.
Randy -G650  December 18, 2008 10:00 PM
Not knocking the WR250R but what does it have to do with the G650? In a long 500 mile day a lighter unfaired bike - DRZ400, DR650, and especially the WR250 (I would think) will be murder compared to the G650. The G650 does big days very well. BMW has several bikes crowding this size range - X650, F650GS/F800GS, and now the G650 "again". Wonder what's going to get cut? BTW, the +3HP? Wonder if it's real, the 50HP was a spec fantasy, more like 40HP, though I can believe the F650 smoking the KLRs which has maybe 33. Touratech claims you can get about 50 pounds off the F650 (G650) with it's Dakar racing kits but the price!!! Like $10,000! Of course, that include awesome WP suspension, and no doubt the bikes are very capable offroad (but much taller).
Jimbolaya -Very interesting  December 18, 2008 07:39 PM
Guess I'm still getting the $6k USD MSRP '09 Yamaha WR250R dual sport, 290 lb wet/curb weight. I intend to install the Italian Athena 290cc kit: piston, cylinder, all seals/gaskets to pickup the bottom end. A valve job adds 3+ hp on the top end & the optional Athena programmable ECU brings it all together. All Athena parts mentioned above estimate $1500 USD MSRP; due any day. Hoping to organize a group ride this coming spring or summer on the forest trails connecting Bear Lake UT to Jackson WY.
Randy -X model forks  December 18, 2008 06:03 PM
I raceteched and put stiffer springs in my F650 forks which transformed it from a real POS to fair offroad. Problem is the 430 pounds, it's just too much. On road they are great adventure-lite bikes - comfy and excellent handling. So fair + great = good. I would imagine the new F800GS beats it in every category.
Jim -HP boost?  December 18, 2008 04:26 PM
Anyone know how BMW squeezed 3hp more out of the same motor? Any software updates available that'll do the same for the earlier F single?
JC -Speaking of X models...  December 18, 2008 12:30 PM
Wow, good tips Mike. As for the X models, I agree about the small fuel tank, but I would love to try a G650GS modified to accept the Xcountry's inverted fork. Am I crazy?
Randy -F650  December 17, 2008 08:26 PM
Good bike, had a 2001 Dakar for a while but sold it because my DR650 is so much better off road without giving up much on road. The 387 pounds dry weight is probably a specsmanship fantasy, the factory spec for my 2001 was 410 dry. Count on it weighing 430 with fuel. The X models are much lighter but the 2.5 gal tank is a drag.
Mike in Medford -Easy fix for taller riders  December 17, 2008 03:04 PM
I have the '06 model F650GS like your test bike. For taller riders it is easy to add 1 1/2"-2" of dense foam to the front of the seat base to level/raise it. Another quick leg room improver is to add the Fastway foot pegs which when rotated drop the peg height 1 1/2". Both items cost me a total of $113.00. With these fixes, the F650 will offer all day comfort to 6' riders. In addition, adding a 3/8" spacer to the stock fork spacer and changing fork oil to 15W makes for a nice suspension for this 190 lb rider with touring gear. The little bike took me 5000 miles to Baja and mainland Mexico and back last year, in addition to many other trips. As to the power of the F650 vs. the KLR, it is no contest. Two 2007 KLR 650's went to Mexico with me. The F650 accelerates much faster than the KLR.