Monday, October 4, 2010

San Diego BMW F650GS Test Ride

On Friday, Sept. 25, I hopped in the cage and took off for sunny San Diego with a single purpose on my mind - to test ride the BMW F650GS. I mean, to REALLY test ride the bike, not just go a mile or two. It was a beautiful day and the drive down was uneventful. I even managed to find the hotel with no problem. Chris Ogden showed up that evening on his 1200GS as he was to ride along with me.

The next morning, Chris and I showed up at San Diego BMW and met with Gary Orr, owner and fellow LD Rider. Dave Mishalof was there to lead the test ride. Dave was also riding the same bike I was going to ride. Even down to the same color!

Checking out and sitting on most of the bikes at the store was great fun!

After some tire kicking and looking at (and lusting after) all the bikes on the showroom floor, we began to get ready to depart. Oh, it was a perfect day. Sunny, clear and warm.

I had to sign a liability release and insurance form and provide a copy of my credit card. Gary provided some instruction on operating the bike.
Just a little background. I first looked at the F650GS last year when it was introduced. I thought it might make a good ride for me. I actually went to Las Vegas BMW and sat on the bike. I intentionally wore shorts and sandals so I wouldn't be tempted to ride it home! My initial thought was that it felt like a toy.....well, duh. Compared to the Goldwing, it is a toy. However, I didn't want to be an impulse buyer. So, I let the thought sit for a while and did lots and lots of research. Reading reviews and talking with people who owned one.

This machine is the new twin cylinder which is really an 800cc "detuned" whatever that means. It is the same engine as the 800 but different gear ratios and some other technical stuff. It has a 6 speed transmission, chain drive, disc front and rear brakes, 62 inch wheelbase, 32.2 inch seat height and fuel capacity of 4.2 gallons. Dry weight is 377 lbs. (A wee bit lighter than the Wing).

Now at 32.2 inches, it is a bit high for me. BMW offers a factory lowered model and it offers a lower seat. I opted for the lower seat on the stock bike. I'd read that the lowered model results in decreased handling. With the lower seat, I could easily flat foot the bike. I was good to go.
Just before departing on our ride, surprise. Peter Perrin along with his son riding pillion and a buddy of his showed up to see us off. What good fun. LD Riders are the best!

Dave took the lead and we exited the parking lot off on a grand adventure in the San Diego hillsides. Dave is a local and boy, does he know the roads well. After fighting through some traffic and lots of long lights, Dave got us on a good, twisty, technical road. After a bit, we stopped and Dave asked if I was up for something even more technical. Hell yes! was my reply. So off we went. I had no idea there were so many good roads in the San Diego area. Woohoo!!!!

I have to be honest and tell you that when I started off on this fun little ride, I was riding it like it was the Goldwing. It is not even close. As the day progressed and I became more comfortable on the bike, my riding style changed considerably. It handles much more like a dirt bike. Get on the bars and shove it through the corners - be aggressive - it can handle it.
We took a little break to enjoy the view and take a few pictures -----

Chris and Dave taking a little break, indulging my photo taking.

A nice place for a quick stop.

A stop for lunch then back to riding. Oh, here is a photo of my gas stop. Putting gas in the rear of a bike is a new experience for me!

The gas stop was followed by a pie and ice cream stop. A perfect Saturday ride!

Riding some twisties. That's Dave in front with me following.

In addition to lots of twisties, we did some freeway riding. I was pleased to find this little bike has lots of power. Rolling along at 75 mph in 6th gear, it was easy to pass. No down shifting required. There was still lots of power there. I was also surprised to find how smooth this ride is. We'd be riding down the road and I was surprised to see I was going 65 or so. It was very smooth. I felt a little vibration in the feet and hands but nothing that annoyed me. I'm used to big old floorboards so the pegs felt a bit small, but again, not an issue. The handlebars were a bit forward for me, so from an ergonomic perspective, I would add risers or something to bring the bars closer to me.

I would DEFINITELY change the seat!!! It was not particularly comfortable and I would imagine that after a 1,000 mile day you would hate it. But, I hear BMW is notorious for uncomfortable seats.

We rode about 200 miles, mostly backroads, but some freeway miles. All in all, I think I got a good test ride. Dave was awesome in his route planning and Chris was the best sweeper ever. When we returned to San Diego BMW, Craig Chaddock was there to take even more photos and kick tires and tell stories. We all hung out there for quite a while.

Gary Orr and his staff are the best. Very considerate, helpful and fun. Thank you Gary. Yes, you knew it anyway......I think it will be in the White Aluminum color (what kind of color is that anyway?). I wanted a yellow, but that's not an option this year. I've been busy making out the farkle list and coordinating with Gary and his staff so we can get everything perfect (except for the seat and maybe an aux fuel cell) for LD riding.
I was amazed at the performance of this little bike. It is something I could pick up if I had to and most definitely something I can ride on gravel roads (although we didn't ride any). No, it's not a Wing and I will miss the weather protection and cruising ability of the Wing. But everything is a trade off, isn't it? I'll keep the Wing for rides that are appropriate for it. I'm looking forward to getting the F650GS and seeing just what I can do on it.
Just seems to fit me, doesn't it?


  1. Great evaluation, Cletha. I think you are spot-on, and after proper farkling, a comfy seat and a fuel cell, you'll be good-to-go! Looking forward to an adventure with you... IBR, here we come!

  2. Great write up Cletha!

    The BMW650GS is one sweet looking machine and very tempting!

    Have fun on it and ride safe!

  3. Glad you liked the bike, and yes, Chris is a wonderful sweep (and leader)! I see you even went to a favorite stop for pie :-)

    I have the lowered suspension with the low seat (custom seat by Bill Mayer) and the only problem I've found with it is that sometimes getting the sidstand down is tricky because of the slope of the road. I've got 24,000 miles in about 15 months. You're gonna love the bike!

  4. Nice report Queen B, and yes it looks like it fits you very well. I think that you will find at the end of a 1K+ day, you will really appreciate the lower weight! You are going to rock the IBR.

  5. I have the lowered model with a standard height seat and it works perfectly for me for d/s and street riding. You are spot on with how uncomfortable the lowered seat is.

    Maybe we need to organize an LDR F650 RTE or something.


  6. giddyup, cletha! congrats on the new scoot.

  7. Great Fun Cletha. You will really enjoy that light weight on days 8/9/10/11. Have a blast getting used to your new toy when it arrives.

  8. Great report, Cletha. This is a bike I've been very interested in -- if I ever replace the Guzzi!

  9. Thanks for the comments. Once I finally get it, I'll update and let you all know my further thoughts and observations.

    I think an F650 RTE is a grand idea!!