Made from 2008 to 2017, the BMW G650 GS kept the dream of a simple, reliable, 650cc single cylinder BMW adventure bike alive. Was the G650GS as powerful as the rest of BMW’s line-up? No. Did it have as much tech as BMW’s newer adventure motorcycles? No. But this BMW G650GS review will cover the 10 reasons why I still think you should buy one.
Here are 10 reasons why you should buy a BMW G650GS:
- Lots of aftermarket parts and accessories
- Low seat height
- Light weight
- Very economical
- Comes with heated grips
- Happy off pavement
- As great at being a daily driver as it is at being a weekend warrior
- Beginner friendly
What is a BMW G650GS?
The BMW G650GS is a simple adventure motorcycle that is heir to BMW’s legendary 652cc single cylinder adventure bike legacy. The F650GS was BMW’s original 652cc single cylinder adventure motorcycle. It built a reputation for being simple, reliable, rugged, and easy to handle.
The BMW F650GS was eventually bumped up to an 800cc twin cylinder engine, but BMW was still selling over a hundred thousand 652cc single cylinders every year, so they decided to use the name “F650GS” for the 800cc twins, and G650GS, for the returning 650cc singles.
There were many differences between the G650GS and the beefed up F650GS, and depending on what you valued as a rider, some of these differences were advantages, and some were disadvantages. In this review we’ll be focusing on why you should buy a BMW G650GS over an F650GS or other adventure motorcycles. In a follow-up article I’ll be sharing why you might want to avoid the G650GS and look at either the F650GS or at motorcycles from other brands.
Why you should buy a BMW G650GS
1) The G650GS is a simple adventure motorcycle
BMW’s G650GS is a simple adventure motorcycle. The G650GS’s single-cylinder four-stroke engine is a very simple setup, with four valves, two overhead cams, and straightforward liquid-cooling and fuel-injection. It also comes with a counter balance shaft to help reduce vibration, making it a simple single cylinder motor without all of the single cylinder motor vibration.
As a general rule, the more features, gadgets, and gizmos a motorcycle has, the more things it has to break. The G650GS doesn’t have any of the added layers of complexity of some of it’s other GS-family siblings, or some of the offerings of it’s multi-cylinder rivals. The beefed up F650GS has many more sensors that can fail or break, including a thermometer, and tire pressuring monitoring sensors. The G650GS keeps it simple and has none of that stuff.
It’s a simple motorcycle you can take anywhere. That’s why I have my G650GS set up for touring.
2) The G650GS has decades of proven reliability
A 2017 BMW G650GS is the descendent of the legendary F650GS which has been around since 1993. The F650 (which later became the F650GS and later became the G650GS) saw various changes and improvements over the years since it was first produced by Aprilia for BMW in Italy in the 1990s.
As the years turned to decades incremental changes were made including the switch to fuel-injection and subsequent fuel-injection improvements. Late changes include different options for ergonomic, tire sizes, on-road and off-road oriented trims, ABS, switching to twin spark plugs, bodywork redesigns, a throttle body upgrade, and other engine upgrades.
Essentially, the 2008-2017 BMW G650GS is the grandson of the 1993 BMW F650. The motorcycle has a reputation for reliability (until something fails), and it benefits from decades of continuous improvement over three generations of production.
3) There are a ton of aftermarket and OEM original parts available
Due to the longevity of the F650/F650GS/G650GS production run, there are a ton of both aftermarket and OEM parts available. Over 100,000 of the original F650GS singles were produced and sold. You can easily find everything you need to make the G650GS into whatever you want it to be, be it a comfortable commuter, an off-road weekend warrior, or a multi-month travel companion. Parts and accessories are plentiful for this motorcycle. That means there are plenty of upgrades available. Most recently, I just upgraded the G650GS headlight.
4) The G650GS’ seat height is the lowest in its class
Riders 5’10” and under repeat after me: The BMW G650GS’ seat height is the lowest seat height available in its class. If you’re looking for an enduro, dual-sport, or adventure motorcycle but find the seat heights too high, the G650GS’ 30.7” seat height might be perfect for you. The bike sits a full 2” lower than Suzuki’s V-Strom, and about 1.6” lower than the F650GS.
If the 30.7” seat height is still too tall for you, BMW offers a factory lowering kit for only $175 that can further reduce seat height to just 29.5”. You’d be hard pressed to get any motorcycle in this class down to those specifications while still maintaining 6.5” of travel on the suspension. Note: BMW doesn’t disclose ground clearance on the G650GS.
5) The G650GS is a light weight motorcycle
The BMW G650GS’ dry weight is 386 lbs and its curb weight is only 423 lbs loaded up and ready to go. That’s about 67 lbs lighter than it’s 650cc peer, the Suzuki V-Strom. It’s also about 15 lbs lighter than the twin-cylinder F650GS, which is probably attributable to the extra weight of the bigger engine.
The G650GS also manages to carry its weight better than other motorcycles of similar weight. Compared to other motorcycles the BMW feels lighter because it does things smarter than other motorcycles. For example, the gas tank is actually found beneath the seat. The airbox is found where a motorcycle’s gas tank is traditionally located. Taking something heavy like fuel and putting it lower, and taking something light like an air box and putting it higher, makes for a lower center of gravity. The result is that the motorcycle feels even lighter and handles even better.
Whether you’re on-road or off-road, a bike that weighs less and feels lighter while you’re riding is almost always a good thing.
6) The G650GS is surprisingly economical
This wouldn’t be an honest BMW G650GS review if we didn’t admit that BMW isn’t known for being economical. But economical is exactly what the G650GS was designed to be. BMW kept costs down while at the same time maintaining the standard that the F650GS single had been known for. If anything they made the old F650GS better by making a few improvements to add an extra 2 horsepower more than the previous generation made, despite having to face stricter emissions requirements!
Want an example of how economical the G650GS is? If you’re traveling at a steady 55 mph (90 km/hr) on back roads you can expect 74 mpg, and if you’re holding a steady 55 mph (120 km/hr) on the highway, you can expect 80 mpg. Even Honda 300cc single cylinder CB300R can’t get that kind of fuel economy.
7) Heated grips come standard on the BMW G650GS
You’re going to love having heated grips if you buy a BMW G650GS. No need to spend money on heated grips and labor or install them yourself, and both options will still end up leaving you with something that looks very obviously like an aftermarket add-on.
The factory heated grips don’t look like an afterthought as they do when grips are added on to a motorcycle later. They are well incorporated into the G650GS’ design as they should be. Even if you don’t ride in winter, spring, or even the fall, you’ll still appreciate them on late night or early morning summer rides.
8) The G650GS is happy off pavement
Is the G650GS off-road oriented? Not exactly. Could you spend some money to get some additional ground clearance if you wanted to? Absolutely. But what it shines at is being able to comfortably switch from being on paved roads to on unpaved roads. If your rides will take you off pavement and on to dirt or gravel roads, the G650GS will be well suited to your needs.
The bike has comfortable adjustable suspension with 6.5” of travel, and you can of course get a skid plate and other protective equipment for it. Most helpful though, is that the 110/80-R19 front and 140/80-R17 are so common, that you have a wide variety of tires options to choose whatever best suits your needs.
9) The G650GS makes a great daily driver
The BMW G650GS can be well suited for dirt and gravel roads. If you have some money to spend on bags it can be well equipped for long distance touring, but this weekend warrior is actually a pretty good city commuter as well.
Motorcycle.com says the G650GS is perfect for you if you “want a bike with all-around practicality, tremendous value and a GS lineage.” They aren’t wrong. The G650GS has a very upright posture, and it comes standard with an adjustable clutch lever with a soft and easy feel. That combination makes it perfect for filtering through traffic, commuting to and from work, running errands, and even dealing with stop and go traffic.
The G650GS’ outfit can be changed to suit your needs. All the fundamentals are there, making it an excellent all-around motorcycle.
10) The G650GS is beginner friendly
The G650GS might just be the most beginner-friendly mid size adventure touring motorcycle out there. That’s a combination of many of the things already covered:
- Its simplicity and reliability won’t leave you stranded or make ownership difficult for beginners
- Low seat height and light weight make it very forgiving for new riders
- Upright posture, low center of gravity and easy clutch gives a lot of confidence to new riders
- Plenty of aftermarket crash guard options to protect every corner of the motorcycle just in case anything goes wrong
BONUS: You can equip it with bags, a bigger wind screen, and go touring!
Ten years ago, I was working in a dealership, and I got the chance to ride an F650GS. I was amazed at how easily it handled, and how light it felt, even though it was equipped with hard side bags, a top case, and a bigger windscreen.
It was ready for touring duty, but still handled like a dream, and you could get that same setup on the G650GS for about $500 to $1,000 USD depending on sale prices.
BMW G650GS review conclusions
Hopefully this BMW G650GS review has answered a lot of questions about the motorcycle. The G650GS takes the torch from the single cylinder F650 and F650GS. It continues to take motorcyclists on adventures. Its a very manageable, humble motorcycle. It isn’t the most powerful, but it’s very economical and efficient. If you’re willing to spend a bit extra, you can easily customize it to suit your particular needs and interests, whether your emphasis is on on-road or off-road riding. That’s why some consider it one of the greatest all-rounder motorcycles ever.
This G650GS will never be called a beast. It won’t have all of the bells and whistles and comforts of its bigger GS siblings. Its competition from other manufacturers will have it beat in several areas. But those shortcomings will be covered in a follow-up to this BMW G650GS review, probably called BMW G650 GS Review: 10 Reasons NOT to Buy It – so stay tuned for that.
Overall, this is a motorcycle that you can count on to be easy to ride, easy to maintain, and easy to explore on. If that’s what you’re looking for, the BMW G650GS is most definitely for you.