I sold my Harley-Davidson, and right before that, I bought two BMW Motorcycles. Why though? Are BMW motorcycles better than Harley-Davidson motorcycles? Why buy an F650GS AND and F700GS? How do the BMWs compare to my Harley-Davidson?
Stick around and find out!
Why I bought a 2009 BMW F650GS
In over a decade of running YouMotorcycle, dozens of motorcycles have come and gone, and I’ve rarely, if ever, done a “new motorcycle reveal” – but this time the situation is a little different.
The new bike in question is a BMW F650GS in Azure Blue Metallic. I loved the color enough to look up its name. Why did I buy it? First we need to look back at the BMW G650GS.
Upgrading from a G650GS
The BMW G650GS is a 652cc single and a precursor to the 800cc parallel twin BMW GS I just bought. The G650GS is a great motorcycle that I’ve enjoyed putting to the test. All the F650GS owners I’ve spoken to seem to say the same thing. The F650GS is just like the G650GS, only better, in every single way. A rare instance where everyone in motorcycling agrees on something.
At first glance these two motorcycles are in fact quite similar. They use the exact same tire sizes front and back. The F model with the bigger motor is a couple inches longer overall. The 800cc parallel twin motor is smoother and more powerful. Both motorcycles get an estimated 64 MPG US.
The cost of the upgrade is an added 35 lbs of weight. Not too bad considering the horsepower increase from 48 hp at 6,500 rpm to 70 hp @ 7,000 rpm. The torque also increases from 44 ft lbs @ 5,000 rpm to 55 ft lbs @ 4,500 rpm on the F650GS twin.
The F650GS comes loaded with accessories. Up front is a slightly larger aftermarket wind screen with an adjustable wind deflector. The grips are BMW’s standard heated with a high and low setting. All around the back end are BMW’s Vario hard cases, which can be expanded or compressed depending on how much gear you have to carry.
You also have standard things like ABS brakes you can turn on and off, a four-way hazard lights control, and a built in computer that measures mileage, speed, and averages for your trip. These are all things the G650GS was lacking.
What I don’t like about the F650GS
The BMW F650GS is a step up, but it isn’t a perfect motorcycle. It has some flaws including a three-button turn signal system, a questionable seat and seat height, and lackluster character.
Some of these traits can be good or bad depending on your own personal preferences. The three button turn signal setup is pretty universally hated however. On most metric motorcycles, your left thumb can activate either side turn signals and cancel them. On the BMW you’ll activate your left turn signals with your left thumb, your right turn signal with your right thumb, and you’ll only be able to cancel either turn signal by using a different button with your right thumb.
Three different buttons to manage your turn signals, and two of them involve the hand you’re trying to keep steady on the throttle. The BMW F650GS does not have self-cancelling turn signals either, so you’ll need to use all three buttons over the course of daily riding. It’s an awful setup, especially for rush hour commuting in the city.
This particular F650GS has been factory lowered. The seat height only measures around 28″ to 29″. When I made an offer to buy this motorcycle I was not aware of just how low the seat was. At just about 5’11”, it felt awkward. It’s almost as low as the seat height on my 2006 Harley-Davidson V-Rod, which is 26″.
Unfortunately, this low seat height can come with some measurable downsides. Firstly, the seat height is lower because a ton of padding is missing from the seat itself, bringing you lower, but also making you less comfortable on long rides. They’ve also put a shorter rear spring in which reduces ground clearance and gives your rear suspension less travel. You might be more prone to bottoming out the suspension if you’re riding a factory-lowered BMW F650GS. Making motorcycling more accessible to more riders is an awesome thing. But I don’t need a seat height this low on an adventure bike so it’s not awesome for me.
Finally, the motor on the F650GS can be a little vanilla. It doesn’t have a lot of character. It isn’t a bad motor, or obnoxious, or lame. It’s a fine, very reliable motor. It’s just devoid of any kind of spice. Of course, the counter argument is, on a very long motorcycle trip, very far from home, sometimes the best motor is the most plain and predictable one.
Why I bought a 2014 BMW F700GS
The F700GS is just an updated version of the F650GS. They both share the same motor and many other common parts. They are essentially siblings, with the F700GS being a more perfected F650GS.
One of my customers is a huge fan of her F700GS and of BWM Motorrad in general. Given the similarities between the two motorcycles, I thought I would reach out to her. Why not let her know the good news?
She said, “I”m very excited for you. You should buy my bike.” Wait, what? Well, she made me an offer that was too good to pass up. So just a week after buying my F650GS, I turned around and also bought the F700GS. The price she offered me on a 2014 BMW with less than 2,500 miles / 4,000 km was just too good compared to what I paid for the F650GS with 19,000 miles / 30,000 km. It just wouldn’t have made sense not to buy my customer’s bike and turn around to sell and try to break even on the F650GS.
Upgrades from the F650GS to the F700GS
As the name suggests, the F700GS is just like the F650GS, only better. The motor is the same, but with minor improvements to make 4 more horsepower and 1.5 more lb-ft. of torque. To better control your power you get twin disk brakes on the F700, as well as Stability Control. The F700 also gets Electronic Suspension Adjustment so you can electronically adjust your motorcycle’s rear suspension preload using just your thumb.
Side-note: Some people have said the Electronic Suspension Adjustment is kind of gimmicky. I haven’t really tested it thoroughly yet so I can’t give my opinion yet. I’ll do a thorough F700GS review in the future so sign up for the newsletter if you want to see that.
I’m happy to say that the F700GS returns to normal turn signal switches. BMW gave up on the weird three-button turn signal system they gave the F650GS. That’s a benefit that’s hard to measure on paper, but easy to enjoy in practice.
This particular F700GS also comes with the OEM BMW Comfort Seat. Everyone on the internet seems to rave about how great BMW’s own comfort seat option for this motorcycle is, so I’m grateful that this motorcycle comes with it. The seat height is a couple inches higher on the F700GS compared to my lower F650GS which makes it perfectly where I want it (about on par with the G650GS/650cc single).
The ground clearance is a bit better than the F650GS as well because of this bike not being factory lowered. Of course, ground clearance isn’t a huge concern for me coming off of a Harley-Davidson V-Rod, but more on that later.
The F700GS also comes with the three piece Vario expandable hard cases and a bigger top case than the F650GS came with.
I’m still missing an upgraded wind screen, but don’t worry, I’ll find one! And then my new BMW will be almost on par with my G650GS for touring.
Why I sold my Harley-Davidson for a BMW GS motorcycle
After riding cruisers for fifteen years, I finally sold my Harley-Davidson to buy a BMW motorcycle because BMW motorcycles’ functional design and ergonomics just make a lot more sense. I get upright comfort, lighter weight, a smaller wheelbase, better suspension, and the ability to quickly mount and dismount a number of touring-specific accessories. If you’re going to be doing longer motorcycle rides, or motorcycle rides in mixed terrain, this is all the kind of stuff that you look for.
Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love my Harley-Davidson V-Rod. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it over the past five years. It’s both a thing of beauty and a beast. It has character and gets attention. It also only takes premium, which it guzzles like a drunken sailor, has a heavy clutch, is ill-suited to life in the city, and overall is a very fun but impractical motorcycle.
When prepping for my 1,250 mile (2,000 km) two up motorcycle road trip this summer, there was no question which motorcycle I would take. It wasn’t the Harley-Davidson. I opted for the lighter weight, upright ergonomics, of the BMW GS.
I just happened to get a really good deal on one so I ended up buying two. Oops. Back on the online classifieds one goes!