BMW G650 GS 2012 Review
Over more than 30 years GS has meant adventure to millions of riders. GS is German for "gelande strasse" which means "off-road and road". In BMW Motorrad terms that spells adventure travelling.
The venerable 650 GS has been a major part of that adventure with its simple and robust single-cylinder engine and nimble yet rugged chassis and build. Now it has been toughened further for more adventurous adventures with the Sertao.
At $12,700 it's not cheap for a single-cylinder bike. Runaway top-seller in the adventure category is the Kawasaki KLR 650 at just $7999 followed with less than half the sales by the Suzuki DL650A at $10,990 with ABS.
However the Sertao has a more robust frame, more comfort, more features and a lot of quality BMW factory accessories. Value is also in long service intervals and legendary bullet-proof performance which is essential in the isolated outback. In all states except Western Australia it can be ridden by P plate riders.
At the heart of the GS is the single-cylinder, fuel-injected, liquid-cooled Rotax engine that has plugged away for years with few changes. In Dick Johnson-speak it wouldn't pull the skin off a rice pudding,but it is a grunty little thing with its torque right where you want it - down low.
Thanks to its low weight, it will rip off a standing start to 100km/h in 5.7 seconds and still spin out all the way to a top speed of 170km/h. Yet it sips fuel miserly and, if you are careful, will achieve range of more than 400km from its 14-litre fuel tank.
The Sertao is distinguished by its white and blue livery which is reminiscent of the old Dakar models. But it's the substantially longer spring travel (210mm versus 170/165mm), and skinny wire wheels with a 21-inch front that makes this design more off-road friendly.
The GS comes with a standard 800mm seat, a 770mm low option and a 840mm high seat, while the Sertao has an even higher 860mm seat as standard and a 900mm option. Since most off-road riding is done standing up, the higher the seat the less you have to move from seat to standing position.
Despite the longer wheelbase and suspension travel, the Sertao is only 1kg heavier. Other differences from the standard GS are a luggage carrier in black, extended top front wheel cover, higher windscreen, hand protectors and alloy engine guard. As usual, BMW has an extensive range of accessories such as heated grips, charging socket with LED light, crash bars, and luggage.
The disengageable BMW Motorrad ABS has been around for quite some time and it's been tweaked here for off-road use. It works so well you simply never need to turn it off, even in slippery mud or clay. There are hazard warning flashers if you do disengage it. An alarm system is also available as a factory accessory.
I rode the Sertao on part of the recent BMW GS Safari from Ballina to Forster in NSW. The roads were slippery in places from scattered showers, storms and even hail, but the Sertao ploughed on regardless.
It is a comfortable, all-day bike even though the seat is low and the pegs are high. Tall people may feel a bit cramped but off road you tend to stand a fair bit, anyway, In the standing position, your head is perfectly aligned with the triple clamp which is great for balance and feel.
One word covers this bike - soft. But that's a good thing. The power comes on softly so you don't break traction suddenly and the brakes have little initial bite so you don't lock the wheels in the dirt too easily. The suspension is also soft to absorb the biggest hits and the steering feels slow and steady. This translates to a very predictable and safe bike in all conditions.
Not everyone who goes bush wants to wield a 1200cc behemoth through the bulldust like Charley and Ewan. The Sertao is an affordable option for those who want to go further and deeper into the outback without sacrificing much touring comfort.
BMW G 650 GS Sertao
Warranty: 2yr/unlimited km
Service: 10,000km/12 months
Engine: 652cc, single, 35kW60Nm
Transmission: 5-speed, chain drive
Brakes:, 300/240mm single discs, ABS
Tyres: 90/90 R21; 130/80 R17
Dimensions: 2185mm (L), 920mm (W),
Fuel: 14L tank, 3.2L/100km (at 90km/h)