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Riding the New F800 & G650 BMW Motorcycles

Written by  March 31, 2007

Recently BMW invited sales managers from their dealer body to participate in a new model introduction that was held in Ormond Beach, Florida. Don’t get too excited; it wasn’t 70 and sunny, it was 47 and cloudy, but it beat the 10 degrees back home. The intro was two days of classroom and one day riding the two new F800 and three new G650X models.

A quick word about our mounts; the F800s are all-new motorcycles, vertical parallel twins, liquid cooled, injected, belt drives. This is a new engine from BMW. The G650 series are based on an existing engine from BMW’s now famous lineup of on/off road 650s, dating back 10 years in this country.

A unique aspect of the riding day was that after a morning road ride of 120 miles, we were offered several hours of off-road riding in genuine Florida muck. Two of the new 650 single models, the G650Xcountry, and the G650Xchallenge, have off-road ability, even if we did not. More on this later. The third G model is the G650Xmoto, a street only moto with 17” wheels fore and aft. Pure adrenalin fun with 53 hp and weighing only 344 pounds full of gas. The other G models have similar performance and weight figures.

Although I had an idea of what to expect from the 650 single, the new G models were still thrilling to ride because of the reduced weight , increased power, and superior suspension. All three have a 45-mm Marzocchi fork with 9.4” travel on the Xcountry, and 10.6” on the Xchallenge and Xmoto. The G650Xchallenge is the off-road offering, with 21” front wheel, while the G650Xcountry is a true all-around dual sport. It has the most comfy seat by far; the other two are quite narrow.

Besides the Xmoto, the other pure street bikes we rode were the new F800S (Sport) and the F800ST (Sport Tour). These are the same bikes, differing mainly in their bars, fairing, and windshields. We were curious about these 800s because they are the first vertical twin engines ever from BMW. Light, easy handling was promised from a rigid aluminum delta box frame using the engine as a stressed member. Wet weight is only 460 pounds, so the 85-hp (62-ft pounds torque) propels them along nicely. Out on the open road, the bikes inspired confidence In handling, stopping, and suspension. They never lacked for power, with the torque coming early and staying late, due In part to a 360-degree crankshaft. With pistons rising and falling together you need an excellent counterbalancer, and this twin has one. Vibration is non-existent. That smoothness will inspire you to leave home; both the S and ST are outfittable with BMW saddlebags.

As I said earlier, the morning portion of our ride was on a variety of Florida roads, with typical results; got lost, ended up on an abandoned cobblestone (brick) sand-washed road and had to turn around. The group got separated, which was probably a good thing. That was the street ride; for the off-road portion we were handed Xcountrys and Xchallenges and told to go play in the mud. BMW arranged professional instruction as most of our class of 12 were street riders with little if any dirt experience. So, with signals removed, air pressure down, and little hope of return, we rode into the woods. This wasn’t the everglades, but there was plenty of mud to use from recent rains. I rode the Xchallenge and I will tell you; it was amazing. It powered through a foot of mud, sometimes whether I wanted it to or not. One critical feature to mention—the Xchallenge has an air-only rear suspension strut much like the one found on the mighty 1200cc HP2, adjustable for pre-load and damping. BMW feels it is superior at keeping the rear wheel hooked up for continuous smooth power delivery. An experienced off-roader would have a great time with it. I was just glad to get home in one piece.

All five of these bikes clearly push the boundaries of what it means to own a BMW. The 800s give us a new middleweight to sell, whereas before we jumped straight from 650 to 1200cc. Now we have something in between, and attractive in terms of appearance, price, and technology. The new G models are more tightly focused at certain market segments and are meant to be lifestyle bikes. The Xmoto for example, fits into BMW’s urban segment.

All five of the models ridden and written about here have at their core the same thing; with BMW, it’s all about the joy of riding. These new machines are each designed to let you find your own way there. You can see them all in Engle Motors showroom starting in March and they will be on display at our BMW Spring Open House April 27 and 28.

By Pat Cochran, Sales Manager, Engle Motors