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- Written by Carole Nash Editor
- Created: 17 June 2008
BMW’s new G650 trio of XCountry, XChallenge and XMoto are aimed at three different types of rider, although the bikes share the same engine and basic chassis layout.
The XChallenge is for serious off-roaders, with a lofty seat height, hi-tech air-assisted monoshock and long travel forks. If you have a passion for Supermoto then the XMoto offers a variation on the theme with a massive 320mm front disc brake and arguably the coolest styling of the bunch. Meanwhile the XCountry has a relatively low seat height, spoked wheels, semi-knobbly tyres and a more commuter-friendly feel. But which is the best all-rounder for the money?
Alastair Walker rode all three in South Wales, Jason Critchell took the pics.
Let me admit straight away that I have always liked the F650 GS range, even the original 90s model, which weighed about the same as a Kawasaki ZX9-R and had the styling appeal of a Zanussi washing machine.
Why? Simple really, the F650 Funduro/GS/CS bikes have always been machines that work for their keep. The engines are reliable, seem to return at least 45mpg no matter how hard you cane them and the chassis components don’t seem to suffer quite so much in the wet UK climate, like so many other single-cylinder 600-650 sized commuter machines. If you want to get to work, and occasionally blat around some back lanes on a sunny Sunday then the BMW 650 range can do it for you; week in, week out.
There’s a place in motorcycling for such functional, durable, low-cost per mile machines, a fact that the Japanese manufacturers seem to have almost forgotten and the Italians rarely grasp as a wholly workable concept. Not everyone wants to commute on a four cylinder, rev-happy, fuel-guzzling pseudo Streetfighter, an explosively potent Supermoto, or some cheap-as-chips budget trailbike, which has the same level of finish as a market stall DVD player.
THOSE STYLE-HUNGRY GERMANS.
But here we have BMW going all fashion-conscious and making three really unique variations on a central theme. The 650 G series really are highly versatile;
There´s a Supermoto that can provide the rider with all the stoppie/wheelie action any self-respecting KTM Duke owner could ask for. The massive Brembo front brake is just so controllable - I nearly managed to stand the thing on its nose, which is the first time I’ve done a stoppie in about ten years. Yeah, I know...I’m getting past it.
Or, take a ride on the XChallenge across BMW’s Off-Road Skills Centre in South Wales and you’ll be astonished at how easily the air-assisted monoshock, which is the size of a 1970s Party Seven beer can (now that’s retro boozing baby), absorbs every bump, rock and dried out stream bed.
I only fell off a couple of times, and that was entirely down to my own crap off-road ability, nowt to do with the bike, which is excellent. After an hour or so messing about on the XChallenge I felt that the bike could truly hack it as a novice level off-roader, it gave me confidence to push on a bit harder, or try and learn a few new skills. Some other `pure’ off-road bikes just intimidate me with their sheer power, the amazing handling and low weight - I just feel that I can never ride the thing hard enough somehow.
Meanwhile the XCountry can hold its own on any busy arterial road at 7.30 am on a wet Tuesday. It has a superbly comfortable saddle, a lively, punchy engine response, predictable handling, is well finished and - best of all - the lowest price tag of the three new models. At £5800 on the road, it is still an expensive bike for a 650 single, but it has a real quality feel about it, it impresses you as a bike which could last ten years without too many traumas, or the alloy bits turning into some kind of furry sculpture.
PICK A WINNER.
Picking a winner from this trio is fairly easy as far as I’m concerned. The XChallenge was fun, but I couldn’t bring myself to buy an off-roader in the UK nowadays - there’s virtually no land access anymore and it’s obvious that the Nimby brigade are going to make your life a misery until your bike is seized by the ‘I don’t like your face’ Police/ASBO team.
Fact is, on the road the XChallenge was too tall for me, (to be fair there is a low seat option available) felt a bit low geared, a bit uncomfortable in the saddle on the open road and is expensive to boot. For six grand you can buy a faster, more comfortable and funky looking all-rounder for sure - you could buy a decent used R1150 GS for that kinda dosh for example, then go touring two-up in the summer. The XChallenge is a classy enduro bike, but it is just a bit too `enduro´ for day-to-day biking life, unless you live halfway up Snowdon!
What about the XMoto then? Well, the XMoto is an acquired taste I reckon and I salute BMW for making a real hooligan toy. It has style, it looks good - almost too svelte to be a German motorcycle in some ways.
Your life would be really exciting on an XMoto because it has a truly raw-edged streak of mischief inside its engine cases. The bike wants to play, on any road, anytime. I loved its sheer chuckability, the way you could rely on that awesome front brake to scrub off speed if the road caught you out with a sudden hairpin bend. It puts a grin on your face for sure. But it costs £6200 and for that kind of cash, you really have to ask yourself what else might tickle your fancy; a used Aprilia Tuono maybe, a new Yamaha XT660R for just £4000, or perhaps a KTM 690 for around £5800?
So the winner for me is the XCountry. This model has a decent seat, a more laidback feel in general and it shares the same sweet-handling chassis as the other two G models. It still feels like a fun thing to ride, but you could also imagine lashing a top box and screen onto it, then commuting to work as well.
What I liked most about the Xcountry was the pleasant nature of the bike, the way it allowed you to take things easy, sit back and enjoy the ride. It has enough travel in its suspension to make life comfortable on pot-holed urban streets, and enough ability to let the rider enjoy chucking it into corners on the back roads of Wales. It is truly versatile and oozes real quality from almost every component.
It actually has a detail on it which says it all about the Xcountry´s practical side; a front mudguard stay - OK, it´s a little thing. But it allows the owner to attach a fender-extender to protect the engine from road crap and know that the mudguard itself probably won´t break, or crack at the mounting point under the extra wind pressure. Most modern commuter bikes lack that amount of thought in their basic design stage - but not the Xcountry.
All credit to BMW for making three bikes from the basic nuts `n ’bolts of the old F650 concept, but the XCountry is the one that will ultimately go the distance.
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|Engine||652cc four stroke, liquid cooled, single cylinder|
|Bore and Stroke||100mm X 83mm|
|Claimed peak power||54bhp @ 7000rpm|
|Frame||Bridge type steel tubular type|
|Forks||USD 45mm diameter tubes|
|Rear suspension||Monoshock, height and pre-load adjustable|
|Brakes||Front: Single 300mm disc 2 piston caliper. Rear single 240mm disc, single piston caliper (optional ABS braking available).|
|Wheels/Tyres||100/90 19 inch front, 130/80 17 inch rear|
|Est. Top Speed||140mph|
|Fuel Capacity||9.5 litres|
|Price||£5795 (June 2007)|