Monday, May 03, 2010

The BMW F650 GS: A Crisis of Confidence

I feel guilty. It’s been over a month since I returned this BMW to Kissell Motorsports. It’s taken equally long to write this post. I knew I had to put something down here, so I began with an image I remembered: stopping, pulling off my gloves and walking across the road to take this picture. I was uncomfortable. Like Wayne and Garth from Wayne’s World when they meet Aerosmith in their basement, I could hear my mind crying, “I’m not worthy.” I looked at this brand new BMW and felt like an imposter.

A mini-crisis of faith flickered to life.

I’d been warned. More than one dedicated BMW rider suggested something would happen if I rode one. A slight smile and oblique reference to some strange BMW voodoo. Hints that, once I put some miles on one of these machines, I’d be hooked. Thoughts of my friend Alex joining the Hare Krishna in 1973 came to mind. The usual music that plays in my head when I ride wasn’t there. All was quiet on the riding front.

I’m still not sure I can adequately describe what transpired, but I need to get past this post.

The BMW F650 GS looks at home in the central Pennsylvania landscape. On this bike, I began to think about the hierarchy of riders I’ve closeted away in some small place in my head. At the bottom, minibikes, mopeds and electric bicycles. At the top, those riders who regularly transverse countries and continents. The movie Long Way Round, with Charlie Boorman and Ewan McGregor circling the planet on their BMWs.

Was this really what I believed?

None of this would have occurred if the F650 GS wasn’t a fine, elegant machine. From the moment I heard the engine turn over to the moment I put down the kickstand, returning it to Kissell’s, I was impressed. This bike was well-designed, functional, powerful and smooth. I had nothing to complain about.

Well, almost nothing.

Starting out on a test ride with the thermometer reading 20 degrees Fahrenheit may not be the best way to critique a motorcycle. I’ve convinced myself that cold is a state of mind, and if attired correctly and focused properly on the task at hand (riding this shiny new motorcycle), the cold will melt away. So confident I was that I dismissed the need for my electric gloves (Gerbing plug wouldn’t fit the BMW port) in favor of the BMW’s heated grips.

A mile from home I feel a knife push on the side of my neck where the air found a gap between my helmet and ski mask. Another flow of frigid air inflates my one-piece Olympia riding suit, as air sneaks past the top of my left boot and on up my leg. The sun is out and I tell myself this is temporary. The instrument display still reads 20F. I switch on the heated grips.

Smooth comes to mind as I move down the road at 60mph. From the sound of the starter to the tires rolling on the highway, everything is really smooth. Shifting, cornering, braking. As if this BMW was designed purely to carry a rider along with a minimum of reminders of mechanical intrusion. I could focus on the experience rather than the machine. I think I was smiling.

Then my first minor complaint. An adjustment, really. I have to make a right turn and my left thumb automatically searches for the turn signal button. Returning to mechanical reality, my mind overcomes muscle memory and pushes the right-hand signal paddle next to the throttle. Unlike other motorcycles I’ve driven, which have one switch that operates the signal for both right and left turns, BMW’s are unique in having separate switches for each side. But by the end of that first hour of riding, the turn signal system is set in muscle memory, and it’s no longer an issue. That was the only mechanical stumble I had.

Well, almost.

Fifteen miles from home, it’s still 20F and my hands are getting cold. I am really disappointed with the heated grips. No help at all. I pull off the road to park so I can warm my hands on the exhaust system. I put my hands next to the muffler and see it is well-shielded and gives off no heat. The headlights are recessed a bit and hard to get your hands on, so no relief there either. So I just wait awhile for my hands to warm a bit inside my gloves. The sun is shining so it seems fine.

This BMW is quick. With little effort it seems to be instantly traveling 75mph. I slow down and before long notice a farm lane, more my style and speed. Ice still covers waterholes and I make a mental note so the bright sun and dry roads don’t surprise me.

The ground in this field is hard. Frozen. If this wasn’t a brand-new motorcycle belonging to someone else, I’d ride across this big field to see where I’d end up. The F650 GS seems as if it would be just as comfortable off-the-pavement.

Cold hands force another stop by a red barn. Or maybe I stopped because I wanted a picture. While sitting on the motorcycle, pondering the switch for the heated grips, it occurs to me I’m not the sharpest crayon in the box. Apologies to BMW for any adverse inference about their technology. It was a minor miracle when I realized I had never actually switched the grips on. On maximum my hands were toasty in a matter of minutes. Verdict: Heated grips coupled with a pair of insulated leather or windproof gloves would probably be all I’d need for temperatures down to the mid-20s.

The BMW eats up the road. It’s no wonder so many BMW riders pile on so many miles. It’s just so easy. Pennsylvania has a lot of roads that reach out ahead with little traffic and endless sights. I’ve spent my whole life wandering in one manner or another, and I’m still in love with this landscape.

Back to the crisis of faith. Last Saturday morning, my friend Paul and I went for a ride. This time on my Vespa. The usual excuse to have breakfast somewhere other than home. We made a stop at the Amish harness shop in Madisonburg. While there, a guy pulled in on a motorcycle obviously configured for travel. You know the look – big Pelican waterproof cases on both sides and top, all those little extras that say “I’m headed somewhere.” And in riding clothes that reflect a lot of time on the road. In the back of my head, I’m already thinking I’m not really a rider, but an enthusiastic dilettante with a scooter.

During the ensuing conversation, the rider relates his plans to leave in a few weeks for a trip to Alaska with a friend. Sixteen thousand miles and six weeks on the road. Listening to him describe his trip, I’m simultaneously calculating vacation days at work and conversations with Kim that contain the phrase “I’ll be gone for six weeks.”

I can’t picture that trip. I’m not sure I would even want to make that trip. The F650 GS could easily make that trip. Before leaving, the guys says he put 97K miles on his other bike in the last four years. And his friend has 240K miles on his bike. I was too embarassed to make a picture.

I’m not worthy.

Looking around in the woods for morel mushrooms, I can’t help but wonder who these people are that ride so much. Don’t they have jobs? Families? Responsibilities? I wonder if I’m jealous. Mostly I’m perplexed about my own riding life. And this BMW I have to play with.

I love riding alone and this motorcycle embraces it perfectly. Riding through the mountains here I’m reminded of scenes from Then Came Bronson. He rode a Harley, but what mattered is a person on a bike, alone, and on the road. This is why I ride. How far is of less importance. There are myriad paths for a rider to follow, literally and figuratively, and my challenge is to figure out how riding fits into my life. Riding is part of my life. A quiet time-out. A meditation. But it isn’t my life.

There were a lot of paths I would have liked to choose, but time and good sense got in the way. I really wanted to ride across this bridge and up into the woods on the other side. I knew, like a faithful horse, the F650 GS would take me.

The crisis of faith triggered by this motorcycle stirred up all the stories, lies, and marketing messages I have consumed over the years. If I wasn’t crossing Mongolia or screaming through an Alpine pass, I was somehow missing something important. I was forgetting who I am as a rider, in favor of some idealized notion.

The BMW was at home in town as well, which is something I can’t say for every motorcycle I’ve ridden. The bike is nimble and easily navigates the streets, alleys and parking spaces around here. Well, I suppose you don't have to be all that nimble in a small town.

Add side bags or a topcase and this bike would be an excellent commuter. BMWs are allowed to be commuter bikes during the week aren't they?

So, here I am, at the end of this post. I wish I’d kept the bike longer. I considered telling Craig Kissell I lost it but that seemed wrong. If I had more time I would have gone on a real ride. Far. Take a trip. I could go anywhere on this motorcycle. Alaska didn't seem unreasonable for a few moments.

But for now, I’m satisfied with the choices I’ve made and the riding I do. This BMW will adapt to my style, or for someone who wants to ride around the world.

I bet there is space in my garage for one of these.


SonjaM said...

Being a F650GS aspirant I was awaiting your riding report with great anticipation. Wow, what a wonderful, poetic recap. I believe that part of the Beemer voodoo is that you actually CAN take their bikes anywhere (yet they function as commuter vehicles, too). Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. Cheers from the West Coast, SonjaM

Richard Machida said...

A great post and a very thoughtful review. This is the one bike I occasionally look at when I think that I would like a more modern bike than my 27 year old BMW. I've wondered the same thing about those that seem to have time for extended trips. By extended, I'm thinking of months to years.

As you can probably guess, being in Alaska, we see an large number of people on their "trip of a lifetime" with their GSs outfitted with every option in the book. It isn't that far and the roads are in great shape up to Alaska usually taking about four long days through Canada. Come on up, it's a great trip. One of these years, I'll make it on a bike but I've driven it 16 times in the last 30 years and it is a super highway now compared to what it used to be.

Robert Keeney said...

Excellent post. I have never ridden one of these. I sat on one at a local dealer and had a real hard time leaving it in the store. It felt like it was made for me. Sadly, not enough money in the budget or there would be one in the garage now.

David said...

What a great post! Not only for the review of the motorcycle, but for hitting on one of those philosophical "fork in the road" moments. Many "riders" never seem to get more than an hour or two from their house, or never ride other than on a perfect weekend day. Are they less of a rider for not being a Dan Bateman level road warrior? I don't think so. When I had a normal job (Not long haul trucking) I rode my bike to work, sometimes I took the long way home and sometimes I wouldn't. For a time, although I owned a motorcycle, I didn't ride because the bike was wore out and broken down. It didn't make me less of a rider. You don't have to hop on a bike and ride to Alaska, you can go to breakfast at the local diner on a Gold Wing, or a BMW. As long as you're on two wheels, and enjoying the ride, you are a "biker" or "motorcyclist" or "rider" or whatever you class yourself as.

As a side thought, would you be less of a photographer if you used a disposable camera? Is it the tool that makes the artist or craftsman or the craftsman that makes the tool useful? Deep thoughts for a Monday morning. :)

Dave T.

Charlie6 said...

Very nice post as the others have said....and yes, Beemers are used to commute as well. My 23 yrs old R80 does fine in most weather.

I envy those guys with the time to ride for such extended periods of time...someday I will have such time without incurring the financial penalties.

Just more food for thought, the indie mechanic I take my R80 to occasionally says its cheaper to maintain a newish F650GS than my old R80.....

I lean more towards the F800GS but yeah, someday. Heck, if there's room in the garage and the budget will stand it....why not? Jack Riepe, Richard M and I will welcome you into the side of Teutonic light and righteousness.... : )

Conchscooter said...

Amusingly enough when I rented a German built 650 in Italy for a couple of weeks I found it lacking in torque and over compensated with gears. And the connection you got with the Chinese 650 I found with the Bonneville. Happily there are lots of models to keep us all consuming to feed our own appetities. And you have my sympathy that BMW's excellent hand warmers are necessary.

bobskoot said...


your words are pure poetry. Based upon your assessment I now wish to purchase a F800GS and while commuting to work I could pretend that I was in the mountains of Mongolia, or Nepal fiording rivers and going where man has never before stepped foot.

Such is the BMW mystique.

I just love your quote: "Riding is part of my life. A quiet time-out. A meditation. But it isn’t my life."

I ride when I can and plan a short trip or two every year but I also need to reserve family time. I have dreams of navigating across the continent, perhaps some day, but as you say, where do these people find the time or funds to do this.

Wet Coast Scootin

Paul said...

Hi Steve.
I noticed a BMW at Kissell's with "650" in the model number that was an 800cc motorcycle. Not sure if your BMW is a 650 or 800. If it's a one cylinder its a 650 I bet. Putt putt putt. Chain drive and no wind protecting fairing on yours. Those other models are going to take it up a notch with the fairing and shaft drive. Those are given's on long trips eh? But you don't go on long trips so this one fits better and is going to have more feedback for half day trips. I'm just saying. The BMW strong point are those long distance (fairing/driveshaft) machines aren't they? Paul "I don't know I'm saying" Ruby

Nigel said...

Aug 08 and I picked up my nice brand new F650gs from the dealer in Scotland. Life had changed dramatically since placing my deposit and now I struggle to get the 600 miles I need for my first service. The clock turned to 597 miles when I returned to get the check up done then it was up a ramp into the back of a Ford Transit van and secured for the trip down to Southern Spain where we now call home.
Mountains, Coast, arrid desert, this place has it all and my trusted Beemer takes me through it all and never a grumble. Long straights and twisted mountains with big altitude changes are cast by the wayside then down onto the sand covered coastal roads and through the narrow streets of typical Mediterranian villages. I am pleased to have gone for the F650GS. A good strong upright position for seeing over traffic and light enough that I don't fight to pull it out of bends or parking spaces. I think it's a bit clunky putting it into first gear but the torque ratios all seem to be spot on once out on the road. I love it and it works well for me and my 5'7" lack of hieght. I don't feel I have to get off this baby to stretch my legs out and just a stand up on the pegs soon gets the blood back down into the lower legs. Looking forward to meeting my mate off the ferry in one of the Northern coast ports later in the year and riding back down through Spain on a trip of just over 1000km each way. He has just picked up a new GS1200 Adventure. Will he give me a go? Not really sure I want him to!

Steve Williams said...

SonjaM: I hope you find something useful in this review. It is a fine motorcycle. And thank you for the kind words about my writing!

Richard: I've never really had a chance to talk for an extended period of time with a rider who makes those extended trips. I think it would be interesting to interview someone like that.

I suspected the trip to Alaska is more one of road time endurance than a challenge like it used to me when there was a thousand miles of gravel. Even so, maybe someday I will make that ride!

Steve Williams said...

Robert: Once the idea seeps into a brain that it wants something it's hard to put it down. Maybe that BMW will find it's way to your garage.

Steve Williams said...

David: I think the philosophical "fork in the road" you describe is exactly what I came to grips with. Funny how a lot of things have to come together before you become aware of something.

I'm ok with where I am as a rider. And I am open to further adventures if and when the time comes.

As far as the disposable cameras go -- I am fascinated by images made with primitive devices whether an old plastic film camera or a wooden pinhole camera. And a camera isn't really a very good indicator of the photographer. Same goes for what you ride.

Steve Williams said...

Charlie6: If I can I want to take the F800 out too and see how the bigger bike compares.

Do you think the BMW triggered something in my own Teutonic background?

Steve Williams said...

Conchscooter: I've heard others talk about the Chinese engines and others indicate the 2010 bikes have European engines. I found the torque on this bike solid and strong in the same way all the Triumphs I have ridden were.

Maybe they gave you one with a governer on it so you wouldn't go so fast!

Anonymous said...

The G650GS single cylinder has the Chinese made engine...built to BMW specs.

The new misnamed F650GS parallel twin cylinder (800cc) has a Rotax engine and is assembled in Berlin.


Steve Williams said...

Bobskoot: it sounds like we think alike. Perhaps one day in the future as we are both crossing the continent we will run into each other along the road, each busy with a camera making a splendid picture of our motorcycle in the landscape.

Steve Williams said...

Paul: yeah, the name is sort of misleading and I don't usually write about technical specs. But you are correct-- the F650 has a 798cc 2 cylinder engine.

And the one I rode had heated grips and ABS.

Nice machine. It would putt putt putt all day long!
As far as what's best for long trips it's a matter of personal taste. Anything can be ridden cross country. Guys ride 49cc scooters across the country.

It all depends...

Steve Williams said...

Nigel: your comments are a better review of th bike than I did. It sounds near perfect. Thanks for sharing your experience so clearly.

I hope to ride one of the 1200 GS Adventure bikes for comparison.

Steve Williams said...

Anonymous: thanks for the clarification on the engines. Conchscooter: maybe you are going to have to rent another on your next trip to Ialy!

Dan said...

Thank you for this timely review. I just parked my new (three days new) G650 GS (the single cylinder) next to my year old LX 150. If there is room in my garage for both, certainly there is room in yours as well. My hopes for later this summer is to ride the 650 to Prudhoe Bay from Anchorage, if I can get it run in by the end of July.

Thank you for the reviews, and the photographs. Both are quite well done.

Orin said...

In a couple months, I will be moving to Bellingham, Wash., which among other things is the southern terminus for the Alaska Marine Highway System. Twice a week, there's a ferry calling at the Port of Bellingham.

A friend has talked about riding her Stella on the Alaska Highway, but I'm thinking even making that trip on the GTS would be a bit too harebrained. An F650 GS would be just the ticket. Maybe there'll be one on Craigslist with 67 miles on it, for sale cheap...

Scootin' Old Skool

Steve Williams said...

Dan: Good luck on your trip to Prudhoe Bay. I would imagine that stretch of road is still kind of rustic.

Orin: There is a fellow from Florida on the Modern Vespa forum who has twice ridden his Vespa GT200 from Florida to Anchorage. So starting from where you are would be a piece of cake. You could probably do it on an LX50!

Chris Luhman said...

Steve, very nice review. I had the opportunity to ride the F650GS and F800GS a few weeks ago. They are both 800cc and extremely similar bikes. I too was enjoying the smoothness of the ride. The turn signals also confused me briefly as did the silly heated grips. I hated the windscreen as it made a lot of noise/buffeting inside my helmet. I'd either get a shorter one or a taller one since I didn't see any adjustments.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Steve:

I hate to be the one to say I told you so, "But I told you so."

You liked a lot of the other bikes you rode, but this is the only one which you wrote about in haunting terms.

There are BMW people, and everybody else.

I could have introsduced you to 246 fanatics last week. The weinerschnitzel crowd.

Fondest regards,
Jck • reep • Toad
Twisted Roads

Charlie6 said...

uhmmmmmmm, wiener schnitzel......

Steve Williams said...

Chris: the 650 seemed so powerful that I can hardly imagine the need for the extra horsepower in the 800. But I guess I'll have to try it out.

Steve Williams said...

Dear Mr. Riepe: I'm not ready to accept a "told you so". Not quite yet. Your comment arrived after 250 miles on a BMW RT 1200 and any haunting mystic from the 650 evaporated after riding that bike.

Still, weiner schnitzel has it's attraction...

Steve Williams said...

Charlie: as much as I like Weiner schnitzel the stronger memories from visits with my grandfather in Bavaria were those early morning walks to the local bakery for hard rolls for breakfast.

Chris Luhman said...

Steve, the F650 and F800 have the same engine. The F650 has 71hp and the F800 85. I didn't really notice much of a difference in HP, but the F650 has more low end torque, which was noticeable. The F650 is also lower and lighter, so I found it a bit easier to ride. The F800 is geared for more unsealed surfaces with spoked wheels and the F650 more on-road with cast rims.

I had a hard time deciding which one I liked more. They are both great bikes.

Sojourner rides said...

Steve, your words on the F650GS completely captures the essence of this bike. I felt as if I were riding it--it captured so many of the feelings and thoughts I have when I ride this bike. You look good standing next to it! Lovely review!

irondad said...

I sort of hesitate to add another comment to the growing list. Not sure if I have anything worthwhile to add. On the other hand.....

The subject seems to be more a crisis of identity than of faith. You were on a bike that had more mystique than actual capabilities for long distance riding.

I personally don't care for the examples of that bike that I've ridden. I've seen ST's and FJR's with a couple hundred thousand miles. Sophie was close to that when I sold her.

That mystique is what we compare ourselves to. Trouble is, that image isn't real. There's some truth to it but we don't see the whole picture. When we compare ourselves with that image we like to think that we are up to it.

Deep down we realize that we're not up to it. Living that image doesn't line up with our values. We think it's something lacking in us which causes the momentary feelings of doubt and disappointment within ourselves.

What these moments should do is the opposite. We should celebrate that we have things in order like our priorities. Those things aren't romantic. However, being balanced is of much greater value in the long term.

I really appreciate the self reflection you show in this post. Mainly because I am following along with you in the process.

As evidenced by Dave's comment, I've built a hard core reputation. In the last year and a half I've realized that maybe it's become too one dimensional.

Following your lead into photography has helped me see a bigger picture, no pun intended. I'm seeing more to appreciate in the world around me. I'm sitting beside my three month old grandson as I write this.

Sometimes the wanting is much better than the having. What I have now is pretty darn good. In your heart you feel the same. It seems appropriate to embrace and celebrate what we have right now, don't you think?

Kate said...

Steve I still can't decide if it's your writing or your photographs that most amaze me. I can't say that I ride but you could certainly convince anyone to ride. Your photography is most amazing. I love the pic that you stopped to look for cool. Thank you is hardly enough.

American Scooterist Blog said...

The mystique isn't necessarily in someone, but it may be the perception others have of that person.

Once a person gets to know a certain bike the mystique becomes something like a human relationship. We can't help it. We talk to our bikes as if they were our significant others. A girl seems mysterious. Exotic. Until you get to know her well enough. Then she becomes a partner and the dearest friend. Others may see the relationship shared by a couple as a mysterious thing. It might be something they don't have, or something in which they sense a deep passion. Same thing with a bike.

You write and photograph on a level few really can attain. But they can find a sense of expression here which may be hard for them to express themselves. But they understand. We understand. We all understand.

It IS about the bike.


Bryce said...

Have been waiting too long to make a comment. However as the newly minted editor of a magazine I figured you Steve Williams are just too darn busy with work, family, Junior and life in general to give much heed to writing a blog.
There, I said it.

This BMW beastie is NOT a BMW in my book. It is a clone of something it isn't. To me a BMW has opposed pistons, and make can be a flying brick, but all of these variants on a two-wheeled theme including their latest 1000 whatever they call it, means your local servicing BMW dealer has to have that many more spare this and that in stock. The religious folk say BMW is Be My Witness, the servicing dealer
dealer looks at you, the owner and says BMW, Bring More Waupum cause your BMW needs service and it ain't cheap.

Then there is the other factor which nobody has yet noted. Steve you're probably at an age of over 50 and under 100 where you're wondering, "what the heck happened to the last fifty years or so? Raised a child or two, married at least one of them off, I have a house a wife and a new family dog and yet, I am feeling, sort empty." Maybe you're like me knowing the next fifty years are all on the downhill side.

So what will you do if you retire?
Leave your wife and Junior at home and go somewhere for a trip on a different machine?
Then what? See? It's not that simple is it?

Then again neither is that BMW your borrowed. Keep in mind that BMW or any mechanical device is simply
a means to an end. Junior has a heart, and a loving singular personality. You yourself have noted the feeling of Junior when he comes up to you and wags his tail.

Did the BMW wag its tail? It may have wagged your tail, but it was borrowed. Your Vespa is utterly practical, and sure that major service a while back cost a bundle but does your Vespa have a personality or is it sort of hit and miss? Is it real or is it simply something that is there but only real when you want to make it real? Photography is like that too. Sure the Nikon D700 is getting long in the tooth for a digital device, however there is something about using a basic Leica that no digital device can match.

Ditto for two wheeled machines. The Vespa is quiet, efficient but is it fun? You have to decide at this point in your life if Mr. Kissel is tempting you with machinery that you'd like to own, but would you be happy to own? Think about it.

That blue BMW is only one of many choices; we'll be awaiting your reply.

SheRidesABeemer said...

Steve, I haven't read your blog in months (heck I haven't blogged in months). You may have had a difficult time starting that entry but the words came together and you spin quite a tale. BMW Owner's news would love this type of "review", care to share it? Gail :)

Joe Merlino said...

I know that the F650 has changed a lot since I had my 1997 "Funduro" model, but I really found the thing very tricky to ride. At highway speeds the front end would twich in the most nerve wracking way in response to the slightest shift in wind direction, and it's high, light design would get me blown all over the road. Once you got the RPMs up into a usable range, the single cylinder engine would vibrate in a way that made me feel like I was sitting on an electric toothbrush.

I just simply never felt comfortable on it. The bars were all wrong, and set my wrists at an angle that became painful after a couple of hours. After a year, I ditched it for an airhead with a much lower center of gravity. This improved my riding experience tremendously.

I'm not dissing the bike. It's a great bike. It's just not a great bike for me.

Chuck Pefley said...

Steve, thank you for your very kind words on my blog today. "Most" of what I post is encountered in the course of daily life. Always carrying a camera of some sort is a habit, a way of life if you prefer. Once in-a-while I will be seeking something specific, but for the most part it is the journey and delight of discovery.

Irondad's comment above is quite significant.

My thanks to both of you.


cieldequimper said...

Thank you for your visit on my blog! I have a feeling I know how you found it!
I do like the scenery very much (especially that red barn) but I will have to admit that the intricacies of bikes are... well, I don't and never have used a bike!

Steve Williams said...

Chris Luhman: I didn't notice issues with the windscreen but since I never ride with any kind of wind abatement i've become oblivious to what the wind does. To a point.

On the RT1200 I just was riding I saw how an adjustable windshield can spoil you. At the moment if feels like cheating to me. Don't ask me why. Who knows why I think the things I do.

Steve Williams said...

Sojourner rides: Thank you for your kind words about this post. I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to do this.

Steve Williams said...

irondad: There you go, sitting next to your grandson, writing with keen insight and wisdom and triggering a lot of thoughts that deserve their own post.

So for now, accept my humble thanks for what you have written and keep an eye open for a post based on your comments.

Steve Williams said...

Kate: Thank you. It's nice to know that there is something of value beyond those of us who ride scooters and motorcycles.

Harv: First, thanks for the kind words. It is nice to know that people find something positive in the work.

The whole notion of image and expectations related to machines still has me thinking. Your comments have triggered more thoughts that I will have to gather and bring together in some future post.

Steve Williams said...

Bryce: Things certainly have been busy -- work, Junior, life. And the magazine is in production with the last minute content editing taking place now. And I have photos still to make.

But your post brings up a lot of important points for me. First, the notion that the 650 isn't really a BMW. I've heard that a lot. So I leap ahead and took the RT1200 out so I would have some experience with the big flat engine.

But then there are those who only consider the older BMWs real BMWs. Fortunately I am naive and only look for the BMW logo...

Age related issues are the real highlight of your comments. It is something I have thought about and planned to write on but nothing every happens. I don't like thinking about the downhill side. Maybe your post means it's time to step up and write about riding and getting older.

And last, the idea that all of these things are just machines. Junior is looking out the window and if I say his name softly he will walk over sit down, and look at me. Not even my Vespa will do that. It's just a tool.

As far as what motorcycle I would really like to own? The jury is still deliberating.

Steve Williams said...

SheRidesaBeemer: If the BMW MOA would like to run this story somewhere that would be great. I will contact them.

Joe: I have heard similar comments from other Funduro owners. This bike is a lot different. Stable and powerful. I only rode one of the older thumper 650s once and this new one is very different.

Chuck: I always have the iPhone camera with me and usually some other camera as well. But I have been cheating on my ritual of shooting consistently. Other projects requiring other parts of my brain are in the way.

And that irondad--he is turning into a real philospher isn't he?

cieldequimper: I can't remember who sent me the link to your blog but it was nice to see the pictures of Paris!

Cindy said...

As the 4 month-old, proud owner of a 2009 GTS300, and a practically virgin 2-wheeled vehicle anything, I completed my first 100 mile ride through windy, hilly, and gravelly roads as well as fully-fledged highways, putt-putt-putting along at speeds that topped out at 65 behind my boyfriend who was on an '82 BMW K100. I kept up, and I took him off the line a number of times, though admittedly at any higher speeds, I'd have to trade my beloved Isabella in for something with a bit more oomph. Sadly, while my bf got the motorcycle wave from everyone we passed, I was largely ignored. (One man kept his wave going for me but I was so surprised I completely forgot to take my left hand off of my handlebar!) Someday, I plan on getting a motorcycle to prepare for a big trip we're planning across the continent of Africa (no kids yet, and we're just going to quit our jobs to do it!), but if I have the funds for it, I won't be trading Isabella in. She's too much fun and too dear to me. I love your blog!

Cindy said...

oops I meant '85 k100. And he protests that I never took him off the line. I remember differently. Haha!

claudia said...

Just read this lovely piece. I have been riding a Vespa, and added a 250 motorcycle to my roster, all of this in anticipation of one day owning a BMW. With my eye on the F650GS, I ventured to a showroom out in Connecticut, only to mount the bike and feel out of sorts. It felt top heavy to me, I didn't have that blink response of awe, my dreams were dashed. At the other side of the dealership were the Ducatis. I swung my leg over a 696 Monster and said, "I'm home." It's that way with bikes, I had it with the LX150, my TU250x, and now the Duc. Bikes and lovers, you just know when it feels right.

Anonymous said...

Hi there Steve,
Well I've returned from the Canadian Rockies where I had a mate and our families for company along with his Yamaha Cruiser and the Harley Fat Bob I rented for a week.
The Harley? Nice looking bike and very well balanced. A very comfortable riding height for my short leg but there it ended! The pegs were (as normal on a Harley) positioned way forward of the engine which left me just a little touch stretched. Ok, so I could live with that but what I didn't realise until the morning I was to return the bike was that the air filter on the right side of the bike which had been keeping my leg a bit cocked during the week was to leave me with a twisted pelvis and rotated disc! Some chiropractor assistance later and a holiday with a lot less canoeing than hoped for I found myself asking, "Where is my Beemer?" I love my beemer!
Sadly, my anticipated trip down through Spain in October may be in jeopardy!

Nigel said...

Sorry for double post, didn't mean to be anonymous!
Hi there Steve,
Well I've returned from the Canadian Rockies where I had a mate and our families for company along with his Yamaha Cruiser and the Harley Fat Bob I rented for a week.
The Harley? Nice looking bike and very well balanced. A very comfortable riding height for my short leg but there it ended! The pegs were (as normal on a Harley) positioned way forward of the engine which left me just a little touch stretched. Ok, so I could live with that but what I didn't realise until the morning I was to return the bike was that the air filter on the right side of the bike which had been keeping my leg a bit cocked during the week was to leave me with a twisted pelvis and rotated disc! Some chiropractor assistance later and a holiday with a lot less canoeing than hoped for I found myself asking, "Where is my Beemer?" I love my beemer!
Sadly, my anticipated trip down through Spain in October may be in jeopardy!

Steve Williams said...

cindy: Sounds as if you and your husband have some adventures ahead. Your Vespa 300 will keep up for anything legal in this country. And once you are comfortable with the Vespa moving to a motorcycle is not a big leap.

And I know from experience that a Vespa will beat a 1985 K100 off the line. The BMW rider is usually too enthralled by the sound of the valves tapping to pay attention to much else......*grin*

Good luck and ride safe.

Steve Williams said...

claudia: I had the same reaction to the BMW 650 and even worse with the 800. But after 50 miles or so it felt as stable as anything I had ridden.

The Ducati you like is a nice machine. And the Triumph Street Triple is a close match. My biggest complaint, or my body's complaint actually, was the riding position. The pegs were just slightly farther back than I liked. Nothing terrible but I am definitely most at home in the upright and looking around riding position.

And thanks for your kind words about the post!

Steve Williams said...

Nigel: It's been so long since I have ridden a Harley that I can't picture the air filter problem. Definitely bad if it keeps you from a ride through Spain. I guess there is a lesson there. Once a BMW rider always a BMW rider!

Good luck and heal fast.

Mitch Kehn said...

I've owned 5 BMWs, 2 Vespas and an Aprilia. My Vespa GT200 is the best bike for city commuting HANDS DOWN. BUT, I've also done 250 miles days on it and could have done 2x that distance if I cared to.

The solution is a Vespa for distances less than 100 miles and speeds under 75 mph --- and a beemer for everything else.

Kevin Powers said...

What a wonderful post! I had a R100/7 years ago. I had to adjust the valves, on several occasions, by the side of the road. Most would consider this a hassle. It didn't bother me, just a little time to get things right. It didn't matter where I was going, most of the time I was just wandering. I still do this as often as possible. Therapy is way overrated!
I hope to take my two sons on a long trip. They also share my love of cycling. There is a point where is becomes something different. No need to talk to those who ride with you, a wink and a nod seems to do just fine.
I spoiled myself and bought a 2006 f650gs. It elevated my riding experience to another level. Just pure fun and enjoyment. There is definitely a difference between BMW's and other brands.
Not that there aren't other great rides. I will never get rid of my KZ440LTD "81". I work on it all the time. I took this bike to Hudson Bay with no problems (could have used the heated grips!). Attachment to bikes is very personal. I really don't want this one to die.
Thanks for your insightful post. Really touched me!

Patti G. said...

I ride a 2003 F650 GS (lowered) that I bought new. I had been lusting after the bike but the original models were all much too tall for me. (BMW's are not kind to those with short legs). 2003 was the first year they made the factory lowered version and I bought it as soon as I saw it. A spontaneous, non-budgeted decision. I LOVE my bike. I just finished this season with 102,500 kilometres on it. I have been on many long journeys, from Ontario Canada where I live, across the country to the west coast, down to Colorado, back out another year to Sturgis (where everybody knew who I was since I was the odd bike out among all those Harleys). Out to Edmonton for a friend's wedding with fancy clothes packed in the sidecase, via Banff, Cache Creek, Vancouver and Jasper and then home on the Yellowhead. A circle tour of Lake Superior. A trip to the Gaspé and the Cabot Trail on the east coast. I think what I appreciate most is the feeling that on this bike you can go anywhere and that the whole world is accesssible to you. I learned that I love riding on my own, all day, day after day. Seeing the geography, meeting interesting people, and having long periods of time alone with my thoughts. It's very rare these days that we have any long periods of time without interruption or distraction by phone, radio or TV. The bike is plenty powerful, and my friend with the Yamaha Vstar 1100 will tell you that he has to struggle to keep up. This week I made another spontaneous decision to trade in my beloved bike on a new version - the 2010 F650 GS, like the one you rode, the bigger twin engine. I figure it will be like my bike only stronger...and I can't imagine riding anything else since my current bike has comfortably taken me all over the place in all manner of weather and conditions. For the record, I am a retired woman "of a certain age" who put most of those kilometres on the bike while I was working at a full time job. That's what holidays are for! Thank you for the interesting posts and perspective on riding the 650GS.

Steve Williams said...

Mitch Kehn: Your formula makes sense to me. I just need to make more room in my garage!

Kevin Powers: Thank you for your kind words about my review of the F650 GS.

Riding to Hudson Bay sounds like a real adventure, especially on an old Kawasaki. Like you, I've always thought that there are a lot of fine motorcycles and scooters in the world, each with their own peculiar characteristics. Some fit a person and some don't.

Personal attachment to two-wheeled machines can be strong.

Patti G.: Congratulations on the new BMW. I think you will find it an amazing machine. Heated grips will be nice in the north too.

Your riding adventures are amazing. I can't imagine riding so much. Maybe in retirement....

psmjr said...

I just came across your blog when doing a google search on the F650GS. It is a very well written piece and rings true for me in at least two respects. I too am from central Pennsylvania and it is absolutely one of the best areas to ride in the states. Second, I have owned the F650GS for two years (identical to the one you rode down to the great blue paint job) and in a word, the bike is "perfection" on two wheels.

Steve Williams said...

psmjr: Thank you for the kind words regarding my review of the BMW. Glad you stumbled upon the blog and hope to hear more of your riding on the F650GS.

The more I ride the more I appreciate how special this part of Pennsylvania is for riding. A lot of people know some of the famous routes but there are so many other secret paths to explore.

As much as I like my Vespa I have to admit there are a few motorcycles I would not mind having parked in my garage. The BMW F650 GS is one of them.

Ride safe and wave if we pass on the road.

Otter said...

I still think the old 650 is one of the finest motorcycles ever made. We'll still have to see about the new one, although I do love the 800GS.

Steve Williams said...

otter: The old and new bikes both seem impressive to me. I could have fun with either!

Anonymous said...

I know this is late but you guys obviously haven't riden in the San Francisco bay area if you think pennsylvania is the best place to ride in the states. Nothing more beautiful than some great twisties right along the ocean for hundreds of miles.

Steve Williams said...

Anonymous: I've driven through the hills in the Bay area and it is indeed lovely. But there is a big difference between there and here -- traffic. Pennsylvania still is pretty empty in some areas giving the roads a desolate feel that the Bay area lacks. Not many places there you could sit in the road for an hour eating lunch.

Regardless, both places are great places to ride.

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