We both use BMW 650GS. Christy a 2011 G650GS and myself a F 650GS Dakar from 2005.
I rode the F 650 Dakar model for more than 6 years now (earlier a 2003 Dakar model) and I am pretty very happy with this bike.
It is just a “no-drama” bike. It works. Always.
In the following I put down my experience with this bike in case you are considering it as a travel bike.
For travelling this is an excellent choice for a couple of reasons:
- good engine and comfortable for long rides
- consumption and range
- no problem with low octane fuel
- no problem with high altitude
- no problem with bad quality gas
- no engine issues .
- pretty low (the G650GS that is, not the Dakar!)
- Offroad capabilities
- bearing of steering
- bolts of G650GS (model since 2011)
- splash guard F650GS (only 2005model)
- rear mirror (2000-2006 model)
- stand Dakar (all years)
The engine has enough power for travelling; I never had the feeling that I would need more power. But it has a very good culture, no bad vibrations. The seat is by standard quite comfortable and good for long rides. For offroading it is better to put the handlebar a little bit higher though.
No Power loss
Even in the high Andes it was enough power, even though of course there is a noticeable power loss on altitudes over 4000m.
Consumption and range
Consumption is sensational: during most of our travel the consumption was as low as 4l/100km (70miles per gallon). On major roads when travelling over 100km/h consumption goes up to approx. 5l/100km.
The Dakar can cover min 400km, the G650GS has only a 14L tank so it covers approx. 350km.
We only had two times (southern Bolivia and southern Argentina) where we needed more than this and we simply bought 2 canisters with 4L each and that covered 500km.
The canisters we simply attached to the passengers footrests with two straps. That worked perfectly fine even with the 500km gravel we covered in southern Bolivia.
No Bad gas issues
We used gas with octanes as low as 80 and we were advised to filter the gas in Bolivia before filling it in our tanks, which we never did. We never had any issues with this though.
No engine issues
I had a 2003 F650 Dakar with 65000km on the clock. My actual bike is a 2005 model with now 35000km and Christys bike has 34000km. We had absolutely no issue with the engine ever.
The G650GS is ok for riders who are not that big. My girlfriend is 1,65m tall and she can handle the bike pretty well. She gets her feet down (not flat though) and she managed to handle the bike in pretty bumpy road condition, even though she was not an experienced rider at the start of this trip.
For shorter persons the bike is perfectly fine. The Dakar version is quite high though, so you should be at least 1,70m or taller.
We did some of the hardest routes you can do as a traveller in south america and both bikes had proofed to be good enough. You do NOT need a Dakar version. The G650GS will meet your needs for such a travel.
The Dakar version is good for even some tough terrain, but you most likely do not approach that with heavy travel luggage.
Most important: it is not too heavy. I can get my bike up again after I fell (off road that happens, sooner or later). I would not like to fight with a 300kg monster…
Issues with the bikes:
There are some downsides to the bike though:
Bearing of the steering
Seems to be a problem: I had to change it on both Dakars that I had after long straight stretches. It is nothing that you need to address immediately during the travel though. You have enough time to change it when it appears. So it won’t stop you in your travels, but you might want to check before starting on a longer trip.
Bolts on the G650GS
There has been a quality drop from the 2000-2006 models to the newer G650 (2011 an later) models. We had severe problems with multiple bolts on Christy 2011 bike. Some heads were bad, so that you couldn’t use the standard tools (they were not “damaged” by wrong use of a tool, but the original shape of the Torx was not deep enough, I don’t even understand how they fixed them during assembly).
Other screws (in total 5) had seized up so that we could not open them without damaging the thread. Before you go on a journey with one of the newer models check the bolts. It is a real pain to deal with this during the travels.
Splashguard 2005 model
This is a problem only occurring on the 2005/2006 model of the F 650 Dakar.
They have changed the windshield from the 2003 model so that when it rains, you get all the dirty water splashing up from the front wheel nicely sprayed on your visor. Really fantastic, I don’t know what engineering was thinking here. Anyway I fixed that simply with a piece of a plastic bottle and some tape. Works perfectly fine.
I lost both mirrors during my travel on my Dakar. They stick out pretty far and when you fall, the chances are pretty good that you are loosing a mirror. In my case that was a simple fall over of the bike due to heavy wind.
Get them changed for some more offroad compatible ones before you travel, you need the mirror when you hit some lousy traffic as e.g. Lima.
The Dakar stands at an really frightening angle. The stand is simply too short.
With the road being a little bit uneven in the wrong direction the bike simply falls over when heavy loaded. Same happens with soft ground. Wunderlich has a nice add-on part that makes the stand larger so it wouldn’t sink in as much AND is approx. 15mm thick, so the bike stands more upright.
Make sure to glue in the screws as I have lost that handy little part during my trip.
Rear splash guard F-650GS
The rear splash guard the F650 has attached originally doesn’t last. On both my Dakars it came off eventually, leaving a plastic part flapping around. I just ripped the rest away, just leaving the guard for the chain on the bike. You can do this advance or just let it happen during the travel. It might get caught in the chain or the tire somehow, so i would just take it off in advance.
Comparison G650 vs. Dakar version
Both bikes are good for travelling.
The Dakar version offers a better suspension if you want to go high speed offroad. I liked to do that sometimes, but this is nothing that is a necessity for a trip, more a fun thing to do if you know what you are doing.
Other than that: the G650 doesn’t limit you in terms of where you can get it to.
The G650GS has 3L less gas on board. That is no problem, as the only time we needed to enlarge the range was in southern Bolivia and southern Argentina (a 4L canister did the trick). In Ecuador, Peru, Chile you will have absolutely no fuel issue with a range more than 200km.
There are two thoughts that I think might make the G650 even a better bike for South America:
- For riders not experienced with sand or deep gravel: a wider front tire helps you in these conditions. You can’t lower air pressure, since you may hit hard rocks, so the 19″wheel of the G650 has an advantage over the 21″wheel of the Dakar due to the wider tire.
- The Dakar is higher, and that makes it more vulnerable to side wind. You will hit a lot of wind from the side in South America (along the coast of Peru and of course in Patagonia). I had the feeling that Christy on the G650 was not swerving as badly as I was on the Dakar when we had side wind. That might be because the bike is higher. Another effect on this might be the smaller front wheel of the G650. It is rotating at higher speed and that might stabilize the bike a bit more (I haven’t really calculated that through, so corrections on this thought are highly appreciated).