Equipment: The bikes …BMW 650 GS

We both use BMW 650GS. Christy a 2011 G650GS and myself a F 650GS Dakar from 2005.

Our bikes: a 2005 F650GS Dakar (front) and a 2011 G650GS

Our bikes: a 2005 F650GS Dakar (front) and a 2011 G650GS

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

The downsides:

  • bearing of steering
  • bolts of G650GS (model since 2011)
  • splash guard F650GS (only 2005model)
  • rear mirror (2000-2006 model)
  • stand Dakar (all years)

 Good engine

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.

Long stretches no problem

Long stretches no problem

 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.

Even at elevation over 5000m we never had any issues

Even at elevation over 5000m we never had any issues

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.

Christy is 1,65m, learned to ride not a year before the trip and had no issues handling the bike.

Christy is 1,65m, learned to ride not a year before the trip and had no issues handling the bike.

Offroad capabilities

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…

Christy in action on the G650GS.

Christy in action on the G650GS.

 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.

IMG_1941 copy

Rear mirror

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.

Great replacement for my original mirror. I got it for 3$ . Cheap is best...

Great replacement for my original mirror. I got it for 3$ . Cheap is best…

Stand Dakar

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.

The Dakar stands at an scary angle on the side stand. Good idea to have that improved...

The Dakar stands at an scary angle on the side stand. Good idea to have that improved…

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.

They are both good bikes for travelling

They are both good bikes for travelling

There are two thoughts that I think might make the G650 even a better bike for South America:

  1. 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.
  1. 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).

Equipment: Action Cam Garmin Virb Elite vs. GoPro

I have been using the GoPro for a couple of years on my motorbike. I used it to video travels and a couple of rallyes I participated in. I loved it but on my last travel around the Adria I lost it (that sticker was not that well fixed on the motorbike as I thought).

So in preparation for this trip I was thinking about getting a new one. There are some things you cannot capture on a photo and I like to have some recordings of rides.

I was looking around and found the Garmin Virb Elite. Christy bought one and my friend Thomas loaned me his GoPro for the trip (thanks at this point to Thomas).

So during this trip we could compare them very well and I want to share my experience here. Not in terms of the technical data, that is something you can find elsewhere in the internet, but in terms of practical usability.

First of all:

Recording while motorbiking is really nice. Especially when travelling. Very often we just put the cameras on because the road is nice, there is a little nice village we pass through or because there is an interesting riding sequence. We film basically for two main reasons:

  1. the situation is better captured in motion
  2. we don’t want to stop to take a picture (sounds stupid, but you can not always stop)


It is great to see these movies at a later point, integrate it into a “slide-show”(sorry, I grew up in the analog world) and it is great for memories. It shows the world (that means friends and family) how we saw the places when riding.


Now as for the comparison there is not much to say about the quality. The Garmin is a lot more up to date than the Hero model I use on this trip, so there is no fair comparison. This thread should more be about the handling.



The GoPro’s batterie is a lot worse than the Garmin. When the camera is on (not filming) and filming once in a while, it does not last a whole riding day (max 6h that is on our travel so far). The Garmin has a powersaver and even though it contains a GPS device, Christy rarely ran out of battery when she had it fully powered up the night before. She is filming a lot more than I am, since I knew of the power problem before. And even if I shut down the camera completely for most of the time, the battery is always empty at some point.

There is one really cool thing worth mentioning: If you happen to use a Gamin Montana Navigation (highly recommended for bikers who also do some offroading because you can also use tracks e.g. from ) you can SWITCH batteries. Virb and Montana use the same batteries. Since the Montana is will be constantly charged by the bike, you always have a fully charged “spare batterie”.

This may also be the case for other Garmin GPS, you will have to check yourself for other models though.


The Garmin Virb elite comes with an integrated GPS. That is a really nice feature for bikers. It shows the position where something was filmed (very cool on long distance travels) and shows the speed (that’s more a play thing, I wouldn’t know where this is overly interesting, but nice to have). The GoPro does not have this feature to my knowledge (maybe as an add-on device, I haven’t checked).


Both devices are waterproof (at least as far as motorbikers are concerned, you cant dive with the Garmin (out of the box, there is special equipment), but you could with the GoPro.

Since you wont see anything in rain anyway (the spray on the camera lens makes a blurry image) this is only important for motorbikers so that they don’t have to stop to dismount the camera every time a little drizzle surprises them.

The Garmin is a one-unit waterproof thing. The GoPro is a non-waterproof unit that has a waterproof housing. This housing is a lot more waterproof than the Garmin (as I said, you can dive with it). That has no advantage for motorbikers, but a huge disadvantage: it condenses when temperature is falling or the air pressure changes (e.g. when climbing a mountain pass).

I had a couple of great rides filmed with the GoPro and when I wanted to see the video in the evening I had to find out that the whole scene is pretty foggy.



Both systems have diverse mounting equipment available. So you can mount them in all kind of positions on the bike.

I like the 3M stickers that both of the have even though one came off and I lost my GoPro. That was certainly my own fault, there was nothing wrong with the sticker I cleaned the surface not well enough. But still you kind of lose confident a little bit.

There is one thing that always bothered me on the GoPro (and every motorbiker I know): turning camera ON and OFF is the same button. The camera makes a little beep when turned on and beeps 3 times when turned off. Additionally there is a little LED blinking while filming. That just doesn’t work on a bike. You don’t hear the beep very well, and the LED is not visible enough on bright days.

So many of my videos start with me looking in the mirror to check whether the camera is on. I also had it, that I didn’t press hard enough one time and from that time on, I was filming everything that was boring (including me making a short “pit-stop” at some remote tree, maybe not so boring after all) and not filming the interesting stuff.

Garmin has a slider button. You always know if the camera is on or off. You can feel it, even with thick gloves.

This slider wakes the camera up from the stand-by and starts recording. That’s perfect and saves battery as well.


The Garmin has a little screen, so you can check what you are actually filming. That is especially handy when mounting somewhere where you want part of the motorbike being in the image.

The GoPro has a mount-on screen, but as far as i know it is not waterproof anymore.


SO, my advice:

The GoPro as the godfather of action-cams is good for a lot of things, but not for motorbikers.

My recommodation is clearly the Garmin Virb Elite. It has everything that a motorbiker wants on his/her action cam.


Short overview:

GoPro disadvantages:

Use (on/off button is a nightmare)

Lens gets foggy