2007 BMW G 650 X Model Series

Text: Chris Myers • Photography: Kevin Wing

It wasn't so long ago that a BMW was considered your father's motorcycle, conservatively styled, quiet, and a little square - the tweed jacket of the motorcycle world. And although understated competence still generates some appeal, the cool contingent wants more pizzazz from today's fast-paced market, and they won't look twice at anything that smacks of argyles and elbow patches.

Now granted, I'm old enough to have a kid in college, I own a home, and I just traded up from charcoal to gas, but my inner punk-kid still has a say in things. And when I looked over the preview models of BMW's new G series at the International Motorcycle Shows this past winter, my formerly pierced ears perked up a bit upon hearing just what this new line has to offer. Not long thereafter, BMW trotted out these single-cylinder models - the G 650 Xchallenge, Xmoto, and Xcountry (the X stands for 'cross') - in the Arizona desert for a bunch of us rider/writers to give them a little go 'round.

The Concept
The Motor Works has always gone to great lengths to maintain good relations with their exceptionally loyal customer base and that has been a sound strategy indeed. But as company research reveals, the base is beginning to show touches of gray. With the average Beemerphile checking in at nearly fifty years of age, the company decided the line needed an infusion of new blood, and several hip, sporty models wearing the white and blue badge have hit the streets, with Gen-X consumers squarely in the crosshairs. And while recent models like the K1200R, K1200S, and R1200S certainly push performance boundaries and carry loads of sex appeal, they also come with a premium price tag, which puts them out of reach for many younger buyers still working their way up the financial ladder. So, to bridge this gap and lure a new following, BMW has lowered the bottom line with the introduction of the X Series.

All three are based around the tried and true 650cc Rotax single that powers the more conservative F models, and they flaunt a healthy dose of attitude and excitement. The great thing is, all three are tagged with MSRPs under ten grand. Down the road, there's no doubt that a RT or LT is a worthy destination; but now, with these brand-new options, the entire journey can start on a BMW too.

The Engine
The Austrian-built Rotax mill is shared by all three models and works impressively across the board. Smooth power delivery has never been an issue with this 650cc single originally engineered for the Funduro models of the early nineties. Pounding out a claimed 53hp and 44 ft/lbs of torque at 5200rpm, there's plenty of stump-pulling oomph down low and more than enough zing to flirt with triple digits up top. Engine management is taken care of by the BMW BMS-CII electronic engine control, a system handling fuel injection and the dual-ignition components, and individually mapped to each model's intended use. Thanks to the precision combustion resulting from that, and the liquid cooling, and an all-new stainless-steel exhaust sporting an oxygen sensor and three-way catalytic converter, the X Series bikes not only run great, they also surpass the strict EU3 emission standards.

The Chassis
Along with the engine, all three X variations share the same steel-bridge tubular frame. This lightweight unit uses steel and aluminum sections tailor-made to bear the load requirements at particular points. Targeting frame materials results in significant weight savings and allows for a design in which the swingarm pivot point rests entirely in the frame and free of the motor. Because of this, the cast-aluminum swingarm can be placed much closer to the countershaft sprocket, resulting in less slack in the drive chain, and thus a quicker drivetrain response. Another neat touch in the chassis department is the location of the fuel tank beneath the seat. This lightweight plastic cell holds 2.5 gallons and that weight helps lower the center of gravity. For those interested in traveling long stretches, the fuel capacity may be a bit low; but, according to BMW, the bikes should have a range of up to 155 miles. Mileage attained under different riding conditions should be thoroughly analyzed before venturing too far off the beaten path.

BMW has long been a proponent of ABS, and it will be offered on the X Series as an option. On the cutting edge, this impressive Bosch system, which only adds an extra 3.3 pounds, is also available on the new 800cc F series and the sporty R1200S. A spate of controlled, very hard lock-ups designed to activate the ABS resulted in positive stops with a surprisingly light pulse compared to some of the earlier units. Because ABS is not recommended in the dirt or on the track, the system is easily deactivated with the touch of a button.

The Bikes
These three machines do have an awful lot of hardware in common, but they are distinctly different bikes. For those preferring some dirt with their asphalt, the decision falls between the Xchallenge and the Xcountry. The main concerns here are the amounts of off-road aggressiveness intended and a rider's inseam limitations.

The Xchallenge is about as close as you're going to get to a serious, street-legal dirt bike without bribing the guy down at the inspection station. The first thing you notice when you throw a leg over this bike is just how much of a leg throw is required. With 10.6 inches of suspension travel at both ends and a 36.6-inch seat height, it takes a big heave-ho to climb on top of this baby. Standing 5'10", I had a hard time getting both toes on the ground. The 45mm inverted Marzocchi fork is both compression and rebound adjustable, and it competently soaked up some seriously nasty sections of rocky creek beds and sand washes. The suspender out back is something completely different. The "shock" is actually an air-damping system quite similar to the one found on the HP2 off-road boxer twin. Construction of this setup is analogous to a conventional shock in that it has a piston inside, but there is no spring or fluid to control the damping. Instead, compressions of the piston force air through a series of plate valves into a second chamber, with this throttling of the air creating the damping effect. According to BMW, this system saves weight and also offers the advantages of easy adjustments, more progressive damping under heavy loads, and it's less susceptible to overheating. Said adjustments are a quick and easy process made with a small, bicycle-style air pump conveniently stowed beneath the seat.

When riding time came, the folks at BMW held nothing back. On the way to the trails, we got a taste of the Xchallenge's street-ability. Even equipped with more aggressive knobbys, the ride was surprisingly smooth and stable. Achieving and maintaining highway speed was the least of my worries. Braking is exceptionally competent both on and off road thanks to a twin-piston caliper squeezing a 300mm wave-design disc up front and a single-piston caliper grabbing a 240mm disc out back. But I'll have to admit that I was happy to get to the trails where I could ride standing up, because the seat is pure dirt bike, narrow and hard as a rock. Comfort is a concept the designers never addressed.

My bruised buns aside, once off road the bike really began to impress me. Granted, at near 350 pounds gassed up, the Xchallenge can be a handful in the tight stuff. But as the trails open up and speeds increase, it becomes a pure joy, a mount that can conquer tight, single-track trails anywhere (depending, of course, on the rider's expertise). Just keep that 2.5-gallon fuel supply in mind.

If you still have dirty thoughts but don't take your off-road exploits quite so seriously, the Xcountry is right up your alley. BMW touts this model as "a modern interpretation of the scrambler," and that would be hard to dispute. Like the scramblers of the past, this machine is geared more toward street duty, but that shouldn't generate the slightest aversion to hitting dirt roads and even open trails. With a wider, more plush, really quite comfortable seat, along with a more user-friendly, 33-inch seat height, the Xcountry is much more suited to real-world conditions than its taller cousin. The front fork is an inverted 45mm Marzocchi unit with 9.4 inches of travel, while the rear is held up by a conventional spring shock that features adjustable compression and rebound damping and 8.3 inches of travel. The brake system is identical to the Xchallenge's, with the exception of a standard as opposed to a wave-design disc on the front.

The Xcountry doesn't exhibit exemplary off-road handling, but it does maintain a light yet planted feel in the loose stuff. It must be kept in mind that the ability to comfortably explore "all" roads is this bike's forte, and it's perfectly fine when kept within its lighter dirt-duty limitations. The scenery doesn't end with the pavement, and the ride shouldn't either. Like the scramblers it's patterned after, the Xcountry allows you to broaden your horizons by comfortably riding toward them.

Supermoto bikes are gaining in popularity and it's easy to understand why. These are essentially dirt bikes with street-going wheels and tires. Though not supremely powerful, they make up for lack of muscle with low weight, lightning quick handling, and off-the-chart lean angles due to their long travel suspension and superior ground clearance. With this in mind, it's easy to see why BMW opted to add the Xmoto to the lineup. The smooth and powerful Rotax is the perfect power plant for this style of ride - maybe a little too perfect, especially when inadvertent (wink, wink) wheelies are witnessed by the constabulary. Equipped with 17-inch cast-alloy, five-spoke wheels and sticky, radial street tires, the Xmoto can be thrown into even the tightest turns with reckless abandon. Owing to the tall, firm suspension with springs and dampers specifically designed for this bike, even rough roads can be gobbled up with ease, with over nine inches of suspension on both ends at your disposal. This bike inspires a brisk pace, that's undeniable, and there's more good news: the brakes are up to the extra challenge. Graced with the most powerful binders of the three, the Xmoto boasts a 320mm floating disc with a single four-piston caliper up front and a single-piston caliper and 240mm disc out back. To match the impact of those wheelies, BMW just had to throw the potential for stoppies into the mix.

Self-control and restraint are excellent qualities to have while riding, and the Xmoto will test both. This bike is an absolute riot and has no discernible boundaries when it comes to exploring the fun factor. The only real negatives saddling the Xmoto are those shared with the Xchallenge. The 35.4-inch seat height presents a serious impediment to shorter riders, and even the most stalwart riders are bound to feel the effects of the hard, narrow seat on longer rides. But if you can manage to straddle this gem, you'll be having so much fun, the seat will be the least of your concerns - until later.

With BMW's baby boomer base getting up there in years and the Generation X and Y hipsters turning into a viable market segment, the G 650 X series certainly makes a lot of sense. These young movers and shakers are at the point in their lives where motorcycles represent cool fun, independence, and an economical form of transportation, especially in light of today's gas prices. This new target audience will comprise tomorrow's BMW enthusiasts, the folks spreading the gospel at company picnics and in the stands at their kids' soccer games. They're the next new group of an old trend: riders who encourage their friends to ride along to the dealership for a little springtime seed planting when the new models come out - and all the while, they'll be admiring the top of line RTs and LTs as future possibilities. That said, BMW is expecting 70 percent of G 650 X series buyers to be customers new to the marque. Hip and reasonably priced, this dependable series is bound to attract mobs of young up-and-comers, and I'm sure many other proud victims of arrested development will find this group of inseam stretchers irresistible too.

TECHNICAL SPECS:

BMW G650 Xchallenge

+ great power, light, dirt oriented
- seat, dirt oriented

Distributor BMW Motorrad USA, www.bmwmotorcycles.com
MSRP $ 8,925
Engine DOHC, four valve, single
Displacement 652cc
Bore x Stroke 100x83mm
Fuel System EFI
Power 53hp / 44 ft/lbs torque
Cooling liquid
Ignition BMW Motor Controller (BMS-C II)
Transmission five speed
Frame steel bridge tubular frame
Front Suspension inverted 45mm fork, compression and rebound adjustable, 10.6in travel
Rear Suspension two stage adjustable, air damped, 10.6in travel
Rake/Trail 27.5°/4in (101mm)
Front Brake (optional ABS) one 300mm disc, 2 piston caliper
Rear Brake one 241mm disc, 1 piston caliper
Front Tire 90/90 x 21
Rear Tire 140/80 x 18
Dry Weight 318lbs (144kg)
Wheelbase 59.1in (1501mm)
Seat Height 36.6in (929mm)
Fuel Capacity 2.5gal (9.4liters)
Fuel Consumption n/a
Colors Aura White

BMW G650 Xcountry

+ go anywhere, lower seat height, comfort
- low front fender

Distributor BMW Motorrad USA, www.bmwmotorcycles.com
MSRP $ 8,625
Engine DOHC, four valve, single
Displacement 652cc
Bore x Stroke 100x83mm
Fuel System EFI
Power 53hp / 44 ft/lbs torque
Cooling liquid
Ignition BMW Motor Controller(BMS-C II)
Transmission five speed
Frame steel bridge tubular frame
Front Suspension inverted 45mm fork,9.4in travel
Rear Suspension single shock, preloadand rebound adjustable,8.3in travel
Rake/Trail 28.5°/4.6in (116mm)
Front Brake (optional ABS) one300mm disc, 2 piston caliper
Rear Brake one 241mm disc,1 piston caliper
Front Tire 100/90 x 19
Rear Tire 130/80 x 17
Dry Weight 326lbs (148kg)
Wheelbase 59in (1498mm)
Seat Height 33.1in (840mm)
Fuel Capacity 2.5gal (9.4liters)
Fuel Consumptionn/a
Colors Deep Black, White Aluminum

BMW G650 Xmoto

+ brakes, crazy lean angles, cat quick
- seat, attorney on speed dial

Distributor BMW Motorrad USA, www.bmwmotorcycles.com
MSRP$ 9,525
Engine DOHC, four valve, single
Displacement 652cc
Bore x Stroke 100x83mm
Fuel System EFI
Power 53hp / 44 ft/lbs torque
Cooling liquid
Ignition BMW Motor Controller (BMS-C II)
Transmission five speed
Frame steel bridge tubular frame
Front Suspension inverted 45mm fork, compression and rebound adjustable, 9.4in travel
Rear Suspension single shock, preloadand rebound adjustable,9.6in travel
Rake/Trail 28.5°/3.9in (99mm)
Front Brake (optional ABS) one300mm disc,2 piston caliper
Rear Brake one 241mm disc,1 piston caliper
Front Tire 120/70 x 17
Rear Tire 160/60 x 17
Dry Weight 324lbs (147kg)
Wheelbase 59 in (1498mm)
Seat Height 35.4in (899mm)
Fuel Capacity 2.5gal (9.4liters)
Fuel Consumption n/a
Colors Graphitan Metallic / Red