BMW G650GS Sertao first ride

Published: 10 February 2012

The Sertão region of Brazil is renowned for its rugged, inhospitable terrain - hence its inspiration as the name for BMW’s new hardcore version of its new G650GS.

Effectively it’s a belated successor to the old F650GS Dakar, intended as a novice, entry-level adventure bike on the opposite end of the spectrum to the German marque’s all-conquering R1200GS Adventure and as such targeting new, beginning, and returning riders who have romantic ideas of getting in on the adventure travel craze.

Although possessing off-road capability, the Sertão is intended for everyday practicality and reliability, presented in a well-appointed package with a price tag that puts it within grasp of a large demographic.

Based on the revived 650GS single (now confusingly pre-fixed ‘G’ where before it was ‘F’ – that now being taken by the twin cylinder F650GS) the Sertao is differentiated by more off-road orientated wire wheels (the front enlarged to 21-inch), longer travel suspension, a taller touring screen, engine and hand guards and more racy graphics.

The engine is the familiar 652cc twin spark, four-valve single which provides plenty of bottom end grunt for off-road, however first gear is a tad high, requiring some clutch slipping to avoid stalling in very slow situations.

On road, when the big single gets wound up with rpm, it really screams. At cruising speeds it’s smoother than most big thumpers (thanks to the counter balance shaft) and with top gear spaced out into overdrive territory it’s capable of 80-90 mph without redlining. Adding to the comfort is the higher screen which does a good job of keeping windblast to a minimum.

With its slim profile and weight low in the chassis, the Sertão is more than capable off-road and, in fact, it’s quite fun, even with our test bike being shod with Metzeler Tournace tyres that clogged up instantly in mud – if you plan any serious off-roading you’d be well advised to fit proper knobblies.

Its gentle disposition and unintimidating stature can be appreciated by riders who want to get serious off-road, while also appealing to riders venturing off the beaten path for the first time.

BMW claims 74mpg with a range of 270 miles at 55 mph, but my ride, which admittedly was mostly off-road, had it closer to 44. The Sertão holds 3.7 gallons, with a full gallon available as reserve once the warning light comes on. Unfortunately, however, it doesn’t have a fuel gauge.

Read the full review in the February 8 issue of MCN.

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