Comment: Why the G650GS is the first of a new breed of hooligan bike
Yes, I know it sounds unlikely. But stop shaking your head and listen. Here’s why, despite its mild-mannered exterior, BMW’s G650GS is a hooligan bike:
The original hooligan bikes of the seventies and eighties were two-strokes. The GT250 X7, air-cooled RD400, the 250 and 350LC (possibly the quintessential hooligan bike) and, arguably, all the later two-stroke 250s, from Gamma to KR1.
What defined them as hooligan bikes was not outright performance. It was as much to do with the people who rode them.
They were the bikes teenagers aspired to after getting a licence, the bikes that drove them to get a licence. After 1981, when learners were limited to 125cc instead of 250cc, thousands were inspired to take the test by the likes of the TZR and TDR250.
They were hooligan bikes because they were accessible and, crucially, affordable to hooligans.
From 2013, new licence holders face a raft of new restrictions under the latest European licensing directive. The new rules mean that, among other things, riders over 19 and under 24 will be restricted to 47bhp for two years after passing the test.
They will also face a power-to-weight ratio limit of 0.2 kilowatts per kg, meaning the 47bhp bike must weigh at least 175kg. If they choose a lighter bike, it will have to make less power.
And they will not have the freedom they enjoy under current rules to take more powerful bikes and restrict them with kits. The new rules say the 47bhp machine must not have made more than double that to begin with.
Within these grotesquely overcomplicated parameters, the G650GS offers the absolute optimum performance permissible. It makes precisely 47bhp and weighs 175kg dry. From two years' time, it will be the pinnacle of performance available to riders aged 19-24 who've held a licence for less than two years. At £5000, it’s also likely to be the choice of many.
That’s why this, and other bikes manufacturers chose to build in the same vein, will become the new generation of hooligan bikes.
And if 47bhp doesn’t seem enough for that designation, remember – that’s exactly what the 350LC made.