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2012 BMW G 650 GS Sertão

February 01, 2012

The GS Adventure Family’s New Sibling

By Jeff Buchanan

BMW GS650It stands to reason that with the popularity of BMW’s GS line, the company would introduce a friendlier adventure-styled model for new, beginning or returning riders. To that end—and new for 2012—is the G 650 GS Sertão, a well-appointed, single-cylinder, off-road capable machine with Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) standard, with a color scheme of Aura White and Arroyo Blue.

The goal for the Sertão, which gets its name from the badlands of Brazil’s northeastern interior, was to create a motorcycle with everyday practicality and reliability that is capable off-road. Tailored to this design mandate, the Sertão has long-travel suspension (8.3-inch front and rear), a 21-inch front wheel, hand guards and a steel engine guard. The rear wheel is 3.00 x 17-inch. Both wheels are spoked. Weight is listed as 390 pounds, dry, and 425 wet (all fluids and battery). The standard seat is 33.9 inches, with an optional high seat that’s 1.5 inches higher.

The 652cc four-valve, single-cylinder engine produces a claimed 50 horsepower at 6,500 rpm, with a torque rating of 44 pounds feet at 5,000 rpm. The paperwork touts a claimed 74 mpg, but results will be significantly less the more off-road riding you do. The Sertão holds 3.7 gallons of fuel, with a full gallon available as reserve once the warning light comes on. There is no fuel gauge, so attentive use of the two trip meters is a good idea.

The Sertão’s slim profile, combined with relatively lithe weight, make it a compliant off-road machine, more than capable in the right hands, but easy on the nerves for people wandering off the beaten track for the first time. The engine is slightly stodgy off the bottom but revs quickly, and once those revs are up, the engine possesses some real spirit. First gear is a tad tall for any serious slow-going, however.

Our test bike was shod with Metzeler Tourance on-road/off-road tires, as opposed to knobbies. The shallow tread pattern will quickly pack up in mud, but is capable in milder, dry terrain. The front suspension is a tad soft for any serious pounding, but flex is reduced with a standard fork brace. The ABS system can be easily canceled for off-road situations.

The most surprising aspect of the Sertão is its freeway manners. Despite being a single, it isn’t plagued by any serious vibration, even when pushing 80-90 mph. This, no-doubt, is courtesy of the counter balance shaft in the motor.

Some criticism can be levied toward the six-speed transmission. The Sertão is a bit clunky compared to its bigger GS brothers. It requires deliberate, positive shifts, although this may free up with use.

Brembo brakes handle stopping chores, with a single 300mm rotor up front and a 240mm rotor on the back. The stainless steel braided front line is a nice touch.

With an MSRP of $8,650, the Sertão is an attainable entry into BMW’s adventure club. It’s a genuine GS presence, only without the imposing size or price tag of larger machines.

Three Questions With:

BMW VP Pieter de Waal On The New G 650 GS

DeWaalFor riders, developing a motorcycle seems simple. The manufacturers just have to build what you want.

However, the task is far more difficult on the other side of the fence. Sadly, designers must appeal to the hearts and minds of thousands of diverse riders, not just you.

BMW Motorrad, however, is trying to please more of the people more of the time by adding variety to its offerings. The mid-sized adventure lineup is probably the best example of that, with variations of the 650cc single as well as the 800cc twin.

We caught up with BMW Motorrad USA Vice President Pieter de Waal to talk about the latest iteration: the G 650 GS Sertão.

American Motorcyclist: What is the target audience for the new GS Sertão?

De Waal: With the new 650, first of all we’re talking about both newcomers who are looking for a motorcycle which is easy to ride, not so expensive. And then we’re also looking at people who specifically want the single cylinder, they want the simplicity, they want the characteristics that the single cylinder brings them.

AM: Is this a conquest vehicle then—attracting customers from other brands—or is it a new-to-motorcycles, or perhaps a returning-to-riding machine for BMW?

De Waal: We hope it’s both. We know from our market research that affordability, or perceived affordability, is a big issue. In other words, people think that BMW motorcycles are too expensive to own. With this motorcycle (the Sertão) you can get into the BMW family for under $9,000, with anti-lock braking standard. So it’s a good deal from that point of view.

AM: What can you tell me about the mindset of the person who buys the 650 single, as opposed to the 800 twin?

De Waal: It’s a difficult question because I don’t know for sure. What I do know is that the twin is a more sophisticated ride, it’s more horsepower, it’s a much smoother engine and so on, compared to the single cylinder. But it’s not necessarily what people want. People don’t necessarily look for the sophisticated engine. They sometimes look for an engine which can go anywhere, do anything, is reliable, is wonderfully light on fuel, and all of these things this motorcycle (the Sertão) can do.

There’s also a substantial price difference between the single-cylinder G 650 and the twin, so if you’re stretched to get into the BMW family this is probably the motorcycle that you will take. Then you’ve got two choices, you can take the more street [oriented] version, the G 650 GS, or you can take the G 650 GS Sertão, which is more off-road [capable].

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