Relying on the heritage of the F650 series engine, BMW Motorrad made a few modifications and updates to their successful four-valve DOHC fuel-injected -cooled 652cc five-speed single-cylinder to create the basic platform that is the heartbeat for the G650 Xchallenge, G650 Xmoto and G650 Xcountry. These bikes represent BMW's latest effort to broaden "its model line-up."
In what was probably a wise move, BMW called on Aprilia for development assitance with Aprilia also handling production. The astute single-cylinder fans out there might be asking, "Yeah, but who's building the engine?" If you're sharp enough to ask that question then you probably already have the answer. The mighty Rotax, that's who. And really, who better to do the job? Before we go much further two things need to be mentioned. First off, the new G650 series isn't replacing the F650GS. It will remain in the line-up at least through model-year 2007, but the F650GS Dakar has been dropped. Secondly, and for your edification, the "X" in the various names isn't pronounced as "X" but as "cross." It goes a little something like this: G650 X(cross)country, and so on.
The Xmoto -- as one would expect from the name -- is a supermoto machine and the most obvious of the three. Next, the Xchallenge looks suspiciously like a dirt bike but is in fact street-legal and loosely referred to by BMW as a "hard enduro" and not a hard core motocrosser. Lastly, the Xcountry -- probably the friendliest of the bunch -- is a kind of a jack-of-all-trades. As such it is aptly targeted as a dual-sport, or in BMW's eyes a "genuine scrambler." How the engine on the G650 bikes differs from that on the F650 is in subtle refinements. For example, the alternator has been lightened and magnesium covers hide the starter and alternator.
The balancing shaft remains in order to smooth out the ride; but the cylinder head has been redesigned, and in these bikes is a stressed member of the frame. Additionally, a new dry-sump oil tank resides behind the cylinder head while the same five-speed gearbox is retained from good ol' reliable, Mr. F650. When it's all said and done the refining and lightening of various bits here and there are said to have saved a healthy 4.4lbs. Spinning more freely these days, the single is claimed to produce 53hp -- apparently a three bhp increase -- at 7,000 rpm with a claimed and respectable 44 ft-lb of torque at 5,250 rpm.
Beyond the single-cylinder mill, the trio also share the same "bridge-type" tubular steel frame with cast aluminum side sections, aluminum sub-frame and alloy swingarm. Suspension is also similar with all models sharing the same shell of the Marzocchi 45mm USD fork. However, the Xchallenge and Xmoto have the addition of rebound and compression adjusters. The Xcountry and Xmoto share the same dial operated pre-load adjustable rear gas shock, while the Xchallenge the much-talked about BMW Motorrad Air Damping System found on the HP2 Enduro.
Because of a heavy focus on dirty environs, the Xchallenge has a healthy spring travel of 10.6 inches at both ends. The Xmoto comes pretty close with 10.6 inches up front and precisely one inch less travel at the back. With a more casual riding attitude the Xcountry doesn't require as much bounce so travel is 9.4 inches up front and 8.3 inches under your tushy. The stopping process is a function of the new "two-channel" 3.3lbs Bosch ABS system as found on the R1200S and the new F 800 S/ST. Thinking of the hooligans among you, BMW has graced each bike with the ability to disable the optional ABS.
'A smart hold over from the F series is the center-of-gravity-conscious fuel tank tucked beneath the saddle'
This is especially handy -- or not -- on the Xcountry and Xchallenge when dirt comes your way. And for owners of the Xmoto disabling ABS would make efforts to "back it in" much easier. The Xcountry and Xchallenge have a single dual piston caliper clamping down on a 300mm rotor -- the Xchallenge utilizes a more modern wave-type rotor -- and the Xmoto beefs things up with a four-piston caliper crushing a 320mm floating rotor.
Brake rotors have to be attached to something, right? In the case of the Xchallenge that would be a pair of spoked wheels. The Xchallenge rolls on a 21-inch front with a 90/90-21 tire and an 18-inch unit for the rear with a 140/80-18 tire. The Xcountry also spins gleefully down pavement or dirt on a set of spoked rims. The front measures 19 inches and carries a 100/90-19 tire while the rear is a 17-incher with a 130/80-17 tire attached. The Xmoto is the mold here with its cast, 17-inch wheels front and rear which carry 120/70-17 and 160/60-17 tires respectively.
A smart hold over from the F series is the center-of-gravity-conscious fuel tank tucked beneath the saddle. This location does well to keep weight low, but an unfortunate function of the tank is the location of its filler neck. The gas cap is easy enough to access just below the saddle on the right.
Take note though that the bike must be on its side stand when fueling; if not you'll have petrol in all the places except where you want it. I realize this is a ridiculous observation unless you're someone who normally rides with an exceptionally strong grinder monkey trained to hold the bike steady.
After wiping down the right rear of the bike from you're first fueling, thumb the starter button and you'll be on your way, or as far as two and a half gallons will take you. BMW figures the range to be about 155 miles. Once the raw fuel you did manage to get in the tank is ingested by the injection system, burned in the combustion chamber and its remains pushed out through the exhaust valves past the catalytic converter -- damn those tough EU3 standards! -- they'll greet the world via a high-mount single exhaust can on the left.
The German bike maker did a nice job of tucking such a bulky looking device up and out of the way. They did an even better job of blending it with each bike's unique look.
Continuing with the share and share alike mentality the bikes use the same tough -- take my word on that -- tapered Magura handlebar and control levers. Instrumentation keeps the pattern of one for all and all for one; the tidy little unit has a large LCD display offering a digital speedo, clock, battery voltage indicator, the usual odometer and two trip meters.
A virtual Christmas tree of idiot lights does the rest by indicating low fuel, low oil, turn signal direction, ABS malfunction -- or that it has been disabled -- and so on. Each bike is tastefully adorned with clear turn signals and a brilliant LED . Shouldn't all bikes these days have crisp LED taillights? The Xcountry sets itself apart with a traditional round headlight snatched from the HP2 while the other two paint nighttime paths with light via a "new asymmetrical bilux headlamp."
Lastly, all three have chain final drive. The Xchallenge changes things up with different ratios by running a 15/47; the others turn a 16/47 combo.
Now that we've clearly determined that these motorcycles share much of their DNA is it possible that they ride differently? There's only one way to know. BMW invited the press to the beautiful Sonoran desert surrounding Tucson, Arizona to sample each bike.
$9,025.00 (includes adjusted destination charge)
My first outing was on the machine closely resembling a dirt bike. But before I could ride it I had to get on it. I'll admit that I just scratch the surface of "average" when it comes to my height -- at least I'm taller than Gabe! -- and my 31-inch inseam isn't something to brag about. Nevertheless, I would strongly someone of my height or less who doesn't have a robust dirt riding resume from owning or even riding this bike.
With a seat height of 36.6 inches, the Xchallenge presents its own challenge before the shorties among us even push the bloody starter button. There is some wiggle room with the air damped rear suspension, but letting out what may seem like just a quick squirt of air can quickly negate its good damping qualities. Too little air will have a heavy or aggressive -- could be both I guess? -- rider bottoming out straightaway once rough terrain is part of the picture. After some cautious releasing of what we humans all too often take for granted, I was underway and feeling much more secure about coming to a stop without thinking about writing BMW a check for various broken or scratched bits. Unless you can guarantee a sure-footed stop in off-road settings, stopping -- or starting again -- could be the hardest or costliest part of your ride. Regardless, I was able to find a happy medium between tippy-toe and tip over.
The first leg of the ride consisted of at least 45 minutes of pavement and a good opportunity to get acquainted with the usual suspects. Fuel delivery was essentially seamless and precise. Braking was typical BMW quality courtesy of the simple but effective "two-channel" Bosch-built system with plenty of power and good feel. Turning off the ABS is a simple procedure. With the bike at a stand still in neutral and the ignition switched on, push and hold an obvious red button on the left switch gear labeled "ABS." Watch as the ABS idiot light turns from flashing to solid to let you know all bets are off.
"The claimed 53hp single gets up to speed quickly and rowing through the slick five-speed tranny is a thoughtless affair and clutch operation easy."
The Xchallenge seemed to provide the most vibes -- coming on fully around 60mph -- in three days of riding three different bikes. Lest we forget though, this is a thumper running on semi-knobby tires so the buzz is easy to forgive. Surface street and freeway manners are what one would expect riding a bike with a 21-inch front wheel; that is to say a little twitchy, but the 59.1-inch wheelbase keeps the ride in order.
Once our ride brought us to the off-road portion -- which was upwards of 70 percent of the day -- most of us were glad to dispatch with the pavement and see just what BMW meant when they used the term "hard enduro."
The ride was broken down into two routes: hard and soft. I don't particularly like being referred to as soft, but I know my limitations and my dirt experience at this juncture is, shall we say, succinct. I was all too happy to not take the road less traveled. The mellow route consisted mainly of narrow, two-track that often degraded into what I would call a wide single track. Being desert it should go without saying, but the terrain was either very rocky or very sandy with a little hard pack thrown in. I spent a good portion of the day avoiding the many variety of beautiful, but nasty cactus that taunted me from the road's edge. Not the least of which was an especially gnarly breed commonly called Jumping Cholla. We traversed a small portion of the vast and rugged desert of Southern Arizona on mile after mile of such roads soaking in all the unique beauty surrounding us. There doesn't seem to be anything quite like it.
"Despite the fact that this harsh desert environment was threatening to my delicate and fragile human frame it was no match for the Xchallenge."
The bike performed admirably on my ride using its over 10 inches of suspension travel and smooth, torque-ready motor to plow through anything I was able to throw at it. With a claimed wet weight of 344lbs the Xchallenge isn't a nimble, high-flying motocrosser and this was evident even to my dirt-freshman level. Steering at slower speeds required some extra effort at the bars and could be down right cumbersome if the pace was just above walking. My solution? Throttle-up to keep the front light, enabling the bike to better drift across as much of the sand, rocks and various desert debris as possible.
Though I felt more confident standing on the broad off-road foot pegs our desert veteran guide preferred to be in the saddle whenever possible, and commented that after several days of riding the Xchallenge he never felt "beat-up" by the seat or suspension. Coming from someone who's normal mount is a KTM 525 I considered that a substantial compliment.
At day's end I had the opportunity to chat with the more grizzled and experienced off-roaders about their assessment. Without being overly critical or harsh, a number of them were less than happy with the rear suspension and at least one of them quipped that front-end feel was vague. Take those remarks with the consideration that these gentlemen surely pushed the bike to its limit for on end over the harder of the two routes. More importantly don't forget that BMW makes no bones that this is not a full-bore off-road machine. The trade-off? Once your ride turns from dirt back to pavement the Xchallenge will legally return you from whence you came. So, with that clarified I can confidently say that the G650 Xchallenge is an exceptionally capable motorcycle that's ready and willing to take just about anything most non-uber-motocrossers can give it.
The answer to the question of whether you'll purchase an Xchallenge over the other machines calling themselves enduros won't come easy considering its comparatively steep price of just below nine large. But if you accept the "challenge" of the cost you can be certain that you'll be getting BMW quality in a market not normally accustomed to such.
"A Modern Interpretation of the Scrambler."
$8,675.00 (includes adjusted destination charge)
Appealing to the "wandering" spirit so many motorcyclists embrace, BMW has shaped the Xcountry around the basic skeleton of the G650 series. With nearly an inverse proportion of street to dirt as compared to the Xchallenge, the Xcountry is more sensitive to the anticipation of tarmac.
With the same powerplant, chassis and basic brake set-up, the dual sport from Deutschland differs in two key areas from its siblings: suspension and -- thank God! -- the saddle. My second day of riding had me slotted on this rather smart looking motorcycle with a day of mostly street and a decent amount of fire roads ahead. After laboring for a day to mount and dismount from its dirt slanted brother, the Xcountry was nothing short of a pleasure to cozy up to.
It has the lowest seat height of the group at a glorious 33.1 inches. A quick glance will reveal that the saddle is sculpted near the front to accommodate the rider and seems infinitely wider as compared to the other two units with an X in front of their name. You get a genuine feeling of sitting in rather than on the motorcycle; this sensation lends itself well to a more relaxed rider position. As it turned out the day held far more dirt than expected, but certainly not to the degree of the blitzing of dust that was the day before.
"With dozens and dozens of miles of rugged dirt roads in store the Xcountry never faltered or winced at anything in its path."
This bike welcomes a rider eager to go on for hours and hours with its comfortable saddle. Where it might start to take its toll though is when the going gets a little too rough. Being the budget bike of this trio means that it will be lacking in one area or another, to wit, the front suspension. On the street this isn't an issue, but start getting ambitious with some serious pot holes, rocky sections or even air time and you'll notice the deficiency in the front. Often times the bike sounded like it was taking quite a beating; in reality it'll probably be the rider who takes the abuse.
Leave the gravel behind, search out curvy roads, twist the throttle to your hearts content and giggle like a school girl when you see just how well the Xcountry takes to tight turns. Keep the revs up and the bike will hold its own, leaning and leaning still further so as to embarrass any number of middleweight sportbikes piloted by unsuspecting nippers. The day wrapped with a few freeway miles and I started thinking that if the Xcountry is mostly a streetbike then it should mostly have some kind of windscreen. I was disappointed to learn that it will accept a windshield...as a BMW option.
Not unlike the Xchallenge, it'll be hard to legitimize the high cost of this street biased 650cc single. If, after having seen the price, you still want an Xcountry but fear the wrath of She That Ruleth With Iron Purse Strings, just inform her that of the three this is the only one with passenger kit as standard.
"Cheeky and Aggressive!"
$9,575.00 (includes adjusted destination charge)
Last on the ride list for the week was the Xmoto. I typically try not to comment on a motorcycle's appearance, leaving such subjective commentary for the reader. But I have to say that the Xmoto is an attractive bike. Even from a distance you can tell what this bike is about. Seventeen-inch cast wheels shod with modern rubber solidify the look of a supermoto machine. It stays on the attack with adjustable front suspension, a tall 35.4 inch saddle, lower mounted handlebars and a traditionally narrow -- albeit plank-like in comfort -- saddle. The other componentry standout will allow the rider to stand the front on end. Four-pot Brembos grab the largest rotor found on the three. Simply put: it stops, like, now!
This day would result in the most surface street and freeway droning yet. Adding to that sorrow was the exceptionally firm and narrow seat. Nevertheless, we meandered our way to the top of Mount Lemon in the Greater Tucson area and were treated to a spectacular view. The ride down gave me opportunity to sample the Xmoto's very stable handling. And despite sharing an unfashionably long 59-inch wheelbase with the Xcountry -- the Xchallenge is 59.1 -- the Xmoto is crafted with 3.9 inches of trail, giving it quick steering.
The road was as worthy as any that are found in Southern California and it was almost the perfect place to play on this bike. Our ultimate destination though was a go-kart track where, under watchful eye, we were to test the Xmoto's motarding proclivities. Unfortunately, the beginning of Monsoon season wouldn't allow it so my seat time was limited to mostly freeway and crowded streets. Hopefully in the very near future we'll get a second chance to put the Xmoto to work.
BMW makes nothing but quality products, but I hope they haven't priced themselves out of the supermoto market by almost a grand. At a tick over $9,500 they may have a tough time swaying fans of brands more easily identified and entrenched in this segment Then again having more supermotos around is having more of a good thing.
There we have it; three new motorcycles from a very similar, reliable and modular platform. BMW Xpects that new riders and Xperienced riders alike will find their three amigos as Xciting as anything available today.
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