Occasionally, a bike will capture the collective fancy of the MO staffers to such a degree that we actively seek out new opportunities to ride it again. The BMW C650GT is one of those motorcycles, as it redefines what we expect and what is possible with a scooter. It’s so broadly capable that it has the potential to lure motorcycle enthusiasts to the scooter world.
However, since the GT just won the 2013 Uber Scooter Shootout a little over a month ago, we couldn’t really justify arranging to return it to our stable so soon following publication. After all, the manufacturers don’t just loan us bikes because they’re nice folks (which they are – in case you were wondering). We have to tell them why they should undergo the expense of preparing and providing one of their machines for us to
play with evaluate. Fortunately, the GT has a cute, athletic sister who is eager to hang out with her brother’s friends.
While the designation C600 Sport appears to imply that BMW’s second entry into the “urban mobility” category has a smaller engine than the C650GT, that’s due only to BMW’s non-logical naming system. The Sport and GT share the same liquid-cooled 647cc parallel-Twin power plant. The siblings’ physical resemblance is more than skin deep; they share the same chassis.
Step-through scooters haven’t always been known for their performance (both in the engine bay and cranked over in corners). Happily, BMW has chosen to approach scooters as exciting utilitarian transportation rather than as perky two-wheeled baubles. So, what you get when you ride the C600 Sport is surprisingly energetic acceleration and class-leading cornering capability.
When you roll on the throttle, the claimed 60 hp and 49 ft-lb. of torque feel completely accurate to the seats of our pants. The power comes courtesy of a thoroughly modern 79mm x 66mm parallel-Twin, breathing through four valves per cylinder. The 11.6:1 compression ratio necessitates the use of premium unleaded.
Since the C600’s continuously variable transmission (CVT) can’t be tested on a standard dyno, we are unable to give you numbers produced at the rear wheel. Still, when you launch the Sport, it pulls away with authority – after the brief pause associated with centrifugal clutch CVT transmissions. City traffic doesn’t stand a chance. Just twist the grip and go.
And go it will – all the way up to triple digits! So, in the more mundane world of commuter traffic, the C600 Sport can hold its own on both the surface streets and the highway. When considering the ability to generate such impressive speed with a step-through scooter, you might think that it would get kinda squirrelly with 15-inch wheels at an elevated pace. Although the steering is responsive, thanks to the small wheels, the 62.6-inch wheelbase puts it in the shorter end of cruiser specifications which makes the Sport a stable partner in high-speed crime. The 25.4 degrees of rake and 3.9 inches of trail, no doubt, contribute to this responsive yet stable character.
Read our 2012 BMW C 600 Sport Review
Get the C600 Sport outside of the urban centers it was designed to inhabit, and it feels just as comfortable when the pavement gets twisty. Although responsive, side-to-side transitions reveal the heft of the scooter. With a claimed wet weight of 549 lb., the Beemer’s CG is kept low, thanks to the cylinders’ 70 degree forward lean and the 4.2-gallon under seat gas tank. Although the Sport has a 26-lb. weight advantage and slight forward weight bias compared to the GT, any difference in handling is negligible.
The C600’s suspension consists of a 40mm inverted fork in the front with a single-sided swingarm and a preload adjustable, lay-down shock in the rear. Connecting the two is a tubular steel frame that uses the engine as a stressed member. The stoutness of the chassis coupled with the Sport’s ample ground clearance combine to make this one bike that you can really get your scoot on. The ground clearance, however, comes at the cost of a high 31.9 in. seat. Although we commend BMW for making a scooter you can truly lean over, the tall seat might scare away some shorter riders.
With all that ground clearance and a willing motor, riders will naturally find themselves traveling at higher velocities – but without the engine braking provided by standard transmissions. Fortunately, the C600’s three 270mm brake discs do a good job of scrubbing off the excess speed. While the brakes are plenty powerful, riders more inclined towards sporting machinery will miss some of the lever feedback to which they are accustomed. BMW’s standard ABS is ready to lend a hand should braking effort exceed the available traction.
The comfortable feet-forward riding position may feel unusual for a bike with such cornering capability, but after a while, you no longer notice. A rider has the option of placing feet horizontally below knees or set at an angle further forward.
Weather protection of the C600 Sport is good but not as complete or as adjustable as the GT. The windshield is slightly smaller and only offers three manual adjustment positions. In its highest setting, turbulent air is directed at the top of the helmet of riders in the six-foot range, making for more wind noise. The other positions are better but offer less wind protection. If we hadn’t experienced the GT’s electrically adjustable windshield, we probably would have liked the Sport’s screen more.
Our test unit, like most of the BMW C scooters sold in the US, was equipped with the Highline accessory package, giving the rider access to heated grips and seat plus a tire pressure monitor. While the package adds $605 to the cost of the bike, BMW says that most buyers select this option. We probably don’t need to mention how nice it is to have a warm butt and fingers on chilly mornings, do we?
Another feature that contributes to the popularity of scooters is convenient storage. The Sport has two small cargo compartments in the fairing. The one on the left has an electrical outlet and locks with the fork. The C600’s underseat storage is unique in that it has the ability to expand when the bike is parked, enabling it to hold two helmets. This “flexcase” actually drops the bottom of the storage so that it almost rests on top of the rear tire. Consequently, the engine will not run with the flexcase in the lower position, as it would interfere with rear suspension travel. That storage and the LED light in the storage compartment are two premium features that make the BMW stand out among other scooters.
Perhaps our favorite little detail of the Sport and the GT is the parking brake that is engaged by the side stand. The implementation of the parking brake is so low-tech that it seems almost un-BMW like. A bar actuates a caliper on the rear brake when the side stand is deployed. We have to wonder why all scooters don’t have this simple device instead of a separate parking brake.
When considering all that the BMW C600 Sport has to offer – from its roomy accommodations to plentiful storage to backroad scratching capability – BMW is clearly trying to appeal to a more well-heeled buyer than the typical person looking just for economical transportation. The $9,590 supports that assumption. Add to that the $605 Highline Package, and you’ve got some serious change invested in a scooter. You do, however, get what you pay for in terms of performance, fit and finish (which are all top-notch). The 2014 colors are Alpine White, Cosmic Blue Metallic Matte, and Sapphire Black Metallic. (The Titanium Silver Metallic on our test bike is no longer available.)
If you’re in the market for a performance-oriented scooter, you owe it to yourself to check out the BMW C600 Sport.