While not really meant as a serious dirtbike, the BMW F650 GS Dakar had several differences to the base model that were definitely more off-road oriented.
The standard F650 GS only had a 19-inch front wheel while a 21-inch hoop graced the front of the Dakar. BMW F650 GS Dakar Suspension travel was 210mm at both ends, against the F650’s 170/165mm, so ground clearance went up and the seat height grew from 780mm to 870mm. The Dakar also had handguards, a higher windscreen, dual-purpose tyres and a 10mm longer wheelbase of 1489mm.
The two machines shared the same twin-spark ignition, an engine management system designed to cut emissions and improve fuel consumption, better weather proofing over earlier models, an easier-to-read instrument cluster, modified front mudguard and larger headlight. The Dakar’s footpegs were described as small and spindly, set too close to the frame and requiring a slightly bowlegged riding style to feel the brake pedal and gearlever properly.
The magazine said that many BMW dealers were fitting Fastway footpegs to customers’ bikes to address the issue.
Our testers were impressed by the Dakar’s stability on the open road, the on-road braking power, the heated grips and the economy, getting as much as 30km/l from the 17.3-litre tank.
They were not so rapt with the clunky gearshift, footpegs, wide girth, “gay” exhaust note (whatever that means) and low ground clearance. The engine was described as smooth and predictable, with gobs of low-end torque, but falling well short of exciting.
On the tar the Dakar was good enough to tour long distances and keep up with road bikes, even showing some of them a clean set of heels in the twisty stuff with a broken surface. Off-road the bike was fine on dirt and gravel roads, acceptable on flowing twin track but the almost 193kg weight meant singletrack was not advised unless you were Hercules.
Nevertheless the Dakar performed well over corrugations and small jumps, being composed and well balanced in the air but any serious jumping was pushing the design parameters. In summary, it was declared that the BMW F650 Dakar was to be seriously considered by the rider who spent most of his time on the bitumen but wanted to retain the option of being able to track down an outback pub.
At a cost of $13,800 it was up against Aprilia’s Pegaso 650ie at 184kg and $12,500, Honda’s Transalp XL650V weighing 191kg and costing $12,900, or the KTM 540 Adventure at 158kg and $14,199. Those weights are with all fluids except fuel, the prices were before on-roads and all carried a two-year, unlimited kilometre warranty except the KTM, which was 12 months parts and labour. Heritage Editor Warren Jack
What: BMW F650 GS Dakar
When: February, 2005 (#305)
How much: $13,800 plus on-roads