I’ve always wondered how BMW can put a price tag of R70 000 (in 2005) on their dual purpose bike when you could have a Kawasaki KLR650 or a Yamaha XT660 for R25 000 cheaper…
That was until I swung my leg over one and took it for a quick spin… You immediately realise that this bike is in a league of its own as far as dual purpose, single cylinder bikes go.
Although this Dakar model is a rugged off-roader it’s surprisingly comfortable and civilized for when you’re not exploring the wilderness. The riding position is good and the seat is comfortable enough to spend a day in the saddle and still be able to walk the following morning. The fuel tank is situated under the seat which lowers the bike’s centre of gravity and therefore this bike can easily be thrown from one side to another when navigating through traffic or driving on a twisty section of tar.
Throttle response is very impressive, due to the Austrian-build twin spark 652cc Rotax engine with its clever electronic fuel injection – system. This is also part of the reason for its above average fuel consumption. You will easily get 25km/l driving anything from 40km/h in town to 140km/h on the open road. That will give you a range of over 400km on a single tank of unleaded! Top speed is given as 170km/h which is not very fast, but then again, you don’t buy this kind of motorcycle if you want to race around town the whole time. Also, being a large capacity single cylinder motorcycle, you cannot be surprised by the very noticeable vibration between your legs at about 120km/h (about 5000rpm).
Off course all of the above mentioned facts could also be enjoyed on the much cheaper, more tar-orientated version of this motorcycle – the normal F650GS, which have the same design and the same engine, but with a whole different suspension-setup and a smaller front wheel in comparison to the Dakar model.
It’s when the going gets tough that you don’t regret the extra 10 grand that you spend when going for the Dakar version. The first time I took the Dakar off-road BMW’s price tag suddenly made a whole lot of sense. This is why BMW build this bike and this is why they named it after the most challenging enduro race ever known to mankind – the Dakar-rally.
The fully adjustable rear shock and the long front fork with the 17” front wheel makes off-roading an absolute joy. The Dakar just glides over rocks, holes and corrugated surfaces. It’s when driving another bike on the same roads that you realise just how amazing this machine handles dirt roads. On a good section of gravel you can effortlessly travel at 100km/h+ without the bike feeling unstable underneath you. Its narrow front wheel makes for more stability in loose gravel or sand, although I would not recommend driving it in sand… (GS stands for ‘Geen Sand’!).
Overall this really is a great bike. It is very sad that BMW decided to stop production of these machines. In 2008 the Dakar model was replaced with the all new F800GS, which is an 800cc twin-cylinder motorcycle. Hopefully this new model will be able to fill the Dakar’s shoes.
This was a very short review and only my personal opinion that I have about this bike. If you haven’t yet been able to drive such a bike, do yourself a favour and arrange to go for a test drive so that you can experience the joy for yourself!