What's this -- a scooter?
This is not just any scooter: it's the 2013 BMW C 650 GT.
Welcome to the 2013 webBikeWorld.com project bike!
It's new, it's definitely different and it's a BMW. Come along for the ride as I explore this "Urban Mobility" device that is, oh, about 2/3 motorcycle and 1/3 scooter.
Commuting? Sport riding? Touring? The answer is...YES!
The only thing it probably can't do is plonk around off-road...but who knows; maybe we'll see another category-busting "scooter" some day. BMW C 650 GS anyone?
I was ambivalent about the new "Urban Mobility" conveyance back then, but I followed up with another look at the 2011 EICMA show (report), when BMW introduced the near-final production versions of what are now known as the BMW C 650 Sport and C 650 GT (report, slide show and videos).
That second look didn't convince me one way or another, to be honest. But for some reason, I kept going back to the photos of the evolving "Maxi-Scooter" during the year, and I found myself following the stories and reports coming out of Europe about this new two-wheeler.
I don't really consider myself a "scooter guy" and, in fact, other than a mildly infarcted urge a half-decade ago to own a 1961 Heinkel Tourist (don't ask), as far as I was concerned, a scooter was not really a motorcycle in my mind.
As it turned out, that Heinkel was a harbinger of the future -- my future and BMW's future -- in more ways than one.
It is the progenitor of BMW's recent foray into "Urban Mobility" and, in fact, it's the Great Grandpappy of the C 650 GT. Heinkel had exactly the same goals for the Tourist back in the 1950's as BMW has for the C 650 series of 2013, although I'm not sure you'd ever get a BMW staffer to admit it -- or find one old enough to know that there was such a thing as the Heinkel Tourist!
One of my puny thoughts led, as they sometimes do, to another and as I was pondering a good victim for the next webBikeWorld project bike one hot July day, it suddenly came to me. I wanted something new and unusual, and the C 650 GT bubbled through those abused synapses and into my consciousness.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized that there will be a lot of interest in the new C-series scooters. That interest will surely come from BMW owners; motorcyclists who are curious about the world of scooters; first-time riders of all stripes and yes -- even Harley owners. And one more demographic: the rapidly rising population of "maturing" motorcycle riders, who may want something a bit more relaxed than, say, a ZX-14R.
I've been riding motorcycles since Bultaco (remember?) was making the Metralla, but my only experience with scooters has been a few 'round-the-block blasts on the now-restored, 51-year-old Heinkel.
10-inch tires and 175 cc's of 1961-flavor horsepower means I was being passed going uphill by twenty-somethings on modern-era mountain bikes, so the Heinkel was relegated to the garage.
But that problem is absolutely non-existent with the C 650 GT. 60 horsepower and 49 foot-pounds of torque is probably half again as much as the Suzuki DR650 (blog), the current webBikeWorld project bike in our "Budget Adventure Touring" series, making this one fast scoot!
In fact, my first-day impressions with the C 650 GT are that it's more motorcycle than scooter. After all, it has all of the modern motorcycle bits: upside-down forks; dual disk brakes in the front and a single disk in the rear; ABS all around and meaty 15-inch Metzeler radials (120/70 ZR front and 160/60 ZR rear).
Throw in the "Highline" package, with three-way heated grips (low, high and automatic), a similar three-way heated seat and separate controls for the heated passenger seat, along with a tire pressure monitoring system, and you can start to see the similarities.
Looking out over the top of the windscreen and glancing down at the very modern-looking dashboard, the mind says "touring bike", not "scooter". The only thing that gives it away is if I glance down at my feet and remember they're attached to floorboards, not foot pegs.
Handling, acceleration and braking don't give it away either -- and even the CVT reminds me of the Aprilia Mana 850 GT I reviewed a couple of years ago. In fact, the C 650 GT is pretty close to touring version of the Mana 850 GT, for all practical purposes. In fact, my memory wants to tell me that the C 650 GT is faster, quicker handling and brakes better than the Aprilia.
First impressions are almost always positive, due to the novelty and excitement after taking delivery of a brand-new motorcycle.
But I've been around two-wheelers of all types long enough to have developed a deep enough personal database to recognize the subtle differences that, over the long term, can throw weight from one side of the scale to the other.
In fact, I was prepared to be underwhelmed by the C 650 GT and I kept my expectations in check. After all, it's a scooter, right? I anticipated a somewhat mushy suspension, sluggish handling and how about all that unsprung mass in the rear swingarm final drive mechanism?
Combine that with a CVT transmission and (yikes!) 261 kg (575 lb.) road-ready weight and Interstate excursions would be out of the question...or so I thought.
I was also pretty nervous about my scooter riding experience, which amounts to something just a gnat's hair north of zero. On top of that, the crowd of BMW and Harley owners that formed around me as I took delivery outdoors at Battley Cycles in Gaithersburg, Maryland didn't help. They were friendly enough, but casting a critical eye on me and the new "Urban Mobility" device I now owned. That first twist of that throttle would tell all!
First things first: where's the clutch? Even the Heinkel -- way ahead of its time in 1961 -- has a clutch, a four-speed manual transmission and a floor-mounted pedal for the rear brake in addition to the standard front brake lever under the right hand.
The C 650 has two levers all right, but that one on the left controls the rear brake, not a clutch. How weird is that? I pictured myself grabbing for the clutch lever, locking up the rear and a quick, not-pretty ending to my "Urban Mobility" adventures.
Not a problem though, as I was assured by Todd Dibell, my very knowledgeable and reassuring BMW sales person. "You'll have the hang of it before you get to the end of the driveway", he said.
Right! Of course he's going to say that -- he's a salesman! On top of that, he already has my money!
But guess what? He was right! I faltered only a bit as I first twisted that throttle -- I don't think the onlookers noticed. Maybe a wobble or two before that first right turn onto Battley's driveway and...by the time I crossed the sidewalk and entered the street (first looking left, of course) I knew everything was going to be just fine.
The low center of gravity is key; it feels like 90% of the weight is below the seat. The top of the scooter swings back and forth with little effort with just a touch of counter-steering, with less effort than any motorcycle I've ridden. I think that's the key that masks the relatively hefty, ~565 lb. road-ready weight of the C 650 GT. It honestly doesn't feel that heavy at all (except when trying to pull it up onto the center stand; more on how do do that in an upcoming report).
The suspension is surprisingly un-scooter-like sportbike-stiff; actually, I kind of wish I could adjust it for a bit more compliance, but I don't think it will be bothersome over the long term. I did bottom out hitting a deeply recessed manhole cover that couldn't be avoided; the feeling was similar to taking heavy bumps on a Harley-Davidson "Softail".
Those 15" Metzeler tubeless "Feelfree" tires (info) stick like glue though, and the combination of the long 1,591 mm (62.64") wheelbase, low center of gravity and triple-disk ABS brakes make this baby stop right now.
The combination of the CVT transmission, different sounds, quick transition ability, the Feelfree tires and the excellent brakes eventually gave me more first-day confidence than was probably reasonable. I took the scooter on some of my favorite curvy roads and found myself steaming into corners way too hot on more than one occasion.
The solution? Don't panic by squeezing the brakes, but keep it on the gas while keeping the eyes up and way past and through the turn, then trust the old instincts, keep it leaned over and let The Force guide you. I found that looking farther down the road than I normally do, way through the turn and trusting the bike -- I mean scooter -- is the fastest, most fun and safest approach. Weird to say that about a scooter, no?
The downside? There's a lot of CVT "wind-up" until about 45 MPH. Twist the throttle and the engine revs more than I thought it would and with more sound, too. BMW has an Akrapovič muffler option for the C 650 scooters, which says something for their intentions with this series.
But I wish there was an "Eco" mode for the CVT that would tame it down until those plates get up to speed. The scooter feels and sounds a bit hyper until 45 MPH shows on the speedo. After that, the CVT quiets down and the wind blocks the engine noise.
Hurricane Sandy was just starting its smackdown on Saturday and the rain was starting to spit, so I called it quits after 75 miles. I'm hoping that Sandy won't flood the garage and a more extensive C 650 GT workout will have to wait until the end of the week, when hopefully the skies will clear.
In 2007, the Ducati GT1000 Blog was hugely popular, so it was followed up with the Multistrada 620 Blog. Our current Project Bike is an ongoing evolution, described in the Suzuki DR650SE Blog, which also features the most up-to-date page format for webBikeWorld Project Bikes.
Over the next year or so, I will add articles, photos and videos to the BMW C 650 GT Project Bike Blog. Topics will include maintenance, life with the C 650 GT and accessories. This should prove interesting because there is currently a zero experience base with BMW's C-series scooters and no accessories outside of a few official BMW offerings.
I took some quick pre-Sandy photos and an equally quick walk-around video of my 2013 C 650 GT in Platinum Bronze, and with apologies for the hand-held shakes, I'll have more detailed videos coming up with on-board shots and more details on the features and operation of this amazing scooter.
The rumor is that Kymco collaborated with BMW on the development of the C-series. That had to be a difficult decision for a company like BMW, but there's no shame in it at all, as Kymco has a well-known and respected scooter manufacturer with a 50-year history. Kymco also has a large U.S. distribution center and the Taiwan-based manufacturing plant is ISO9001 registered.
I don't know the details of the BMW/Kymco partnership, and I doubt anyone ever will. It matters not, however, as the scooter is all BMW in its makeup and personality.
I'll cover the down-and-dirty details in an upcoming blog entry, and there's more in the BMW C 650 Sport and C 650 GT report, slide show and videos from the 2011 EICMA show, where the near-final BMW C 650 Sport and GT production versions were shown exactly one year ago.
More wBW: BMW C 650 GT Scooter Blog!
Here's where things get sticky for BMW. The C 650 Sport and C 650 GT are not inexpensive, by any means. In fact, they're downright expensive. But, it's a BMW -- you expected that, right? The list price is $9,590.00 for the C 650 Sport and $9,990.00 for the C 650 GT. Both prices include ABS, which is standard on both versions.
After all was said and done, this 2013 BMW C 650 GT in Platinum Bronze with the Highline package (heated grips, heated seats and TPMS) cost me $12,709.34, although that includes state tax and delivery fees. Yeeow -- that hurts!
Here's the breakdown of the fees: $671.34 for state sales tax; $217.00 for licensing and registration; a $99.00 "Dealer Processing Charge" and a $2.00 state tire tax. I received no discount whatsoever on the price from the dealer, believe it or not; surprising, since they didn't have to "floor plan" this scooter; it came in and went out the door less than 24 hours later.
So you can be sure that I'll be casting a critical eye on this significant investment!
How many C-series scooters will BMW sell at this price? Hard to say...but this is a company who is selling K 1600 GT's at $23,200.00 a pop faster than Klondike bars in July. Don't forget: the BMW scooters come with ABS, three disc brakes, upside-down forks and a single-sided swingarm with nice cast wheels, so that adds to the cost, as does the Highline package.
It's early yet, but the C 650 GT seems like it could very well be a viable replacement for a motorcycle. My initial impression was that it has excellent touring potential; it's comfortable, fairly quiet, easy to ride, has plenty of storage and good wind protection. It even has a hidden power outlet in the left-hand cubby.
I'll have to see about fitting a cruise control, GPS and radio. I'll probably order the tunnel bag and top box. The electrically adjustable windscreen works pretty well, but I'd like to try something a bit taller; hopefully the C-series will become popular enough to entice aftermarket manufacturers to crank up the goodies.
By the way, the differences between the Sport and GT are minimal -- pun intended. The Sport has a smaller fairing and windscreen and slightly different styling treatment on the side. The engine and most of the specs are identical; I'm not sure if there is some difference in the suspension (the Sport has a slightly stiffer ride).
Since this first look was posted, a lot of email has arrived from owners of other brands of Maxi-scooters, who seem to have taken offense that I've dissed their brand. Ironically, most motorcycle owners have been very supportive.
So let me repeat. This series is about two things: the BMW C 650 GT and from my point of view; that is, a pure motorcycle guy with zero scooter experience, describing to other motorcycle owners what it's like to live with a scooter.
This is not and was not meant to be a comparison of various Maxi-scooters. There is no implication that BMW has invented a completely novel concept that had never been done before. I was not interested in other scooters or motorcycles; I was interested in the BMW C 650 GT.
I have never seen a Burgman, Silver Wing or others, on the road or in a dealership. No doubt they are fine machines; I am of the opinion that anything on two wheels is a good thing and I never second-guess anyone's choice of conveyance.
So don't get your knickers in a twist guys and gals -- enjoy the series and if you're somehow taking offense, then you're being way too sensitive about a sport that should be about fun and camaraderie!
This is a first quick look at the new BMW C 650 GT scooter. I'll have lots more over the next year, so stay tuned! In the meantime, I'd be happy to answer any questions about the BMW C 650 GT. Contact me at
Publication Date: October 2012
More wBW: BMW C 650 GT Scooter Blog
From "B.G." (November 2014): "Iíve owned a BMW 650 GT for two years now, and have owned many different bikes. I have to say that this bike is the best overall bike Iíve ever owned. Itís part cruiser, part scooter, and part sport bike. Iíve done trips with it, been around town, and taken it on many fast paced twisty road excursions with fast experienced riders. This bike does it all, and very well.
Aside from all the bells and whistles it has, plus great gas mileage, the handling is superb. The low center of gravity gives you a control like no other bike Iíve owned. Power and braking are at the top, and it cruises at 80 mph with ease. Storage is awesome too.
I made the mistake of trading in this bike (the scooter) for a BMW 1300 sport bike, and three months laterÖ.I bought the (scooter) back because I missed it! If that isnít a testimonial I donít know what is.
I added a different windshield, and a Corbin seat with a backrest that allows me to stretch out, lean back, and ride for hours with no discomfort. I recommend this bike highly if you can only own one bike."
From "L.B." (August 2014): "Enjoyed your review. I have a C 650 GT and recently did the Iron Butt on it. 1,730 km in under 24 hours. Left Vancouver BC at 3:00am. From there to Hope, Fraser Canyon, Cache Creek, Prince George, McBride, Valemont, Blue River, Kamloops and back to Vancouver. Took 18 hours and 33 minutes. Great ride and the scooter was impeccable.
Lots of room for storage, good mileage/ range and comfortable. I have ridden larger bikes and Vespa scooters. I find I agree with your analogy 2/3 bike and 1/3 scooter. I love bikes but for the city it's give me convenience and allows for weekend out if town trips. Have also ridden it across the Rockies twice without a problem."
From "SLE" (October 2013): "I found your site some months ago as I am a C650GT owner living in Madrid, in Spain.
Great site by the way.... I have returned to 2 wheels after many years and found many of your reviews very informative and helpful.
One topic I don't see covered in the blog is the placement of the mirrors on the C650GT. I find that they are too far forward on the bike and too close together, to such an extent that however I adjust them, I simply can not see traffic immediately behind me in the same lane.
I also upgraded to "Aspheric" mirrors, and although these are a welcome addition for the wider field of view they do nothing to solve the problem of not being able to see what's behind. I have also compared with the T Max and Burgman and both seem to have much better visibility.
In an urban environment this is a major negative for me. I will have a look to see how they are actually connected to see if they could be moved back by an inch or so (if you look at the fairing there is an obvious inch or so of available space where they could sit) and will take a look at blind spot mirror options, although I just don't think they are going to make sufficient difference.
As this bike was my re-entry point to the world of 2 wheels, and otherwise I think it is great, I'm also pondering selling the bike and going the whole hog for a larger BMW tourer, with better mirrors.
Let me know if you have any thoughts or views (no pun intended) on the mirrors on your bike!
Rick's Reply: The topic of BMW scooter mirrors came up once on the webBikeWorld Google+ BMW Scooters Community; you may want to join if you haven't already, there are about 130 BMW scooter owners from around the world.
I don't find the mirrors to be much of a problem actually; they're about similar to mirrors on other motorcycles I've owned and, in fact, better than most I think.
Yes, I wish there was more horizontal adjustment, but I think it's easy to get fooled a bit because the BMW scooter mirrors are fairly long horizontally, so it seems like more of the mirror should be farther out. But in reality, the scooter mirrors are much bigger than most motorcycle mirrors, so the amount that you can see behind you is about the same.
At least that's my feeling on it...although I don't often ride in the city. Honestly, they just don't bother me much, I find them pretty good actually.
From "D.W." (September 2013): "Took delivery of a C650 GT June 11, 2013, traded in a 2009 FJR 1300 AE. Figured I would miss the power and handling found that it was not a big deal, the 650 has enough power for most situations and if it does not you shouldnít be doing it anyway. Handling is great, like the FJR you get into a corner to fast do not change a thing just lean a little further.
I have owned two Burgman 650 scooters and have 37K miles of experience on them. I must say the BMW has more power and handles better than the Burgman. The BMW has a better road feel and gives the rider a better feeling of security.
The BMW/Kymco has got it right, I do not know how you can improve on this. My only question is how will the reliability be after 5 or so years of service.
I also like the CVT, it keeps the engine on the Torque curve until you get to a speed that will match the curve. The wind up is nice and smooth no jerk or anything surprising and it slows nicely more like a gear driven transmission.
One complaint I have is the seat at 31.3 inches. I have made arrangements to have the seat lowered and re-worked to fit better for long runs. I firmly believe a standard should be set that no seat can be any taller than 28.5 inches regardless of the bike or style.
Enough of my personal opinions, I do like the 650 GT I think even better than the FJR."
From "G.K." (December 2012): "First of all, I want to say that Iím really excited about the new BMW scooters. They probably are what I hoped my 2003 Aprilia Scarabeo 500 would be but sadly, was not. I had the beige and silver one. The salesman told me that Larry Hagman (RIP) had bought an Atlantic 500.
Color matched hardbags were available from Aprilia for my ĎBeo and came standard in 2004. (The 2004 had power assisted brakes!) I am surprised and disappointed at no mention of hardbags for the BMW. The ĎBeo came standard with a top box that unlocked with the key in the ignition but no underseat storage, and, the seat had no struts to hold it up when putting gas in it, the BMW does.
The most serious flaws of the ĎBeo were itís engine roughness, itís engine swinging up and down with the rear suspension, and a seat that was impossible to keep yourself from sliding forward. It was really hard to ride for more than an hour. It did have fuel injection and it never got below 60mpg. I shouldaí got a Silver Wing (twin cylinder, no swinging engine) but I loved the retro styling of the ĎBeo.
I am also surprised that BMW went with a CVT rather than a dual clutch. CVTs work well but there is more noise and I can hear it in the many videos that Iíve watched of the BMWs. I did the the 2005 Love Ride (SoCal) on the ĎBeo with a passenger. It kept up just fine with the 15,000 Harleys but no one talked to me."
From "J.B." (December 2012): "For those that are height challenged, as my bride is, you will notice the C 650 GT seat is high setting and makes for tippy toes when stopped. Saddleman leather has solved the problem by reducing the height 1/2 in. And reducing a 1/2 in on either side, additionally installed their gel insert. A very reasonable $200 cost. Made a big difference for a 5' 6" rider."
From "D.M." (November 2012): "I really enjoyed the comments on the new BMW scooter. Basically BMW us selling two different scooters, one for touring and one for sports riding. I looked at both new scooters at Gateway BMW, St. Louis. I was not that impressed with the sports model, especially the storage compartment under the set. I don't understand the "expandable" compartment, especially when it is lowered and resting on the back tire.
I have owned and rode scooters since 1957 as well as BMW motorcycles. I much prefer the scooter as I don't care to shift manually. My current ride is the Burgman 650 which I really like and probably won't trade or sell for the new BMW.
One comment, in general about fuel economy. I don't think one rides motorcycles or scooters, especially maxi scooters, for economy. The cost of fuel is unimportant when you compare fuel to tires. On average, I get maybe 9000 miles on a set of tires which costs about $465 to replace. My car which, gets maybe 70,000 miles on a set of tires for about $650 to replace. My scooter costs me $.13 cents per mile whereas my car costs me less than $.01cents per mile. Fuel costs are nothing compared to the cost of tires.
Also motorcycles require much more maintenance that cars. You don't have to "check or set the valves" every 7000 or 14,000 miles. I now a friend that rides a Ducati and has to set his valves about every 4000+ miles at a cost of $350 or more each time. Lets just face it, we ride motorcycles or "scooters" because we enjoy riding - not to save money. We might think we are saving money but we are not."
From "J.W." (November 2012): "Got my bike yesterday and loving it! After 100 miles in the seat, it's just a bit too soft for me I think, or perhaps the supported area under the thighs is too small for me or something, but the truth is I've promptly replaced the seat on every motorcycle I've owned for 20+ years, so this is par for the course for me. :-)
Alice mentioned (in the C 650 GT and C 600 Sport comparison) you were having a little trouble getting hold of the accessories - only the storage divider was installed on mine at pickup, but the top box has already arrived, they're just missing the colored body panels, and I'm also getting the nav and the drop protection pads installed - in case you're not getting any of these, I will send photos, and my bike is the bronze too so it should match the rest of your pics. :-)
Quite enjoying the series so far, and in the day and a half I've had the bike, I've gotten quite a bit of attention and also gotten the scooter or motorcycle question a couple of times - the only good answer is "both" I think, but the critical point is that the frame without the motor attached to the swingarm makes it handle more like a motorcycle with a step through than a scooter, and that is where the rubber meets the road so to speak."
Rick's Reply: Thanks for the info - maybe I'll start an "Owner Reports" page (here) with owner feedback and photos, so keep 'em coming! I have the top box kit on order and it should be here next week and we'll install that and write it up. I also have the tunnel bag on order and two more top boxes from SHAD, along with the new SHAD mounting bracket for the C 650 GT and will review those also.
I installed the harness for my EXO2 heated vest (review) the other day, it was an easy project after I figured out how to access and remove the battery (report). There's not much room on the dash for a GPS, suction cup camera mount or other gear, so haven't figured that out yet, I may end up drilling through the plastic!
From "G.B." (November 2012): "I test rode the C650GT a couple days ago, maybe a 15 mile ride, combination of freeway, and some nice mild twisties. I rode my 650 Burgy to the dealership, wanted the back to back comparo.
Conclusion: Other than the seat height I really like it. The dealership is willing to provide an extended test ride which I will do as soon as I recover from some surgery scheduled in a couple weeks."
Rick's Reply: We have some SHAD top cases on order (they're making a mounting plate for the C scooters) and the BMW top box. Also have the BMW tunnel bag on order.
I have a 30" inseam and I'd say the C 650 GT feels about the same as the Suzuki DR650 when I stop, I'm on tip-toes but it doesn't bother me, makes it feel more like a motorcycle! Since I've never been on another maxi-scooter, I don't know if this is normal or not. The taller profile gives better ground clearance I think for handling...
From "T.M." (November 2012): "I've always found it amusing when someone gushes about what type of motorcycle could be purchased instead of a scooter. What these individuals don't seem to grasp is the fact that scooter riders WANT scooters! They are astute enough to know what a motorcycle is...yet CHOOSE to buy and ride a scooter or maxi-scooter or even a super-max like the BMW 650.
Proof of this is the fact that there were nearly 20,000 scooters sold in the first half of 2012 (up 5.6% and climbing) and have surpassed off-road motorcycle sales. It's not about scooter-vs-motorcycle. It's simply a matter of CHOICE!"
From "D.R." (November 2012): "When I first saw the new BMW C650, I was struck by how similar it is to Yamaha's T-Max. So much so, I wondered if it hadn't been licensed out to BMW! The author of this article perhaps never knew of the T-Max, but it's been the pack-leading sport scooter of reference for 10 years, with everyone trying to equal or beat it, without great success. Everything here resembles the T-Max in the extreme: right down to the horizontal shock. Credit to BMW for bringing their new machines here, but little of them are a revelation to present or former T-Max owners."
From "B.R." (November 2012): "I have two Piaggio MP3's (250 cc and 400 cc). Use the 250 for local runs, the 400 for long distance runs. I also have some street MCs that don't get ridden much any more. The scooters are just so more user friendly I'm spoiled now.
I get 65-70 mpg on the 250; 60-65 mpg on the 400. Most the time I ride 65-70 mph on open roads, highways. With a top case I don't need any saddlebags like on a MC. I sometimes carry $60 worth of groceries on my MP3s. I call my MP3's a poor man's trike. 8^ ) Seeing more and more older riders (like me) on trikes now."
From "M.H." (November 2012): "Thanks for making this your project choice for 2013. I was a big fan (5 years / 50k miles, many of which were on roads where scooters aren't supposed to go) of the Aprilia maxi-scoots (the Atlantic 500 and Scarabeo 500GT), and have been waiting for a worthy successor. Hopefully, this is it - comfort and convenience with a minimum of compromise."
From "J.L.W." (October 2012): "You have got to be kidding! 13 grand for a scooter? For that money you could buy a better motorcycle and a scooter and have 2 "urban mobility vehicles." It's amazing how moto-journalists leave their common sense in the garage whenever they get on anything with the roundel (or whatever the hell they call it) on it.
If you want a real "urban mobility vehicle" buy a KLR 650 (no, I don't own one now but have in the past). It's less than half the price, the seat is higher so in traffic you are sitting about as high as you would in many SUVs, it's got great aftermarket support and no one will laugh at you for riding something that looks like a piece of melted plastic."
Rick's Reply: Been there, done that: Suzuki DR650 Blog.
From "F.M." (October 2012): "I'm sure that "L," (below), who bemoaned your decision to not buy an F 700 GS, is channeling the feelings of many who view their motorcycle as a means of compensating for personal shortcomings.
(But), he fails to mention those areas where the F 700 GS is inferior to the C 650 GT:
I could just as well ask "L" why he opted for an F 700 GS rather than a bike like my Buell 1125CR, which has almost double the horsepower, less unsprung weight, far better handling, and a lower overall weight. Or I could ask him why he didn't choose the much lighter and more off-road-capable KTM 690 if he wanted a bike that could venture off-pavement.
Perhaps his riding skills are not advanced enough to safely make use of the capability of either of those bikes. People need to remember that any bike is a series of compromises and it's up to the buyer to determine which best fits his/her needs, desires, budget, and tastes."
From "B.P." (October 2012): "I owned a 2007 Suzuki Burgman 650 Exec scooter for five years, which I traded in this year for a new Victory Cross Country Tour (info here). I also owned a BMW R850R from 1997 - 2000, so I am sort of doubly in the target demographic for BMW.
I have a few comments for you, particularly since you mentioned that you'll "have to see about fitting a cruise control."
On my Burgman, one of my first farkles (and you can see them all here) was to add an "MC Cruise" cruise control. In 2007, this cost me about $600 and a lot of my time; it is now about $1,000, as a result of exchange-rate changes vis-à-vis the US and Australian dollars.
In addition to being very expensive, the MC Cruise uses a vacuum canister and its own servo mechanism; that is, it is more complex than a factory cruise, and not as spot on (although it is much better than a throttle lock).
BMW has factory cruise on its sport-touring bikes, and why they don't offer it on the (C 650) GT puzzles me. A few years back, when the prototype was shown at the NYC cycle show, I spoke with a factory rep about it there. He told me that European buyers were not interested in cruise, so it wasn't going to happen.
I also emailed BMW customer service this past July, and told them there was a strong chance of my buying a C 650 GT in a few years... but only if they changed it two ways: provide a passenger backrest of some sort - my wife will not ride without something behind her - and if factory cruise were at least an option (They did note that they "appreciate[d] the time you have taken to share your thoughts; your sentiments will be heard and considered.").
Since then, I've read that a top-box is available, so that takes care of the first issue, at least. The cruise is still a problem.
Now, I realize that most scooter buyers aren't used to having cruise control. They're not used to having a scoot that large and otherwise capable, either (and expensive). On the Burgman 650 forums, however, you can read about experiments with adding car-based Audiovox and Rostra cruise controls (as on many "real bike" forums, too); i.e., this is not just my concern.
I did four 800+ mile days on the Big Burger, and these weren't part of Iron Butt days or anything like that - twice coming home from visiting family, and twice riding back from MotoGP races at Indy. (And lest you think all I did was super-slab riding on the 650, you can see me grinding down its center stand at Deals Gap, in this photo).
The U.S. is much more of an open-space riding arena than Europe, and if the C 650 GT is really to be considered as a "GT," they really ought to round out its capabilities.
Another issue you may want to check out is passenger foot comfort. On the GT, like the 'Zook, the passenger "floorboards" are molded into the bodywork. I haven't sat on the back seat of the GT yet, but on the Burger the passenger had to be both bow-legged and pigeon-toed to effectively position his or her feet (as well as being within a narrow height range).
On the C 650 Sport (and on Honda's Silver Wing, for that matter), the passenger gets bolt-on pegs; at least these can be replaced - I would think, with the proper adapters - with adjustable mini-boards from Rivco or Big Bike Parts, et al. I did something like this on the Valkyrie Interstate I owned for seven years.
On the Burger and now on the GT, what you see is what you're stuck with, in terms of passenger foot support. One of the selling points for me with the Victory - really, I'm not kidding - is that it came stock with adjustable passenger floorboards (and, of course, factory cruise). (By the way, the Victory has a very low seat and C of G, and is perhaps my "last hurrah" in terms of owning a big bike, given my aging knees and ankles.)
On the Burger, it's as if they never had anyone actually sit on the passenger seat when they finalized the design; some minor indentations in the under-seat storage bodywork would have done wonders here, I believe. I hope the GT works out better in this regard.
Other than that, the GT looks capable. It's in the ballpark of the Burgman Exec in terms of both pricing and capabilities. The GT has additional horsepower, has two 15" wheels to the Burger's 15"/14" combination, is lighter than the Burger, and may have a slightly higher top speed (per my GPS, I did manage to crack the ton a couple of times on the Burger. Closed course, professional rider, and all that, of course).
Both have electrically adjustable windshields, and the heated grips are optional on the Burger. As you note, there are plenty of bikes costing twice what the GT goes for. If you consider it a true touring bike - a lighter 'Wing, for instance - it's reasonably priced.
One more area. I don't know how its transmission fits into the grand scheme of the GT. On the Burger, if you had a tranny problem - and, yes, these were very rare but, like everything else, magnified on the 'Net - you were basically looking at parting it out, or converting it into a mailbox. I hope replacing some of these parts on the GT doesn't mean disassembling most of the bike and its engine.
Last - or maybe first! - thanks for the nice write-up!"
Rick's Reply: Good info, thanks. I'm definitely going to be looking to fit a cruise control and I'd bet BMW will have one on the C 650 GT, maybe next year's model.
The rider backrest on the C 650 GT is adjustable; I'll be getting into that in an upcoming article. Also, the top box forms the passenger backrest, and Chris B., who is a very experienced long-distance tourer with his wife as pillion, will take the scooter on a trip and write about comfort also and the differences between the scooter and his touring bike.
From "L" (October 2012): "Why would anyone (who knows how to ride a bike) would choose this Scooter for example lets say instead of the F700GS which is priced the same? Correct me if I am wrong in any of these:
I have a F800GS so I know that (the) Rotax engine is great, the bike is a lot fun to ride. F700GS is very similar so it shouldn't be much different from my F800GS. It should actually be even more fun on pavement. I know you have a F800GS too, so please tell me what I am missing."
Rick's Reply: Wait -- this is a trick question, right?!
Like asking "Why did you buy apples when you could have bought oranges?
My answer: Because I wanted the C 650 GT and didn't want an F700GS.
Follow-up from "L" (October 2012): "Not a trick question really. What I meant to ask was not why not "F700GS" but "C650GT". I only gave the F700GS as an example because it costs exactly the same in the U.S. and they are both BMW. So that the price, dealership coverage and brand value would be out of the equation.
Only to point out that even though the C650GT is a scooter, it costs as much as a really good bike from the same brand and it costs even more to run. I thought I could have missed something.
So far it looks like this project is for people who can't be bothered to change gears and have to ride a BMW since there are CVT bikes from other brands, without the disadvantages of a scooter minus chain drive in oil bath.
On a side note, I have never ridden C650GT, so who knows maybe the scooter has other stuff on it that makes the ride a better experience in other ways. Will be looking forward to find out what this project will unfold."
From "M.D." (October 2012): "As a current 150 cc scooter owner looking to upgrade to something more powerful in the next year or two, I was glad to see your BMW C650 review on webBikeWorld. I had already considered it in my search.
One thing that I'd love to find in your long term evaluation of this bike (and in other reviews) is some consideration of fuel economy. With gas prices on the rise, one big factor in my switch from cars to bikes was fuel economy.
Surprisingly (to me at least), many bikes struggle to match the fuel economy of a small hatchback. Given that bikes like this are as expensive as a small used car, they need impressive fuel economy to justify getting a spot in my garage. I think most scooter owners would expect their machines to be more frugal than a bike.
My carbureted Kymco 150 cc scooter gets 69 MPG in the city and 55 MPG on the highway. If I recall correctly, the BMW C650 specs did not impress in the fuel economy department. I was more impressed by the new Honda NC700 bikes that have been designed specifically with fuel economy in mind."
Rick's Reply: Thanks for the reminder, I definitely plan on focusing on the fuel economy issue, it's one of the puzzling things about this scooter, as BMW touts the "Urban Mobility" concept and mentions the issue of resource depletion, but this scooter is pretty heavy and not really designed for ultimate fuel economy.
On my initial 75-mile run-around, which was mostly all on back roads and quite a lot of fast riding, I averaged 48 MPH, according to the bike's -- ooops, I mean the scooter's average MPG display.
Watching the instant readout can be fun; I had it up to 199.4 MPG at one point...going downhill, of course. I want to see if I can make it go past 200!
Once the hurricane passes by, I'll get it out on the road for a fuel mileage evaluation and plan on writing that up as an article.