F650GS twin: too small for a 6'3" 190# guy? (and other ??s)

Discussion in 'Parallel Universe' started by rotorOrange, Feb 19, 2009.

  1. rotorOrange

    rotorOrange n00bin' it up.

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    Like many here, I have read close to 798 circular confusing posts weighing the pros and cons of the new twins (F800GS and F650GS). I am currently leaning towards buying a new F650GS. I want to find people that can distill the threads and give me some guidance. I have a few direct questions I want to pose to ADVers that I think, if answered, could help me finally make up my mind. So given the following:

    1. I am going to get either one or the other, so let's not make this a wee-strom love-in. I can feel that money burnin' through my pocket as I type and I am going to have to make a final decision on this by the end of the week...
    2. My total budget is about $14~15k. That means either I get a F650GS and farkle like there's no tomorrow (plus save a little for a trip or two) or I get an F800 and put on the minimum protection/safety farkle (crash bars, bash plate, hand guards, and a HID upgrade)...
    3. I am a first time rider (gasp!). I am not a nut-job risk-junkie speed-freak and I will try to be ATGATT-fully careful. You're not talking me out of this though. I don't have any baseline bike experience to compare these to, so keep that in mind with your answers...
    4. In my mind, I think I will be using this 50/50 street/dirt. Outside of my ADVrider thead-reading reality distortion field, this will be used for a daily surface street commute in Sunnyvale, CA (4 miles round trip), a once or twice a month weekend ride (2 days, SFbay-to-north coast/sierras/hwy1/etc-and back), and an approx. once-a-year 1~2 week long trek (vancouver, cabo, rockies, etc...). Maybe a few long weekends as well (lost coast, DV, etc...) My shorter trips should mostly consist of a 3~6hr hwy ride to get out of the bay area, followed by a couple of days of forest service dirt roads and fire roads, camping, and another hwy trek back to the daily grind...

    Now The Questions:
    Q1) I am 6'3" and 190#. I have seen a lot of posts by "less heightened" people asking if the F650GS is right for them, but not many tall folks. What do you guys think: is this bike going to feel undersized? I have sat on both in showrooms and neither seems 'awkward', but what do I know? Is my weight/height going to be a problem for the F650 suspension on dirt roads / fire roads?

    Q2) I have seen a review of both bikes somewhere on the intertubes that said something to the effect of: "passing a cage starting at 75+ mph is a bit dodgy on the F650GS but not an issue on the F800GS". Is this true? I mean seriously, average CA hwy speed is probably between 75-80 mph. Am I going to be praying that I can squeeze enough out of this thing out just to pass someone? Can I cruise comfortably (never-mind the lilliputian windscreen) at 75~80 mph on the F650?

    Q3) I have read/heard a dozen times or more that the larger front wheel on the F800 makes for less-than-ideal street handling (but better off-road behavior) and that the F650 has better street handling. If I don't have a baseline, would I miss the F800 off road? If I got the F800, would I miss out on the fun of the twisties? Would the narrow F800 front wheel mean I have to crawl around corners at a 2 degree lean? :)

    Q4) I would like to think that I am going to keep this bike for a long time (3~5 years). I want to slowly build on the bike (like a farkle coral reef) as I gear up for longer and longer trips. As a new rider, do you gals (and guys) think I will "outgrow" an F650 in a year or two? If I ever convince my wife to ride along with me as a passenger (not for a long while), will the F650 be enough to take us on weekend trips (she's tiny, about half my weight)?

    Q5) Enthusiasts like to pick things apart to the nth detail. I have read a lot about the suspension woes of the F800 and the F650, about handle-bar vibrations, seats-from-hell, disappointing headlights, premature chain failure, etc... Looking at the big picture though, I am getting a high quality bike right? It is a BMW right? Compared to everything else out there, are these issues show stoppers? Sales on these two bikes seems to indicate otherwise.

    Thanks a ton.

    -rotorOrange :norton

    p.s. My heart and gut says go for the F800. Actually, I had been meaning to take the MSF class and get my license for many years. Literally: something about seeing an F800GS for the first time inspired me to finally go do it. I had never been that into street bikes, true dirt bikes, or even the GSAs (though several friends were). Something about that F800 just clicked in my brain. My rational/practical mind says the F650 will be a better first bike, better bike on the road, cheaper, and allow me to farkle 'till my heart's content.
    #1
  2. Wildman

    Wildman Long timer

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    Hi and welcome :wave

    You're in almost exactly the same position I was in last year except I'm 5' 11". I went for the 800GS. The only significant positive versus the 650GS was, for me, styling. Negatives, tubed tyres and (to a lesser degree) the 21" front.

    Seven months and 3000 miles later do I think it was the right decision?

    Hell, yes! The 800GS is a superb bike. The 21" doesn't cause me any problems although I'll admit I'm not one to hurry it too much through the corners. As a n00b, I found the throttle response to be 'brisk' but never unmanageable and it's done everything I've asked it to without complaint.

    The 650GSers will be along shortly to tell you how good there's is; which I'm sure it is.

    For me, farkling is a long-term thing. The process of developing and adapting the bike to you and your needs and shouldn't be part of the original purchase decision. Get the bike you want.

    Oh and Ps. fill in your profile n00b! :lol3
    #2
  3. PuraVida

    PuraVida *

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    Welcome rotorOrange,

    I've got the 650 and I'll weigh in with my thoughts below, but first I'm going to suggest a third option: Get yourself a used bike and spend your first year riding on it. This will give you the baseline you acknowledge you're missing and will let you make a much better decision about the bike you want. You'll probably be a much better rider for it at the end of your first year because you'll spend that time exploring new skills without worrying about dropping your shiny new baby (and you will drop it, especially if you're learning to ride off-road).

    That said...

    With your height you'll probably feel more comfortable on the 800. You'll have a tendency to plant your feet a fair bit at low speeds while you're learning, and you might feel like you're duck-walking on the 650. I can't speak for the 800's suspension, but I frequently bottom out the 650's suspension off-road and I'm 25lbs lighter than you.

    Sadly, this is true. The 650 hasn't much left to pass with above 75. You won't want to cruise for hours at a time much above that either for exactly the reason you mention: the windscreen - it's pretty much decoration. The 800 windscreen is better, but a guy your size is still going to have issues with it. The wind is going to smack you somewhere around your shoulders/neck, or worse, it'll buffet your helmet. If you're going to cruise on either bike, you'll want a bigger screen.

    The 650 does indeed handle beautifully on the street. The larger, more off-road oriented front tire and higher clearance of the 800 probably mean the handling is a little less nimble around town but the tradeoff is worth it if you really will be doing significant trail time. Most riders never come near maxing the full handling capability of their bikes so I wouldn't worry much about bumping up against limits of an 800 on the street during your first few years.


    Tough to say, whether you'll outgrow the 650 depends more on you than the bike. The potential is certainly there though. I've taken the 650 on weekend camping trips two-up and sorely missed the 800's extra power on mountain roads.


    The bars do vibrate a bit, but it's not bad. The seat breaks in after a few trips. Pointing your lights up a degree or two and an after-market bulb will fix lighting/visibility. You'll be getting a quality bike either way. I've pushed mine quite hard and the only problem I've had is the faulty fuel sensor the bike shipped with (though it did have to go in for two "service bulletins" on potentially-loose components).

    My comment about getting a used first bike aside, given your descriptions I think you're right about the 800 being a better fit. The 650 is a great bike and a lot of fun, but the 800 fixes most of the gripes I have about it (power and brakes especially). If it had been available when I bought the 650 (we got them a little early here) I would have definitely bought one.

    Good luck. Hope that helps.
    #3
  4. LewisNClark

    LewisNClark Long timer Supporter

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    Get a used KLR for the first riding season. You will probably drop the bike several times and fix it for $10.00. Then next yr upgrade to what you feel comfortable with. Buy at the right price and you will loose very little on the KLR.
    #4
  5. beep

    beep Guest

    Fairly easy question to answer. If you're going to spend 50% of the time on the dirt, then it's got to be the F800GS - no question it's the better dirt bike. I'm the same height and both bikes are fine, distance between the seat and pegs feels the same on both bikes, so there should be no difference in comfort over long distances. The seats are pretty hard so neither makes a brilliant long distance road bike, unlike a VStr**, sorry but it is a better tourer ;O)

    Both would be fine for someone who's just started riding, you shouldn't outgrow either, unless you're a speed junkie.

    The only thing that would concern me would be using such an expensive bike offroad - you will drop it at some stage. However since you've set your heart on one these bikes, buying new is your only easy option. Might be worth considering getting learning on a secondhand cheaper/older more dirt orientated bike (DR650, DRZ400S, KLR), then selling it on once you're confident offroad. Or buy the F650GS and an old dirtbike.

    But if it's got to be one bike and you're happy dropping it a few times, then it's got to be the F800GS!
    #5
  6. Motoriley

    Motoriley Still riding like crap after all these years.

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    I can't speak to the 650GS questions since I've never ridden one (my 800 gets here Tuesday). I have over the last 20 years of riding helped a lot of guys get started riding though. Get a used bike. Something that you can drop and not care about. Something a bit down on power so you can really master the machine without worries of it spitting you off for a slight mistake. A KLR650 would be a great start. (I've had 2 of them). A lot of people try to buy the dream bike on the first shot. They don't want to waste time on a starter bike that they will outgrow. The nice thing about being a noob is that any bike is great. You'll be so happy to be riding you won't sweat the little stuff all the whiners on this site (myself include) are always complaining about. Get a KLR or a used Wee and beat it. If you buy it for a fair price it won't cost you much to sell it in a year. You will enjoy not compounding the anxiety of being a new rider with the anxiety of scratching up a brand new bike. If you really plan on doing some Adv riding as a noob the bike is going to take some hits. My 2 cents...yaddda..yadda ....
    #6
  7. ]I)Money

    ]I)Money D NOT I Supporter

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    the bike is going to take some hits, if you really ride it offroad.

    the practical advice to start with a used "starter bike" is sound. Actually, if you go with something about 5-6 years old, you won't even lose much in depreciation, if you go that route.

    If you don't go that route, get the 8.
    The now oft-heard saw about the 21" being less nimble: well, it may be LESS nimble, but it is by no means NOT nimble.

    It's your life, it'll be your bike. Do what you want.
    #7
  8. Motoriley

    Motoriley Still riding like crap after all these years.

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    If you actually have a budget don't underestimate the cost of the gear. A well equipped rider in the rain or in a ditch on a KLR is a lot happier than a guy in a jean jacket on a BMW. Good helmet, good jacket, couple pairs of gloves, heated vest, good boots...etc. We are talking a thousand + of dollars here. Buy good gear and it will last a long time. Buy cheap "starter" gear and you will be spending the real money eventually anyways. Find out what sizes you wear and monitor the fleamarket daily for deals. My Aerostich jacket, my deerskin gloves and a bunch of other odds and ends were found there for 50 cents on the dollar and some items still had the tags on them.
    #8
  9. conrado

    conrado Been here awhile

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    My girlfriend has an F650GS and I did the break-in on the bike and ride it occasionaly. I also twice test rode an F800GS.

    I'm 6' and 190# and the 650 feels cramped after half an hour on the open road. The 800 fits me much better.

    It is a BMW (in the 'good' sense): finish is very good, handling is confidence inspiring, the engine is awesome, brakes are more than adequate (on the 800, only just so on the 650), suspension is good (on the 800, weak for espirited riding on the 650), lights are good. Obviously, being a BMW, it costs a little more. But it is worth every cent.

    There is some buzz from the engine above 5000 rpm. I notice it every time I jump on the bike, but it doesn't bother me.

    No problems on the girlfriend's bike (it has 7000 km now and has been to Argentina and Chile).
    #9
  10. huckleberry

    huckleberry BACK ROAD BOMBER

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    the big thing you might want to consider here ( being a noob) is you said 50/50 and if by dirt you mean more than dirt roads--and even at that-- if i was to give what i think is my best advice it would be to buy a 250 dual sport used and ride it for a yr. the f 8 or 650 are too expensive to drop and in the dirt you will as a noob. so take that for what its worth
    #10
  11. rotorOrange

    rotorOrange n00bin' it up.

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    Ad from craigslist. I would like to spend $2~3k if I do this, but it sounds like I would be getting a lot of extras. I am going to give the guy a call (please don't snipe me right away on this :eek1 )

    QUOTE:
    2008 KLR 650 !!! Best bike anybody could ever own!!! - $4100

    2008 klr 650 kawasaki!! 4 Stroke single thumper!!! Great bike only 8--- highway miles!! never down ! Street tires and off road!! Jardin aftermarket exhuast! K&N air filter! Jet kit! Offroad pegs! LED tail light! Doohicky! Low profile/ anti-tamper stainless oil plug! Cargo rack pack! Two helmets sm&L ! Great commuter!!! 2nd owner!All service done as per service manual intervals included with bike!!45-50 mpg!! Always garaged! Bike cover! $4000 FIRM!
    #11
  12. earthroamer

    earthroamer Stuck in Pindadesh

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    I'm going to weigh in here, even though I don't have either one of these bikes. I'm 6' 200# and find the F650GS single very comfortable after replacing the seat and adding a windshield. I took it to Alaska last summer and although I would normally ride 65-70 most of the time (especially in Canada), I had to hot-foot it home and rode 75-80 for 3 days straight, so I can't understand people not being able to comfortably cruise at 80+ on the F650GS twin. I had an F800ST for a couple of days and that thing was a rocket compared to my thumper. I've sat on the F650GS twin and find the ergos very close to my bike. The reason I'm saying all this (referencing a bike you're not even considering) is that I can't imagine either one the F650GS or the F800GS not meeting your requirements.

    Buy the bike that makes your heart go pitter-patter and do not listen to your rational/practical mind. He is evil. Do not buy a KLR or Wee. Get the one you want and drop it many times. It will add patina. It's a motorcycle. There are no bad choices.
    #12
  13. CrazyMike

    CrazyMike ***42***

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    I very much agree with almost everything PuraVida has stated.

    My first motorcycle was my dream bike, a R1200C cruiser about 10 years ago. (I still have it and still love it.)

    If it means anything to you, I am an active MSF RiderCoach and I tell the new riders coming through my classes that they need to visit every motorcycle dealer in town, sit on every type of motorcycle that each dealer has, even the ones they are obviously not interested, and make certain they understand how each motorcycle feels. It sounds like you may have already done this so you're one step ahead. It seems that you've already got your mind set on the BMW F800GS. That bike will make a fine first bike although it may be a little big for off-road riding depending on what kind of off-road riding you intend to do.

    As stated before...YOU WILL DROP THE MOTORCYCLE. As long as you understand this and know that you will need to be able to spend money to keep this motorcycle up and running. You'll be fine. However, if you're strapped for cash for repairs or farkling, you may find yourself resenting the purchase.

    The point I want to make: this sounds a whole lot more like it may be a fiscal decision than a fitment issue so keep that in mind. I have no doubt that the F800GS may fit you better, (I'm 5'8" and I'm on my tip toes with the stock seat but that's fine with me) it's really important that you keep riding as much as you can during the first couple of years for a new rider. Except for maybe re-entry riders, this is going to be your most dangerous time.

    Good luck and ride safe. If you come over to the east coast, look me up.
    #13
  14. CrazyMike

    CrazyMike ***42***

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    Sounds like a good idea. If your not going to travel long distances, I'd look for a KLX250S. This is a great "around town" bike and an excellent dual-sport.
    #14
  15. rotorOrange

    rotorOrange n00bin' it up.

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    Just to clarify, the wife put a ceiling of around $15k for the bike...for now. That doesn't include the gear. I am going for the best damn ATGATT setup I can find.

    So far (not in the bike budget):
    Racer "High End" gloves (stupid name, feel fantastic)
    Shoei Hornet DS (matte black)
    Sidi Disco's
    On order...Motoport 1-piece stretch kevlar his-vis "Homer Simpson in the Nuclear Plant" suit w/ waterproof liner

    I mention the $15k b/c I do have to take this slow. If I get the F800GS, I plan to spring for the Farkle Fab (FF) bash plate, possibly the forthcoming FF crash bars (otherwise I like the Holans), a Adventure-spec top plate to strap my tent and gear duffel to, and maybe a HID upgrade. F800 means the Caribou's or Jesse's will have to wait till christmas or next year.

    In truth, I think duplicating the setup shown in this pic (+ crashbars) would put me on cloud nine.


    Aside: I heard the Akrapovic exhuast and it sounds grrrrreat! I know I won't get a performance boost from it, but I would save a few pounds. Any worries about it being less robust than the stock exhaust? Should I swap the stainless steel can for dirt trips (knowing that I might be rather tip prone). Is it a quick and easy swap? (It just looked like a slip on and spring clip to me)
    #15
  16. blackie

    blackie Been here awhile

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    Speaking as a 650GSer, that coin you saved from the 800 will get you a LOT of farkle which is the route I took (that and I couldn't wait another 9 months for the 800 to show up...).

    To address your issue of height and weight. On the 6 (or 8) you'll probably be itching to change/mod seats after a while. Adding some height to the replacement seat will help with room. I just got me the TT high seat and I'm 5'8", heavy tho (225#:shog ) I quickly got used to the height of the bike. Originally had the standard height seat and now I want more!. The other thing you could add also are bar risers, that extra 20mm will make you feel fairly spacious in your saddle together with the higher seat.

    Still the above mods will leave you lots of coin for other stuff :evil

    The 650T will happily cruise at 85mph all day long.

    Bike is a bit cramped for 2 up but it'll do for short trips. Else the 12GS might be better for 2 up distance.

    Like any bikes there will be niggly things. But you do get what you pay for (mostly, check out all the stainless stell bolts and the steel braided brake line etc)

    I too originally wanted the 800 mainly for the looks, but now this baby has grown on me, plus all the farkling has made it more grown up now :D There is all sorts of cosmetic stuff now available that makes it more like the 800.

    At the end of the day, I suggest you get what moves your heart. If you like the look of the 800, I'd say go for it :1drink
    #16
  17. CrazyMike

    CrazyMike ***42***

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    Good attitude. Buy what moves you the most. Everything else will fall into place naturally.
    #17
  18. TierHawg

    TierHawg Herder of the J-Cats

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    I'm kinda in the same boat. Looking for a new bike, and the F800GS just calls to me. I haven't ridden in 20 years, and only started back a few months ago on an old DR250S. The little DR is a great bike, but doesn't allow me to make long road trips. It's either around town only, or trailer it to the dirt areas an hour away. It's been very helpful to learn on, but I'm yearning for something more for long trips and such.

    I should get a something like a DR650, but there is something about the F800GS. I've been to the local BWM dealer several times to look over the F650 and F800. The salesguy has been pushing the F650 hard. They have a few in stock, and I've sized up the lowered suspension one, low seat one and regular height F650. I'm 5'9" and hefty. The salesguys didn't think I'd be comfortable on the F800GS. I found with a F800 with a low seat I can have the balls of both feet on the ground. I can almost flat foot it, but that's probably because its sprung too light for my weight. I can totally live with this.

    My brain tells me to get something cheaper like the DR650. My heart tells me to get the F800GS. I'm not getting any younger, and may not have another chance to spend the 15k plus for the F800GS anytime soon. Oh, and I plan to keep the little DR250S and continue building my dirt riding experience.
    #18
  19. TierHawg

    TierHawg Herder of the J-Cats

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    double-tap
    #19
  20. Night_Wolf

    Night_Wolf Leg Humper

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    As a former Canada Safety Council Instructor, I'll echo what a few others have said and get a used bike such as the KLR. 99% of n00bs have a more difficult time than they think they will learning to ride. A bike making 65+hp is too much for a n00b IMNSHO. Buy the KLR, Suzuki DR650 or whatever version Honda sells, put 10,000 miles on it & THEN get the bike you really want. Put your ego away and save your cash for when you get some much needed EXPERIENCE :lobby
    #20