This must be the year for the introduction of the “one platform/three bikes” theme. Kawasaki introduced three versions of its Vulcan 900 all in one model year (reviewed here on WRN); and now BMW unveils three versions of its new G 650 X platform in the same year.
Say hello to BMWs new trifecta of fun (click on images to view larger size):
X is pronounced “cross.” The names make more sense when you say them that way. BMW is positioning these motorcycles as entry level designed to fill the gaps in the companys current model offerings. Peter Maier, BMWs product planning manager, says, “BMW is trying to attract the younger buyer with these lower-priced entry level models.” The average age of BMW buyers right now is 49.
So whats lower priced? Xcountry is $8,675; Xchallenge is $8,975; Xmoto is $9,575. Thats low by BMW standards. The price of the average BMW hovers around $15,000. Are these new G 650s entry level? Depends on what factors you deem “entry level.” For a woman, it means a motorcycle on which she can practice newfound riding skills and gain confidence. I believe thats the same for men. Typically, entry-level bikes are light, low and easy to ride.
Light these are with the Xcountry weighing the heaviest at a measly 353 pounds. Good thing the bikes are so light because most average-sized women (5-feet-5 and under) will have to hold up the bikes with only one leg, while most average sized guys (5-feet-10 and under) may be tip-toeing the highest of the three bikes.
Seat height is pretty darn high on these bikes. The Xchallenge is the tallest at 36.6 inches, but thats to be expected for a dirt bike where extra clearance is needed. Fortunately, for me, the Xcountry (dual purpose), my favorite of the three, is also the lowest at 34.2 inches. The Xmoto (street version) is back up there at 36.2 inches. When youre talking that high, every inch counts on trying to get you lower to the ground. A lower seat option is available for the Xchallenge bringing seat height down almost an inch to 35.8 inches. And an optional seat for the Xmoto brings seat height down almost two inches to 34.6 inches.
Low center of gravity is also a factor in manageability of a motorcycle when stopped. Despite being high and narrow, the bikes are quite compact and dont feel top heavy thanks to the fuel tank located under the seat. This helps keep the weight centralized and down low as opposed to the fuel being carried in the traditional position higher up between the seat and bars.
The three G 650 X bikes share the same single cylinder engine as BMWs popular F 650 GS motorcycle. A few characteristics of that engine have been optimized for better performance with a lighter weight engine that boosts power output by 3 horsepower. The upgraded engine now pumps out a respectable 53 horsepower at 7,000 rpm reaching maximum torque of 44 foot-pounds at 5,250 rpm. And now, with an 80-pound weight reduction over the F 650 GS, the G 650s fly. Theres major zippiness to this engine. Tons of response when you crank the throttle thanks to the favorable power to weight ratio. A chain drive transfers power to the rear wheel.
Enjoy the scenery on the Xcountry
I tested the Xmoto and the Xcountry. Im not a dirt bike rider so I opted not to challenge myself on the Xchallenge. Lets talk about the bike I enjoyed the most, the Xcountry, designed to ride on the street and in gravel and sand. Lately, Ive been eyeing up a way to explore unbeaten paths, taking a street motorcycle down those gravel roads so prevalent where I live in the northern Rocky Mountain region. A motorcycle equipped with tires and suspension that allow me to veer off the pavement excites me these days.
While being light and nimble the Xcountry has enough grunt to propel you through rocky gravel, and zoom you through fine sand (just be sure to keep on the throttle in the sand; going slow is not a good thing in sand as the bike starts to wobble). BMW terms this Xcountry a scrambler. OK, Ill take it. It scrambles through the dirt with one personality, and then when it hits the pavement, it takes on a whole other personality, one that pumps up the volume scrambling to keep up with traffic. Ive not ridden off-road much, so I was bit skittish at first as I got used to the feeling of having the back tire slide around in the dirt.
Once I realized this bike has the dirt handled just fine, I loosened my death grip and gave in to the ride allowing the Xcountry to do what it does best, carve through rocky terrain. I just had to remember to stay on the throttle and stand on the pegs letting my legs act as shock absorbers taking the force of the uneven terrain. The narrow, hard-ish seat leaves much to be desired so it felt good to stand up. What fun I had, though! This kind of riding is a workout. I was coincidentally celebrating a birthday the day I test rode the Xcountry so it was nice to prove to myself that “I still have it!”
If youre not happy with how much bounce there is in the bike, you can adjust the preload (the shock tension in the rear) to stiffen or loosen the ride. Turns out tightening it a bit also drops the seat by just over an inch. Good. Ill take every inch I can get on this tall motorcycle. The front suspension is supported by upside-down telescopic Marzocchi forks. Telescopic means the lower section on which the wheel is mounted telescopes into the fixed upper tube. All three bikes have this front suspension, but are tuned differently to accommodate the three different rides. The rear spring, wheel types and sizes are also different.
All three motorcycles are equipped with a single disc brake up front (with a smaller single disc in the rear), but vary in size again, because of the different riding conditions. The Xcountry has a 300mm disc; the Xmoto has a larger 320mm disc because the best dynamics are needed for stopping on hard pavement. The Xchallenge has a 300mm disc with a wave design that helps it self clean when riding off-road. The front disc is stopped with a twin-piston caliper.
Street carving on the Xmoto
Riding the Xmoto was a bit of an adventure. Ive never ridden such a high, light, narrow motorcycle at highway speeds. While the single is tuned to provide plenty of power and agility when I needed it (I blasted through the five gears getting up to speed), I cant imagine spending a long time in this narrow uncomfortable saddle (it felt skinnier and narrower than the Xcountry). The Xmoto is intended for urban street navigating versus long highway cruising. BMW utilizes sport tires (120/70 in front, 160/60 in the rear) so we test rode the bike on a track just to see what its made of. Wow! I leaned it over like a sportbike and felt confident doing it. One of my colleagues, on the other hand, rode it like a supermoto bike, his inside leg outstretched, foot skimming the asphalt as he rounded the turns.
Not much to speak of in the way of styling – each bike owning a different styling cue. The Xchallenge comes with passenger pegs as standard equipment unlike the other Xs where its optional. Each bike comes in just one color for now. Theres a long list of optional equipment that add user-friendliness (and weight) to one or more of these G 650s — like a top case, windshield, tank bag — that youll want to check into if you decide to purchase. For more information, visit BMWmotorcycles.com.
I’d like to recommend to you Tucson Moto Tours, the company that organized all the riding routes for our BMW test rides. The guides are highly knowledgeable of the area and friendly to work with. The off-road riding, in particular, was spectacular. Fantastic scenery and great trails. If you plan on visiting the Tucson area, visit TucsonMotoTours.com, or call 520.861.5874.
The Specs at a Glance: BMW G 650 X Series
Displacement: 652cc single cylinder
Seat Height: Xcountry 34.2 inches; Xmoto 36.2; Xchallenge 36.6 inches
Fuel Capacity: 2.5 gallons
Wet Weight: Xcountry 353 pounds; Xmoto 351 pounds; Xchallenge 344 pounds
Colors: Xcountry Deep black/white aluminum; Xmoto Graphitan metallic matt; Xchallenge Aura white
Price: Xcountry $8,675; Xmoto $9,575; Xchallenge $8,975
So, the question remains, are these bikes entry level? For a woman who’s riding a motorcycle for the first time, I don’t think so unless she stands at least 5-feet-10. I say that because many beginners gain that much needed confidence and skills in the beginning by being able to fully control a motorcycle and that means both feet flat on the ground. Once the “feel” of a motorcycle becomes second nature, the G 650s are fun motorcycles to trade up to. For experienced riders, these bikes are a blast. If you’ve got an urge for something new and different in your riding life check out these new bikes, particularly the Xcountry, which has so much versatility traveling on road and off.