I have been trying to convince my wife Angela to part with her beloved Kawasaki ER5 and buy something better. She bought the little Kwaker four years ago when she got back into motorcycling after a long break from riding, and it proved to be a good idea, as it really did get her back on the road. I wrote about the bike in a previous story, so I won’t go into it here. At any rate, she has gotten to the point where a better bike would be a benefit, as the ER5 really is a basic bike with an especially poor suspension system and average brakes. It’ll get you from point A to B, and isn’t a bad commuter, but it’s hardly a bike that inspires passion. She mentioned that it would be nice to have ABS brakes, and that owning a BMW would be kind of cool, so I started to look around. Autumn is a good time to buy a bike, and the F650 Beemers made between 2000 and 2007 seemed like a good place to start. They are supposedly very solid bikes that handle well, have about the same weight and number of horses (50) as the ER5, and there are a considerable number around at affordable prices.
The first F650 that I looked at was the CS (City/Street) model, also known as the Scarver, a portmanteau of “street” and “carver”. Now, this model is indeed a bit strange, as it was a completely new design (by American David Robb) aimed at getting youngsters who hadn’t ridden before into motorcycling. It was hoped that young urban professionals would like the unususal “modern” design and the practicality, but it was a marketing flop, as Klaus Herder wrote in Motorrad magazine in 2011: “There is probably no other motorcycle where the target group and the actual buyers are so far apart as with the “Scarver”, which was built from 2002 to the end of 2005. The single was advertised as a trendy fun device for hip, chic young people. However, it was bought – if at all – by seasoned BMW customers who wanted to say goodbye to their old Boxers or K-models and were looking for something smaller and lighter. People who were a little shorter were also among the customers, because of all the F series models the CS offered the lowest seat height. Unique, the CS has some nice gimmicks: Where other motorcycles have the tank, the CS has a multifunctional storage compartment, where a sound system (among other things) or tank bag can be placed. Single-sided swing arm, toothed belt and fat road rubbers also make the CS unique in the BMW single environment” (The same article, entitled Used Bikes that No One Wants to Have, also mentioned my Suzuki XF650 as being an undesireable bike because of its “swollen, misshapen form”, although the author admitted its “inner values were right on”).
I have always been intrigued by this model, as it really is different, and everything I’ve read about it confirms that it’s a good, practical bike. Still, there’s nothing else on two wheels that quite looks like it. This particular bike was owned by a retired Berlin policeman who bought it new and has put about 36,000 km on it. It has been extremely well maintained and is in pristine condition. And despite the bike’s baby-blue color, I was a bit hooked. The seat is indeed low, but very comfortable, and the upright riding position is just the thing for dealing with both urban traffic and long hours in the saddle. The sound is great, even if the exhaust pipe is really ugly. The belt drive is a great idea, as there’s no need to keep them lubricated and they supposedly last for up to 100,000 km. And it gives the back end of the bike a muscular, athletic look. Not good for offroad, though, and the 17″ wheels aren’t either. It’s really much more of a roadster than a bike you would ride around the world. Still, at 2000 euros, I thought it was worth considering.
Angela didn’t share my enthusiasm, however. She doesn’t care for the looks, saying that the deeply concave plastic storage compartment makes it look like it’s had a botched open-heart surgery operation. She didn’t like the color either, and thought the two lights at the tip of the narrow nose make it look like an angry mosquito on steroids. We each took it for a ride, and were impressed with how easy it was to get used to and how solid it felt. Typical BMW quality. It would undoubtedly be good on the open road, but it was just too bizarre, design-wise.
What finally killed the idea of buying the bike was the fact that it didn’t have the ABS brakes that we both think are a good idea. Riding the bike in all kinds of weather and on wet streets with lots of traffic makes having the best brakes you can get a must. I got used to ABS on my Himalayan, as crude as it was, and it would be nice to have it again, so we’ll keep looking. The 650 GS model might be just the thing! Still, if I had an extra 2000 euros…