The Bavarian Workhorse: BMW F650 Funduro review by Anand Krishnan

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Added in: User reviews


“Itna Mehenga? itne mein tho Maruti Esteem aa jayega!”

Anything that is not a VFM proposition ought to be shot down in the India context.

Smitten by fuel efficiency and service costs, one could think no more than “Hamara Bajaj” and “Fill it. Shut it. Forget it” advertisements.

At a time when India was still awakening to initiatives like Foreign Direct Investment, came an audacious move from Hero Motors. Internet and social media, pagers and cell phones were still to become a reality. The daily newspaper was the first thing where one could learn about another new day in the world around.

Here is what hit us in 1997.

BMW – is the acronym for Bayerische Motoren Werke AG or in English, Bavarian Motor Works. It’s an independent German company and manufacturer of automobiles and motorcycles

The motorcycle was way ahead of its time and was introduced to the Indian market at Rs. 5 Lacs Ex- showroom. There were very few takers at that price and the strategy didn’t work out the way Hero and BMW expected. Considering the lukewarm response from the market, Hero decided to offer a mouth watering discount of 60% and it looked as if many were just waiting for this to happen. The lucky ones grabbed the offer.

Talking about this dual sport bike, it comes with some impressive engineering.

Make Model    BMW F 650 Funduro
Year    1997
Engine    Liquid cooled, four stroke, single cylinder, DOHC, 4 valves per cylinder
Capacity    652 CC
Bore x Stroke    100 x 83mm
Compression Ratio    8.8:1
Induction    2x 33mm Mikuni Carburettors
Ignition / Starting    Digital / electric
Max Power     48 hp 35 kW @ 6500 rpm
Max Torque    57 Nm @ 5200 rpm
Transmission / Drive    5 Speed / chain – 1 down, 4 up.
Front Suspension    41mm Telescopic forks non adjustable. 170mm wheel travel
Rear Suspension    Rising rate mono-shock preload adjustable. 165mm wheel travel
Front Brakes    Single 300mm disc 2piston calliper
Rear Brakes    Single 210mm disc 1 piston calliper
Front Tyre    Michelin 100/90 -19
Rear Tyre    Michelin 130/80 -17
Wet-Weight    187 kg
Fuel Capacity     17 Litres
Consumption average    18 kmpl
Braking 60 – 0 / 100 – 0    13.65 / 38.14/m
Standing ¼ Mile     13.70 sec / 149.8 kmph
Top Speed    165 kmph

 Looks: –


The F650 is the first single cylinder model since the R27 classic and the first ever chain driven BMW. Most of the other models being shaft driven with the exception of the GS 650 which was belt driven.

She stands tall with wide handle bars, clear and wide mirrors that will hardly interfere with the rider’s rear vision, a raked short windshield that is fitted around the squared and powerful halogen head lamp unit.

Equipped with road friendly suspensions and a fantastic travel up front that is aided by the 41mm non-adjustable forks. The vertical rising rate mono-shock at the rear can be adjusted for rebound damping with a conventional screw at the bottom of the unit. Spring preload can be adjusted using a remote knob on the left of the bike.

Boasts excellent ergonomics, a light weight chassis and an unintimidating 652 cc engine slapped with a radiator lurking under the bulbous larger than real 17 litre fuel tank that proudly adorns the blue and white propeller logo. When viewed from the side, the radiator is hidden under the fairing that flows below the fuel tank and also integrates the front indicators.

The big broad dual seat sinks in for that perfect riding position with forward placed foot-pegs offering tremendous flexibility and leaves the pillion at a higher seating angle with no reason to squirm. The instrument cluster comprises an analogue speedometer with a single adjustable trip meter and an analogue tachometer. The only other meter that completes the meter console is a temperature gauge that fits neatly in the lower left corner. I only wish there was a fuel gauge as well. Underneath the left hand side of the pillion lies perched a canon sized stainless steel single exhaust overlapped with a gorgeously perforated heat shield.

The rear end gives robust grab rails finished with a reasonably big rear tray that will easily accommodate large aftermarket top boxes. Sitting under the rear tray are the neatly designed non – led semi-circular tail light and the indicators. Below which there is space allotted for the registration plate completed by a short tail.
2-piston callipered, single 300mm Brembo disc brakes up-front and a single 210mm rear disc revealing the chain driven sprocket suggests the stopping power for that unexpected element on the road. A skid plate below the engine indicates her off road readiness. Both centre and side stands are standard.

The bike has a spartan appeal without being barbaric in proportions and yet looks great from any angle. My personal favourite is the three-quarter angle from the exhaust side.

Build Quality:-

As a dual – purpose motorcycle she is not expected to have racing lines or smooth edges but is certainly built to last. BMW Funduro 650 is a German motorcycle with a Rotax engine form Austria, suspensions from Japan and assembled in Italy. The Bavarian engineers were extremely particular to ensure that the end product was customized into an unmistakable BMW both in terms of look and ownership experience.  The quality of switches has a chunky appeal and the feel of the levers are top notch. There is generous use of fibre all around and the panel gaps are tolerable. Sit astride and you know she was not just built for that daily office commute or a run to the neighbourhood store.

Engine and Transmission: –

A simple turn of the ignition key, engage in neutral gear and a gentle throb on the starter switch does the magic to bring her to life. A choke switch on the left hand side of the handle bar aids cold starting.

No drama here and a smooth idle hovering at about 1200 rpm. Slot into 1st, the clutch lever is not heavy and letting it go half way lurches the machine forward with eagerness. Performance is linear with ample bottom end torque and pulls cleanly all the way to the red line until some harshness sets in. I had to make sure that I changed gears around the 4000 rpm mark to avoid engine knocking. The shifts are precise and follow the traditional 1 down 4 up pattern. Keep her in the power band between 3500 and 6000 rpm to extract maximum juice out of the engine and you will never feel the engine is running out of steam until you hit about 140 clicks. Thereafter the acceleration to hit the top whack takes some time with the engine feeling strained.

Being a Rotax engine, although extremely reliable, BMW still customized a few components like  low friction bearings instead of roller bearing in the interest of lower mechanical noise and longevity. That shows in the way the engine sounds at any rev. She is surprisingly smooth for a big bore single cylinder. The acceleration is pretty punchy despite a modest 48 hp of output but what is relevant is the flat torque curve of 57 nm.

The simple, easy going nature and big feel appeal of this engine makes it ideal for those wanting to start off with large displacement motorcycles.

Ride and Handling: –


You want to take her to the track and try some knee scraping? Forget about it. A high centre of gravity and nowhere near super-sport flick ability makes her handling and braking predictable but not razor sharp. Under hard braking she nose dives considerably while still managing to hold her line.

Her touring ergonomics makes both city commute and highway touring a breeze. The little wind shield does offer some protection from buffeting at speeds over 120 kmph. She is thoroughly enjoyable between 80 and 120 kmph in top gear without any vibration annoyance. Go any faster, vibrations starts drumming through the seats and handle bar reminding you about a single piston working hard underneath.

I had the opportunity to do some mixed riding on broken tarmac as well as the national highways. She dismisses bad patches with élan but throw some more dirt on her path and tyres up front meanders. The steel frame and swing-arm with the engine as a stressed member lends a lot of rigidity to the bike. Being liquid cooled I was able to hold her at triple digit speeds for miles together with absolutely no stress on the engine.

Verdict:-

She is probably the most affordable BMW motorcycle one can find today on this side of the planet. A sticker price of just INR 5 lacs when launched does not surprise with some important bits like ABS, heated grips, non-adjustable levers missing when compared to the elder siblings in the BMW motorcycle line up. Even by today’s standards after accounting for inflation she will not cost more than 7.50 lacs considering the 650GS priced at 9.99 lacs ex-showroom.

Today it is not too easy to find one in pristine condition and most have had a new paint job. The price ranges anywhere from INR 1.50 lacs to 3.0 lacs. A well maintained machine even with over 50,000 kms on the odometer will serve the owner for his lifetime. That’s the beauty of a Rotax.

Sadly because of the short life span of this model in our country, there was no opportunity to offer accessories like tank bags, top case, panniers, extended mirrors, handle guards, radiator guards etc. All of these are available abroad and cost quite a handful considering it’s a BMW. If touring is on your mind including the unforgiving terrains at Leh and Arunachal, then be rest assured that the Beemer will stand by you for a rewarding riding experience.

I am sure if this model were to be re-introduced in the Indian sub-continent, it will stir quite a buzz.  India is now ready for these kinds of machines with better roads and the whole concept of biking being taken to a different level against basic commuting.

While the name Funduro and the bash plate below the engine suggests off road excursions, owners will hardly do so and stick to what she does best. Highway cruising.

That’s what I do with mine.
Ride Safe!