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BMW F650ST Strada

Discussion in 'BMW' started by nigelphoto, Mar 18, 2014.

  1. nigelphoto

    nigelphoto New Member

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    This report is probably of minority interest but I am putting it up as there may be others who find themselves in a similar situation and my buying experience could be of help in their choice of bike. Firstly some background - I am 66 years old although my wife will tell you I have a mental age of 17. I bought my first motorcycle, a BSA 250 C11G in 1964 but I haven't owned or ridden a bike since 2002. I should also add that funds are limited, so after Sally finally gave way in January to my persistent whining that I needed a bike again we agreed on a limit of £1750 to include the bike, kit and putting it on the road.

    Being by nature a fairly methodical person, I wrote down my buying criteria starting with 'cheap' and including light weight, low seat height as I am a shortarse, and mechanically simple so I can work on it myself. I don't like sports bikes and I don't like too many cylinders but I do like Brit Iron and old Boxers although an internet search soon showed that unless these are advertised as 'projects' they were way above my price ceiling. I then looked at Indian Enfield but an engineer friend told me they are unreliable and slow. We did go to see one at a local dealers and I have to admit I was further put off by the frame welding – birdshit on an anthill is neater. However, having said that I have since met someone who owns a 2003 model 500 Classic and he has done thousands of miles with no bother and they do make a lovely sound.

    As I continued my search on Google something called a 'Funduro' kept on popping up but I thought with such a silly name it must be a monkey bike or a fairground ride that had become detached. However reading some of the user reports on Visordown and biker blogs, including one by the incredible Benka Pulko who did 120,000 miles and circumnavigated the world on a Funduro in the late '90's, I sat up and took notice.

    My local secondhand dealer specialises in trailies and amongst a row of pristine (expensive!) Tigers and Transalps was a scruffy '97 BMW F650ST Strada with under 20,000 on the clock and MOT's which seemed to back up the mileage, so we commenced negotiations. We settled on £1550 and for that they put on a new battery, new Pirelli Scorpion Trails front and rear and a new DiD chainset. It had a 7 month MOT but I had to tax it. The dealer told me he would PDI it but as that extended only to an egg cup of petrol in the tank, when I got it home I did a full service which set me back another £70. I sanded the corrosion off the swing arm, centre stand and engine cases and splashed it all over with black or silver Hammerite as appropriate together with touching up the plastic bits with BMW Orlando Red, and at the same time I put on a Funduro-style high screen. My original budget was holed below the waterline as I spent a total of £1950 getting it in running order (including helmet, jacket, insurance etc) and a further £186 when the rear brake pads caught fire after about 200 miles (http://bigtrailie.co.uk/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=164#p1213) – the 3 months warranty from the dealer only covers the powertrain.

    I have now done over 500 miles on a mixture of Motorways, main roads and country lanes and the more I ride it the more pleased I am with my choice. Firstly its light so I can manoeuvre it about easily in and out of the garage. Its also very agile, the little Beemer tracking well through fast open curves giving a feeling of sure-footedness and security and it steers well on the throttle. Having said that, I have noticed it tends to 'flop in' on tighter turns but that's because of the tall engine and the weight being a little high. I am 13st so I've tightened the adjustable rear monoshock to about 75% hardness and find that gives good balance, without making it 'pogo-stick' over uneven surfaces. The relatively long-travel suspension soaks up the bumps and ripples of our modern potholed highways; on that topic, perhaps we should revert to calling them 'turnpikes' as I'm sure they would have been better maintained three centuries ago when Dick Turpin was operating along the Great North Road?! The brakes are good with plenty of feel without biting too sharply. I've had a couple of emergency stops to date, one when the district nurse did a SMIDSY on me at a mini-roundabout – I came to a controlled halt with some tyre squeal but no drama. Personally, I think we should bring back spanking as a punishment. The riding position is spot-on for someone of my height (5'8”), the high bars make the footrest-seat-hands triangle just right and with a well-padded seat and the higher screen I can do 100 miles at a stretch without neck ache or a sore bum.

    The best bit about the F650 is undoubtedly the Rotax 652cc water-cooled single. The engine is quiet and although there's some vibration, its well dampened by a balance shaft. It pulls willingly from 3,000 to 6,500 rpm, allowing a selected gear to be held longer helping in maintaining good stability through corners. At 48bhp and 44lbs ft of torque, power can be said to be 'adequate' but its certainly no sportsbike - enough to be fun without being frightening. In 1972 I had a T120 Bonneville which also produced 48bhp but with drum brakes that could be scary!

    The five speeds are quite sufficient, the gears are well spaced. Its not a particularly fast change either up or down although neutral is easy to find. A sweet gear change is achievable with care and precision but good throttle and clutch co-ordination is required or the dreaded BMW 'clunk-click every shift' manifests itself. I haven't so far taken much notice of economy but I would say from the amount of 95RON I've used against the miles I've covered I'm getting about 50mpg.

    The equipment level is about par for a '90's model - speedo, tacho, clock, engine kill switch, headlight flash, loud horn which I can never find but with an open face its just as easy to shout obscenities and bang on the roof when you pull up alongside. It also comes with a centre- as well as side-stand, which on a lot of trailies is an optional (expensive) extra nowadays. Talking of trailing with it, I wouldn't. I used to belong to the TRF 35 years ago and did a lot of mud-plugging but the F650ST is too high geared and too much plastic for anything more serious than 200 yards up a Forestry Commission track to find a picnic spot.

    One of the important aspects of my return to bike ownership is that I get as much pleasure out of working on the thing as I do riding. First used by BMW in 1993, the Rotax engine was at the forefront of technology in its day but that was nothing more complicated than twin Mikuni carbs, two plugs on a four-valve single and the only electrickery was CDI ignition. No ECU's, no fuel-injection, no EGS, no fly-by-wire throttle, no ABS, no diagnostics, no fuss, no bother, less to go wrong, simple to fix – you get the picture! The frame, suspension and brakes are easy to get at apart from having to remove acres of plastic panels but even they are fastened with Allen bolts and captive nuts so nothing complicated.

    I haven't done enough miles to comment on longterm ownership but from blogs and specialist BMW singles forums the original Funduro and Strada models were well built and pretty reliable and some have racked up huge mileages. Looking at general wear and tear I'd say mine has only done the 20,000 miles on the clock but it had been ridden in winter conditions and the salt has got at the underside pretty badly and the wheels are pitted - hence her name 'Painted Lady'. The BMW F650ST Strada might not have suited me ten or twenty years ago but at my time of life it is just what I want from a motorcycle; cheap to buy, cheap to run, low weight, a good chassis with excellent handling and enough power to bring a smile to one's face without turning one's bowels to jelly.

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  2. Lutin

    Lutin Administrator Staff Member Forum Supporter

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    Top write up. :thumbsup:

    Thanks for taking the time for providing your insights.
     
  3. nigelphoto

    nigelphoto New Member

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    Thats OK Lutin, hope its of some use to someone.
     
  4. Ian Porter

    Ian Porter Administrator Staff Member Forum Supporter

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    Good write up Nigel,

    these old F650 seem to be going up in price,

    I only paid £1000 for my Funduro about 5 years ago, wish I'd kept in now instead of part exchanging it for my 1150

    mind you we do now have an F650CS in the fleet and that's a hoot to ride (not that I get to ride it often :( )
     
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  5. Traveller

    Traveller Active Member

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    Really interesting write up. Sounds like you got the bike you were after. Something to enjoy. You should look to have a run up to Jellies in the Peak District next time there is a meet there. It sounds like the ideal bike for one of the jaunts.
     
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  6. wheeliebin

    wheeliebin New Member

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    Really good write up and very enjoyable read.
    Thanks for sharing.

    Sent from my GT-I8190N using Tapatalk
     
  7. nigelphoto

    nigelphoto New Member

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    Glad to be of service . . . I can write pure drivel, though - as on this thread http://bigtrailie.co.uk/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=243#p1928
     
  8. Traveller

    Traveller Active Member

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    Never the less, like the Goon show, pure drivel maybee, but still entertaining.

    Ps, that ear plug U turn was even faster than Nick Cleggs uni fees manouever :thumbsupanim:
     
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  9. Lulu

    Lulu Active Member

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    Good write up and nice looking bike. The F650 s are great bikes for us shorter peeps (and lighter to pick up after drops). And I should know :oops:
     
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