BMW G 650 GS Sertão – Road Test

What is it?

The BMW G 650 GS Sertão is the BMW 650 Dakar incarnate and not much has changed. It has the same engine and frame as the discontinued Dakar, the last model of which left the showroom in 2007. There are brand new plastics, however, that give the Sertão a different look. And then there’s the name of course. Named after a desert in Brazil, the Sertão follows in the footsteps of the bike actually under its skin, the Dakar. (The Dakar rally moved to South America in 2009 after security threats in northern Africa in 2008 caused the cancellation of the rally.)

BMW G 650 GS Sertao with boat in background

Engine and drive

The Sertão is powered by the old trusty water-cooled, single-cylinder four-stroke engine that took (and still takes) Dakar owners where they wanted to go. There is 35kW and 60Nm of torque to be used. Electronic injection gives a very smooth power delivery, which is transferred via a five-speed gearbox and chain drive to the back wheel.

BMW G 650 GS Sertao with ocean in background

Style, instruments and equipment

If you know the Dakar you immediately see it when looking at the Sertão, which you might find a bit disappointing when you’re standing in the showroom and the salesman tells you about the “brand new” Sertão. However, the Sertão doesn’t look bad. Riaan Greyvenstein, who also rode Bike Routes’ test model, said: “It looks “beautiful!”. With the exclamation mark. I’m not that excited, however. Since the launch of the bike in February this year the front mudguard has given problems; the black tip on some of the launch bikes came loose and fell off; our own test model’s whole mudguard broke off when riding through the Cederberg − and now BMW Motorrad SA has actually called back all Sertãos to fix the problem.

The base model does not feature heated grips and ABS, but you can get these for R10 000 extra. Besides that, there are no funky tricks to the Sertão. The analogue speedo is nice and clear, and easy to read. The small digital rev counter, on the other hand, is extremely dangerous as you’ll need to push your nose to it to see how far you are from the red line.

You can throw away the standard plastic hand-guards, they will only hold against mosquitoes. The handlebar is also a bit of a softy and bent easily when we had a little tumble.





The power delivery of the Sertão is really smooth and there are no sudden explosions of power, but it does reach 140km/h with ease. It is an easy bike to ride, which will give you confidence before you reach the next robot. Low down, between 0 – 4000r/min there’s quite a lack of power and torque. This makes it tricky when riding through technical sections and slowly. The bike stalls easily, so you have to work the throttle and clutch. The clutch is very light to pull and needs only two fingers; it won’t tire you when riding. Gear shifts are smooth, which is typical of BMW.

It’s low fuel consumption is perhaps the Sertão’s best sales feature. At 120km/h you will get 4.3l/100km and, at lower speeds, even less.

Studio image of BMW G 650 GS Sertao

Ride and handling

This bike will probably take you anywhere you want to go, but you’ll have to be steady through the rough stuff. The suspension is very soft − especially at the front. The 43mm telescopic forks will bottom out in most ditches. You can stiffen the rear shock a bit, but you can’t do anything at the front.

Riding standing on the bike is not comfortable and the longer you are the worse it will get. Taller riders will also sit a bit uncomfortable as the seat is very low. But all this make it much easier for beginners and shorter riders.

The bike feels light and easy to ride.

Close-up of instruments of BMW G 650 GS Sertao


Like: The very economic fuel consumption.
Dislike: The very soft suspension and lack of power at low revs.

Verdict and rating

We tested the Sertão thoroughly over the course of the past few months and there is a definite agreement between everyone who rode it: It’s a beginner’s bike. 7/10

Also consider

Yamaha XT 660 R and XT660 Ténéré, Honda XR 650 R, Suzuki 650 V-Strom

Specifications for BMW G 650 GS Sertão

  • Engine  Water-cooled, single-cylinder, four-stroke
  • Gearbox  Five-speed, chain drive
  • Power  35kW@6500r/min
  • Torque  60Nm@5000r/min
  • Weight  193kg with oil and fully fuelled
  • Seat Height  860mm
  • Fuel Capacity  14 litres
  • Fuel consumption  3.2 l/100km at 100km/h and 4.3 l/100km at 120km/h
  • Tank range  325km at 120km/h average
  • Warranty and Servicing  Two-year warranty, unlimited kilometres. 10 000km intervals
  • Price  R80 950 for the base model and R90 900 with heated grips and ABS included.
  • Rode by Bikeroutes  April – September 2012
  • Review by  Willem van der Berg


A big thanks to BMW Motorrad SA for letting us ride the Sertão the past few months and really putting it to the test. 

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