We have just crossed Africa on two BMWs F650 Dakar as part of a RTW trip. Someone asked me what we thought about the bike compared to the 1150, and what we had done to prepare for the trip. The response could be of some help for other people too. Here is a copy of the two emails I sent him:
I agree: the 1150 is way too big to ride offroad. The 650 GS/Dakar is a big improvement compared to the old 650 GS. It's a bit tall and rather heavy but it handles really well, and for a long intercontinental trip you cannot find a better compromise now for road/offroad/reliability/availability of luggage). We would take the same bike, no problem.
Electronic injection is great (some people say "you can't repair it" but when I asked on www.f650.com,
nobody ever came up with a case where the EFI had actually broke down). Bad fuel and altitude have little effect. Consumption is much lower than what you would get on other bikes (4 liters for 100 kilometers instead of 7). The tanks can take you 800 or 900 kilometers easy.
Besides the Touratech tanks, we added (all from Touratech):
- large footpegs (almost necessary to go offroad, the original pegs are way too small and slippery)
- handguards + higher handlebar
- large engine protector
- aviation brake lines
- rear brake piston protector
The tanks are great. Extremely robust. Very convenient to refill your gas stove. Make sure not to paint the inside, not even around the openings.
We had the catalyser removed by our BMW mechanic.
We added a radiator protector grid from Jesse Luggage (much cheaper than the one from Touratech).
We carry filters (air, gas, oil), spare cables and spare handles/pegs with us, two sets of tyres (Michelin Desert and Michelin Sirac - the Desert are THE thing to have in sand and loose rocks).
For the luggage, we have one bike with Touratech suitcases, one with Jesse's. We prefer the Touratech cases, especially because they have cloth bags inside that you can remove at night while leaving the aluminium cases on the bike. We also each bought one big 40 liters waterproof bag from Ortlieb (available fromn Touratech): highly recommended.
No breakdown so far, in spite of the treatment the bikes whent through in rocks and sand. I would however install a sealed battery next time. They both lost some liquid after a few months (temperatures? falls?). I would also take the cheap flexible blinkers from Touratech (just for the front; the rear ones are protected by the luggage).
A few more things that I forgot to tell tou about the preparation of the bike:
- We had a center-stand installed by our mechanic (why isn't it standard on the GS/Dakar?!). He took a center-stand from a normal GS and extended by 1 or 2 inches.
- A plate was welded on the tip of the side-stand.
- Some dust guards have been installed on the front fork (it should be standard too).
I also forgot to tell you how great the bike handles. We love it, very accurate, and it can take a serious beating, no problem! Sometimes we could not believe the places we had gone through, like mountain roads with big rocks and huge steps in the middle of the road. Otherwise it's very comfy on the asphalt (the Touratech seat is fine, otherwise a good sheep skin will do it if you are sensitive).
The other bikes we had considered were the KTM Adventure and the Honda XRL650. Both would be good for short trips, almost entirely offroad and without much luggage, but for a transcontinental or a world tour, the BMW can't be beaten (the GS/Dakar model, not the normal GS which handles like a scooter in the city but which is way too low to take offroad).