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-   -   F650 Dakar preparation for Africa/RTW (http://www.horizonsunlimited.com/hubb/bmw-tech/f650-dakar-preparation-africa-rtw-8150)

pierresas 14 Jan 2004 01:37

F650 Dakar preparation for Africa/RTW
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).


Pierre Saslawsky

Margus 14 Jan 2004 03:16

Greetings, Pierre!

That's very useful information you entered - especially for me who's about to pick up next bike for bad road travelling on two up, but confused - don't know what to choose F650GS or R1100GS...

So here's my question - wold you consider the 650GS as a good two up offroad-oriented tourer too? I mean would you do the same trip two up on the same bike or would you prefer R11xxGS?

Altough 650 model is much cheaper than 1100 boxer, but i don't know if it's worth the lower price on my requirements - two upping on various types of roads.

(Sad is that i can't testdrive them in my small country because lack of motorcycle marketing. So must pick it up "blindly")

PS: Best of luck for the journey to You and Merritt!

Regards, Margus

pierresas 14 Jan 2004 08:31

Two up? Difficult to tell. It's a lot a question of personal preference for you and your partner, of the kind of terrain you are going to cross, even of money, etc...

Riding alone, I would have never taken a 1100GS offroad except maybe on well-travelled smooth and flat pistes - the major reason being that I wouldn't have been able to put it back on the wheels in case of fall. With two persons, you don't have that problem.

I have much admiration for the ladies who rode as passengers in some of the most ungrateful roads in Africa and elsewhere. Personnally, I wouldn't have even thought about taking my partner through that kind of punishment. So my choice for a continental or a RTW trip would have been to take a larger bike like the 1100GS and stick to easier roads, only very occasionally going on tougher terrain in order to get from point A to point B when there is no other choice, or to get a little bit out of the way to see something not to be missed. Overall, riding two-up, I think comfort becomes more important - thus a larger bike. But then is it worth the money? And will you be able to go everywhere you want to?

BMW dealers usually don't have any problem letting you try a bike for a couple of hours. You could test them both the 650 and 1150 with your partner and see by yourself which one will better fill the job.

Have a nice ride!

Pierre Saslawsky

Jef Imans 27 Jan 2004 01:36

Hello Margus and Pierre,

regarding your question if the 650 is suitable for 2-up: I am currently doing an Africa trip together with my girlfriend on a 650 Classic (!), and so far, after 5 months, have had no problems apart from the bl**dy chain. Off-road, good tarmac, sandy pistes, the bike takes it all... only thing we didn't do 2 on the bike was the desert part in Mauritania, apart from that she works fine handling the 2 of us including all the luggage...
Just make sure your suspension is heavy enough, has to take a lot on bad pistes and pot-holes routes.

Hopes this helps you a little bit...


Goetz 28 Jan 2004 01:41

Hi Pierre
my wife and I are planning to go to the so called ´stans in summer 2004(excluding the afghani´ and paki´stan).
Within the last fortnight we bought two F 650 Dakar built 2001. Most important to us was riding the same bike (biggest hint on this page).

You said bad fuel and altitude have little effect on the injection.
In Uzbekistan there´s 76 octan I heard. Is that bad enough to make the injection cough?
And in the Pamirs the highest pass is 4650m. Do you know if the injection can cope without some reprogramming (I guess there won´t be a BMW dealer in Tajikistan able to jazz up the EFI).

Deposit: the stock is 17 l. But the price of a 39 l touratech is an outrageous 1.380 €!
Did you pay that price?
The other modifications you did sound reasonable to me. Don´t get me wrong, having a 39l deposit is reasonable but the metioned touratech price is out of our reach

Best regards


pierresas 28 Jan 2004 10:27

Hi Goetz,

We heard of at least two other couples who said that not taking the same bike was the biggest mistake they had made (one is the couple from ultimatejourney.com who completed a 4-years RTW trip, the other we met were crossing Africa).

I guess we'll be able to tell you in a couple of months how the bikes fare at 4500m as we cross the Andes. We had very poor fuel in Ethiopia and altitudes between 3000m and 3500m. On top of it, the spark plugs and air filters were getting close to 12000km. So, yes, the bikes felt weak (or "tired" says Merritt) but really not enough to raise a concern. There was no coughing, just some valve clicking sometimes at low RPM but that was it. We had however many more problems with our Primus Himalaya fuel stove (irregular noise and yellow flames, cleanup required everytime before cooking... and it's still amongst the best ones on the market).

We asked our BMW dealer to reprogram the EFI before we left but in the end, he did not do it (I suspect he was reluctant because of his lack of expertise). Maybe yours will have less hesitations. When we did some research 15 months ago on f650.com and other sites, the testimonies of those who had reprogrammed the EFI mentioned only minor improvements.

The Touratech tanks are indeed outrageously expensive. I think however that most of the blame should go to the otherwise smart BMW design of putting the tank underneath the seat. We were lucky enough to have the money to buy them ("only" 1200 euros including paint and installation).

Check the map to see what could be the longest stretch of road without gas for you. With a 10 liters jerrycan + 17 liters in the main tank, and counting 4.5 liters per 100km, you have an autonomy of 600km. On asphalt and with good clean fuel, our consumption was a bit less than 4 liters per 100km; on dirt roads and with bad fuel, it was 4.5; and through the desert in the sand, almost 7.

The Touratech tanks have been put at good use on the path we took, so we are glad we could afford it. I think the only modification that we did and which wasn't really justified was the aviation brake lines. We should have spent more time looking at the bikes than staring at the catalog before ordering them: the original lines were already in steel. It is rubber on top but it's the same steel as the aviation lines underneath.

Pierre Saslawsky

JS 10 Feb 2005 12:55

Hi Goetz or any other.......I have a DAKAR 650 2002 and want to put a 39 L tank on for a RTW trip beginning 2006. I agree the tank price is expensive...but whats the alternative. If you find any other way please let me know. Cheers

Mick O'Malley 11 Feb 2005 13:02

Don't forget that, if you do buy the Touratech tank conversion, there are plenty of people on this board who will bite your arm off if you offer it for sale on your return.


MaxKX 25 Feb 2005 03:41

After doing 42,000 miles on my GS650, I would not be so happy to recomend a GS for a Round the world trip.

Inspite having it serviced at my local BMW Dealer I still felt there was to many problems.

Rear wheel bearings collapsed, which meant I had to replace the sprocket carrier as well.

Rear brake failed as well as the shock linkage, resulting in no rear suspension.

Head light bulbs would go quite often as well as a problem with the wiring for the fuel pump.

Having only had the bike from March 2002 till September 2003 from new I wasnt very happy with the overall package.

I was also not very happy with the rear shock, as it seemed too soft even on the hardest setting with just luggage on.

I did use the bike 5 or 6 days a week and all year round, which can lead to problems here in the UK. Warranty jobs were New Rear disc after 30,000 miles, New Rear brake master cylinder, New forks (paint fell off)

Other small problems were replace clutch levers twice because of excess play and clocks stopped working a couple of times when wet.

When I sold the bike the clutch had started to slip when hot.

Best of luck with your round the world trip, just keep a eye on the bearings.

hunternielson 4 Mar 2005 08:00

I finished a rather punishing cross Africa ride on a 2003 Dakar and was pleased with the bike overall. However, like MaxKX I thought the shocks (front and rear) were not even close to stiff enough for the off road portions. I was loaded, but not overloaded (not carrying tires etc) and still bottomed out often in Namibia going fast on dirt roads.

I'd do all the things Pierre suggested, plus beefing up the bike with an Ohlins rear shock. I carried 2 5L jerry cans when needed (not too often really, even in the boondocks of Ethiopia... if you're patient) and never ran dry. The EFI was strong throughout, and a K & N filter solved much of my problems with the air intake.



Grant Johnson 4 Mar 2005 08:33

Do a search on the HUBB for:

K&N foam

for opinions on K&N before buying one.

DEFINITELY sort the suspension before leaving. Make SURE they understand the load you will carry. 90% of Ohlins are sold badly undersprung for what we do. And they WILL break if they bottom enough.

Grant Johnson

Seek, and ye shall find.


One world, Two wheels.

fireboomer 6 Mar 2005 01:33

Can a F650 GS 2001 ride on leaded fuel? Here (belgium) we are only riding on unleaded. While in Spain last year I think we got leaded fuel once and bike didn't start as easy and didn't run easy in stationary. Gives me some concerns since we are planning a trip to Jordan in a couple months.

Do we have trouble ahead?
Should we simply try it out?

pierresas 11 Mar 2005 04:03

I don't remember if the 2001 GS already has fuel injection + catalyzer or if it is still from the old generation with carburator. Some people went around the world on the carb bike (Benka, the Ratay's...) and I'm sure they must have fueled up with lead from time to time.

Our bikes are from 2002. What I heard before leaving was that if you run for a "long time" on leaded fuel, you might clog the catalyzer - which is why we removed them.

Either way, you might get some dirty fuel once in a while, which affects the carburation. The presence or not of lead should not change anything from that standpoint - except maybe that most of the leaded gas you can still find nowadays is of the low-octane type (85 or 87 instead of 92).

Pierre (& Merritt too)

fireboomer 14 Mar 2005 02:44

Well, our dealer told is it shouldn't be a problem.
We can't try it out any more in Belgium. No more leaded fuel available.
Just go for it and hope for the best.

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