Friday, February 06, 2009

When Is A “G” An “F”?

I remember getting confused when BMW came out with their new 800cc parallel twins two years ago. My problem was that I’d gotten a rather good handle on BMW’s naming convention: Inline-4’s and 3’s are part of the K series, Boxer twins are R’s, and thumper single cylinders are F’s. Or at least they were. Now the F series were parallel twins, and the G series would be singles. Got it? Good, ‘cause it gets worse.

After a successful launch of the F800S and F800ST, BMW did exactly what everybody was expecting them to: they applied the engine to their flagship GS line with the launch of the F800GS and the F650GS. But wait. They already had an F650GS based on the thumper engine… No, forget that. This new F650GS is actually a twin, and the displacement is – get this – 798cc’s. Makes sense, no? Seems marketing trumps common sense. Since the existing (i.e. single cylinder) F650GS was a rather good seller for BMW, they decided to keep the name, and apply it to a parallel twin 800cc bike. So what’s the difference between the F800GS and the new F650GS? About 14hp and $2000. Same engine, simply detuned in the lower end model.

So by now, I figured that was it for the old thumper GS. Off to the two-wheeled graveyard, so to speak. Of course not! BMW has re-released it, without any notable changes, except it’s now part of the G series. The name? Duh, the G650GS of course!

There are some advantages to this. From BMW’s perspective, it’s an inexpensive model to manufacture, as their tooling is all set up and ready to go. For buyers, it’s also good, since you can now get a G650GS with ABS, heated grips, trip computer and a few other goodies for about the same price as equivalent Japanese bikes (like the V-Strom 650 ABS or the Versys). Sure, with the thumper GS you’re getting old design and technology, but you’re also getting something proven with fewer teething problems. Another advantage is that there’s plenty of aftermarket goodies already available out there – so let the farkling begin!

Oh, and by the way, I still haven't be able to learn the intricacies of Harley Davidson's naming convention!

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