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BMW C650GT Maxi Scooter

Bavarian delight in the Pacific Northwest

When I was a kid I always wanted a motorcycle. I wasn't into scooters, even with the plethora of Honda Cubs around the neighborhood and the Who's salute to the mods with Pete Townsend's Quadrophenia rock opera.

But when I moved to Seattle in the late ‘90s, I purchased a Honda Helix and soon realized the pleasures of riding a maxi scoot in the Pacific Northwest. The lower center of gravity coupled with the simple twist-and-go transmission provides a unique ride that none of my other motorcycles can match. When Honda released the Silverwing in 2002, I moved up from 250 cc's to 600 and was lovin' it.

Suzuki and Yamaha both followed with mid-range powered versions of their own maxi scoots and when I heard BMW was coming out with one, unlike many others, I was not surprised. BMW has done a good job of late responding to what their customers want. We've seen more mid-size motorcycles come from them with a large expansion in the 650 and 800 cc offerings.

In case you haven't noticed, the BMW demographic includes a significant amount of early boomers, many of whom are thinking it might be time to hang up two wheels. Larger bikes are a bear to muscle around when you're 60 and older. For most, a sidecar outfit or trike doesn't fit into their plans as they require a lot of upper body muscle. But before an older rider sunsets his bike for good, BMW has come along with a simple answer in the C650GT maxi scooter.

I notified my local dealer I'd be interested in taking the scoot out for a few days as soon as the weather revealed some possible sunshine. I got that chance in February and did what any moto reviewer would do if they had a BMW article to write - I rode it to Leavenworth and back using the tried and true 3 Pass Blast route many of us know and love. You know it... Stevens, Blewett and Snoqualmie. I tacked in an additional 100 miles of side roads like Chi Wa Wa Loop, North Road and the Thorpe Prairie to get some miles in on tight corners.

It was going to be clear, but it was going to be cold. To light up my heated clothing, I crafted a plug to go into the cigarette lighter adapter in the left cubby. Five miles into the ride, my plug failed. But the C650GT didn't let me down. The scoot is set up with heated grips and heated seats for both the operator and passenger. Stock features! Nice. I fired them up and rode through the fog into Gold Bar and had breakfast. Both the operator’s seat and handgrips have three heat settings: Low, High and Auto which keys off the ambient temps. My launch through Stevens Pass at 30 degrees was surprisingly comfortable. Everyone in a cage thought I was nuts!

Figuring out the controls was pretty simple and I started playing with the large adjustable wind screen. Another nice standard feature. It has plenty of up and down, and does a very nice job buffeting the wind on the highway. The wind screen is almost as large as those found on BMW's larger RT and GT bikes. Another design home run was the placement of the rear view mirrors. Just out in front of the hand grips so as to break the wind, which reduces heat wicking from the hands. Clever. BMW obviously put various designs of the scoot through the wind tunnel before dialing in the final outcome.

Ergonomics are good overall, but if you're going to spend $10k for any maxi scooter or motorcycle, always plan to spend a few grand for mods, which truly makes it your motorcycle. In the case of the C650GT, my first stop as a new buyer would be to the custom seat shop to lower it down to my 30" inseam. Remember though, with those heated seats you're going to want to choose a shop that knows its way around the electrics. Nonetheless, even with a stock seat, I had plenty of room to comfortably stretch my legs, or pull them in at will. Since we can't hang off  the seat in the corners on a maxi scoot, I've crafted a little lean-out and foot position for cornering and the C650GT allows a rider all the room they need to do it.

The scoot comes standard with ABS braking. Another plus. The front wheel features dual rotors so there's plenty of stopping power when you need it. My preference is to brake as little as possible when I ride, relying more on compression to slow me down. The C650GT has the highest compression ratio of any 600cc class maxi scoot on the market. Higher than the Bergman, higher then the Silverwing. It's like someone has been listening to me!?

Well, now I won't say it's all perfect. There are a few annoyances that one must bear with and the nanny-isms are worth BMW considering terminating in the next generation. First, the brakes lock the wheels automatically when the side stand is put down, so no rolling around until you raise it again. Which means you have to raise the side stand in order to center-stand the bike. Secondly, the external temp reading on the dash starts blinking when the temp drops below 38 degrees and doesn't stop blinking until the air warms up to 44 or the key is turned off. In the Pacific Northwest, you'll spend a good part of winter riding around with a blinking temp light. An option to switch this off should be inserted into a future firmware upgrade. Finally, the valve stem for the front wheel points directly at the rotor with minimal clearance. A right angle valve stem is in order.

I've heard more than a few riders whine about the $10,999 price tag. Balderdash. ABS, adjustable windscreen, heated seats and grips. This maxi scoot is a value! Warranty is certainly another consideration when buying a new model like the C650GT. Instead of a 1 year/12k mile warranty like you'd get with most competitors, BMW stands behind their new design with a 3 year/36k mile warranty standard.

To my maxi scoot friends who have been tinkering with the idea of getting the C650GT. To them I say - "Go for it!"

TM/Winter 2013

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