The BMW F650GS Dakar was relegated to the sidelines in 2008, only to now be reintroduced in 2012 as the G650GS Sertao.
The bike hasn’t lost any of the original design intentions. The seat sits you upright with your legs in an off-road position rather than tucked up behind your backside. The fuel tank is located under the seat with the filler cap at the rear. This means the weight is centralised with no bulky fuel tank to get in the way when you’re on the pegs and leaning over the front-end.
Hand protectors, an aluminium engine guard, long suspension travel and wire-spoke wheels as standard all scream off-road adventurer. Also included in the standard package is a high windscreen, heated grips, luggage carrier and ABS brakes, meaning you now get more bang for your buck.
In torrential rain on the launch ride, we left Phillip Island for the Victorian High Country with BMW stars Marco Melandri and Glenn Allerton in tow. The tar sections of the ride weren’t pleasant, but the engine lacked a litle grunt at high speeds and there were a few vibes through the pegs and bar. However, this is an adventure bike designed for off-road riding, so it can’t be scored down too much for these on-road shortcomings.
Off-road, the standard road tyres looked a little worrying, but they found plenty of traction even without knobs in muddy conditions.
An adventure bike that handles well in the slop, sand and shale has always been a struggle for most manufacturers. Too often they feel top heavy and likely to low-side if you get the slightest bit off balance. This is not the case with the Sertao, with balance and handling on the dirt a real standout.
The bike is capable of being slid into corners under braking without low-siding, or turned on a dime and hopped over ruts without getting cross-rutted. The impressive handling characteristics can be partially attributed to the evenly distributed 193kg kerb weight.
Despite the lacklustre feel of the engine at high speeds, the 650cc donk performs flawlessly in the tight stuff and up sloppy hill climbs. The engine produces enough torque to tractor up hills in taller gears without losing traction and the compression braking on downhill sections slows the bike to a crawl.
ABS brakes are a foreign concept on true off-road bikes, and for good reason. Locking up the rear wheel on a dirtbike allows you to approach the corner with more intensity and speed, and also enables you to stand the bike up if you’re spiralling out of control. On several occasions I stomped on the rear brake to do exactly that and all I got was a rebounding brake pedal. Luckily the ABS system can be turned off via a handlebar mounted switch, but only when the bike is stationary; if your intended use is off-road riding, remember to stop and turn it off.
The Sertao is an adventure bike designed for the genuine off-roader who will ride it well away from the blacktop. With the current trend of adventure bikes becoming more tar-oriented than dirt, the Sertao is a step back in the right direction for those few hardcore adventurers looking to lose themselves in the great dusty unknown.