If you’re like me, then you may have some preconceived notions rattling around inside your head. Some of those mental images may even relate to your favorite form of conveyance. For example, “Scooters are a common form of light, two-wheeled transportation that are well suited to impoverished students, grocery getters and urban dwellers with short commutes.” With the introduction of BMW’s 2013 “Maxi-Scooter” siblings, the C650GT and C600 Sport, the gap between that flawed notion and reality has widened considerably.
Thanks to Hermy’s, my BMW Motorrad dealer in Port Clinton, Pa., I recently spent a long weekend with a brand new Sapphire Black C650GT. With its wind and weather protection, mega carrying capacity and other amenities, the GT is the more touring centric variant of BMW’s two “Urban Mobility” offerings. Over three crisp autumn days, I proceeded to hammer out 400-plus miles on a mix of city streets, rural byways and interstate highways here in the over populated and ever frenetic Northeast.
Upon initial encounter, one cannot but help notice the C650GT is a pretty substantial vehicle and not some tiddler on tiny tires. With a (claimed) wet weight of 575 pounds, and a length of nearly 90 inches, the C650GT has the presence of a medium-size motorcycle. Quick reference to BMW’s specs reveals that the C650GT not only outweighs an R1200R, but it’s also longer, wider and taller. The styling is striking, with K-bike-esque details throughout. Clearly the new scooters made a lap through the bike design studio. Fit and finish are everything you might expect from the premium BMW product. Speaking of premium products, this might be the right time to mention pricing. The 2013 C650GT has a base MSRP of $9,990.The unit I rode was fitted with the Highline Package, consisting of tire pressure monitoring, heated grips and heated seat for another $605. Finally, a destination charge of $495 brought the total suggested retail price on this one to $11,090. But what about the C650GT riding experience?
Climbing aboard for the first time can be mildly perplexing. The BMW doesn’t offer the unobstructed “step through” of smaller scooters, primarily due to the tall “tunnel” section forward of the seat. It’s more like “step over.” Likewise, swinging a leg over in the conventional way is a bit of a flexibility exercise due to the relatively tall (31.3 inches) and long seat. Getting on was not always graceful for my five-foot eight-inch, 29-inch inseam self, especially when bundled up in full riding gear. Once on board, the combination of seat height and width across the floorboards makes the GT a bit of a tippy toe exercise for the inseam challenged among us. Of course, it’s a scooter, so you can always just slip forward off of the seat and straddle with your feet flat on the ground while stationary.
Once underway, however, all is just dandy. The all-new, 647cc parallel twin, centrifugal clutch and continuously variable transmission (CVT) combine to deliver excellent performance. The fuel injection map and CVT tuning both seemed spot-on from idle to the (claimed) 100-plus mph top speed. Neither hard launches from city stoplights nor blasts up to highway speed from short merge lanes represent any particular challenge to the responsive, fuel injected power plant. With 60 horsepower on tap, you can prevail in impromptu drag races with virtually any other scooter, and many cars, too! The news is likewise positive on the ride and handling front. The steering is light, enhancing the urban riding experience, yet rock solid up to those extra-legal speeds. Turn-in is sharp in the twisties and the lengthy wheelbase enhances stability in long sweepers. The 15-inch wheels cope with our wretched road surfaces in ways that the 10- and 12-inchers of lesser scooters can only imagine. The brakes, with twin 270mm discs at the front, offer killer stopping power with a linear feel and easy modulation! Like all the 2013 BMW offerings, ABS is standard. The ride quality on smooth roads was taut and well controlled, but on the Northeast corridor’s many “less than perfect” road surfaces, I might have preferred a more compliant, less “stiff legged” suspension tuning.
Fuel economy is an important part of the scooter equation. In my 400-plus miles, I averaged 52.7 mpg overall. This correlated well to the 53.3 mpg displayed by the onboard computer and also nicely matched BMW’s published claim of 53 mpg at a constant 90 kph (56 mph). Unfortunately, premium fuel is required. This fuel consumption, paired with the 4.2-gallon tank, yields reasonable range for serious travelers. I saw the low fuel light at 160 miles with approximately one gallon of reserve remaining.
Those who wish to utilize that range can rest assured that the ride is accommodating. Seating position is upright and chair-like, but nonetheless comfy and relaxed, even for three-hour stints. I found the seat to be nicely formed but slightly harder than desired. While riding on several 40º F mornings, the heated seat was nothing less than a gift from heaven, as were the heated grips. On scooters your feet have little to do, so the oversize floorboards, with both normal and “feet forward” positions, are a welcome feature. Feel free to move about the cabin! The GT features a large, power-adjustable windscreen, which does a nice job of keeping the wind off the rider’s torso. I might have wished for a screen perhaps two inches taller to facilitate hiding my head in the aerodynamic “quiet space” without having to look across the top edge of the screen, which I find distracting. I also would have liked the mirrors to be a bit wider for a better view directly rearward. No worries, though. The lively BMW aftermarket will surely offer remedies for these minor issues.
When exercising the GT’s touring skills, you will probably wish to carry along some “stuff.” This need has been nicely met with vast under seat storage that accommodates two full-face helmets or alternatively, a duffel containing several days’ worth of gear. Need more space? How about two large glove boxes? Of those, the left one is lockable and conceals a 12-volt power outlet. Still not enough? The extensive BMW accessory catalog includes a body colored and locking 35-liter top case and a center tunnel bag.
So what’s the bottom-line following three days in the saddle? Sure, you could use the GT to fetch your groceries or to commute with your briefcase safely tucked away. There is, however, the opportunity to do more. With its handling aplomb, the C650GT can be your back roads explorer, and with its power and performance it can be your ticket to open-road adventure. This opportunity arrives in a package that’s easy and seamless to ride and with storage space and weather protection that’s always along for the trip. Imagine that stereotypical scooter rider who wants to transition from simply being a scooter-commuter to actually traveling somewhere. Imagine the touring bike regular who might want to move to something simpler and more manageable, but wants to bring along all the heated and powered “goodies.” There are potential riders out there whose needs reach beyond BMW’s Urban Mobility moniker. In my estimation, the Motorrad folks should be pitching the C650GT and its C600 Sport sibling as “Urban Mobility and More.” Lots more!