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BMW G650GS Sertao 2012

Modestly appointed by comparison to the 1200, the G650GS – powered by a 652cc Single – has been the first step into GS-land for lots of riders, starting way back in 1993 when this single-cylinder, chain final-drive (a serious break from the traditional BMW twin-cylinder platform at the time) was first born as the F650 Funduro.

For 2012 BMW has amped up the GS portion of the G650GS Kevin Duke recently reviewed, by creating a more off-road inclined stablemate, the G650GS Sertão. Named after the dry, hot region in Northeastern Brazil of the same name, BMW wanted to re-infuse the current 650 with the same adventurous spirit it gave to the F650GS in 2000 when the F650GS Dakar was crafted in honor of BMW’s successes in the Paris-Dakar Rally. BMW says the Sertão is the new Dakar.

The Sertão retains the same frame, brakes, instrumentation and 652cc Single from the standard 650GS. But giving the Sertão greater advantage in unpaved environments is: 8.3 inches of suspension travel (nearly 2 inches more than standard), spoked wheels (21-inch in front), hand guards, a 5.0-inch taller windscreen, steel lower engine guard and a 33.9-inch seat height (2.4-inch increase). A fork brace was added and the lower/inner fender removed, while the 1200GS-esque upper fender beak is a tad longer. And, for those counting, the Sertão’s 426-lbs wet weight is 4.0-lbs more than the standard G650GS.

While the standard G650GS is a known quantity to us on the street, BMW invited the moto media to a day of mixed riding environments to sample the Sertão. The day-ride started at the now famous and successful RawHyde Adventures riding school located near Castaic, Calif.

RawHyde focuses almost exclusively on creating anew, or improving upon, the off-road riding talents of motorcyclists, catering especially to BMW GS owners. Founder and proprietor, Jim Hyde, created the school in 2000 initially as a dirt bike/dual-sport training camp, but over the years Hyde discovered that within the GS community few owners of the world-traveling Beemer possessed the skills necessary to allow them to fully unleash the potential of the GS.

After years of successfully teaching off-road and adventure-type riding to the GS community, RawHyde became an official BMW training facility in 2008 – one of only nine BMW-endorsed schools in the world. Known as the BMW Off-Road Academy, RawHyde offers three levels of adventure-riding training, as well as a number of multi-day excursions, including the Continental Divide Ride – a nine-day journey along the spine of the Divide.

I’m not the tallest geezer around, but even with my 30-inch inseam I found the Sertão’s seat height manageable when it came time to dismount or put a boot down during a stop – on and off-road. Additionally, the seat’s width and foam density made it a comfortable place to rest when I wasn’t standing on the footpegs (which offer the added convenience of a removable vibration-damping rubber insert).

Another add-on that may seem pricey when you don’t need it, but soon becomes worth its weight in gold when you do, is the heated grips option. Portions of the ride took us to elevations that saw several inches of fallen snow and near-freezing temps. On the high setting the grips produced enough heat to keep my winter-gloved hands feeling borderline hot. During the frigid route section I realized I would’ve gladly craigslisted something of value in order to have the factory-installed heated grips ($319 if purchased separately) on a Sertão I owned.

The new 650GS’s tall-ish windscreen is a genuine advantage in any scenario, since it offers increased wind deflection while bombing down the freeway, as well as providing some additional protection from debris kicked up by other riders when venturing off the beaten path.

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