Before the Tiger, before the Himalayan, before the Impulse, before anything else there was the BMW F 650 Funduro
Talk about being way ahead of its time! Back when the Splendor was the best-selling motorcycle in the country, when 2-strokes were still screaming down our roads, Hero launched this – the BMW F650. By any yardstick this was a million miles away from what we Indians were buying, or could even afford. Five lakh rupees, when the most expensive bike was the Shogun at 50 grand! Not only was the pricing ridiculous, it fluctuated like the voltage back in the day. Adil tells me it started at Rs 1.8 lakh, in a month went up by another lakh, then another and in six months peaked at 5.2 before crashing back down to the original launch price when 100 of the 180 bikes remained unsold. And I remember with the bikes came a roomful of BMW Motorrad riding gear that also went off in a fire sale. Today a well-maintained bike like this one owned by our contributing editor Byram Godrej, (and one of the rare ones without Dakar stickers plastered all over it!) will go for nothing less than Rs 2.5 to 3 lakh; who says bikes aren’t an investment!
Truth be told, it doesn’t feel two decades old. If you take the Tiger as a benchmark the F650 is lighter, easier to swing a leg over, has better ground clearance and has no electronics so is super easy to maintain. Actually it’s super reliable and Byram says he hasn’t had to do anything to it in the five years he’s had the bike, only putting a straight-through exhaust so that the 48 horses can sing better. 48bhp in 1997! When we were getting hard-ons with the Shogun’s 14!
Little surprise that the F650 is still quick(ish) and responsive. Good fun actually and draws attention completely disproportionate to its age (though not its badge!). If you recall, the motor wasn’t a BMW single, in fact BMW didn’t make any singles and the Funduro used a Rotax engine built to BMW standards (hence the reliability), while the entire bike was assembled in Italy by Aprilia. And then sold in India, not by the Hero Honda guys, but the other branch of the family were doing mopeds with another German firm Puch (which, incidentally, was the first thing I popped an accidental wheelie on).
The F650 was an obvious sales disaster and after the Hero Puch died away, so too did Majestic Motors. But if there’s one old(ish) bike I’d want to own, this would be it.