Motoring: BMW leans towards Italy: Roland Brown rides the British-designed, Italian-built and Austrian-powered Funduro

BMW's recent purchase of Rover surprised many in the car world. But it was by no means the German firm's only move to broaden its horizons. Its latest motorcycle, the F650 Funduro, is built not in Germany but in Italy - using components from Austria, Italy and Japan.

The F650 is also the first single-cylinder BMW since the Sixties, and the first bike in the firm's 70-year history to use a chain, rather than a shaft, to drive the rear wheel. Radical stuff indeed, for the maker with motorcycling's most conservative image.

The Funduro represents a serious effort by BMW to break into a new sector of the market with an entry-level machine. At pounds 4,495, it is priced on a level with several Japanese rivals and is far cheaper than any other BMW. The desire to reduce development time and costs led BMW to team up with the Italian maker Aprilia and the Austrian engine specialist Rotax to build what they call the 'first European motorcycle'.

BMW is keen to emphasise that the Funduro is much more than a rebadged Aprilia (that firm's Pegaso trail bike uses a similar 652cc, single-cylinder Rotax engine). It stresses that its engineers helped to develop the motor, which has significant differences, including a water-cooled cylinder head with four valves (the Aprilia's is air- cooled and has five valves), a redesigned crankshaft and a new stainless-steel exhaust system.

The F650's chassis is derived from that of the Pegaso, and consists of a steel frame holding a single rear-suspension unit and conventional front forks from Showa of Japan. A few items, including the wire wheels, are shared with the Pegaso. But although many other components originate in Italy, they are produced to BMW's specification. Construction is overseen by a group of BMW engineers permanently based at Aprilia's factory near Venice.

Even the bike's striking styling is not the work of a German but of a British designer, Martin Longmore. Despite a few cost-cutting touches (non-adjustable hand levers, basic metal fuel tap), the F650 radiates thoughtful design. Its seat is both low and wide compared with those on most large-capacity single-

cylinder bikes, making slow-speed manoeuvring easier for short riders. The wide, raised handlebars give a roomy riding position and the BMW feels very manageable although, at 416lb, it is not light for a single.

Acceleration is pleasantly punchy throughout the range, thanks mainly to the engine's seamless power delivery. The maximum output of 48hp gives a top speed of about 100mph, with comfortable cruising at 80mph. Below that speed (at 5,000rpm in top gear), the BMW engine's balancer shaft helps give a ride that is smooth by single-cylinder standards. Vibration comes drumming through the seat at higher speeds, but by then the exposed riding position becomes tiring anyway.

The F650's chassis is impressive, at least for road riding (for which the bike is primarily intended). The frame and swing arm are suitably rigid; but the key to the BMW's poise is its suspension, which has substantially less travel than that of its dual-purpose rivals. This means that the Funduro can sustain its modest top speed with no hint of a weave, and can be braked and cornered much harder than a typical trail bike.

The Pirelli tyres are biased towards road use, and provided enough grip for footrest-scraping cornering angles. Front and rear disc brakes are also powerful, the rear a little too much so.

The corollary of this is that the Funduro is less suited to off-road excursions. The bike coped well with the gentle dirt trails I ventured down, but faced with mud, water or big bumps would have been outclassed by bikes with more suspension travel and grippier tyres.

However, most people who buy the F650 will never take it off-road, and instead will be impressed by the wide mirrors, broad dual-seat with its built-in luggage rack and pillion grab-handles - and the four-gallon fuel tank that gives a range of well over 150 miles. Some cynics will insist that the F650 is not a real BMW. But despite its Austrian engine, British stylist, Japanese suspension, Italian construction and equally non-German price, the Funduro has inherited much of the marque's traditional appeal.

(Photograph omitted)

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
News
Clare Balding
peopleClare Balding on how women's football is shaking up sport
Sport
Lewis Hamtilon and pole-sitter Nico Rosberg
SportShould F1's most aggressive driver curb his instincts in title decider?
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Sport
premier leagueMatch report: Arsenal 1 Man United 2
Arts and Entertainment
Kirk Cameron is begging his Facebook fans to give him positive reviews
film
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Sport
Jonny May scores for England
rugby unionEngland 28 Samoa 9: Wing scores twice to help England record their first win in six
Life and Style
fashionThe Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Sport
Tony Bellew (left) and Nathan Cleverly clash at the Echo Arena in Liverpool
boxingLate surge sees Liverpudlian move into world title contention
Voices
Neil Findlay
voicesThe vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Reach Volunteering: Financial Trustee and Company Secretary

    Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: A trustee (company d...

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

    £45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: Shopfitter

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a successful an...

    Recruitment Genius: Digital Sales Account Manager

    £25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Digital Sales Account Manager...

    Day In a Page

    Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

    Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

    Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
    Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

    The last Christians in Iraq

    After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
    Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

    Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

    Britain braced for Black Friday
    Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

    From America's dad to date-rape drugs

    Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
    Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

    Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

    As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
    Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

    Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

    The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
    Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

    The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

    Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
    Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

    Flogging vlogging

    First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
    Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

    Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

    US channels wage comedy star wars
    When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

    When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

    When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
    Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

    Look what's mushrooming now!

    Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
    Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

    More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

    The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

    Oeuf quake

    Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
    Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

    Terry Venables column

    Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
    Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

    Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

    Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin