F650 GS-DAKAR-CS Starting Procedure and Running Problems

When I went to the introduction training for the F650 GS a couple of years ago, there was one thing in particular that we were told that struck me as classic BMW design, displaying three characteristics.

  1. New design that was just a bit too clever for it’s own good.
  2. Unusual compared to other bikes.
  3. Requiring changed technique from owners – who have generally been doing things the same way for years and don’t think too much of that them there dang uppity change.

The new design feature was a single pickup sensing engine rotation for the engine management system. Nothing new in itself, the Weber Marelli systems from ’95 on have been single pickup. However, they work on the timing shaft, whereas the F650 system uses one sensor on the crank (flywheel actually) to establish both engine rotation speed and cycle position.

Measuring engine rotational speed is easy. Working out cycle position – which covers two complete revolutions – is a bit harder. The F650 BMS engine management system uses the variations in engine rotational acceleration to establish cycle position. This is due to the fact the engine slows down as it comes up to TDC on compression, and accelerates away from TDC on firing. Being able to pick up this deceleration/acceleration means the system can work out where in the cycle it is, and control the sequencing of injectors and ignition accordingly. Fairly smart stuff, but requiring some extra consideration from the owner in use.

Which is where the problems start. The starting procedure on these bikes is pretty critical, and if not followed leads to a couple of problems, mainly surging and even stalling while riding. Observing the following starting procedure generally eliminates these problems, but getting owners to listen and keep to it is the issue. So, the starting procedure is as follows.

  1. Turn on the ignition. Yes, I know that’s obvious, but I’m outlining a procedure here, so we need to start at the beginning.
  2. Wait for the TEMP light on the dash to go out. This is the second red light that comes on when the ignition is switched on, which then goes out after a few seconds. Just to show you that it does work.
  3. Push the start button. Now, when I say push, I don’t mean gently prod and maybe let it go, I mean push it firmly and hold it. Many owners gently push the button, then sort of let it go, then push it again and the bike will start and then stall and it all gets a bit messy. If you do let it go before the engine starts, go to step 5.
  4. When the engine fires, don’t let the start button go immediately. Hold it down for a further two (2) seconds, then let it go. This is the most important part, as the BMS engine management completes a checking procedure of sorts. What I’m not really sure, as BMW won’t tell us anything useful like this, but it will influence the way the bike runs greatly.
  5. If you don’t complete any of these steps fully, it is advisable to turn off the ignition, let the bike sit for at least 10 seconds, then start again at step 1. Which is very important. We received a service bulletin on this, as the idle control valve runs through a reset procedure of its own when the ignition is turned off, and needs about 10 seconds to complete it.
  6. Not turning off the ignition at this point can lead to the engine cranking but not starting or finally starting with very poor idling. Best to turn it off, wait 10 seconds and start again.

Once you learn this procedure, it becomes natural and most, if not all running problems owners experience disappear. Unfortunately, we have told some owners this procedure many times, and they just refuse to listen and continue having problems. So it’s really just a bit of self help.

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