(Photos by Kevin Wing and Vince Winkel)
Middleweight Adventure Bike: The Great Addition - By Vince Winkel
Recently I had the opportunity to ride the new F800 GS Adventure around Moab, Utah, and then slab it 1,200 miles back to my house in St. Louis. It was a great ride both on and off the pavement. However I am no off-road riding expert so I’ve asked some far more experienced riders to comment on the 800 GSA in the dirt and sand. More on that later …
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For starters of course I wish the seat was lower (don’t most of us?) Standard seat height is 35 inches, and I have a 31” inseam. Of course all the GS bikes have the higher seats, and this new GSA does offer a low seat model at 33.9 inches.
The 800 GSA comes with a larger capacity 6.3-gallon fuel tank (up from 4.2), which bumps up fuel range to around 300+ miles on a single tank. When you combine that with its vastly improved seat and a taller windscreen, the 424 miles across Kansas along I-70 became a lot more bearable. It was downright enjoyable on this bike.
The F800GS Adventure is powered by the liquid-cooled 798 cc four-valve twin-cylinder engine as featured on the F800GS, with electronic fuel injection, closed-loop catalytic converter and six-speed transmission. This power-plant was more than enough to power a 255-pound Vince (plus gear) up the higher elevations in Colorado and into the headwinds of Kansas at, let’s just say, high speeds and rapid acceleration.
The F800GS Adventure can be ordered in base-model form ($13,550) with options chosen a la carte. The $14,350 Premium Package includes the Enduro Package (ASC, Enduro ABS/ASC modes) and the Comfort Package (heated grips, on-board computer and center stand). Lastly the $14,995 Fully Loaded Package adds LED foglights and ESA to the mix. All models come with standard ABS.
Now let’s hear from a few true GS experts!
F800GS Adventure – Extremely Worthy - By Ian Schmeisser
After 650 miles of hot, humid Interstate drone and a good 300-mile dual-sport ride consisting of forest service roads jeep trails, rocky ledges, muddy ruts and sandy patches, and the finest twisties that the North Georgia mountains have to offer, it’s safe to declare the F800 GS ADV an extremely worthy all-around motorcycle.
For some reason or another, to date I’ve just not had the opportunity to put many miles on an F800 GS. Sure, there was the commando ride I took on an F800S in South Africa at BMW’s international F-bike press launch in 2006 (you should have seen the product manager’s face), and a short jaunt on a rental bike with bald knobby tires. Now it’s great to know for sure that this bike has the chops to be called a GS.
Even though I hopped onto the F800 right off an R1200 GS Wethead rocketship, the parallel twin’s power was not a disappointment. The way these bikes built torque, very linearly, is a boon for off-pavement riding. It makes around-town cruising quite a bit easier, too. While this bike won’t win any drag races, it has no problem merging into freeway traffic, either. The bike knocked out a 650-mile day using just under two tanks of gas. My only issue was noticeable heat coming off the cooling system, but it was a very hot few days. Oh, and the chain oil getting on the guard and other parts of the bike.
Shod with Continental TKC 80s, the rolling noise at highway speeds was noticeable but not objectionable. Just be careful with the performance envelope of these tires. Venturing into the 90 mph range, especially near the draft of an 18-wheeler, can induce weave. While the instruction manual says not to ride that fast on this type of tires, a steering damper would be a good addition. The same holds true in super-twisties; it’s pretty easy to overwhelm the front tire during steep lean angles, it moves out with a slow push... better to dial it back just a notch and enjoy the view.
Into the woods, the lighter weight and narrower stance are instantly apparent. Standing up reveals a seat/tank junction of acceptable width, and the bars do not need risers for my 5’8” height. As the rock gardens increase in frequency and intensity, something else comes as a bit of a surprise: this thing actually has a decent set of forks. While they appear to be almost the same as on my HP2 Enduro, they are far more plush in high-speed compression. However, I wouldn’t mind a little more rebound damping and some adjustability.
After riding two different GS models with the new ASC/ABS, I am here to tell you that the Enduro mode in this system is a very good thing. It works especially well when riding forest service roads in 2nd or 3rd gear to further minimize wheelspin under acceleration. If Bubba in his full-width truck should instantly appear around a corner, coming from the opposite direction, you can deploy the brakes quite hard with only the slightest amount of slippage. This system will revolutionize adventure riding for noobs, as it vastly reduces the sketchiness of riding on gravel. In more expert hands it expands one’s comfort and control at speed. Don’t buy a GS without it!
At 505 pounds, about 33 more than a standard F800GS and only 20 less than the new R1200 GS LC, the bike could be lighter. After filling the six-gallon tank, you can feel the difference. This is an issue especially off-pavement, because when you drop the bike, it falls all the way over, especially when riding without bags. The bag mounts themselves provide good protection of the wider underseat fuel tank and the exhaust canister, and are also great grab handles for picking the bike back up.
Pavement niceties include a comfort seat that actually lasts a few hundred miles, and a wraparound windscreen that protects well with acceptable buffeting. Taller riders will want to add some sort of windscreen height, as the stock screen is rather short. The bike came equipped with BMWs Navigator IV Adventure, mounted on the windscreen support in the perfect location. The GPS is actually a Garmin Montana, which I’ve run for a couple of years now, so I was able to quickly change the BMW unit to my preferences. Fuel mileage is outstanding; my 300-mile ride barely took half a tank. Highway speeds don’t put all that big a dent in the mileage, either. The Touratech accessories that came on the bike (bags, crash bars and skidplate) were well integrated with the machine and good choices to buy straight from your dealer. While I haven’t tried the bike with a full load of luggage, it’s safe to say it should carry quite a bit.
In all, BMW has really moved the ball forward over the stock F800GS, and now that the R1200GS Wethead makes *so much* power, the F800GS Adventure is definitely worth considering for riders that aren’t so interested in that kind of thing. It’s a go-anywhere bike that just might be able to take you places a bigger bike can’t.
Ian Schmeisser is a regular columnist for the BMW Owners News, and the adventure editor.
BMW F800GSA – Heck of a Bike - By Jonathan Beck
Over the past seven years, I’ve had the opportunity to spend a good deal of time aboard the standard BMW F800GS in a variety of environments. From press launches in the Western US, to competing in Tunisia’s Sahara desert, to riding the wilds of southern Africa, the F800 has proved a stunningly consistent machine. Ease of use and reliability are likely high on the list of reasons this bike was chosen as the centerpiece for all three international GS Trophy events. Motorcycles are an extremely personal thing; however, they are subject to the whims of opinion almost as much as the cold light of facts. As a general rule, lighter is better when it comes to off road or dual-sport riding. For my part, adventure riding has always occupied a different headspace than dirt biking or motorcycle trials, and the riding style adjusts accordingly. Heavy, ungainly, or monstrous are words that could be used to describe a fully loaded R1200GS Adventure, yet it has been my favorite BMW to date for virtually all types of adventure riding.
With the introduction of the F800GS Adventure, BMW seems to have hit that same magic arrangement of power and weight distribution found in the R1200GSA that hides the weight of a large motorcycle. In the case of the F800GS Adventure, this balance has been achieved in what seems a very unusual way. At ﬁrst glance, the expanded fuel tank tucked away toward the rear of the bike would seem to result in a myriad of unpleasant symptoms. Couple that with the fact there’s little added to the front of the machine to counter this weight, and performance concerns grow deeper. Learning that there are virtually no changes to either the chassis or suspension only increased my skepticism that this conﬁguration would be an improvement over the original.
Rolling out of the Sorrell River Ranch near Moab, Utah, I was off the pavement and into the dirt within a few miles. Even before leaving the pavement, the cornering and straight-line feel of the bike felt vastly less nervous than on the original model. The large windscreen and redesigned faring also gave the bike a look and feel from the rider’s perspective much like the beloved R1200GS Adventure. Being pressed for time to scout photo locations, I opted not to explore use of ABS and the various traction control modes, and simply had the computers turned off. This more “raw” form of riding, however, did paint a very true picture of how the chassis and motor dealt with rocks, sand, extremely off-camber corners, and other types of terrain a rider will experience on a typical dual-sport adventure. All in all it passed with colors ﬂying much higher than the standard model. This being a large-bore dual-sport motorcycle, the rider must still take care with g-outs, or landing should the wheels leave the ground, but this bike changes direction with conﬁdence. The quiet and understated motor feels identical to the original F800, but agrees even more with the additional weight of the adventure model.
Having recently spent a brief amount of time on the new water-cooled R1200GS, oddly enough, I found theF800’s motor was extremely refreshing offroad. Saying the new R1200’s powerplant is amazing would be an understatement – it’s stunning. Completely manageable, great power delivery, but crack the throttle and you’re ﬁlling a shotglass with a ﬁrehose. The F800’s motor has more than enough power for most any dual-sport situation, but delivers it gently. Off road, you can grab a handful of throttle almost any place without concerns of achieving orbit as you might on the new 1200. Based on handling characteristics and power delivery, the F800 is one of those rare machines that is an excellent choice for either the experienced rider or someone just entertaining the idea of adventure touring.
As the sun started setting over eastern Utah and I once again reached the pavement, the F800GSA started banking through the paved corners with the same conﬁdence and zeal as it had done offroad, leaving me with the conclusion that this machine needs a strong second look. Baja here we come, stay tuned.
Jonathan Beck is a frequent contributor to the BMW Owners News. Jon is a professional photographer, journalist, adventurer and filmmaker based in Los Angeles.
BMW’s Sweet Adventure - By Neale Bayly
It was just a matter of time before BMW attached the moniker “Adventure” to the popular F800GS and set it up to be able to go farther for the more adventurous traveler. With the new 6.3 gallon fuel capacity and a realistic 300-mile range, it really will allow for some serious exploration of the wonderful American landscape, with all of the comfort and convenience we’ve come to expect from BMW.
With a larger windshield for more protection up front; a more padded, comfortable seat for longer days in the saddle; and a strengthened rear sub-frame to handle extra touring equipment, if you prefer the smaller, lighter water-cooled twin over the big GS1200, then BMW’s got you covered.
After spending a long day in the saddle on the challenging dirt roads in the mountains around Moab, Utah, I can say that BMW is clearly not afraid to take their adventure bikes where timid souls don’t dare to travel. Hitting sand, gravel, rocks, and breath shortening altitude while the temperatures soared up into the 100s, the new Adventure never missed a beat, and provided a solid, confidence inspiring platform for the ride. Some of this, I think, is the way the extra fuel sits low in the new tanks and adds a little extra stability.
I personally like the way all the controls work for my near six foot frame while standing, and the super light clutch and throttle make it a lot easier in the tight technical sections where you are working them hard. ABS is still standard, and simple to switch off before you hit the dirt; you can purchase the Electronic Suspension Adjustment (ESA) package at the time of purchase if you desire. This gives you a choice of “Comfort,” “Normal” or “Sport” via varying damping rates, with spring pre-load available at the turn of a hand wheel. There is also another option called the Enduro package. Featuring Automatic Stability Control (ASC) the “Off-Road” mode found on the new water boxer is available, both softening the power delivery and making the traction control more applicable for dirt riding. Gaining fuel capacity, comfort and sophistication, the new GS800 Adventure adds another choice to your adventure touring options when you shop BMW.
Neale Bayly is an adventurer, writer, photographer, filmmaker and storyteller. During an adventure motorcycle ride to Peru years ago, Neale met the abandoned children at the Hogar Belen orphanage. He has since formed Wellspring International Outreach, a nonprofit dedicated to helping orphans around the world. Learn more at www.wellspring-outreach.org
An Awesome Machine - By Shawn Thomas
For me, there is always a flow of excitement that comes from climbing on board a new bike (just look for the balding adventurer jumping up and down with glee). Getting my hands on a shiny new F 800 GS Adventure was certainly no exception.
I know the standard F 800 GS quite well, and have taken it on many an off-road adventure. I have always found it to be a very competent machine, albeit one that requires a delicate touch. The clutch, throttle and brakes require precise actuation, lest they take on a binary feel. I wondered how the refinements and extra weight afforded the Adventure model would affect these traits. So when one was offered up for a go, I jumped on it, taking a spin around RawHyde Adventure’s new Colorado Training Facility. Here are my impressions, as dictated to my voice recorder during the ride:
- Posture is comfortable, relaxed. A bit tight for my size, but manageable. Control interface contains the usual BMW badassness, easily utilized while sitting or standing. Clutch and throttle remain in need of a delicate touch. The front brakes remain excessively powerful, though the extra weight seems to lessen their aggressive nature a bit. Nice! Engine remains impossibly smooth. Power remains readily available. Engine braking is subtle, but effective.
- Handling remains exceptional, even given the extra weight. Suspension is adapted to a lighter rider than I (ahem). Rear wheel drifting is predictable and easily controlled. Hill climbs are easily managed. Descents are easier than with standard model, but remain challenging due to the ease of front brake lockup. Wheelies remain allusive to me (damn).
- Navigation through sand and mud remains difficult, but that’s probably due to my gut-wrenching fear of the stuff. Small rocks and gravel are easily traversed. Boulder management remains challenging, due to the touchy throttle.
All in all, the new F 800 GS Adventure is an awesome machine, with BMW’s usual all-around appeal. For big guys like myself (6’4”, 230+ lbs.), there will be a trip to the footpeg lowering/ windscreen lifting/ handlebar-riser shop in their future. But, small potatoes in the face of one kickass ride.
Shawn M. Thomas is a motorcycle riding instructor for the BMW Off-Road Academy, an adventure tour guide at RawHyde Adventures, and managing director of MotoTalk Productions.