Testriding the BMW F800 GS


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The primary plan was to visit my BMW dealer's on March, 8th, when the new F800GS was about to be introduced to market. Attentive readers of some mailinglists may remember, though, that my trusty old "Faxe Biturbo" suffered from capital engine trouble when being on the way there. So next weekend was the day to visit him, actually to find out what to do with my Checkered Donkey's dented rim. Before I was able to state my request, Herbert asked me, "Wanna ride the new 800?" This guy knows me quite well... Well, one can't say "no", if the dealer offers a test ride ... ;-)

10 minutes later, when the key finally was found, where it should be - in the key cabinet - I sat on the brandnew bike. A little bit too low for my, I thought, used to my Dakar's extra high Wunderlich seat. Later Herbert told me, that the low seat was mounted on that bike. If you're tall enough, you can have a 3cm higher one. And ok, if it would be mine, the first thing I would do, would be to remove the rubbers of the footpegs. That makes another cm ...

A quick look to the Cockpit - the arrangement of speedo and tacho takes getting used to. On the right I find the information display, containing watch, odometer, trip count (oops - I guess there is one, but I didn't find it), fuel gauge, estimated fuel consumption, which turns into indicating residual km, once you're on reserve (nice feature, hope it's correct), and something else. I don't know, what of those is stock, and what is extra. I see the ABS switch, and the typical BMW setup of turn indicator: flash left - push the button on the left side of the handlebar; flash right - push the button on the right; switch it off - push another button on the right. I don't like it, and I thought, they had waved it Bye-Bye, at least for the F models. Forcefully, I will perform the good old army feint later when turning right the next time: Flash left, go right ... But that's next to nothing compared with the next two "features": the front brake fluid reservoir, and the ignition key. Imagine you use a tank bag - how should you reach the ignition key? If you managed to mount the tank bag, I mean. Rubbish, IMO. The placement of the brake fluid reservoir is not only ugly (and it's much more ugly in reality), but dangerous. Imagine, the proverbial avarage Joe feels like pouring something in - no problem. It takes just one hand to open it. Big rubbish, IMO.

But I'm here for riding. Just press the button, and with a hoarse snarling sound out of the voluminous muffler the Austria made Rotax parallel twin begins it's work. Wow, this is indeed one sound ... awesome. The engine respond to any twist of the throttle is formidable - almost a little bit too responsive. Trying to bring the engine to a certain rev level is a matter of jerking to and fro, but the reason is definitely not the engine nor the fuel injection nor the electronic, but my still kinda unsensitive hand. Later I will get used to the throttle.

Herbert permitted half an hour, I planned with 45 minutes, so if I want to take some pictures, I have to hurry up. Of course I don't have a camera with me, so I have to go home for the pics. My favourite proving track contains a jump over a former railroad crossing (starting from A, between 2nd and 3rd point), an unharmonious, bumpy tarmac bunch of bends ashore the Aue river (between 5th point and B), and on the way back some dirt roads Google Maps doesn't know. The engine is still cold, and there are just 300 km on the odo, so I go slowly. Nevertheless I notice, that there are some 35 HP more in action than in the Dakar, with just 15 kg additional weight (85 hp/7.500 RPM, 207 kg ready to go).
Let's try out the ABS meanwhile. I brake pretty hard (I think), and I feel the characteristic pulse in the rear brake lever, but not in the front one. I brake even harder, and now I feel it in the front lever too. I learn once again: No matter if with or without ABS, you always can brake a little bit harder than you think you can. To say it short: The Brembo brakes with dual floating rotors and double piston floating calipers front and single rotor double piston floating caliper rear are excellent.

Going through the first bends I have the feeling, that F800GS's handling is a bit stiffer than the handling of my Dakar. Comparing the chassis setup may prove it (F650GS Dakar/F800GS):

Especially in the bends of the Aue road I feel this. Looking at the speedo, though, I see 120 km/h - a bit (TM) faster than I use to go with my Dakar here. The bumps in the road are perfectly flattened by the front 45 mm upside-down fork with 230mm spring travel, and the rear preload and rebound adjustable mono shock with 215 mm spring travel.

Reaching my home I grab a camera, tell my wife "Look, what I've got!", receiving a rather cool "Aha ..." as an answer, and ask her to take some pictures.
I start the bike again for my way back. Aue road goes much better now, even the long and fast right turn at the end gives no reason for any complaint. Before entering the village of Obershagen, I turn left to ride across some dirt tracks. Given the engine performance and the Bridgestone Battle Wing tyres mounted, I know I should be a bit cautious. As long as I hold the engine below 3,000 RPM, the performance is not a problem. Going beyond 3,000, the engine becomes more and more eager, letting the tyre slip on the muddy surface. The fact, that the mud is stuck in the tread pattern, doesn't make things better. With the right tyres, though, I guess it could make one hole lot of fun ...

Back on tarmac it's time now for the engine elasticity test, accelerating from 50 km/h to 120 km/h in the last (in this case: the 6th) gear. As always, I don't have a stop watch with me, and as always, I have to count by myself, beginning with 21. The new thing is: I forgot, how much I had to count ... It was less than 30, though, 26 or 27. We remember: With the F650GS and the G650X Challenge I had to count to 30. 50 km/h in 6th gear - that means 2,000 RPM. This doesn't really yank your arms, but acceleration is acceptable, and the engine spins very well. Yanking arms slowly begins at, when 3,500 RPM ist reached, and at 4,000 acceleration is impressive. BTW, we talk about 83 Nm/5750 RPM. The jump now. The F800GS becomes airborne at 130 km/h. Winging is stable; when touching down, the bike doesn't even wobble. Well done, Baby ...

I'm back at the dealer's. "And what ya think of it?", Herbert mumbles. He looks into my grinning face, and he knows.

The result: Formally this bike is not very well done, see the ignition key, and the front brake fluid reservoir. But hell, this thing is sexy ... Since a couple of years BMW is indeed able to construct inspiring bikes.
Another bothering thing, though, has to do with the gear: Gear travel is not too long, and changing the gears is easy - as long as your riding. Well thus far. When standing however, and being in need to shift down to neutral, you're lost. Even applying ancient and in hundred thousands of km proved tricks I didn't dependably succeed, so more than once I had to start in 2nd or 3rd gear. Maybe this breaks in with the time.

Final question: Could it be my bike? Short answer: despite all negative things - yes. If there wouldn't be that price. It starts with 9,640.- €, but for that you won't have:
hot grips195,- € (!!!)
ABS710,- €
trip computer145,- €
center stand110,- €
anti theft alarm205,- €
white flashlights (!)35,- €
All prices in Germany as of spring 2008, incl. tax. Fully equipped with all reasonable and/or senseless features it's for 11,040 €, a sum, your personal minister of finance has to approve first of all ... ;-)


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