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BMW F800GS Adventure

The adventure edition worth the wait

By Levi Stroppel

Since its introduction in 2008, BMW's F800GS has been a staple of middleweight adventure machines. With more highway ability than single-cylinder bikes like Kawasaki's KLR650 and Suzuki's DL650, and less bulk than BMW's own R1200GS, the F800GS exists in that middle ground where power, adventure-readiness, and everyday usability converge.

It's highly contested territory though, and popular bikes like Suzuki's V-Strom 650 and Triumph's Tiger 800XC offer stiff competition. So what makes the new F800GS Adventure special?

Impressive Specs

The F800GS features a water-cooled inline twin engine that boasts 85 hp and 61 lb-ft of torque, and a wet weight of 505 lb. Those numbers surpass the more road-oriented V-Strom, but fall short of the Tiger.

No matter though: the GS isn't for wringing peak numbers, but a platform for exploration, and the 2014 release of the F800GS Adventure model only enhances that ability.

A 6.3 gallon tank gives almost 350 miles of range, and with a useable payload of nearly 500 lbs, there's no excuse to limit the GS to nearby locales.

ABS, ESA, engine guards and rear luggage mounts come standard; a trip computer, heated grips, centerstand, ASC, enduro mode, and panniers are available as package options.

The first of its kind:
1980 R80G/S

 

In the '70s, options for adventure motorcycling were limited: either live with the limited range, capacity, and speed of a dirt bike; or press a standard machine well beyond its limits and hope for the best.

In 1980, BMW introduced the R80G/S, the first in the long line of BMW GS models. With a powerful 800 cc boxer engine and electronic ignition, the airhead could cover highway miles at speed, and its long-travel suspension and increased ground clearance let it traverse terrain that would overwhelm lesser machines.

Dual carbs, sturdy panniers, wire-spoke wheels, and the new Monoshock swingarm made roadside repairs easy, while an optional 8.5 gal tank gave it a nearly 400 mile range. BMW produced 22,000 units, and modified versions went on to win the Paris-Dakar Rally and the International Six Days Trial before the model was superseded in 1987 by the R65GS.

Ergonomics you can tame

The F800GS Adventure's trim appearance belies a frame that's nearly as large as BMW's big boxer, and it suffers from similar ergonomic compromises. Moving the footpegs a few inches forward or back would allow more ground contact for smaller riders, and the handlebars are just a little too low and forward for much standing. After-market bar risers will remedy this.

That said, the tall windscreen and wide cowling offer excellent protection from wind and wet, the mirrors are big and bright, and there's plenty of room to upgrade to full-sized handguards. And those heated grips? Brilliant.

BMW has also addressed another real-world issue and made the passenger area more than just tolerable: the saddle is wide and flat, and the footpegs and handholds are well-located.

How does it ride?

The F800GS Adventure has linear power delivery, and the close-ratio gearbox shifts decisively and with little lash. The sweet spot for cruising is about 4000 rpm, and there's plenty of zip available above that, but that comes with a distracting amount of vibration.

Braking is assertive, and the traction control and Anakee 2 tires provide transparent road feel. Even when the rear wheel walked out on wet, debris-strewn asphalt, it did so smoothly and recovered the same.

The GS has truly impressive low-speed stability, and it effortlessly self-corrects wobbles at speed without sacrificing nimbleness.

Final thoughts

Prospective adventure riders could do a lot worse than the F800GS Adventure. It's full-featured and predictable as heck, and though that roundel means it's not inexpensive, it's a capable machine that will push you to have more adventures. Which is kind of the point, right?


Assistance with this article was provided by South Sound BMW of Fife WA and Pacific Northwest Motorcycles of Ferndale WA


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