Tour Reports

Well it’s just shy of one year since I bought the F800R, the honeymoon is well and truelly over. More often than not a year on from buying a motorbike I’m either bored, frustrated with it or both, either way I’m usually gunning for a change, but what about the F800?

BMW F800R’s in Wicklow, mine’s the orange beauty.

BMW F800R’s in Wicklow, mine’s the orange beauty.

The F800R is a bike that never really took off in Ireland, partly I suspect because it was never really promoted here and because the BMW bike dealerships seemed far more interested in pushing the R1200GS and big tourers. I can’t say I blame them for that, the economy has gone tits up and in general dealers don’t make too much on selling new bikes with re-sales, servicing and accessories being where they make their money. Of course demand is also a major factor in what they stock.

This article covers the following topics:

BMW F800R Build & Servicing

The F800R is definitely at the lower end of the Motorrad price range, it’s solid build, simply wonderful engine and reliability also make it extremely quick and simple to service, an annual service is just a quick once over and change of fluids which take’s around 45mins, or you could do it yourself, simples!

Undo a couple of screws and the fake tank cover is off giving access to air filter and battery.

Undo a couple of screws and the fake tank cover is off giving access to air filter and battery.

It’s got the same brilliant engine as the F800GS so parts like the oil filter (same as F800GS) are cheap (€15) and are easily available. The whole service is so quick and simple that even my wife can service this bike in under 2hrs (inc. distractions like 2 phone calls, 8 txt msgs, 3 cups of tea and 4 breaks to clean her nails, check her hair and make-up). So if a dealer is not going to make a bit of money in servicing and parts then why should he bother stocking it in the first place?

Touratech F800R touring accessories.

Touratech F800R touring accessories.

But I think they have missed an opportunity here, in Europe and the US it’s an extremely popular bike, in fact in 2011 the F800R (described in 2012 June edition of Motorcycle Sport & Leisure as “Undernoticed”) convincingly outsold the extremely popular and better known 798cc F650GS, with 7,986 new F800R’s sold in 2011 alone.

BMW F800R Third-Party Parts & Accessories
(Schnitzer, Wunderlich, Touratech, Rizoma, Hornig)

If you search for F800R parts & accessories in Ebay.CO.UK or Ebay.IE you don’t see much of interest, however do the same search on Ebay.DE, Ebay.FR or Ebay.IT and you land an insensible array of custom parts and accessories for the F800R, around 40 pages of stuff.

Check out the “F 800 Reloaded” parts by German company AC Schnitzer who’s aftermarket parts for the F800R include ; AC Schnitzer STEALTH silencer, AC Schnitzer Superbike steering conversion, AC Schnitzer mirror extensions set,AC Schnitzer clutch and brake levers, AC Schnitzer motor trim, AC Schnitzer high performance air filter, AC Schnitzer crash pads, AC Schnitzer fork stabilizer, AC Schnitzer brake fluid reservoir and last but far from least a visually stunning front spoiler which covers all but the tops of the F800R’s two cylinders.

AC Schnitzer F 800 Reloaded

AC Schnitzer F 800 Reloaded

Of course it’s not just the German companies like Schnitzer, Wunderlich and Touratech’s 154 items for the F800R, but the French and classy Italian custom parts manufacturer Rizoma who are also in on the game adding to the increasing list of accessories to choose from to trick out the F800R, from tank covers to touring panniers and screens, conversion kits, mirrors, micro flooters, you can now even get snow claws for the bike so you can ride it on ice/snow, although I’m not sure why you would want to do that, anyway the list goes on, and yet more gear here Hornig F800R Parts.

BMW F800R Care

So, accessorising the hell out of the BMW F 800 R is not a problem as long as you don’t mind buying in parts from Germany, Italy or the US, so again I’ve asked myself many a time why the bike is not more popular here in Ireland? I mean, it can’t be just the dealers pushing the more profitable GS down our necks? Although reading the usual motorbike magazines quickly suggests that the R1200GS seems to be the most important bike on the planet and if you don’t have one, or a Triumph Tiger your mad. Every friggen month it seems to be the same comparisons, GS vs Triumph Explorer vs Honda Crossrunner telling us we must have need one of these if we want to ride into a French campsite on a wet day or need their panniers to fit the wife’s hairdrier.

ACF-50 Anti Corrosion Spray

ACF-50 Anti Corrosion Spray

Or is it because the weather here is shit and riding in the rain and cold is what’s putting people off buying a naked bike? Well there’s plenty of naked bikes around so I’m not sure if that’s it. Lack of fairing on a cold day? I don’t think so, at least not for me. On a wet, sleety and freezing (5 degrees C) utterly miserable day last February I rode the 310km up to Dublin from Kinsale along Ireland’s east coast and thoroughly enjoyed it, the side panels protected my rheumatic old knees and the excellent Wunderlist touring screen, hand guards, rear hugger and mud guard extenders keep off the wind and most of the road dirt.

You might think cleaning a naked bike as regularly as the Irish weather would make necessary might become a right pain in the arse? Well not really, it take’s me 10-20 minutes to give the F800R a good clean and polish, a very quick wash down with a 5€ common garden hand pressure spray to knock off the worst dirt and a rub down with a couple of Vulcanet wipes and I’m done. What about winter salted roads and grit rusting all those exposed parts? Well a rub down with a €16 tin of ACF-50 Anti Corrosion Spray every 2nd month sorts out that problem, I even use it on those lovely black laminated wheels to protect the finish. Of course if that becomes too much trouble I can always bolt on the Schnitzer fairing.

BMW F800R Efficiency

Is it expensive to run? Compared to my R1150RT – no, it’s one of the cheapest bikes to keep and run that I’ve ever had, a recent annual and 20,000km service by a BMW qualified mechanic at PlatinumMotorcycles.ie cost just 160€, making the service cost on my RT ever more painful.


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But that’s not the end of it, even at motorway speeds (120kmph = 62mpg in 6th) or cranking up the pace on the back roads the bike always manages a very healthy average 58mpg(UK), with a tank capacity of 16ltrs of engine juice, I can ride like a kid on a sugar buzz for 320km before the reserve (4ltrs) LED come’s on, that’s 12lts of fuel per 320km (26.66kmpl), or at current petrol prices it costs me just €64ish to ride 1000km of fun-loving throttle use.

A Triumph Tiger 800 only does “a claimed” 48ish mpg – AT BEST, many people claiming as low as 42mpg, some 37mph of frisky riding. I’m not trying to bag the Tiger 800 as I actually love this bike too, but for the kind of mileage I do in a year crossing borders I have to consider the cost of fuel, and if you calculate the fuel cost of a trip to the Alps and back to Ireland/UK, a round trip of say 3,000 miles on a F800R instead of the Tiger 800, the saving on fuel will afford you an extra day or two of Alpine fun.. If you ride to work every day as well, calculate your mileage over a period of a year and do the math, now the fuel cost of running a Tiger over the F800R (or similarly efficient bike) becomes considerable.

But the F800R can do even better, if I take a relaxed smooth and steady pace at an average 110kmph and going easy on the throttle I’ve squeezed 72mpg out of her. BMW’s claimed fuel consumption is 3.60 litres/100 km (27.8 km/l or 65.34 mpg) which is an accurate claim, for me that’s a first in a manufacturers mpg claim being true for realistic every day riding! A test ride in the June 2012 Edition of Motorcycle Sport & Leisure claims their rider got 68.9mpg at around 65-69mph which is getting real close to the frugality leading Honda NC700X(70mpg+). But unlike the NC700, pull back the throttle to 6,500rpm on the F800R and the bike can also do mental while the NC700 will likely kill you through sheer boredom or make you want to buy a car.

If you can appreciate this you may start to see why the F800R is actually one of BMW’s global best sellers, it can save you a pack of cash using this bike as a 5 day per week, working commuter, an enormously fun weekend back road blaster adrenalin fix, kit it up as a solid mid range tourer for Alpine madness or trick it out for cafe racer posing credentials at your local cappuccino and muffins dealer.

Eh, oh, and guess what you can also get the Touratech conversion kit and turn it into a scrambler,, No SHIT, it can chase down a GS through a mud strewn course, more on this later!!!

Touratech’s F800 Scrambler

Touratech’s F800 Scrambler

But yet, if you go looking to buy a 2nd hand F800R it’s next to impossible to get one in Ireland, you have to go to the UK to get one at a decent price. A recent search (June 2012) on www.DoneDeal.ie showed up only two 2nd hand F800R’s with prices at €8,495 (a fair price) and a steeper €10,950 for a well-worn Chris Peiffer model showing the bike also retains a very good 2nd hand value, with a proper service history of course…

Vive la Différence!

Vive la Différence!

BMW F800R Qualities

As for myself, well I have to say that this bike was never on my radar until last year when I borrowed one for a day, I honestly never would have even considered buying a bike like this as I’m more of a big touring bike fan, or dual purpose bike fan. But literally 30 minutes into my borrowed ride a stupid grin planted itself onto my face, …….. AND IT HASENT LEFT! I only popped out for a short spin on the bike, but it was a solid 250km before I realised I’d better give it back to it’s owner. A week later I’d happily soled my GS and bought the F800R with my view of touring changed because the F800R can do “tour” and “mental” at the same time, the GS and RT’s can do “tour and fun” but I have to leave out the mental part, and neither the GS nor the RT come close to the brilliant curve diving handling of the F800R! Not forgetting the F800R can also belt through a green lane or a boggy field with the scrambler kit. Yes, it has it’s faults, but it’s incredible versatility make’s up for that in my book. If I get bored of the F800R’s look, purpose or handling I can change it without the pain and expense of selling and buying a new bike.

I simply love riding the F800R, it’s longer than a true sports bike (Length 2145mm, Wheel Base 1520mm) which makes it more comfortable for my 5’9” frame, but she’s tight, firmly planted, as precise as a Swiss timepiece on cornering and as gutsy as a parallel twin can get. If ye think the Triumph Street Triple is the middleweight king then you haven’t tried the F800R. The F800 also wins out on the tarmac against the Street Triple, there’s a few vid’s on YouTube showing the F800 getting the edge over it.

My F800R in Sally Gap, Ireland

My F800R in Sally Gap, Ireland

The torquey acceleration and quick firmly planted, easily controllable steering seeps confidence into the rider allowing quicker controlled riding even to novices with it’s marvellous front breaks finishing off the experience. For some this seems to translate as unexciting, but for me at least battling to keep a bike in line or from landing in a ditch when cornering is not where I get my kicks. The F800R reflects a further optimization of engine and throttle response thanks to a new throttle valve kinematic system (slightly improved in the 2011 model), what’s more, shorter gear ratios in fourth to sixth gear ensure improved continuity; in conjunction with the excellent pulling power of the two-cylinder this makes for a highly agile and sporty performance, although 1st and 2nd gear run out of steam a bit too early for me.

Third, 4th and 5th gears are brilliant, perfectly set up for most twisty back roads, and below 6,500rpm I can’t fault it either, over that it does tail off, but only a bit, and for highly spirited riding on normal roads it’s all you need anyway and even on a track it’s far from embarrassing, easily keeping up with or beating every thing in it’s class. Cruising at 120/130kmph has it happily sitting on 5,000rpm, but unlike the RT I don’t have to drop a gear from 6th on the F800 to overtake anything, and at higher speeds it’s surprisingly stable, rock solid in fact. Sit on the roadside long enough near Andorra and you will realise what the French and Spanish have known since 2009 when the bike first came out. Ground clearance is not an issue so you can lean this puppy over as much as you dare, the foot pegs are high enough for extreme leaning, possibly too high, for me at 5’9″ my legs start feeling a bit crampt because of this after 200km or so. But you can fit an adjustable road peg system so you can lower them for motorway use and pull ‘em back up for the fun stuff.

The rated output of the engine is 64 kW/87 bhp at approx. 8,000 rpm and produces a torque of 86 Nm at approx. 6,000 rpm. The mass compensation of the parallel twin is implemented by a system which is still unique in serial production motorcycle construction in which an additional swivel rod compensates the first-order and second-order mass forces, ensuring that the 2-cylinder engine runs with an unusually low-level of vibration. At 120kmph + I found the vibration on the F800R becoming noticeable, but that’s compared to the my RT who’s vibs don’t pick up until 130kmph, but those F800 vibes can be cushioned easily enough with a bit of kit.

Wunderlich screen extender works well on the F800R, even better on the R1150RT

Wunderlich screen extender works well on the F800R, even better on the R1150RT

Can it be used for the all important annual European vacation? Well motorbike touring is an all-encompassing passion for me, and I take it seriously so I’d never really consider any bike that was impractical to take on tour. It’s always been the RT for me for big distance touring for a number of reasons that a normal lad on tour would not have to worry about. For e.g. I’m a landscape photographer, so carrying an extra 15-20kg’s of camera gear, lenses, laptop and a ton of other stuff is necessary, and sometimes I’d have to ride 1000km in a day to find good weather, so the RT ticks all my boxes. Well almost! As bloody brilliant as the RT is it does have it’s faults, the main one being it’s own size and weight, add all my gear, a full fuel tank and it’s well over 340kg inc my fat ass, that’s a lot of weight to manage on Alpine curves at speed and smaller unsurfaced roads are not an option. That’s not to say I can’t have fun, but I do have to tone down my speed to take a typical alpine corner and live.

A long distance tourer it’s not, I would not consider riding it all the way down through France and Spain via motorway to have a spin in North Africa! If however I was to ride down to the Pyrenees or over to the western Alps on N and D roads in summer from Ireland then I’d be doing it on the F800R, no question about it, in fact I’m gunning to take the F800R on my next tour to the Pyrenees. Stick on a touring screen and seat, tank bag and panniers and it’s good to go. It’s far more fun for those roads than the RT or worse, the migrating herds of the waaaay too common, mostly surgically clean & shiny GS’s which I’ve come to hate the sight of.

It wont beat a GS, but I do love the madness of it all!

It wont beat a GS, but I do love the madness of it all!

Yes, the GS is absolutely a great bike, blah blah, but seriously 10 years ago every muppet seemed to be buying Range Rovers in case, God forbid, there was a wet leaf or pothole on the road and to show the neighbours how superior they were by driving with their arse’s in the upper atmosphere, seems to me the Rover is now out and the GS is in! Bollox to that, I just can’t take that bike seriously any more, I’m sorry, but with 18,413 R1200GS’s soled in 2011 (or 28,866 if you also include the 1200GS Adv) it’s become about as “individual” as a school uniform and now blends into the background like the army’s of seemingly identical grey/silver cagers filling up my roads! But then again I am one of those weird freaks who likes to do my own thing, wears mismatched gear, tours alone and dreads the thought of pulling up to an identical bike at the lights.

This however might give you a novelty kick, if you think the F800R can’t do almost what a GS can in a muddy field then think again, check out this crazy Frenchman who entered his F800 ScramblerR in the 2012 GS Trophy, skip through to about half way if you don’t speak French and see the F800 off-roading with the best of them…

Watch more videos on RoadTrooper/GPSRepublic YouTube Channel »

More realistically though, I’ve ridden the F800R through some of Ireland’s worst roads from Wicklow’s Sally Gap, along the battered West Cork Coastal Route that’s inevitably mired in cow shit, pot holes, nails, hippy hitch hikers and dead badgers, through the Black Valley in Kerry (a place lost in time) and over the Healy Pass, Moll’s Gap, the Gap of Dunlow, the Beara and Sheep’s Head Peninsulas and God knows what else without issue.

BMW F800R – The Ultimate Road Test on Ireland’s West Coast

I tested the hell out of the F800R on some of the best and worst roads in Ireland…

Watch more videos on RoadTrooper/GPSRepublic YouTube Channel »

The F800R took it all in it’s stride, although I would not want to be riding those roads every day on my F800R’s current suspension gear.

Rough roads on the Gap of Dunlow, no worries!

Rough roads on the Gap of Dunlow, no worries!

The F800R as with any bike does have a few niggely little bad points. Straight out of the box it’s a little lacking in refinement and you do need to spend a bit more to make it fit you properly, an all too common problem on most bikes, but I guess the manufacturers need to keep the base price as low as possible. For example above 120kmph it suffers a bit from vibrations, so the comfort seat, and rubber foot pegs instead of the stock pegs is needed if regularly riding longer distances at high speeds.

Perfect for the smooth curvey N71, near Lady’s View, Killarney, Ireland

Perfect for the smooth curvey N71, near Lady’s View, Killarney, Ireland

I’ve also wrapped rubber grips (the tape used for Hurley sticks or tennis rackets works a treat) on the handle grips to cushion the vibration through the handle bars and give a better grip cornering on rougher back roads. For longer rides a decent screen also needs to be on the cards, and without a rear hugger and an extended front mud guard you will have a pain in your bollox keeping it clean.

Happily lost on the Beara Peninsula

Happily lost on the Beara Peninsula

Anyway, one year on and I’m more confused than ever as to why the F800R is as rare in Ireland as a motorbike friendly politician! You really should try one, if it doesn’t put a smile on your face then you’re just weird! It’s one of those rare bikes I’ve seriously grown passionate about, I mean, any bike that is this much fun, a bike you can kit up and make your own, doesn’t burn fuel like and aircraft carrier, and doesn’t break the bank to get your hands on, does just about everything very well, has got to be a contender, right? Anyway, as for my F800R, well let’s just say it’s a bike like my R1150RT in that she will remain in my hareem for years to come and I’m looking forward to taking her on my next trip into Europe.

Den


BMW F800R Reviews in Other Publications

MCN give it 5 stars for build quality and reliability so this bike would will not be spending much time in a shop. Check out the MCN F800R review here »

The March 2011 issue of Motorcycle Consumer News (another MCN) performed a complete test of the 2011 F800R where the bike had a perfect score in their 12-area rating system, with the only item that did not receive a perfect 5-dot score was the 4.5 dot “value” category. They were thrilled with the bike’s engine, power, suspension, brakes, handling, transmission, ergonomics, instrument/controls and attention to detail.

The measured top speed was 134.5mph, 1/4 mile performance was 11.38 seconds at 116.83 mph, 0-60 mph was reached in 3.43 seconds, 0-100 mph in 8.30 seconds and the 0-60 stop was made in 124.3 feet. Maximum power was 80.24 hp at 8,250 rpm and torque was 57.59 lb-ft at 6,000 rpm.

Biking Routes - Ireland, Reviews 28 Responses so far

28 Responses to “Living with the BMW F800R, 1 year on!”

  1. eagle6 says:

    Hi, great read!

    Did you never consider the F800ST as a lightweight tourer?

    Keep looking at F800R but keep worrying about screen and seat.

  2. gpsroutes says:

    Hi Eagle6, thanks, great to hear you enjoyed the article and no, I didn’t consider the ST for a number of reasons.

    The 1st reason is completely personal and totally irrational in that I don’t like the look of the ST, to me the fairing looks like it was designed as an afterthought and makes the bike look boring, plain and just bland. Looks wise I’d simply never be able to love it! Like I said that’s just my personal opinion, it’s possibly irrational, but the heart wants what the heart wants. There is a ton of people who would utterly disagree with me, but there is no right or wrong answer when the heart comes into the equation and my opinion on that should not be taken seriously by anyone or sway your opinion to the ST as it’s a great bike too.

    I do have a number of solid reasons why I chose the F800R over the ST. Firstly there is actually a really big difference between the handling and purpose of the two bikes. Taking the heart out of the equation and looking at them dispassionately we see that “while similar” they are two very different tools for two different jobs which I’ll get back to in a bit.

    The obvious main differences between the two is that the ST has fairing and a belt drive instead of the chain drive, but there is a lot more to it than that. For starters the engines are mapped differently, the 800R is more aggressive and sportier, i.e. a hell of a lot more fun! The 800ST’s engine is calmer, smoother and orientated towards cruising. The gear ratios of both are also different and reflect the differing riding purpose/style.

    I really did not want another cruiser/touring bike as I have the RT for that. Touring bikes are brilliant for touring, but the trade off is that they are also a little boring and lacking in the grin factor! So, for me the primary purpose of the 2nd bike was fun and to get a bi-weekly injection of adrenalin that the RT or an ST wont give. The F800R is magic for the weekends, make’s a better city commuter than the RT and I can ride the rough and narrow mountain roads that the RT finds difficult or impossible.

    The ST is an enormously practical bike, but it’s main function is touring or all weather long distance commuter, this is what it specialises at. It’s also got a solid frame instead of the 800R’s tubular frame which makes the ST less vibey, the tubular frames go onto naked bikes simply for cosmetic reasons, but suffer from slightly more vibration.

    If you’re certain that you are going to be spending far more time on the motorway in all weathers than you are on the back roads or belting through the Alpine hairpins at Mach 2 with a stupid grin on your face then the ST is a better choice. That’s not to say you cant have fun on the ST, you can, it’s as flickable as the F800R, but as the engine’s mapped differently, and the gears are a different ratio, and as it’s a belt drive it simply doesn’t have the same kick as the F800R. Put it this way, the ST is more novice friendly or inspires more confidence for older lads returning to biking after a break to do the whole family thing.

    While the 800R is more fun there is a trade off when you buy it, it’s aimed at a younger market and it’s marketed as an obvious naked street bike, but BMW were cleaver enough to give it some extra “possible” functions and that is why the F800R is arguably not the best naked street bike you can buy, again there is a trade off. The R and the ST have the same riding/sitting position which makes the R a “possible” tourer. The R’s engine is mapped the same as the 800GS hence it’s “potential” ability to go off road, although I’d have strong reservations on that! Also remember, while the 800GS is designed to go off road it’s geared more aggressively than a true off road bike (KTM) to allow it to be more fun on proper roads and allow it to potentially tour!

    BMW have a real habit of purposely designing many of their bikes to be very good at everything but brilliant at nothing which is why most bike magazine reviews give such bikes as the F800R or 800GS 4 out of 5 stars, but 5/5 stars for the likes of the RT or R1000RR which are strictly, and brilliantly designed for one purpose in mind, and I’d lean towards the F800ST being in this group also. Main stream magazine reviewers have a one dimensional approach to reviewing bike’s which I can fully understandable, but this can and often mislead the consumer who can misread this and loose sight of a bikes potential if given a little extra investment. The F800R is a classic example of this, you only have to look at all the after market gear you can buy for it to change or enhance it’s potential or purpose.

    Slap on a bash plate and a different suspension and possibly forks to the F800R and I’d have no reservations of riding it on unsurfaced roads which is one of the things that interested me with it. Or, slap on a touring screen, proper saddle, panniers, rubber foot pegs and a SatNav and hey presto, I have a go anywhere, fun loving touring bike that can also do mental when I need my adrenalin rush!

    For me the purpose of the 800R is 90% weekend fun, the other 10% is it’s potential to tour and allow me to access really small crappy Irish back roads and explore semi-off-the-map Alpine/Pyrenees passes both for fun and my photography business. Those types of roads I can’t do on the RT.

    As for touring and your worries about the screen and the seat! That’s easily fixable, if ye dont like a part, change it. For the seat you can either buy a better one than the stock like I did, I got a good deal by trading the stock seat against the comfort seat and let the dealer know when I was buying the bike that the crappy original seat was a deal breaker. He had to give me a great deal on the seat to shift the bike! You can also get a detachable gel seat pad, good ones come in at around 30 euro. I also have a woolly sheep skin saddle cover for those really long days which are surprisingly comfortable and breathable. Don’t knock that option till you’ve tried it! Also don’t forget most bikes original seats, irrespective of make or model are not great, that’s why there are so many after market seats and comfort options.

    As for the screen the Wunderlich Ergo Screen is marvellous, it makes a massive difference, take’s 10 minutes to install, it’s rock solid and looks great, it’s an extra €160ish Euro but worth it as the fly screen is crap, but again, remember the F800R is also aimed at youngish riders so BMW had to keep the bikes base price affordable.

    I hope all that has helped rather than given you a headache, but basically I chose the 800R over the 800ST because I personally think it look’s far better than the ST and it’s far more fun to ride, but with a bit more investment, and while there is a trade off it can “tour” almost as good as the ST. Then when I get to my destination, the Pyrenees for example it’s back to stupid grin fun again.

    While the ST, as accomplished a tourer as it is, well “to me” it’s just an average looking touring bike with the typical bland ride that comes with tourers. And if I was in the market for an affordable touring bike I still wouldn’t choose the ST, heavy as it is I’d still choose a 2nd hand RT as it’s a better tool for that job and has a slightly bigger grin factor despite it’s limitations, there always seems to be a trade off when choosing between bike’s :)

    The F800ST = strictly excellent tourer, moderate grin factor, all weather practical
    The F800R = great street/back road blaster, draws attention, potentially good at everything

    Again, different tools for different jobs, but for me the F800R is a multi-tool, ticks all my boxes and it looks kick-ass :)

    Den

  3. eagle6 says:

    On second bottle of aspirin! lol

  4. gpsroutes says:

    :) , yep, choosing a new bike is a complicated business lol….

  5. reha73 says:

    I’m German and hit your site while trying to find some international opinions on this bike. This one here is probably the most helpful report on the F800R, I have read, even compared to those in german. I share your enthusiasm for this bike. I borrowed it just like you did for one day and got really excited, so I’m thinking of buying it very soon. Thanks for your very helpful work.

    • gpsroutes says:

      Thanks Reha, great to know the review was a help. I still have the F800R and I’m still loving it, I have no doubt the this bike will have more than a few die hard followers or even a bit of a cult following in the years to come.

      Denis

  6. Andyg says:

    Great reviews, the F800r is a great bike, which is why I am finding it hard to consider a replacement for mine after nearly 3 years of ownership and 27,000 miles of commuting. Powerful enough to keep up with most head down 600cc sports bikes and more manageable when filtering. Class leading fuel economy and cheap to insure if like me you are the right age!

    Considering the 1200s Multistrada, or the new 2013 1200GS both great bikes but heaver and not as manageable in traffic. let alone the fuel economy and servicing costs!

    It all points to either keeping mine or getting another new F800R. My heart is wanting a change for something different but the R is such a great all round package once you own one its hard to consider anything else to use as a daily commute.

    • gpsroutes says:

      I feel your pain Andyg..

      I’ve only just let my R1150RT go to a new home. I had to let one bike go to make way for a different bike, but keeping the F800R was a no-brainer for all the reasons you just listed and more.

      At the end of the day you simply have to sit down and write down all the things that you practically need from a bike, remember it’s also a tool to do a job, define the job before choosing the tool. The Multistrada and 1200GS are great bikes and personally I don’t find them too heavy as I’m used to the 1150RT who’s (dry weight) is heaver than the 1200GS Adventure anyway and will most likely be my next bike.

      But, the last thing I want to be doing is navigating daily traffic on a GS, for ease of use, fun and fuel economy the F800R beats it every time, but for long distance touring which I do a lot of it’s got to be a bigger bike. Therefore, for me at least I need to have two bikes, both different, and both brilliant at different things.

      If you spend most of your time in traffic, and touring is not so important then I’d wonder if you actually need a GS/Multistrada type bike, especially if you wont be riding rough roads or green lanes? Additionally, the big bikes really become a headache as daily city commuters as well as being expensive, and except for touring I almost never used the RT as the F800R is a joy for any distance up to 300km!

      If I were you I’d seriously consider keeping the F800 and buying a 2nd hand 1200GS or Mulitstrada and having the best of both worlds until you know what you really want and suits your daily purposes. You can then sell off one of the bikes or both and buy a new one if that’s the way you’re swinging. Don’t forget to consider though, if you want a bike to do big tours the GS/Multistrada will only do the exact same mileage between refills (180 miles /300km) as the F800R, which to me, does not make them proper tourers either, hence my decision to get the GSAdv with the 33 litre tank.

      Whatever you decide to do it’s important to get in a couple of test rides on different models and compair them to the F800 with a clear head. Unless a different model really rocks your boat then walk away until you find something that does.

      Before Xmas is the best time for getting a great deal on a 2nd hand bike, prices will climb again coming into next summer.

      Good luck,,
      Denis

  7. mbattistel says:

    Awesome article. Thanks a bunch. I’m doing a one month tour of Italy this Fall and the rental outfit I’ve spoken to about the F800 is pushing me to rent the F700GS instead, telling me it is a better touring bike. Your review tells me different. Am I missing something? Any other tips also appreciated.

    • gpsroutes says:

      Well at the moment I’m touring in Spain on a F800GS which is a brilliant touring bike. The thing is the F800R is an excellent everyday road bike and great fun on the twisties – but it’s not really a touring bike, it was never designed with touring in mind. If you hit bad weather in the Alps (hail, sleet, snow etc) which it is at the moment then I’d prefer to be on a GS. If you want to explore the Alpine back roads and high mountain passes then your better off on the GS.

      If you only intend to stick to the main tourist roads which are mostly nice and smooth and you have very little luggage then you might have more fun on the F800R, but if it was me I’d go for the GS, it’s a little less fun on the twisty roads, but the GS is more practical and more comfortable for touring. It is also “by FAR” better suited for the rougher high roads. The rental company is pushing you to take the 700GS for good reason, and I’d also suspect they know it’s better suited for the roads in their area.

      If your tall, in or near 6 foot, and intend to spend 8 hours a day on the bike then the 700GGS is also a better option as it has more leg room. I’m just under 6 foot and can’t ride more then 400km in one day on the F800R as my knees get really sore. But yesterday for example I rode nearly 800km (mix of mountain roads and motorway) on the 800GS in perfect comfort and without getting tired or sore in any way.

      If I were you I’d take the 700GS for the Alps as it is a better touring bike for those type of roads.

      Hope this helps..

      Denis

  8. Sixty says:

    Hi Den,
    I have the F800R for about one year now, and love it !
    I’m going to do a trip to France next month with it, and I’m looking forward to that !
    Thanks for the great review of the bike, I didn’t found anywhere such extended report of the bike !

    So, enjoy the summer riding your BMW’s !

    Roger

  9. Benson Benson says:

    Brilliant review for me as I am toying with the thought of this bike for the reasons you laid out but was worried it was a naked bike and you know our weather. I had been looking for accessories for a while for this bike but only found the odd fender extender and crash barr. Nothing got me to excited. But the kit you mentioned above has well got me happy and given me the will to live and the fact that your misses can service it sealed the deal. I knew the F800st was good for fuel but with, fuel economy and low running cost has me writing this at 5 am. Lots of great hints and tips that has got me thinking. I’d better go and lie down.

    Thanks
    Benson

    • gpsroutes says:

      Hi Benson,

      Good to hear the review was of interest/help to you. I’ve had a lot of bikes over the years and the F800R is one of those few bikes I really regret selling. As I think I mentioned I sold it to make room for a bike that was more comfortable for long runs (500+km per day) and the F800R was just a little too cramped for my height. So do try it on for size on a test ride before you commit. I sold my F800R and went for the Triumph Tiger 800 which for me was more comfortable, and more powerful. But in comparison to the F800R the Tiger was about as economical as a Ferrari and for various reasons I began to hate it. I’m back on the F800 format with the 800GS and loving it. Not as smooth or as powerful as the Triumph 800′s for sure, but the heart wants what the heart wants.

      Don’t forget all BMW F800 engined bikes are extremely economical, like the F800R my F800GS does not seem to use any oil and I regularly average 68 – 72mpg which in my book is brilliant. Servicing is also cheap and straightforward for all the F800′s, most of which you can do yourself (fluids, filters etc) before bringing it to the dealers to hook it up to the computer – reset the service date & check for any errors and get the service book stamped etc which takes about 10mins. If you go for the ABS option it’s best to leave any brake servicing to a BMW mechanic as they can be tricky and easy to mess up unless you know what you’re doing. With ABS models it’s also best to change the brake fluid once a year to be sure of avoiding problems with the ABS system which can be expensive to fix/replace.

      Any naked bike can be a bit of a pain to keep clean in northern climates, the trick is to keep the bike well sprayed with something like ACF-50 and don’t get over worried about the bike not being nice and shiney all the time. Once you wash the protective film off the bike will be like new anyway which is the most important bit. Do consider if you buy the F800R, or any naked you will especially need a really good set of waterproof boots and pants, it just goes with the territory of nakeds I’m afraid. Since I wrote this article there are even more parts and accessories for the bike as it’s still a very popular model on the continent. The farkles I’d recommend for northern climates to make the bike really comfortable and more practical are:

      1. Rear hugger to stop the salt and muck blasting into the rear spring and engin.

      2. Comfort seat for the long weekend getaways

      3. Heated grips and handguards for winter commuting

      4. Touring screen to keep the winter chill at bay and greatly lowering wind noise at motorway speeds.

      5. Day running lights. My only real gripe with F800R and F800GS is the dipped (daytime) headlight which car drivers don’t seem to take much notice of. Adding the side lamps is not a fashion thing, they make a big difference in making your front profile more noticeable in a cars rear view mirror and for car drivers entering your path from side roads. The Touratech lights are stupidly expensive, shop around and go for something like the one’s I put to my F800R which were well worth the money, although I had to get a mechanic to do the wiring as this job was well above my pay grade.

      The F800ST is probably a more practical and sensible bike and there is lots to like about it, certainly it’s a better option if you regulary take a pillion. The only real downside is the ST’s rather hefty price tag once you start adding the options, and for me at least it’s not a bike that could but a big smile on my face. The F800R however never fails to make me smile as it’s so much fun to ride being so quick and agile without breaking the bank. There are plenty of low milage good 2nd hand F800R’s out there too so getting one wont be a problem, MSN is usually a good place to start. But try before you buy, get yourself to a BMW dealer and test ride a few different models to identify the model that suits you best. I love the F800R and if I had the room and the spare cash I’d still own one, but for various reasons the F800GS simply suits my physical size and needs better. Buying a bike that’s a keeper is as much about using your head as your heart unless you’re loaded and can afford to have one of each ;)

      Safe riding

      Denis

  10. Benson Benson says:

    Denis your a star lots of great advice again for this rider who’s just getting back into it. I’d ridden for a few years (5) but never got half the tips I’m getting from you and your reviews as I’m not in a club or anything, I will recommend you. I’m getting this F800R this August. I can’t wait. :-)

    Thanks Denis

    Benson

    • gpsroutes says:

      Good for you Benson. If you get a lot of wet weather in your world get your dealer to slap on a set of Michelin Pilot Road 3′s or 4′s as they suit the 800R perfectly and keep it well planted even on wet twisties..

      D

  11. Benson Benson says:

    yeah think may come in handy.
    ;-)

  12. Buspassdodger says:

    Hi Dennis

    Thanks for your writing so much good info.

    I am torn between buying the 800R or the 800GS, I live in Thailand and BMW recently started assembly here so the prices have dropped to become close to reasonable!

    As you have ridden both, did you have any probs with either model during hot weather and the radiator fan blast cooking your legs?

    I prefer the looks of the R but the GS is more useful here to cope with local conditions.

    Geoff

    • gpsroutes says:

      Hi Geoff,
      Like you said, the GS is more practical if the road conditions are rough, and far better if said roads are likely to offer wet mud. The radiator fan blast can be a little a annoying, but I just got used to moving my knee away from the bike to catch some fresh air when the fan was operating.

      I’m just back from Spain where the last few weeks saw me riding in anything up to 35 degrees C and never had an issue with the fan. The only time I’d notice it is when it’s baking hot, the engine’s hot and I get stuck in traffic, but the hot air from the fan is easily managed and certainly not a deal breaker. Every bike I’ve ridden or owned has always had something that wasn’t ideal, there is always something that will bug you in the beginning until you get used to it. I also usually wear a pair of well vented bike pants even in Spain, and once the pants have leather panels on the inside of the leg around the knee I don’t really feel the fans hot air anyway.

      The 800R is quicker in heavy city traffic, but the GS has more presence and more likely to be seen by other road users and so “may” have an edge on the point of safety. Also, due to the GS’s high seating position I can see further ahead and plan my path through city traffic better. The 800R is also more fun on surfaced back roads, it’s low and mid range torque and steering dampener make it a joy to get the adrenalin buzz.

      The F800R also has a big following for customized parts to make it unique if that’s your thing. Not sure how practical any of that is though unless you spend rather a lot of money turning the F800R into a scrambler version which might more practical for Thailand. I’ve never been to Thailand though so I can only guess at the road conditions.

      If you intend to do any form of touring in the region I’d choose the GS every time for 2 reasons.

      1. The obvious, the GS eats up rough roads and trails, the 21″ front wheel makes a massive difference on pot holes etc. And while the F800R is a little more fun on surfaced roads, non-surfaced roads are FAR more fun on the 800GS! So to help with your decision simply ask yourself if you want to take longer trips around the region. And ask yourself how many miles per year you are likely to do on very rough surfaced roads or non-surfaced roads. If the percentage of rough or non-surfaces roads climbs above 20% then for me the GS would rapidly start becoming the bike to choose.

      2. Your physical height. If you are tall enough to happily ride the GS then I wonder if you’d find the F800R a little cramped. I’m 5 foot 9 and ultimately I sold the 800R because 300km (on good surfaced roads) was the absolute limit I could ride on any one day before my knees, back and wrists gave out. On European roads the 800R makes an excellent commuter and is a lot of fun for weekend blasts up into the hills or country back roads, but for me that’s it’s limit.

      The 800R and 800GS while having the same engine could not be more different and built for a very different purpose and road conditions. The 800R being a sporty road bike, but also practical as a city commuter and easily capable of short haul trips on good quality roads. The 800GS is an authentic globe trotter that will take you anywhere, it’s very good in every type of environment and purpose. If you only ride in the city with short weekend excurshion out of the city than the 800R might be the most fun. But, if you want to explore your horizons and clock up some miles experiencing as much of Thailand as possible then I’d swing towards the GS, or similar dual sport bike without question.

      From what I’ve read, heard and seen in vids/photos of Thailand much of the countries road network is not surfaced, or badly paved. Both the 800R and 800GS have a weak point – the oil filter that sticks out low and in front of the engine just behind the front wheel. On the F800R the oil filter is very close to the ground which is perfectly fine for surfaced roads, but if you hit a big pot hole or rut and damage it you are in big trouble. Hit it hard enough and you may be looking at a new engine.

      For the GS it’s easy to protect it with a bash plate. I use the Adventure-Spec plate which has a solid metal section that protects the oil filter and makes the GS bullet proof. http://www.adventure-spec.com/default/bashplate-protection-crashbars-adventure-spec-bashplate-bmw-f650gs-f800gs.html But because of the GS’s ground clearance you wont need a bash plate unless you want to get seriously adventurous fording rivers and the like.

      Hope this helps..
      Denis

  13. Buspassdodger says:

    Hi Denis

    It’s the GS and the bash plate solution that make the most sense. I will try one of the first Thai built bikes in a couple of months. My wife says if I like it, she will buy me one for Christmas. Life is very good !

    Many thanks for your words of wisdom.

    Geoff

    • gpsroutes says:

      Geoff, you’re a very lucky man to have such a wonderful wife, look after her and safe riding ;)
      If you get the time let us know what you think of the 1st Thai build 800GS..

      Denis

      • Buspassdodger says:

        Hi Dennis

        Well I looked again at the 800GS but tried two and just did not feel right, nearly got an F800 which is excellent but still a long waiting time in Thailand and Asian spec which means low seat etc. So it would require some more parts to fit me.
        Just to keep my hand in, I went to look at a new CB500X and came away with an NC750X with a DCT box! I just tried it out as a comparison and really like the low C of G for the rougher roads and the auto box is great for returning home from a long run. D is a bit sedentary, S is like normal and the Manual option is great for twisty roads.
        I have a few parts to add such as a bash plate, maybe change the tyres but I can see me and the boss off on many trips up into the hills.
        Ride safe
        Geoff

        • Denis Smyth says:

          Hi Geof,

          Congrats on the new bike. The 800GS is certainly not right for everyone, although the same can be said for any bike you might mention which is why it’s so important to try at least a few on for size. I got to say the CB500X caught my interest when it came out and I kind of fancied one as a no hassle easy going city commuter that I could share with my wife. As she is a little vertically challenged she has no interest riding my 800GSA ;)

          The NC750X inc DCT is an interesting choice, I’m not sure what to think of the DCT box as I’ve read some good and negative things about it, but as I’ve yet to try it for myself I’ll keep my mind open. I’d certainly be very interested in what you think of it once you’ve clocked up some mileage on it. If you fancy writing a review on it later in the year I’d be happy to publish it here on the RT site. I’d think many people would really enjoy reading a “real world Joe” thoughts on it, especially if it came with some exhotic photos from Thailand which most of us can only dream about as a “some day I’ll do it” scenario lol.

          Safe riding Geoff, I’m sure you’ll have a blast in the Thai hills

          Denis

  14. Angus says:

    Thank you for a concise and well written article, and your promotion of the f800r and of Ireland. It was your words that persuaded me to go for the f800r rather than a Yamaha MT, or Ducati Monster. Everything you say about this bike is true. I love the handling, and adaptability and fuel economy. Although I am not Irish (Scottish) I love Ireland and would love to tour your country.
    All the best,
    Angus

    • gpsroutes says:

      Hi Angus,

      Great to hear you enjoyed the article, I hope you get many happy miles out of the F800R. I’ll be writing an article later in the year about the Wild Atlantic Way which I’ve just completed. It’s a route that startes in Belfast and follows the Irish coastline along the Atlantic all the down to Kinsale in Cork on the south west coast. At 2,400km it’s the longest coastal tourist route in in the world and I’ll tell ye here and now it’s without doubt one of the best motorbike routes in Europe.

      I’ll be organising another tour of it either either next May or September if you’re interested in joining. I’ve already got another Scot signed up for the trip, I’m sure both you and your F800R would love it..

      Safe ridng,
      Denis

      • Angus says:

        Thanks Dennis,
        would love to take the Ireland coastal tour. Kinsale is a fantastic town, great crack and food.
        I had read an American bike journos take on the f800r, he was pretty harsh, but hey ho, what can you like about this bike when you come from a country with 40 km straights and bikes of fenders and chrome!
        Went on a 6 hour round trip to Edinburgh and back, rained most of the way, but taking the wild curvy road home was a treat, love the handling.
        Look forward to read the Atlantic route and may I be pencilled in for it next year? I will need to talk very nicely to the good lady!
        All the best
        Angus

  15. frozenthumbs says:

    Found a Chris Pfeiffer on a 10 plate in UK last December .Love it.thanks for your honest article .

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