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?
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
- BMW F800R Third-Party Parts & Accessories
(Schnitzer, Wunderlich, Touratech, Rizoma, Hornig)
- BMW F800R Care
- BMW F800R Efficiency
- BMW F800R Qualities
- BMW F800R – The Ultimate Road Test on Ireland’s West Coast
- BMW F800R Reviews in Other Publications
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!
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.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.
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.
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!!!
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…
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
I tested the hell out of the F800R on some of the best and worst roads in Ireland…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.