All-weather ride a good price

BMW’S tourer twin is nim­bler but still there for the long haul, PAUL OWEN writes

Central Otago Mirror - - FEATURES -

BMW­Mo­tor­rad is con­duct­ing one of the big­gest new model blitzes in the his­tory of the Bavar­ian bike brand. This year has seen the re­lease of a new liq­uid-cooled boxer en­ginepow­ered R1200GS, a new HP4 ver­sion of the S1000RR sports­bike with au­to­mat­i­cally-adap­tive sus­pen­sion, and a foray into new mar­ket ter­ri­tory with a bold pair of in­line twin-pow­ered max­is­coot­ers. With new Ger­man ground­break­ers such as th­ese hog­ging the head­lines, it’s been hard for the new F800GT sport-tour­ing model to at­tract at­ten­tion. Yet this is a newBMWthat deserves a bit more time in the spot­light for it of de­liv­ers the long-haul tour­ing ex­pe­ri­ence that once de­fined the brand in a more af­ford­able, more nim­ble, and more rider-friendly pack­age. Un­for­tu­nately, BMW’s present prod­uct re­nais­sance has co­in­cided with a change of dis­trib­u­tor in this mar­ket, so if you’re won­der­ing why you haven’t read much about the new 2013 mod­els from me lately, blame the on­go­ing shift in New Zealand fran­chise own­er­ship. For­tu­nately some of the brand’s en­thu­si­as­tic deal­ers don’t want to see its wares dis­ap­pear from th­ese pages for long. En­ter John Goss at Cy­clespot Euro on Auck­land’s North Shore with an of­fer of an ex­tended test ride on his F800GT demon­stra­tor. John’s metal­lic­graphite bike might not be in the F800GT’s most pho­to­genic colour (that hon­our goes to the Ra­di­ant Va­len­cia Or­ange metal­lic op­tion), but bet­ter to have a test bike in the wrong colour than none at all. For the F800GT of­fers proof that great things can hap­pen when BMWs­mites one of its en­try-level mod­els with the lux­ury-tour­ing stick. BMW’s F800 range does al­ready con­tain a GS-branded ad­ven­ture tourer, but the new GT is a more lux­u­ri­ous and to­tally road-fo­cused vari­ant, aimed at those seek­ing more com­fort and weather pro­tec­tion than the multi-sur­face bike can pro­vide. In pro­vid­ing the GT with the more ex­pan­sive body­work re­quired for its range-ex­pand­ing role, BMW have cre­ated what looks the most at­trac­tive F800 model to my eye. It’s def­i­nitely a case of form fol­low­ing func­tion as the new fair­ing isn’t just a pretty thing. It wicks rain around most of the rider’s torso and legs, while the wide, shoul­der-pro­tect­ing screen pro­duces lit­tle in the way of vo­cal tur­bu­lence around the hel­met. If there’s a fault to the de­sign of the new plas­tics it’s found in the amount of engine heat that it wafts onto the rider’s legs. This was cer­tainly wel­come dur­ing my thun­der­storm-punc­tu­ated rides in mid-au­tumn, but in sum­mer I sus­pect this heat may merely be tol­er­ated rather than ap­pre­ci­ated. Tucked be­hind the GT’s per­ma­nent thermo-plas­tic um­brella, the rider en­joys a more thought­fully laid-out rid­ing po­si­tion than that of any other F800 model. The han­dle­bar places the rider’s hands a lit­tle higher than that of the F800R street­bike, while the foot­pegs are lo­cated a lit­tle lower and fur­ther for­ward. The re­sult is a slight bend of the torso into the breeze, and pegs that place feet di­rectly be­low the hips so that they can also sup­port up­per body weight and re­lieve the stress on the bum. Nat­u­rally, the GT also en­joys the plush­est seat of the F800 range to make its com­fort more sus­tain­able over long dis­tances. Sub­tle changes to the Ro­tax-made 798cc par­al­lel-twin re­fine it for the GT, ex­tend­ing fuel econ­omy and pro­vid­ing eas­ier ac­cess to the 86Nm torque peak, which ar­rives 200rpm ear­lier in the rev range than that of the F800R street­bike. This comes at a slight cost to out­right power, which drops by two horse­power to 85bhp. The ef­fect of th­ese slight tweaks on the per­for­mance of the in­line twin is harder to iden­tify than the soften­ing caused by GT’s ex­tra mass and dif­fer­ent driv­e­train. The ex­tra body­work and sin­gle-sided swingarm of the tourer add an­other 10 kilo­grams, while torque is de­liv­ered to the rear wheel via a drive belt rather than a chain. Both road-ori­ented F800 mod­els share the same 16-litre un­der­seat fuel tank, but the tourer can range fur­ther than a street­bike with it, thanks to a 10 per cent re­duc­tion in fuel con­sump­tion. John’s bike came with the $1256 Trac­tion Pack­age added which in­cludes elec­tronic sus­pen­sion ad­just­ment (ESA), a tyre pres­sure mon­i­tor­ing sys­tem, and trac­tion con­trol. I wouldn’t worry too much if un­able to stretch the bike­buy­ing bud­get to cover this op­tion. The Met­zeler Z8 In­ter­act ra­di­als of the GT al­ready make a good fist of all-weather trac­tion con­trol, and the ESA is a bud­get ver­sion with no selec­tions to ac­count for the ad­di­tional mass of pil­lions or lug­gage (you need to man­u­ally ad­just the rear spring preload via the ro­tary hand­wheel in­stead). The F800GT’s ESA sim­ply con­tains three set­tings, Nor­mal, Sport, and Com­fort, and if the for­mer is the de­fault set­ting for F800GTs that lack ESA then all is right with the new model. BMW’s trio of punchy lux­ury- tour­ing heavy­weights – R1200RT, K1600GTL, K1300GT – all in­habit the bike pric­ing strato­sphere to the point that they are ob­tain­able only for a lucky few. At $20,790, the new F800GT is a vi­able and less de­mand­ing half-price al­ter­na­tive.

BMWF800GT: This ver­sion has in­creased weather pro­tec­tion, and im­proved com­fort.

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