WORLD FIRST TEST BMW F800GS

‘ The most ca­pa­ble off-roader from the big­gest name in ad­ven­ture bik­ing’

Motorcycle News (UK) - - New Bikes - By Martin Fitz- Gib­bons MCN CON­TRIB­U­TOR

or an ad­ven­ture bike to truly ex­cel, it has to bring to­gether two dis­tinct worlds. It needs both a 21-inch front wheel and long-travel sus­pen­sion to roll over ob­sta­cles the way an en­duro bike can, and also a size­able multi-cylin­der en­gine to cruise serenely at speed like a tourer.

Back in 2008, at a time when the rest of the ad­ven­ture world was evolv­ing into big­ger, heav­ier, road-fo­cused ma­chines, BMW cre­ated the F800GS. Lean, tall and pur­pose­ful, it marked a re­turn to those ad­ven­ture ideals. How­ever, re­ceiv­ing only a few tweaks in 2013, and fresh ri­vals like Tri­umph’s Tiger 800XC, a new F800GS seems over­due.

FSo it’s sur­pris­ing that the ‘new’ 2016 model is only new in the sense of colours and cos­met­ics. Me­chan­i­cally it’s com­pletely un­changed from last year, and lit­tle dif­fer­ent to that eight-year-old orig­i­nal. Cru­cially, this means it still only meets the old Euro 3 emis­sions stan­dards – and so, as of next Jan­uary, this ‘new’ bike can’t be sold in Europe.

Inevitably, BMW are tight-lipped about fu­ture plans. For now the F800GS gets new elec­tro­plated ra­di­a­tor cov­ers, a two-tone seat, as well two new Ral­lye and Black­line vari­ants. The 798cc par­al­lel-twin con­tin­ues to de­liver a bal­anced and con­sid­ered 84bhp, with a plump, even-handed torque curve, and a burpy ex­haust note in­dis­tin­guish­able from BMW’S boxer twins thanks to 360-de­gree fir­ing in­ter­vals.

The chas­sis re­mains sim­ple but ef­fec­tive. A steel trel­lis frame rides high on soft, rangy sus­pen­sion. The rid­ing po­si­tion feels ut­terly com­mand­ing, perched on top of the bike rather than snug­gled in­side it, with the slim de­sign giv­ing no hint of flabby, lux­u­ri­ous ex­cess. On twisty roads the front wheel can feel a long way away, but it steers eas­ily and ground clear­ance is end­less.

On dirt trails this height can be in­tim­i­dat­ing at first, but when the go­ing gets tough it’s hugely wel­come. With a bit of con­fi­dent mo­men­tum the F800GS rat­tles across most ter­rain, even wear­ing its stan­dard Pirelli Scor­pion Trail road tyres. Stand­ing up, the bars feel higher than many other ad­ven­ture ma­chines, giv­ing good con­trol.

The weight helps too – or rather the lack of it. The F800GS is just 214kg fully fu­elled, sev­eral ki­los lighter than a Tri­umph Tiger 800XC and nearly 20kg less than Honda’s new Africa Twin. A chunk of that ad­van­tage is be­cause it doesn’t carry much fuel, the tail-unit tank hold­ing just 16 litres. How­ever, im­pres­sive econ­omy (55-60mpg) means it man­ages 150 miles be­tween fuel-light flashes, with a po­ten­tial range of 200 miles.

The en­try-level F800GS now comes in blue only and costs £8850. How­ever, it’s hard to imag­ine many leav­ing show­rooms with­out the op­tional Com­fort Pack (cen­tre­stand, heated grips, on­board com­puter and pan­nier mounts), which lifts that by £525 to £9375.

The Com­fort Pack is in­cluded on both of the two new model vari­ants. In ad­di­tion, the Ral­lye (£9355) also gets hand­guards and a natty red frame, whilst the Black­line (£9475) has a black frame, black paint and a black screen, as well as hand­guards and LED in­di­ca­tors. All ver­sions can have the Dy­namic Pack (trac­tion con­trol, off-road rider aids, and elec­tron­i­cally ad­justable rear shock damp­ing) for a fur­ther £680.

There are four dif­fer­ent seats that can be fit­ted to any of the bikes. And if you want to make it as easy as pos­si­ble to reach the ground, spe­cial LS ver­sions of the Ral­lye and Black­line use short­ened sus­pen­sion and a sculpted sad­dle to take the stan­dard 880mm seat height down to just 820mm.

A few cos­metic changes clearly don’t move the F800GS on sig­nif­i­cantly. What the 2016 model does in­stead is re­mind the world just how good what­ever comes along to re­place it next year is go­ing to have to be.

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