WORLD FIRST TEST BMW F800GS
‘ The most capable off-roader from the biggest name in adventure biking’
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.