Rid­ing on the wild side

17, 158 MILES James and the GS head north for a back-to-ba­sics ad­ven­ture

Motorcycle News (UK) - - Garage - james.archibald@mo­tor­cy­cle­news.com

PRICE £10,055 FUEL 16 litres @ 48.84mpg = 172 miles WEIGHT 214kg SEAT 880mm POWER 84bhp TORQUE 61ftlb

The F800GS has brought out my in­ner ad­ven­turer this year. Its jack- of-all­trades na­ture means I’ve been chal­leng­ing my rid­ing and mak­ing the most of ev­ery op­por­tu­nity. Af­ter spend­ing a long week­end in Scot­land with the GS in March, I vowed to re­turn. So I did, this time for a full week of wild camp­ing – just me, my tent and the GS.

Re­turn­ing later in the year al­lowed me to miss the end­less hordes of car­a­vans and midges that oc­cupy Scot­land in the sum­mer, while the quiet roads would let me use more of the GS’S po­ten­tial. When I vis­ited the High­lands ear­lier in the year I was al­ways held back by slower traf­fic and I would have to care­fully plan my over­takes to get by them with the fairly modest 84bhp on of­fer.

Power and speed aren’t as im­por­tant, though, when the roads are this good and the scenery this in­cred­i­ble. Soon I found my­self in the fa­mil­iar­ity of Glen­coe, which has be­come my own men­tal marker of where the High­lands be­gin.

I pressed on to­wards the Isle of Skye, where a loop around the top of the is­land left me look­ing for some­where to camp. A lit­tle search­ing led me to find a small trail that over­looked the moun­tains just off the A863. Un­der a clear sky and a blan­ket of stars I shacked up for the night and, even af­ter hav­ing rid­den all day, felt tired men­tally but not phys­i­cally thanks to the com­fort­able rid­ing po­si­tion of­fered by the GS.

The fol­low­ing day I came to the Ap­ple­cross Pass (also known as the Bealach na Bà) and was in awe as the GS was dwarfed by this treach­er­ously beau­ti­ful sin­gle track. I had a real laugh here as the roads were tight and tech­ni­cal, mean­ing that I wasn’t able to ever re­ally open the bike up and find the en­gine’s lim­its. It was per­fect. Fur­ther north I found Ul­lapool, be­fore rid­ing the A835 fur­ther on into the wilds where the roads opened up and the traf­fic was prac­ti­cally nonex­is­tent.

The roads by the coast be­came nar­rower and less well-main­tained, as loose gravel and large pot­holes be­gan to ap­pear more fre­quently, and the GS was back in its el­e­ment. With the bike switched to En­duro mode, to al­low for small slips and less ABS in­ter­fer­ence, I pressed on happy in the knowl­edge that the bike wasn’t go­ing to go men­tal if the back wheel slipped a lit­tle.

I stum­bled across a small hand­made sign for a light­house, point­ing down a tiny road that dis­ap­peared into the dis­tance. It was late in the day, and the idea of sleep­ing next to a light­house caught my imag­i­na­tion.

A few miles fur­ther on, af­ter some pretty in­tim­i­dat­ing grav­elly roads in­hab­ited by very in­tim­i­dat­ing High­land cat­tle, I fi­nally saw Stoer light­house look­ing ma­jes­ti­cally over the At­lantic and the Isle of Lewis. With only me and the GS on the head­land, I pitched up for an­other per­fectly clear night un­der the stars, then sat stunned as I saw a shim­mer on the hori­zon and re­alised I’d just wit­nessed the beauty of the North­ern Lights.

I’m still in awe of the light­show I wit­nessed that night at Stoer, and I couldn’t help but feel in­fin­itely grate­ful to the BMW for get­ting me there. You can do a trip like this on any bike if you put your mind to it, but the F800GS re­ally em­bod­ies the spirit of ad­ven­ture, no mat­ter how small or large the trip. It might not have the greatest mo­tor or han­dle as well as a sports­bike, but what it brings to the party is lim­it­less pos­si­bil­ity. The GS will take me any­where, and do it ef­fort­lessly and com­fort­ably, which ul­ti­mately makes me more in­clined to go ex­plor­ing. It doesn’t pre­tend to be any more than the jack- of-all-trades bike that it is, and that’s what makes it bril­liant.

‘The F800GS re­ally em­bod­ies the spirit of ad­ven­ture’ ‘Un­der a blan­ket of stars I shacked up for the night’

JAMES ARCHIBALD Long-dis­tance com­muter with four years of rid­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. HEIGHT 5ft 11in WEIGHT 84kg

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