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