BMW F800GS:

huge 18,000-mile test

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

Imust ad­mit, when I took delivery of the GS in March last year, I wasn’t to­tally sure I’d learn to love it or get fed up with it over time. It was my first ad­ven­ture bike and, af­ter com­ing from a back­ground of sportier mo­tor­cy­cles, I thought I might miss the high-speed thrills. More im­por­tantly, I wasn’t sure if the hype that sur­rounds the GS name was all it was cracked up to be. I was soon pleas­antly sur­prised.

In my time with the bike, I’ve cov­ered 18,000 miles, rid­ing both on road and off in all kinds of sit­u­a­tions. It’s guided me through my first for­ays off-road, toured the UK and Ger­many, while also be­ing used as a daily com­muter and trans­port that saw me travel back and forth to Devon from the Mid­lands on a near-weekly ba­sis.

Rid­ing off-road was a com­pletely new ven­ture for me and I found the GS an ex­cel­lent bike to learn on. The En­duro mode that came as a func­tion on the Dy­namic pack­age (£680) would al­low for enough slip from the trac­tion con­trol while I was learn­ing, keep­ing me in con­trol when grip was in short sup­ply. I did, how­ever, start to quickly find the sys­tem’s lim­i­ta­tions as my dirt skills pro­gressed, and it started to hold me back. I found it es­pe­cially trou­ble­some on steep climbs, where it would kick in on de­tect­ing a slip and halt any progress.

The trac­tion con­trol can be turned off, so you have the flex­i­bil­ity to tai­lor the bike to your needs. The En­duro mode does make the bike feel bet­ter on the road, though, with the ABS be­com­ing less in­tru­sive. That said, the En­duro Pro mode, which I have used on an R1200 GS at the Si Pavey off-road school, is ex­cel­lent for off-road use and has been in­cluded on the 2017 model with the Dy­namic pack­age (£690).

As I was us­ing the bike both on road and off, choos­ing tyres to suit the GS would go on to be­come a com­plex af­fair, as find­ing a tyre that was gen­uinely ca­pa­ble in both ar­eas was ex­tremely dif­fi­cult. I came to re­alise that it was best to choose a tyre that would suit the type of rid­ing that I was do­ing the ma­jor­ity of the time, and to change to some­thing dif­fer­ent when the need arose. Not ideal, nor was it the cheap­est op­tion, but it was the only real so­lu­tion that I could come up with. The road-ori­ented tyres I used were good on the tar­mac but ob­vi­ously use­less when it came to rid­ing on the dirty stuff, while the op­po­site ap­plied to dirt tyres. The sup­pos­edly magic dual-pur­pose rub­ber I tried, proved to be pretty use­less on both sur­faces, be­ing too much of a com­pro­mise to be a cred­i­ble op­tion for me to use.

There are loads of ac­ces­sories for the bike, which is good for tai­lor­ing the ride, but bad for the bank bal­ance. In my time with the GS, I’ve added pan­niers (£493), a tour­ing screen (£287), hand­guards (£133), crash bars (£322), an alu­minium bash plate (£200), En­duro footrests (£128) and an Akrapovic si­lencer (£645). And all this was on top of the Dy­namic (£680) and Com­fort (£525) pack­ages that came with the bike when de­liv­ered from BMW, but which are also ex­pen­sive. I would con­sider most of th­ese ex­tras, with the ex­cep­tion of the si­lencer and pegs, es­sen­tial to the rid­ing I did on the bike and would also rec­om­mend a Scot­toiler and fog lights to this list too. Al­to­gether it makes the over­all price of the bike a lit­tle eye-wa­ter­ing and you start work­ing out what you could have bought for the same money.

At the start of last year, I re­ally hoped the GS was go­ing to be a bril­liant all-rounder, a bike that I could use for my ev­ery­day needs while also al­low­ing me to ex­plore other av­enues com­fort­ably and with prac­ti­cal­ity, and it de­liv­ered on all of th­ese fronts and then some – when it was prop­erly kit­ted out. It’s quirky and ex­tremely ver­sa­tile na­ture has com­pletely won me over and now I find it dif­fi­cult to imag­ine my life with­out the bike.

If I were to be leav­ing on a trip around the world to­mor­row, I’d turn to the GS and I think that ev­ery rider should live with one at least once. I can also con­firm that af­ter a year with the bike, I now fully un­der­stand what all the fuss is about when it comes to the GS name.

The F800 GS is an ex­cel­lent off-road learn­ing tool for novices

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