Text: Deyna Chia Photos: Derryn Wong
BMW Motorrad’s lineup is dominated by two models the adventure-touring R 1200 GS and the top-class S 1000 RR litrebike.
But we shouldn’t ignore the fact that BMW has expanded into almost every segment there is as well, with everything from the C scooter series to the Goldwing-rivalling K 1600 luxury tourer.
Those with more modest budgets or newer to motorcycling and looking for their first ‘big’ bike can cast their eyes at the F Series bikes which feature the smaller, 798cc parallel twin engine. It’s a particularly important step, given the new, Class 2A 310cc G 310R will be launching in Singapore this year, so now brand-dedicated riders can ‘step-up’ from a beginner’s BMW to this intermediate model.
BMW already has a single-cylinder model in the G Series, the G 650 GS, but given it has a 48bhp engine, compared to the G 310 R’s 34bhp, it might not be as much of a step as logic dictates.
Hence the F 800 R, like the F 700 GS, remains one of the best intermediate choices for a full Class 2 rider for a BMW
Launched in 2010, the first incarnation of the F 800 R sported the then BMW signature lop-eyed headlight from the F 800 GS, and was positioned as the street going version of the F 800 ST sport tourer. Modern rivals include anything from the Yamaha MT-07 to the Ducati Monster 821.
BMW’s shifted its design language a little, and the updated F 800 R now sports a symmetrical headlight and new fairing. Like the bigger BMWs, the F 800 R also has a side air breather element as part of the design, this connects to a more contoured tank which is framed by the aluminium er, frame, which is unchanged.
The side-mounted, underseat tank still needs to be filled from the right, above the chain. Disappointingly, the F 800 R is supplied with the old asymmetrical triple-cluster analogue dashboard, and not the modern-looking affair found on the R1200R.
Ergonomics are typical BMW, solid and with nothing to complain about even for larger riders. The sculptured bench seat is supportive, encasing your butt, and is ample for pillions. In case you’re vertically-challenged or particularly tall, the F 800 R has seat options that range from 770 to 820mm, though the stock seat is already 10mm lower and narrower than before.
On the 790mm stock seat, knee angle is sporty for a street bike, but still good for all day on the saddle. The “wings” on the tank are surprisingly pronounced, and standing up on the footpegs, it was difficult to grip the tank, whilst my size 47 boot contacted the exhaust guard on the left.
Even though weighing in at 202kg, fuelled, the F 800 R belies its weight, it’s easier to push around when parking, compared to the on-paper 13kg lighter Triumph Street Triple, and as agile on the move.
Previously the F 800 R was known for its sweet, easy-handling nature, along with an equally fun and punchy drive from the parallel twin engine. There’s slightly more power now, along with chassis updates.
Dynamically, the F 800 R’s front end is now managed by a non-adjustable upside-down fork, with a rebound and preload adjustable shock, pretty much par for the course in a modern roadster – non-inverted forks are only for budget or overtly-retro bikes anyway.
These new suspenders complement the neutral chassis, allowing the F 800 R to track sweeping corners and roundabouts predictably and with ease. The setup and quality of the Sachs suspension obvious, and it deals with Singapore’s increasingly bumpy tarmac well, not throwing the bike out of line even while cornering, an important point which adds confidence, especially for new riders.
Up front, the brakes have been upgraded to four-pot radial callipers, another very welcome addition to the F 800 R’s arsenal. The ABS-equipped system is great at arresting forward movement predictably, giving good lever feel and modulation.
Numerically the 90bhp, 86Nm parallel-twin engine won’t set your world on fire, but on the upside, and given the bike’s positioning, that could be largely a good thing. It’s gained three horsepower, now and in any case, it excels where it’s designed to be: Applied in urban (commuting) warfare, the flexible engine is torquey and allows quick getaways, especially if manipulating the short-throw gear shifts in quick succession, a fun process, given the punctuation between the engine’s parallel twin burble.
Fuelling is spot on, though matching engine revs and speed is necessary, to avoid the engine complaining with piston slap. 3,000rpm and above seems to be the preferred minimum revs to get that un-interrupted, linear and seamless wave of torque.
Another thing the F 800 R won’t set on fire are your nether regions – it’s cooling is efficient and no radiant heat pours out of any orifice to bake limbs. This, coupled with the relatively narrow dimensions, maneuverability, accurate throttle, light clutch and positive gearshift, makes zipping through traffic easy.
Compared with the popular Yamaha MT-07, the F 800 R has better fuelling, it’s seamless with no snatch at all inputs, and more beginner friendly power delivery. Gear ratios feel better matched, and coupled with better sprung suspension, makes for a smoother overall ride. Again, characteristics that any rider, not just newbies, will appreciate.
While it’s a BMW, and you’ll pay a premium, it’s a German premium not an Italian one, and as expected of BMW models here the bike comes with a lot of equipment, much of it which can’t be found on the competition.
This includes ESA electronically-adjustable suspension which changes the rebound control of the rear shock at the press of a button. Also very useful, for both safety and performance reasons, is the tyre pressure monitor. ABS and ASC, or traction control, is also standard on this bike, with the latter being more of a safety net than performance booster like on an S 1000 RR.
The other facet of the F 800 R is practicality. BMW quotes a mere 3.6L/100km when ridden at 90km/h, and urban riding will easily net you less than 5.0L/100km. Taking the official figure, that’s 333km from the main tank, or a huge 416km including the three-litre reserve. Pretty handy as a commuter, and even better as a tourer, which the F 800 R can do in a pinch with an optional windscreen and side panniers.
The chief criticism one could level at the F 800 R is that it’s unmemorable, but in conclusion, it’s something like a VW Golf of motorcycles. If you have to lament the lack of overt style or eyebrow raising then it’s probably not for you.
But having commuted with an S 1000 RR for over a month now, it’s clear where the F 800 R would fit in the stable. Like we said, it won’t set your world on fire, but unlike the S1000RR, the innocuous F 800 R isn’t painful to ride at all– no burnt shins, prostate-destroying leaning posture, or strained wrists. Instead there’s good ventilation, ergonomics, tight turning radius and massive fuel range. Most importantly, the F 800 R is dynamically competent and something that can support a rider as they transition from big-bike newbie and beyond.
BMW F 800 R
Engine type 798cc, 8V, parallel twin
Bore X Stroke 82 x 75.6mm
Gearbox type 6-speed manual
Max power 90bhp at 8000rpm
Max torque 86.6Nm at 5800rpm
0 to 100km/h Not quoted
Top speed >200km/h (est.)
Dry/Wet Weight not quoted/ 202kg
Seat Height 790mm
Price $29,000 (OTR excl insurance)