Even when it’s parked, the amazingly offroad-capable F 800 GS
adventure-tourer, with its sturdy appearance and long spring travel,
indicates what it can do off-road. The signals it gives off are clear yet
diverse: fun driving on all types of road, and stamina on journeys even when
the destination can only be reached by gravel tracks.
A high level of stability combined with playful handling are features of the
new F 800 GS, as is high-quality workmanship, a strong chassis and
impressive engine performance for maximum riding enjoyment.
The inline two-cylinder engine comes from the well-known F 800 model
series, but beyond this, the enduro model has been completely redesigned. A
completely new frame and new wheel suspension with new spring-shock absorber
elements are used, for example, which will surpass the expectations of even
the most demanding enduro riders. The belt drive and single-strut swing arm,
which are ideal for pure on-road use, have been replaced by a light chain
drive, which, in combination with a very stable, attractive aluminum profile
double-strut swing arm, offers particular advantages in offroad riding in
particular. The new GS is thus not only in its element on roads – it will
also always find a way through off-road too.
The F 800 GS combines road and touring capabilities with superior offroad
characteristics. It thus combines the two worlds in a way that has never
before been achieved in this class and offers the maximum possible freedom
in terms of its areas of use. BMW Motorrad has positioned the dynamic
adventure-tourer at an attractive price, thus adding a real asset to the
For BMW Motorrad, the abbreviation “GS” is not an empty
promise. This will be demonstrated in the future by the F 800 GS too, in
continuation of a long tradition. The new model not only offers the typical
qualities of an adventure-tourer – it also offers superb offroad riding
capabilities. While large-capacity enduros sometimes reach their limits
because of their weight and overall design, the new F 800 GS is completely
unstoppable. The overall package combines balanced power and weight,
excellent ground clearance, long spring travel, precise wheel guidance and
sophisticated ergonomics, giving excellent offroad riding and excellent
The chassis combines all the ingredients that a real enduro needs: a sturdy
steel tube frame that allows a steering lock of 42 degrees, a rigid
upside-down fork with 230 mm spring travel, a sturdy aluminum double-strut
swing arm with a path-dependent cushioned spring strut and 215 mm
spring travel and solid wire-spoke wheels. A 21-inch front wheel in the
classic enduro dimensions of 90/90-21 gives running stability in slow
offroad riding, while the rear wheel, with dimensions 150/70-17 ensures that
the engine power is always transferred securely to the track.
The engine is the parallel twin from the F 800 S modified for the new usage,
with its cylinders now only inclined 8.3 degrees forward. The strong,
liquid-cooled four-valve two-cylinder is particularly convincing because of
its spontaneous response, its impressive torque and its low fuel
consumption. Nominally, the engine provides 85 HP at 7 500 min–1 and, at 5
750 min–1 sends a torque of 61 pound-feet to the sliding bearing based
crankshaft. Thanks to the regulated three-way catalytic converter and
secondary air system, the twin releases its power in a way that is
absolutely environmentally friendly. The mass balance is provided by a
system that is unique in standard motorcycle design: an additional swivel
con-rod balances the first and second level mass forces and ensures that the
two-cylinder functions with the minimum of vibrations.
The low dry weight of 178 kg makes a major contribution to the dynamic
riding properties. When filled with fuel and ready to ride, the F 800 GS
weighs in at just 207 kg.
The F 800 GS offers an excellent level of seat comfort for both rider and
passenger, along with a high standard of safety features. If required, it
can be fitted ex factory with two-channel ABS that can be switched off. In
addition, the extensive range of BMW accessories meets the further
individual wishes of our demanding customers, as always.
Overview of the main features of the new F 800 GS:
F 800 GS as mid-class adventure-tourer with excellent offroad
properties and long-distance capabilities.
Liquid-cooled parallel twin with 798 cc capacity, four-valve
technology and unique mass balance.
Rev-proof DOHC valve drive via cam followers.
Manifold injection with electronic engine management BMS-KP, lambda
probe and regulated three-way catalytic converter plus secondary air
Closely stepped six-speed transmission for excellent riding
Dirt-resistant secondary drive via O-ring chain.
Torsion-resistant tubular steel frame with unusual gusset plate
reinforcement of steering head.
Easy handling and extremely tight turning circle.
Stable telescopic fork, USD fork with upright tube diameter 45 mm.
Double-strut swing arm in die-cast aluminum.
Spring strut with adjustable spring pre-tension and adjustable rebound
damping; WAD function (path-dependent damping as in the R 1200 GS).
Long spring travel for comfort and offroad suitability.
Excellent seat comfort for rider and passenger.
Tank underneath seat, for best center of gravity, with easily
accessible fill opening.
Powerful braking system, with ABS if required.
Air filter and battery positioned behind steering head for easy
Wide range of accessories for offroad and touring use.
Valve timing like F 800 S
USD telescopic fork
WAD spring strut
21-in front wheel
Double-disc brake, floating, front
880/850 mm seat height
Ready-to-ride weight 207 kg
There’s a stray African dog that
looks dead (but only resting) just metres in front of me. I lift the front
slightly using the throttle, and change to the right hand trail avoiding the
dog. I notice a lazy yawn just as I pass. Better watch out doggie, there are
more GS coming.
Once upon a time, back when the big adventure tourer market had its feeble birth
(late eighties-early nineties) BMW had the boxer-twin GS, Cagiva the Elefant and
Honda the Africa Twin. All derived from Paris-Dakar racing successes. With the
introduction of the mammoth 1000-1200cc soft adventure touring motorcycles, the
midrange bikes have largely disappeared from the market. Honda and Cagiva
stopped making 750cc twins a long time ago, and the BMW GS have just grown
bigger and bigger.
The first indication of a revival in the mid-displacement adventure segment came
in 2006 when BMW introduced its new F 800 range. It started with the F 800 S and
ST, but BMW have been fairly open about the fact that there would be an F 800
GS. A lighter more agile GS was a mouth watering prospect, and here it is! I had
the privilege of being in the first group of journalists testing the new GS in
various terrains in South Africa.
Last night upon my arrival in South Africa, lively Zulu music was accompanied by
the smell of grilled lobster, but it was interrupted by some torrential rain. We
all feared that what promised to be the most exciting experience on the GS, the
offroad part, could be jeopardized. All the F 800 GS test bikes were fitted with
the standard Bridgestone Battle Wings. They were not designed for deep mud or
Luckily, the next day was cloudy but dry. I chose to do the more challenging
“black route” for a proper enduro experience on the F 800 GS. Slightly daunting
it was as I soon realized the route was particularly challenging on a Trail Wing
shod F 800 GS. I never regretted it, as that part of the ride is what sticks to
my memory more strongly than the road riding. The route was fantastic — with
miles and miles of unpaved roads leading onto a steep mountain trail filled with
But to get there we had to do about 60 miles on country roads. The seat height
is quite tall at 880mm. A lowering kit (850mm) is available at no extra cost
when ordering. At 6 foot nothing I had both my feet firmly placed on the ground.
The seat is narrow at the front and along with a very streamlined chassis
there’s no problem reaching the ground despite the tall seat height. If you are
much shorter than 6 foot though the 850mm seat option might be a good idea. The
foot pegs are low enough for comfort and placed correctly for stand up enduro
riding. They are rubber mounted, but the rubber can be removed for safe grip
riding offroad on a rainy day.
Gear lever and foot brake were ergonomically correct for my offroad boots. The
wide aluminum handlebar is made to absorb vibrations, however some low frequency
vibrations do come through. The handlebar provides excellent control and the
turning radius is both quick and good for slow speed maneuvers and tight
offroad corners. Without having tested it, the pillion seat looks even more
comfortable than the rider’s seat, and the foot pegs seem to provide enough leg
room for comfortable touring.
The 798cc parallel twin engine comes
directly from the F 800 S. But for the F 800 GS, BMW have used modified
camshafts to allow for an even torque response. While the F 800 S engine is
tilted 30 degrees forward, the F 800 GS only tilts 8.3 degrees. This has
obviously forced quite a few modifications to the engine. Efficient cooling
while riding for miles in first and second gear terrain is one of the main
developments. Room has been made for a much wider radiator, and the new
placement of the cylinders provide ideal conditions for the lubrication system.
It has also allowed quick steering as there is plenty of space in front of the
engine both for exhaust tubing, wide radiator and the 21-inch front wheel
without using excessive rake.
The fuel injected twin cylinder engine produces a maximum 85hp @ 7,500 rpm and
83Nm @ 5,750rpm. The F 800 GS also features air suction snorkels on both sides
of the fuel tank dummy. This allows the engine to receive the air volumes
required for the torque output. The actual fuel tank is positioned under the
seat and carries a total of 16 liters
(4.2 U.S. gallons) of fuel.
I did get a couple of chances to try the top speed on the quiet South African
roads. Even when having time to push for several seconds in fifth and sixth the
F 800 GS didn’t accelerate with any authority above 200km/h (124 mph). You may
be able to push to 210 or something in favourable conditions, but not with any
ease. I was also slightly disappointed in the fact that the lower gears were not
punchier. I couldn’t help but think that I would rather have the F 800 GS
accelerate quicker to, let’s say 180-190km/h, than struggle asthmatically to
200+. Lucky for us the F 800 GS has chain final drive, so some sprocket
modifications could address this. Paralever or shaft drive lack that
As for road handling, the F 800 GS is very stable. The handsome new double
swingarm is made from die-cast aluminum. It is long for good traction, and
attached to it is an adjustable mono shock with a massive 215mm spring travel.
At the front, we find a solid 45mm upside down fork with 230mm of spring travel.
Attached to the suspension are new aluminum spoked wheels. The tires fitted are
Bridgestone Battle Wings in 90/90-21 at the front and 150/70-17 at the rear.
Knobby tires can easily be fitted.
The F 800 GS has two 300mm brake discs and 2 piston calipers in front. On our
test bikes, we also had ABS. ABS is good when you ride on unfamiliar roads and
when it’s wet, but for the offroad part I made sure to turn ABS off. This is
done by pushing the ABS button while the bike is in neutral until the ABS
warning light stops blinking. You need to do the same thing again each time the
ignition is turned off. There was no doubt that some of the roads we were riding
were very slippery, as the ABS worked hard when braking and I had some slides
when ABS was turned off.
Riding in the South African
countryside in the Valley of 1000 Hills was a very special experience. For that
reason, I wasn’t racing through too fast, as I wanted to enjoy the view. But
when I did use the throttle through the many bends, the suspension felt a tad
soft with the standard settings. I added more preload with the easily accessible
adjuster wheel. That was all I needed to feel more comfortable through the
Although a narrow front tyre is great for quick steering, but naturally less
stable at high speed than a wider road tire, on the 800 GS I could cruise
effortlessly at the same top speed of a typical single-cylinder 650 with much
The F 800 GS is definitely more of a long range motorcycle than any single
cylinder enduro. The M-shaped fly fairing didn’t protect that much from the
wind, but helped minimize any headshake or buffeting to my offroad helmet.
Fitted as standard is the mid-sized fly fairing in the GS programme. A taller
touring screen is available. In sixth gear, which works mostly as an overdrive,
I was quite happy with the response from around 100km/h (62 mph). This is all
you need to pass a slower car on the motorway. For a really fast overtake on a
single-lane road, I would click down a gear or two though.
I heard moaning from some other journos about the F 800 GS having too little
power. I agree that the GS feels a bit asthmatic on top, and that the three
lower gears could be lower still for more punch, but I feel that the F 800 GS is
a good package despite this. I believe that 85 horsepower in a travel enduro
that is much lighter and more agile than one with 100 horsepower is a lot more
useful to a lot more people.
After lunch, a few of us psyched ourselves up to do the “black route” up a
mountain and down the other side. BMW had on all of the bikes the semi
road/gravel Bridgestone Battle Wing tires. Our South African guides were on
machines such as the G 650 Xchallenge and HP2 Enduros with knobby tires. We did
reduce the air pressure in the tires for more grip. After a few miles, I was
aching for some knobby tires and I know that would have been a huge confidence
boost for me and it would have allowed me to go much faster. At probably the
trickiest place along the route, I got stuck in a steep uphill rut. With
knobbies and some more punch in that first gear, this wouldn’t have been a
problem at all. I could have paddled through and lifted the front wheel out with
the engine power. However, the F 800 GS in standard shape isn’t quite that kind
of bike. So I really was stuck and had to back up with some help. At that point,
I swapped the F 800 GS for a G 650 Xchallenge that easily criss-crossed the rut
and provided real grip on the grass next to the long rut on the narrow path. At
the top of the mountain, I swapped back to the F 800 GS.
Further down the mountain I passed that wild dog having his nap in the trail. It
got steeper and steeper from there on, and momentum was important. Passing some
big rocks and horizontal trenches was no problem at all on the F 800 GS. The
suspension action, riding position and controls are all very suitable for this
type of riding. Low down torque was lacking though, so I had to keep it going on
momentum. But really, with some knobby tires it would have all been cheesecake.
You don’t really get a true feeling for a bikes Dry Weight until you are stuck
and have to move forwards and backWards to get out. The F 800 GS is a claimed
185 kilos (407 lbss.), roughly twice the weight of me, and neither light nor
heavy in this segment. Sliding into ruts is mostly rider error, but with some
knobbies it would have been easier to make some mistakes and get out again. I am
not sure of the exact mileage we did on gravel and trails, but it took us about
5 hours to get out and onto paved roads again. Only shame about it is that none
of the photographers managed to get up there in their 4×4’s, so we didn’t get
any shots of the action until we were down from the mountain on normal gravelled
I am quite impressed with how the new F 800 GS tackled all this on road tires.
One thing that I am absolutely convinced of now is that the F 800 GS is a much
better offroad motorcycle than the big 1200 Boxer. On well maintained gravelled
roads the F 800 GS is the best travel enduro I have ridden since the KTM 990
Adventure. The handling is sublime, the suspension action predictable and the
big 800cc engine doubles as a touring machine of some class. The F 800 GS really
works better as an all-rounder than the big 1200cc Boxer mainly because it
is narrower and lighter.
The most versatile motorcycle in the F-series
Decent suspension and handling
Really works well offroad
The F 800 engine lacks a little bit of oomph in lower gears for the enthusiast.
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