RideApart Review: BMW F800R

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An accessible, naked BMW? Sounds like teutonically overbuilt, Germanically practical perfection, right? Wrong.

Photos: Grant Ray

What’s New:
The engine on the BMW F800R pretty much the same as the F800S/ST, but there’s a new double-sided swingarm and chain final drive instead of a belt (according to the hype, it’s there so Chris Pfeiffer can swap in granny gears). That probably makes a bigger difference than it sounds like it does; it adds two inches to the wheelbase.

The F800S is actually discontinued in the US now, leaving this as the sportier version of the new F800GT.
But yeah, same beam frame, same underseat fuel tank, flat bars. Compared to the ST, the 798cc parallel-twin is up 2bhp to 87bhp at 8,000rpm while torque remains 63lb/ft at 6,000rpm.

What’s Good:
It’s not a bad motorcycle, just not of the level we’ve come to expect from BMWs like the S1000RR, R1200RT, F800GS and R1200GS, all of which are essentially perfect. It’d be a great commuter, if you’re short. But being a great commuter just isn’t terribly exciting and, for the price it just doesn’t make sense next to cheaper rivals.

What’s Bad:
The digital gauge still waits a long time before it starts ticking off gradations. But, on the R, it doesn’t wait all the way till half-tank before giving you any meaningful readings, more like 3/4.

The unadjustable forks and preload/rebound shock err on the soft side and while the engine is deceptively fast, it’s also transparently flat and unexciting. The flipside of the stability added by the increased wheelbase and non-adjustable steering damper is that, despite the flat bars, it’s slow to turn. You can hustle it, it’d just rather you didn’t.

This optioned-up model does have heated grips and ABS, the upright riding position does deliver good vision when you’re splitting lanes, it does have a reasonable 4.2-gallon fuel tank. But, it lacks the easy-going character of air-cooled, opposed-twin BMWs like the R1200R. Where those bikes feel like unstoppable, everlasting tanks, the F800R is a little more urgent, a little less refined, a lot less comfortable.

A weird riding position, that has you totally upright, with a very short reach to the surprisingly narrow flat bars. The exhaust pipe also gets in the way of your left boot if you’re toes-on-pegs hanging off. The end result is cramped legs, elbows tucked into your chest and, despite the optional fly screen, totally exposed to the wind. You could and probably should fix that with some flat Renthals. Bringing your torso forward a few degrees into the wind would help a lot.

Bumblebee yellow and black just isn’t appealing to anyone over the age of five and the assymetric headlights that looks so distinctive on the beaked F800GS are just sort of left sitting there in the wind on top of the weedy forks. The engine looks like it belongs in a generator, the seat unit is clunky and the taillight looks like a baboon’s rear end.

The optional ABS isn’t one of the unobtrusive, latest generation systems like that fitted to the S1000RR, instead it’s over-eager to take over, noticably pulsating the levers when it does. Braking over some tar snakes from very high speed into a very tight corner, I actually became worried that I was going to run straight ahead, over a cliff, because the brakes were skipping instead of working.

Starts vibing your hands to sleep above 80mph, where it crosses the 5,000rpm threshold in top gear.

There’s three seat options at no cost. The stock item (on our bike) sits at 31.5 inches tall, the low and high options add or subtract an inch from that. With the standard seat and my 34-inch inseam, the pegs are just too high for a bike like this. It’s not a sportbike, so why are my feet up my crack? Sadly, it doesn’t feel like adding an inch to the seat height would be a huge help.

The Verdict:
I’ll put it this way: You could commute every week day on a Triumph Street Triple R, then tear up track days on weekends. The BMW only does one of the two. You know which one.

RideApart Rating: 3/10

  • Benjamin Reynolds

    For almost 11 grand I better at least get upside down forks.

  • TP

    Ah, the good ol’ HFL “this bike blows” review.

  • Mark D

    This bike would be way cooler if it just had the little 650 single in it, and cost $7,000.

    • appliance5000

      ktm

  • CruisingTroll

    Ouch. And those fugly asymmetrical headlights just add to the fail. At least it already comes in lemon yellow.

  • Jason 1199

    Who pays 11gs for one of these?

    • JP

      Hopefully no one. You don’t even get the BMW quirks.

      • Damo Von Vinland

        Agreed. For 11k you could get on Street Triple R, Hypermotard, Z1000 or any of the modern retros.

  • el_jefe

    Sounds like this is the Buell Blast of BMWs.

  • Piglet2010

    “…BMWs like the S1000RR, R1200RT, F800GS and R1200GS, all of which are essentially perfect.”

    RideApart ratings of 8, 9, 7 and 8, respectively, mean essentially perfect?

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      Well 5 is average, so those are some exceptionally good scores.

  • Scott Sweeney

    I took one of these on a test ride in San Diego (I walked in hoping for a Nuda 900….. dreaming) This review nails it. I think you’re actually being a bit nice. It was simply bland no more, no less.

  • Arin Macchione

    Shortest “What’s Good” paragraph to date?

  • Richard Gozinya

    Reminds me of a Street Triple, if I was on acid.

  • kentaro

    Gotta have a crappy standard for service loaners.

  • Kevin

    I tried that engine in the F800GT. Not a fan, all vibes and no character.

  • Jordan

    I think BMW could take a lesson from Ducati by offering an affordable, exciting entry into the brand by way of the Monster, because clearly, the F800 clearly is not it.

  • ColoradoS14

    As an Aprilia Shiver owner, I am amazed at how many Shiver owners on the forums test rode or previously owned one of these and could not be happier to be on the Shiver now. One guy owns both and his wife rides the F800R and he says all the time how boring and uninspiring the bike is.

  • Jeremy

    I’m glad to see we’re still exercising the lower end of the rating scale.

  • runrunny

    “Braking over some tar snakes from very high speed into a very tight
    corner, I actually became worried that I was going to run straight
    ahead, over a cliff, because the brakes were skipping instead of
    working.”

    Sounds like the ABS saved your ass from operator error.

    • Stuki

      Only in the sense that not knowing your machine’s limitations before exercising them in a risky environment is an error. If you’re used to hard braking on a Street Triple, or Panigale, or whatever big buck hyper machinery Wes rides day to day, old school BMW ABSs are extremely unnerving for “spirited riding.”

      Good (s1000rr and similar) abs shouldn’t cut in much at all over tar snakes, since snakes are almost by definition narrow enough that the tire will regrip before anything untowards happen. Old BMW systems will instead completely let off all brakes, then take it’s merry time before considering whether it is time to try a bit of braking again. In the rain, over steel plate or in mud, they’re still better than 99% of riders; but on dry pavement over tar snakes, I’d be very surprised if committed knee draggers like Wes are’nt seriously, to the point of being taken by surprise, disadvantaged by them.

  • HammSammich

    This is all I can think of when I look at these headlights…

    • HammSammich

      Sorry…didn’t see that the images were attaching. Oops…

    • TheBoatDude

      Ack! Thhpt!

      But yes, as soon as the 800 GS’s originally came out (especially in orange) my first thought was Bill the Cat…

  • Dan

    Here’s my pipe dream for how this bike could be amazing:
    1. BMW launches naked S1000R, draws renewed interest in super-naked segment (extremely likely)
    2. Market for supersports improves, BMW launches S600RR (plausible – they admit to having the engine)
    3. CEO goes out to lunch, mischievious engineer launches S600R during his absense (a stretch)
    4. F800R is banished to island of misfit toys (pretty please)

  • Justin McClintock

    Aesthetically, this thing is bad. It’s headlights look like they’re trying way to hard for the street fighter crowd or the “different for different’s sake” BMW ridiculousness, but they just look stupid. And the frame looks like something you’d find on a Hyosung 650. Plenty of that could be forgiven if bike didn’t check in north of, say, $8.5K. But sadly, at just shy of $11K, it needs work. Remind me why anybody would buy one of these instead of a Yamaha FZ-09….

    • Stuki

      Abs.
      And, More so than any other brand aside from Harley, BMW enjoys a semicaptive group of buyers/riders, that simply don’t consider other brands. According to someone that should know, part of the business case for the S1000RR was that, even if it ended up losing money; by simply keeping their unusually wealthy and brand loyal customers from ever having a reason to get to know another brand’s bikes and dealers for their track and sport bikes, the bottom line for the company as a whole would benefit greatly.

  • 480272

    BMW are going through some styling issues at the moment….

  • John

    If you want a cheap 2-cylinder commuter bike but have to have an expensive BMW……..

  • John

    “assymetric”?!? Is that a measurement system for sarcastic people? If so, count me in.

  • Jim Lahey

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TI1J58-5xJ4
    Ya, this bike is “slow to turn… “

  • Jim Lahey
  • Paul Adams

    Have one on vacation rental. Review spot on. Cramped legs even with a 30″ inseam. Bars so narrow the mirrors reflect my elbows. Engine doesn’t just look like it belongs on portable generator it sounds like it. If it has a sweet spot I have yet to find it. Plenty of vibration. Wind deflector worse than a joke. Improperly working fuel gauge. At least its not yellow and has heated grips. Since I am short and ride an R1100R I was really hoping to like this bike but it doesn’t really seem to be on par. Not a fan of the expandable mini saddlebags either.