RideApart Review: BMW F800R

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

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