are branching out. As
well as the quirky boxers and brutish inline fours
we've got used to recently, they've recently gone into the
world of parallel twins with their new F800S. In the spirit
of impartiality we got two of our writers - Jocke Selin and
Clare Gamby - to have a go and give us the benefit of their
rather different perspectives.
Being an old fashioned sort of chap at heart, it's ladies
As you’ve probably noticed by now, I’m not one of the usual suspects when it comes
to doing bike reviews (hey, I leave that to the experts!),
but on this occasion I just had to put something down on paper.
Well screen I guess.
Those who know me know that I ride bikes for the simplest
of reasons – pure pleasure. I don’t know all the
technical bits and pieces nor do I want to. All I want to
know is does it press the right buttons for me and how big
is the grin factor? Simple really.
Bearing that in mind, I’ll happily jump on to any two-wheeled
beastie – big or small - and try it out. Very rarely
do I have preconceived ideas about any bike brand or model,
which has served me well over the years. Except for Ducati
and boy was I wrong there! In a good way, honest. But that’s
Anyhow. BMW. Hmm. By default, I tend to associate BMW with
four wheels, not two (almost certainly because I have the
four wheeled variety as my other mode of transport). So I
was having a bit of an attitude adjustment as I headed off
to our friendly local BMW dealership in Oxford. But hey, it
was a launch day and I’m always curious about anything
new on the market. After a bigger delay than hoped –
oh the joys of putting my own bike through its service! –
we made it there just as they were wheeling the bikes back
in to their beds for the night. Arse. No chance of having
much more than a quick look over the main attraction for me:
the new F800S.
appearance terms, first impressions told me that it most certainly
is a BMW but I have to say that it looked like it had an air
of cheekiness about it. I was intrigued. In fact, intrigued
enough to book a test ride for the following Saturday. Ho
hum, a week to wait then.
In the meantime, I had a nose through the obligatory glossy
brochure. You know the sort. Big evocative lifestyle shots
and no more than five words to a page? Very informative –
apparently. I’m sure it will look great on a coffee
(switch to fast forward mode for one week)
So here we are it’s Saturday morning at last. Ooh yummy.
Just looked out the window and the weather is what can best
be described as interesting. Blowing a gale but not raining
– yet. By the look of the clouds I decide it’s
only a matter of time as I shuffle into my Gore-Tex and head
Pulling in to North Oxford garage, I’m a little disappointed
to note that the little fellow is nowhere to be seen. No matter
though as by the time I’ve had my complimentary warm-up
coffee, the F800S turns up. That’ll be Jocke then. Not
wishing to push him out of the way entirely unceremoniously,
we exchanged a few comments about the bike and I got shown
the once over on the controls by Phil, the Sales Manager.
Time to set off. On tick over did the F800S have a throaty
grumble? Hmm. More like a slightly agricultural bit of phlegm.
But I won’t hold that against it and I’m sure
there are more than a few Buell owners out there who would
recognise a hint of familiarity at the sound and maybe even
smile fondly. Twisting the throttle, the tone tightened in
pitch and purpose and I was heading off down the back roads.
Very quickly it became apparent to me just how user-friendly
the F800S is, dipping delightfully into and out of corners
and roundabouts and when you put the power down, reacting
like an ever-so-slightly ecstatic – but well-trained
- red setter welcoming a returning owner.
With a fairly upright position (don’t forget I normally
have to fold myself origami-style onto my GSXR750), the ride
was wonderfully comfortable and I could quite easily imagine
setting out for a blast on a sunny summer morning only to
get mildly confused when what would seem like minutes later
the sun would be setting and visibility through my tinted
visor would be getting a little difficult. Not a bad dilemma
to find oneself in though on consideration.
As the miles went by, I kept wondering why I was running
out of oomph (note the use of a technical word there! I’ve
read the books, I know what I’m talking about!). Ah,
that’ll be me topping out through the gears then. This
twin made me want to ride it absolutely pinned on the throttle,
which I later found out was the preferred approach of the
BMW team when they first got to test ride a bunch of them
at Donington. In fact, Phil did say that given the choice
between the F800S and the other bikes
on offer, for a blast around the track 9 out of 10 people
were opting for the F800S purely for the grin factor. As my
first proper bike was a twin, I can totally relate to that
and this one did not disappoint me either, particularly when
the weather decided to take a turn for the worst. In the rain
my own bike can be a little sensitive, skittish even, such
that caution tends to override the fun factor somewhat. So
it was an absolute pleasure to be bowling along the winding
country roads on the BMW as the rain lashed down and feel
how planted the wheels felt and neither notice or care about
how wet the roads and I were getting. In fact, I was rather
miffed when I realised it was time to turn around and head
Somewhat reluctantly, I handed the keys back. It must have
shown on my face how much fun I’d had as I soon find
myself talking through with Phil what options I would have
on it if I bought one. Would I? If I could afford to run two
bikes, then absolutely no question.
So what were my yardsticks for this test ride? Grin factor
and button pressing if I remember correctly. Well, if we briefly
go literal and put aside the slightly eccentric (to me anyway)
indicator switch set up that BMW seem to prefer and a not-as-smooth-as-I’d-like
gearbox, the F800S most certainly did press the right buttons
for me. I can only describe my behaviour as hooning. Oh and
giggling. A lot. Which I guess covers off the grin factor
If you’re in the market for a ride all day, go anywhere,
torquey little number, then you really should check out the
F800S. In my opinion it really does beat any other comparative
model out there.
Here's Jocke's take on it:
A while back it seemed
to me that BMW had their model lineup all figured out a long
time ago. That they had kind of reached a maturity stage and
didn't "need" to introduce new models, but the steadily
kept on working on what they had. I should have known better.
The first sign of radical change was the introduction of the
K1200S. But still at that point, little did I see that there
actually was a gaping hole between the F650 models and the
1200cc models. We all should have been able to anticipate
that something was going to fill that gap.
When BMW announced the F800S it was clear, and it made perfect
sense. A middleweight model series that would fit ideally
as a first or second bike (sure it will suit anyone who doesn't
crave massive power, but more about that in a bit).
The bike they have introduced is actually quite a peach.
It's got an 800cc parallel twin that produces 85 bhp in an
182 kg (dry) chassis. That means that the bike isn't a racer
but it'll hang off the cruisers for sure. Unlike the "big"
BMWs the F800 series comes with "traditional" telescopic
forks, just like the F650 series. And just like the F650 Scarver
the F800 series has got a belt drive instead of a chain or
shaft drive. Naturally most of the usual BMW goodies are available
for a "nominal" (cough) fee.
think this bike is quite a good looking one, it's not art
but a good looking bike. The parts that strike me the most
is the beautifully sculpted swing arm, the very nice way the
engine has been left exposed under the frame and somehow,
the top fairing looks kind of business. The wheels have got
the same sporty styling as the K1200S with swept spokes.
The controls and instrumentation are familiar to anyone who's
ridden BMWs before, which I think might be a bit of a miss
from BMWs part, especially as the bike is angled into a market
segment that's new for BMW. These potential new riders aren't
accustomed to BMW's special controls. What I'm especially
thinking of is the indicator system that requires you to first
activate the indicator on the side you're turning to, and
then cancel with your right thumb. I would much rather have
seen traditional switchgear that everyone is familiar with.
Luckily the quirkyness hasn't transpired to the instruments
as they are, as per BMW, very clear and concise. On the top
you have a speedometer, and just below the rev counter, to
the right of both of them you have a big LCD display that
gives you a lot of information. One useful piece of information
is the gear indicator; you won't have to look for that 7th
ghost gear anymore.
In the old days, parallel twins have been known as the suicidal
engine layout due to their tendency to simply vibrate themselves
to death. I'm glad to say that time has moved on progress
can clearly be both heard and felt in this new engine. Sure
you can feel that it's a twin, and even that it's a parallel
twin, but it does not have any suicidal tendencies. The beauty
with a parallel twin is the extremely compact layout along
with the relatively cheap manufacturing costs (only one cylinder
head for example). Give the engine a bit of revs in neutral
and and even the most mechanically sympathetic persons out
there will keep their heart intact.
Out on the roads the bike is completely unintimidating, it's
stable and secure. The power is there, but not in anyway in
a scary way. It's got plenty of torque to rescue even the
doziest rider out of any "oops-I-forgot-to-change-gear"-situation.
This is a very relaxing bike to ride; it really compliments
you as a rider and I think that's very important in a segment
like this. If you want a bucking bronco, go buy a ZX-10 instead.
Thanks to the belt drive, you've got instant drive without
any of the negative aspects of a chain drive or even a shaft
drive. The chain tends to be noisy and clunky with a variable
level of slack. Not to mention messy. The shaft drive is heavy
and eats into your power, but it also has got a tendency to
raise and lower the bike under acceleration and deceleration.
The belt drive is quiet, tight and clean. With a service interval
of 20,000 miles you shouldn't have much to worry about.
The suspension adds to the package by being firm but not too
sporty, normal road riding is just perfect. Nasty bumps are
soaked up nicely, whilst still avoiding a spongy feeling.
It's a bit sad that BMW didn't use one of their excellent
front suspension set-ups as I think that would have added
to the secure feeling of the bike. A bike in this class that
didn't dive under braking would surely have inspired a lot
of potential new business. But don't fret, the telescopic
forks are well up for the job.
Another part of the bike that soothes the rider is the brakes,
good feel and plenty of stopping power; business as usual
for a BMW bike. It's nice to see that no corners have been
cut; two 320mm brakes with 4pot brembo calipers operated by
steel braided hoses. It can't get much better than that. Or
can it? The ABS system is an optional extra, and still very
few new BMWs leave the factory without ABS. Just like the
newly released R1200S the F800S has also got a new version
of the ABS system. This new system only adds 1.5kg of weight
to the bike, which is quite remarkable as it involves pumps,
hoses and electrics.
I was riding the F800S on some of the nice B-roads of Oxfordshire,
I first found myself trying to get the bike to go faster to
see what it could do, but after a while I got settled into
riding the bike like it should be; like a twin. Keeping the
revs moderate and enjoying the torque. After a few more miles
I noticed that I was really enjoying myself. I was focusing
on the corners
with a smile on my face, and the bike was stable and sure-footed.
It held the line just beautifully and made me a much better
rider than I am. It gave me the chance to let my riding come
out of me naturally without any brute force or aggression.
It left me with a content smile on my face. I could have ridden
this bike day in and day out without getting bored.
The accessories list isn't the longest in the world, but
it contains the mandatory BMW stuff, like:
- Heated Grips
- Low seat
- Panniers and fastenings
- Tank bag
- Center stand
- GPS Satellite navigation
- Tinted windscreen
- Power reduction to 34bhp (for restricted license)
You can really make this bike your own BMW.
Considering that this bike's price starts from £5,999 you get quite a lot of bike despite being quite a bit more
expensive than, for example, a japanese alternative in the
same league. Add to that the 6,000 mile service intervals
and you're already starting to see that your initial investment
might actually go somewhere. Another point to remember is
that when it comes time to trade the bike in, BMWs have traditionally
held their value quite well. There's a good chance that the
dealer will offer you more than a good laugh when the time
For a first attempt at a bike that's supposed to fill the
gap between the F650 range and the 1200cc bikes I think BMW
has done an excellent job. This bike is absolutely perfect
for someone who's been riding for a while and doesn't feel
that 100+bhp is necessary. Maybe someone who's moving up from
a 650cc V-twin, or maybe one of the very popular 600cc inline
fours, such as the Bandit, Hornet or Fazer.
Or why not as a second bike to your Super Bike, this one you
could use in all weather, use the BMW luggage, enjoy the heated
grips and so forth. A bike you could really use, regardless
of who you are.
If you're even a bit curious, I'd recommend you to pop your
head into a BMW garage and take a look, and why not ask to
take the bike out for a spin. I'm sure you won't be disappointed.