BMW F800R proudly shows sporty side
VERY REASONABLY PRICED BMW ROADSTER DELIVERS A SNAPPY RIDE ALONG WITH SOME HIGH TECH GOODIES
At first glance BMW’s F800R is a strange-looking beast. Sure it’s shaped like a modern standard motorcycle, but then you see the fuel filler cap sits alongside the seat. What witchcraft is this?
It’s a simple concept to lower the centre of gravity on the bike — but is startling nevertheless.
The F800R, if the name hasn’t already given it away, is closely related to the F800GS tested earlier this year.
With the same under-seat fuel tank feeding the same 798cc parallel twin engine, with an identical gauge cluster, and indicators, you’d think that it would have a very similar personality to its off-road sibling. But it doesn’t.
BMW has heavily updated the F800R for the 2015 model year, bringing out more of the sport side of the entry-level roadster.
The most obvious change from the previous model is the new single headlight. BMW has bowed to rider pressure and ditched the bizarre twin headlight arrangement for a much better looking contemporary-styled single unit.
The forks have been hit with the upgrade stick, featuring USD forks matched with BMW’s excellent electronic suspension system.
This means that at the touch of a button you can change the way the bike handles without having to jump off and break out the tool kit.
The electronic suspension proved its weight in ice packs when I decided to catch up with two mates on a long ride around Auckland’s Hunua Ranges. Switching the suspension to the comfort setting ensured that after a good four hours in the saddle I was still comfortable.
With a very steep rake of 64 degrees the forks are much closer to the sport setup than touring.
At higher speeds you don’t notice it, but while in slow traffic around town you feel the big steering damper preventing the forks from snapping too quickly from side to side.
The saddle and new foot peg arrangement (10mm forward and down on last year) help ensure the F800R perfectly holds you in without ever becoming uncomfortable or sending vibrations through to your backside.
There’s an easily removable pillion seat cover to give the F800R a sportier look too.
The 798cc engine now puts out a solid 66kW and 86 Nm — up 2 Kw on last year’s model. This has resulted in a punchy-feeling ride, and you can’t help but twist the throttle on full out of corners.
Leaving on our ride from Drury, the first thing to do was see what the F800R was like getting up to motorway speeds.
The result was a beautiful cacophony of induction noise and an all too quick blast up to 100km.
The parallel twin is incredibly punchy low down in the rev range in almost any gear.
Even in the rain-soaked roads of the Hunuas I took joy in winding on the throttle to exit corners and listen to that huge airbox just inches away from my face.
All this fun did come at a cost, and with a fresh downpour came the frightening realisation that traction means everything when riding in the wet Hunuas.
At one point as I eased around a tight 45km corner and gently rolled on the throttle, the rear wheel hit a section of bare seal and the back end wagged wildly.
Before I knew it the Automatic Stability Control (ASC) had kicked in and rescued me from a painful meeting with the pavement.
While the ASC is really quite good, even BMW knows it has limits and doesn’t recommend using it on track or off-road.
They point out repeatedly in the owner’s manual that it is limited “by the laws of physics”.
With Brembo calipers fitted, and ABS hauling you up, the F800R stops as quickly as it takes off. Around town it did feel to be a little too good at first with the forks prone to diving.
But once you get used to the brakes you learn to use them effectively.
When it comes to living with the F800R, BMW has some genuinely clever tricks up its sleeve.
While prepping the bikes for the ride, my two companions were complaining about how hard accessing the air valve for their tyres is.
One look at the BMW showed a much easier fitting than the traditional centre of the wheel setup.
BMW fitted the tyre valves within the spokes of the new lightweight alloy wheels, making it a much less fiddly exercise.
By far the best thing about the F800R is its reasonable price. At $16,990 it is $5000 cheaper than the GS sibling and is one of the most affordable BMW bikes in the present range. For that you get all that tech and a beautifully punchy engine.
PROS & CONS 2015 BMW F800R
ENGINE: 798CC PARALLEL TWIN
INTERESTING FEATURES: UNDER-SEAT FUEL TANK
PROS: Very comfortable, excellent cabin, amazing induction noise, plenty of tech
CONS: Polarising styling