Long Term Keeper
Have BMW created the ultimate mid weight adventure bike? We think they have.Photos by iKapture
When you hang out with a bunch of adventure bike riders you will always end up in a ‘why don’t they?’ conversation. Why don’t KTM build a 700cc Adventure? Why don’t Suzuki make a fuel injected DR650? Why don’t Yamaha make an 800cc Tenere? Why doesn’t Honda make an Africa Twin? Why don’t BMW make an F800GS with more fuel capacity? After that it usually moves to ‘why do they bother making...?’ conversation. I won’t go there as Clubby reckons I’ve received my quota of hate mail for the year so I’ll move on. Seriously. Since my I got my Mum a computer the correspondence hasn’t stopped.
Well, somebody has been listening, certainly not to the American market for a change, and BMW have delighted us and taken the logical step and created the BMW F800GS Adventure. It’s a no brainer really. Take what is basically a proven formula, give it greater fuel capacity and upgrade the suspension appropriately. BMW have done just that but have included some extras that make this model very appealing.
What is It?
BMW have created, what maybe, the best all round adventure tourer. This bike has been made for Australia with increased comfort and greater fuel range. It’s certainly the right combination for chewing up big miles across the Aussie outback. And it didn’t take much to transform this GS to a GSA.
The basic platform is the proven F 800 GS’s liquid cooled, 798cc, four valve parallel twin with a six speed transmission, long travel suspension, 21” front wheel and 17” rear shod with Continental TKC 80s and a O-ring chain drive that operates in and around a tubular steel frame. The main difference is the larger fuel tank for which the rear subframe has been strengthened, and weather protection has been increased in the form of a larger body cowl and a larger screen. The suspension has also been upgraded to handle the extra weight. The engine has BMW’s basic crash protection, LED auxiliary lights and BMW’s advanced ABS is standard. Optional extras include an Enduro Package ESA and ASC which are factory fitted. Then there are the BMW accessories including hard luggage, tank bag, high seats, sports exhausts and GPS.
What Do You Get For The Money?
The BMW F 800 GSA has the Rotax built, fuel injected, water-cooled, 2-cylinder, 4-stroke, four valves per cylinder, two overhead camshafts with dry sump lubrication engine. Its bore and stroke of 82 mm x 75.6 mm gives it a capacity of 798 cc which turns out 63 kW (85hp) at 7,500 rpm and a maximum torque of 83 Nm at 5,750 rpm. Nothing new there. The 800cc engine has the same mass balance shaft located below the crankshaft giving it a torquey, smooth power delivery makes it easier to manage a bike of this size in technical conditions. The engine is afforded crash protection bars and a skid plate, which needless to say, should be standard on all serious adventure bikes.
The main feature of the bike is the new 24 Litre tank giving the bike an extra eight litres capacity increasing the range to around 120km more depending on who is twisting the throttle. The tank is, as before, located under the seat and is camouflaged by the BMW luggage rack system, which wraps tightly around the tank and in turn provides crash protection for the large fuel cell. The airbox, as before, is located above the engine but is now surrounded by new bodywork that provides the riders legs with improved weather protection. Aesthetically the larger cowling balances out the look of the bike and helps disguise the F 800 GSA’s big booty.
Finally, 800 breathes out through a closed-loop 3-way catalytic converter, emission standard EU-3 exhaust system and the engine drives through a Multiple-disc clutch in oil bath, constant mesh 6-speed gearbox integrated into crankcase and a O-ring chain with shock damping in rear wheel hub.
The tubular steel frame with its strengthened subframe features the upgraded suspension package with 45mm USD front forks up front with 230mm wheel travel with a single rear shock supporting a cast aluminium swingarm with up to 215mm of travel with a 21” wheel on the front and a 17” on the rear. The twin, floating 300mm brake discs are matched with Brembo double-piston floating calipers and a single 265mm disc on the rear with a single-piston floating calliper which have no trouble handling the extra carrying capacity. The F800 GSA comes standard with ABS which not only works well but can be switched off for those who like to brake slide to point the bike in the right direction when need be.
With the larger tank the seat height has been increased from the standard 880 mm high to 890mm with a low seat option up from 850mm to 860mm. The standard seat design was was never well received but the new two tone adventure seat has been redesigned to a more stepped design. It’s a one-piece design as opposed to a two piece set up. The seat options include the one colour low seat, standard two-tone seat and a tall two-tone seat. There’s no charge if you opt for a low seat when you purchase the bike.
Other than switchable ABS the new F800 GSA comes standard with white LED Indicators, heated grips, on board computer, hand guards, centre stand and the previously mentioned full hoop luggage racks. The final touch which sets the adventure model apart from the standard GS are the LED auxiliary lights with the switch residing in the handlebar control cluster. The new GSA comes in two new colours, Racing Red and Sand Rover Uni matt. While the matt finish gave it a desert camo finish it reminded me of my parents beige lounge room walls. Personally I prefer the red as it reminds me of the classic red R1200 GSA.
Who's Buying It?
The BMW F800GSA is a time proven package and like any BMW GSA model it will be a classic. So anybody who sees themselves as a long haul adventurer in the long term and can afford the investment will see this bike as a keeper. At $18,500 the F800 GSA is within reach of the masses. Well, upper middle class masses. If you think $18,500 is still a little out of your league then take the time to check out some BMW Finance options.
On the other hand if you were thinking about a basic R1200 GS then a fully optioned F800 GSA could be to good to resist.
Where Did We Ride It?
When it comes to BMW media launches it’s more about where did we eat? Nevertheless we did eventually ride the bike. We started from Kingscliff Beach just south of the New South Wales/Queensland border on the Tweed Coast. We headed west out through the hinterland south of the border through Kyogle country to our overnight stop at Urberville Pub and headed back the following day. The route was roughly 50/50 road/dirt from country tarmac to tight forest twin track. Special guest on our ride was Chris Vermeulen who, since retiring from racing, has invested in two BMW dealerships in Queensland.
What's To Like?
At first glance you have to do a double take to check that it’s not a R1200 GSA. The cowling in front of the rider has been widened providing the riders legs with additional protection from the elements. Combined with the taller screen shielding from the elements is head and shoulders above the standard F800 GS. Ergo’s work well with a comfortable riding position either seated or standing. New wider footpegs are a welcome addition that, when supplied standard, include rubber inserts which can be removed for off road riding. The rear brake pedal is adjustable and reinforced and the extension can be folded down providing better reach when standing on the pegs. The new standard seats are very comfortable and feature two-tone colour scheme to match the colour of the bike.
Simple standard extras like heated grips, on board computer, centre stand, engine crash protection and skid plate make this model more adventure ready from the showroom. While the rear of the bike is physically wider than other bikes in its class it’s nicely disguised with the rear luggage racks that wrap tightly around the rear tank. Above all the increased range of the F800 GSA is its main selling point.
If you can afford to option up then this is the bike to do it with. The ABS is standard but our test bikes were fully optioned and for good reason. It’s friggin’ great.
On previous models were ABS and traction control (ACS) is either on or off. The F800 GSA features Enduro Mode which, includes ASC. This increases the slip threshold of both the ACS and ABS. So I found that under acceleration the rear wheel would still spin a little and under heavy braking allow the rear to lock up a little to allow the bike to slide into and out of corners. The harder I rode the better it seem to work. Under acceleration out of corners I found the trick is to be as smooth as possible. Once you master that the bike slides nicely without cracking lose and pointing you in the oppose direction.
The Electronic Suspension Adjustment (ESA) has comfy, normal and sport settings. The sport setting works well, when transiting between off-road and tarmac and while off-road we were always in comfy mode. Both ABS and ASC (traction control) can be switched on and off on the fly. Another optional extra is the factory fitted anti-theft alarm and as with other BMW models a Low Suspension option is available.
Five years ago I cursed BMW ABS on the 650 Dakar. I went through more pairs of underwear than ever before when I forgot to turn off the ABS as I plummeted down steep tracks to the point where I considered buying a box of Huggies. However, in Enduro Mode I left ABS on for the whole ride and only turned off the traction control after I felt confident on the bike. How much of a difference does the Enduro mode work? While chasing after Chris Vermeulen behind Miles and Big Trev we came to a sharp left hand corner. Chris was riding a new F800 GS with standard ABS, which he forgot to turn off. While the rest of us made the corner without much fuss, Chris went straight on and over the edge. Fortunately it was a grassy slope and Chris was found halfway down the embankment pointing back up the hill surround by cow paddies instead of a gravel trap.
At $18,500 the F800 GSA with ABS standard plus a whole heap of essential add on accessories like heated grips centre stand taller screen, larger tank, LED auxiliary lights along with BMW Quality build and service makes it an investment worth considering.
What's Not To Like?
Everything that was missing and disappointed me about the standard F800 GS has been included on the F800 GSA. So I’m kind of scratching my head here. Our test bikes were fitted with Touratech headlight guards but that’s because Australian motorcycle media enjoy having a bit of a dig and roosting each other. Unintentionally, of course. One thing I did notice is that the luggage racks are shaped to fit around the tank and not flat like other racks. So it appears that only BMW luggage boxes will fit limiting customers choices. Oh yeah and I’m not crazy about Beige.
The Final Word?
This bike has set the benchmark for the mid size market. It combines the basic essentials of an off-road tourer with increased fuel range and comfort while electronic aids can be set to the individual riders skill level allowing a little or maximum input from the rider. Basically with a luggage system and GPS you can ride this model straight out of the showroom and into the outback. While there’s plenty of room for a box of Huggies, you won’t need them.