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BMW F800S Review

by Alex Kent

BMW F800S Review

My review of the BMW F800S...

Update: This BMW F800S bike is for sale

Sadly (for me), this bike is now for sale pending the imminent arrival of a baby. For full information click:


I’ve had this page online as a placeholder for a couple of weeks and was surprised to see Google sending hordes of people looking for an BMW F800S Review.

 

BMW F800S - The Perfect Road - Slovenia/Swiss Border

So I thought I’d better write one!

I bought this bike in May 2008 (~18 Months) after not owning a bike for 4 years. I used to own a Honda CBR400 NC29 – but I was young and was racking up points on my licence at a scary rate, so when the opportunity came to switch to a Vauxhall Zafira for a particularly cold winter I jumped on it.

So – when I wanted to get back into biking, my criteria was:

  • Didn’t want anything too quick – I love my new clean license!
  • I wanted creature comforts – my Vauxhall Zafira was so much more comfortable than my CBR400 that I didn’t mind being stuck in endless traffic queues and taking twice as long getting places.
  • I wanted gadgets – some that keep you safe, some that keep you informed, some that keep you warm and some that keep you entertained.
  • I wanted something reliable hence I was attracted to the low maintenance belt-drive (24,000 miles between changes), uncomplicated engine, and the fact that BMW made another motorbike that circum-navigated the planet.
  • I wanted something cheap to run and reliable
  • I wanted a bike that was nimble in traffic (I LOVE filtering – I see stationary cars on motorways and get excited!) – as well as comfortable on long-distance cruises.

And 18 months on, I don’t think I could have gotten a better bike to fill this criteria than the BMW F800S.

 

BMW F800S - Hiding In Campsite From Polish Hooligans

My first few weeks on the bike were like learning to ride again as it was perfectly obvious that the bike was a better bike than I was a rider. That said, it was extremely forgiving. For one, being light meant I could paddle around on it, when I would forget about parking gradients and end up trying to reverse up a hill. Also, I found my feet touch the ground nice and reassuringly – unlike the BMW 1200GS.

The months that followed and I began falling in love with this motorcycle.

 

BMW F800S - Easy To Park

One incident involved learning how good the breaks are. I was coming round a blind bend on a country road and wasn’t expecting to find stationary traffic up ahead. I did my first emergency stop, on a bend and came safely to a halt on the verge next to the tail-car. Anyway, that made me instantly recognise the need for ABS on any future bike I own. I wouldn’t buy a car without it – and now I wouldn’t buy a bike without it.

Another incident happened about 10 miles into a 100 mile journey along the south-coast. I started seeing a warning on the dash which switched over to the display of front/back tyre pressures. After a couple of miles, it was clear they were becoming deflated, so I went to a garage, pumped them up, abandoned the mission and went home for a cup of tea instead.

If that had of been the Honda CBR400 I probably wouldn’t have noticed till coming off the slipway 50 miles away from home and stranded by the side of the road. The Honda wouldn’t have been even sorry! For getting me home and not stranding me by the roadside, I fell in love with the BMW F800S all over again.

It’s also nice having a fuel gauge (along with instant/average economy) and other creature comforts such as heated grips and a comfy seat. I haven’t run out of petrol yet – this should surely be a standard feature in all motorbikes! I’m going to put my neck on the line here and say “Reserve tanks suck!”

Anyway, in May 2009 I got the chance to really put the bike through its paces on a marathon 4,115 mile/24 day trip round Europe with my bestest buddy, the BMW 1200GS Adventure owning Simon Giddings.

I look back now, and not sure how I managed to fit all that stuff in the BMW Panniers, BMW topbox and with my Buffalo Tankbag. I somehow travelled light with: jumpers, shoes, t-shirts, a weeks worth of undergarments, 2 x pair of jeans, laptop, assorted cables/chargers/adapters/converters, sleeping bag, sleeping mat, wash bag, bottled water, maps, books and my trusty Canon G3 Camera. Quite remarkable really.

For long trips like this, the BMW 1200GS Adventure definitely had the advantage, with Simon Giddings being able to pack everything a lot less neater and a lot less organised that I had to. As well as looking after the tent, he even took his motorbike cover!

The GS Adventure was certainly in its element most of the time, perhaps except in Rome where the lightness of the F800S started to show an advantage. One key advantage for the BMW 1200GS Adventure was when Simon Gidding’s Garmin 650 GPS lead us through some fields and into the country side. I got stuck in mud a couple of times where the GS Adventure just managed to plough through. Some of the roads there on the ‘shortest route’ were nothing more than dusty tracks not big enough for a car. I was concerned about getting a pebble in the drive belt, but thankfully this didn’t happen.

 

BMW F800S Being Rescued - Not Good In Mud

Also, it was clear to see that although the BMW F800S had better acceleration of the lights, the BMW 1200GS Adventure had a *lot* more power in the midrange and was constantly able to accelerate away from me when joining motorways, in country lanes and pretty much any time Simon liked! I was constantly having to drop-gears to keep up, whereas the BMW1200GS Adventure had so much torque it was not necessary.

Riding position on the BMW F800S was good and comfortable most the time, though a few hours into each day, I did get quite jealous that Simon Giddings could vary his riding position by standing up full-stretch on the pegs or rest his feet on the cylinder heads ‘Harley Hog’ Style.

Wind noise also seems quite high, but then again the Honda CBR400 is like a bullet. Earplugs are definitely needed for me over 70MPH.

That said, the BMW F800S got me and my stuff around Europe without missing a beat and I had the best adventure I’ve even had. Economically, I also paid about a lot less in petrol, averaging a respectable 62MPG whereas the BMW 1200GS Adventure managed about 47MPG. That must have really made a difference over 4,115 miles of the trip.

 

Alex Kent and BMW F800S before setting of to Europe - May 2009

It was funny how the tank range would vary over the trip, depending on where I got petrol. In the UK, I was lucky to get 200 miles out of a tank, where as in Croatia I got 250 miles at a push. That’s quite a difference, and I’m not sure if it was down to octane levels or just being in a warmer climate.

Obviously, efficiency, octane and climate couldn’t match the 350mile+ tank range of the BMW 1200GS Adventure, who had to fuel half as many times as I did.

So, all in all – the BMW F800S is an excellent bike and fulfilled my criteria to a tee.

I’d definitely recommend it to a friend.

Laughing

Alex Kent
November 2009

ps: This review is my opinion, might be different to your experience and if you’ve got anything I should add to it, contact me.

BMW F800S Croatia 2009


Sadly (for me), this bike is now for sale pending the imminent arrival of a baby. For full information click:

Posted Oct 13, 2009 by Alex Kent   
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