World First Test: BMW F800R review

Visordown supremo gives you the first ride report on BMW's new 800cc naked

Posted: 30 April 2009
by Ben Cope

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BMW F800R ... click pic for full gallery
Images courtesy of Jason Critchell

I'M AT the launch of the BMR F800R, and I've just finished the morning road ride. While the others are out on track, I thought I'd fill you in on what BMW's latest middleweight is all about.

BMW know that the market for this bike in the UK is limited; over half of their worldwide sales of middleweights are made up of just France, Spain and Italy and the UK market is comparitively small at just 4%, so you'd wonder why they're putting a lot of effort into this new middleweight class, a class saturated by bikes like the Yamaha FZ6, Honda Hornet and Suzuki Gladius. But as we've seen from their recent S1000RR Superbike, BMW like a challenge.

The F800R fits into BMW's Urban category, alongside bikes like the R1200R and K1300R, but unlike those models, the F800R runs a parallel twin. The bike has been designed over two years to take on this competitive class, while costs have been kept to a minimum. I'll run you through the areas I think BMW have skimped on to save money, but first I want to talk about the engine.

Despite being an 800, the engine doesn't make as much power as its smaller capacity middleweight rivals, but it does produce more torque and on the road that translates into smoother drive and a less manic ride. The engine pulls from as low as two-thousand revs and even if you're tickling along in top gear at 40mph, it'll pull surprisingly hard, without being laboured. During running in periods, BMW claim they got 195 miles to a tank, which is on par with an R1200GS and I don't doubt this. On my ride, after 80 miles the fuel gauge wasn't even at half full.

The gearing is spot on for this bike and the kind of riding it's designed for. First gear revs out at 60mph, second at 80mph and third at 105mph. In top gear, the F800R will cruise comfortably at 80mph, 5,500rpm with another 3,000rpm to go before you hit the redline. The maximum speed I saw was 120mph on the speedo and although the fly screen is good at deflecting the wind, at speeds over 100mph, you really do feel exposed.

The front end uses conventional forks, and not BMW's Telelever system - which is arguably better on the road - but heavier and a lot more expensive. There's no adjustment in the front end, which I thought would be a serious weak spot, but the ride is firm, on par with a Triumph Street Triple, and with the Bridgestone BT014 tyres fitted to mine, the feel and feedback was extremely positive. I test rode the bike down some seriously bumpy, fast back lane roads and only had one moment where the front end shook its head. It came as a surprise but it was far from a tank-slapper. The non-adjustable steering damper was obviously working hard, harder than if would if you could adjust the front end..

The display gives you everything you need but looks quite cheap. It's part analog, part digital, with an analog speedo and rev counter but digital readouts including gear, trip distance, tank range and outside temperature. The gear readout is comparitively huge and distracting. I'd rather this bike came with a decent digital speedo as everytime you peek down, your eye is led towards the readout displaying the gear you're in. Frankly, on the road, that's just not required.

Our bikes were fitted with ABS brakes. The rear is too obtrusive, stepping in at almost every given opportunity. I barely use the rear brakes but if I owned an F800R, I'd probably never touch it. However, the ABS on the front-end is ideally suited to a bike like this. I rode through rain, down country lanes, through town and across cobbled surfaces. The ABS adds an extra degree of confidence and only chirped in a couple of times when I provoked it. It's one of those features that you don't think about until you have to use it, but if it saves you once, you'll never want to ride without it.

While the riding position is upright, I felt the foot pegs were too high and slightly too far back. After 80 miles in the saddle, my knees were the only part of me needing a break. This riding position allows you to have a very dominant riding style, which I prefer, but if you're doing long distance and you're reasonably tall like me, you may want to fit the taller seat which should give your legs a bit more space.

Even though the F800R is here to take on the established middleweights, it's hard to compare it to a Hornet or SV650. If I wanted a Hornet, it would probably be for all the reasons I didn't want an F800R, but if you're after a bike that's capable of back-lane blasts, daily commutes and trips across Europe, then the F800R is well worth a look. As too are the Triumph Street Triple and Aprilia Shiver 750.

The only issue I have with the bike is the fact it's very basic as standard. You don't get 'much' and while the options list is as long as your arm, I feel some of the options - including a main stand and fly screen - should be included in the price, as you would need both if you wanted to put miles on the bike and easily maintain it.

BMW purists will hate the fact it hasn't got shaft drive and a single-sided swing-arm and no telelever front end but for those new to the BMW way of life, that won't matter. At £5925 OTR, this is amazingly good value for money and for a first big capacity bike or a do-it-all bike on a budget, you'd be mad not to consider it.

If you have any questions about this bike, I'll do my best to answer them. Please leave a comment below.


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Discuss this story

The price is good and that's unusual for BMW. My only question is:

Where is this bike being manufactured?

Since BMW started shifting production to China I got worried and snatched up a "German Built" R1200. I suspect a lot of Bavarians are pretty ticked off about BMW "moving" to another Continent. Welcome to the Business World of 2010.

Posted: 06/05/2009 at 13:55

The front end uses conventional forks, and not BMW's Telelever system - which is arguably better on the road - but heavier and a lot more expensive.

Did they tell you how much heavier the Telelever (orDuolever) systems are?  And how much more expensive they are to make? 

Is that bike running a 'regular' swinging fork rather than the single sided one on the S and T and is chain drive not belt?


Posted: 06/05/2009 at 16:17

@ Jim: The bike is assembled at their Berlin factory and the engine was developed together with Rotax and is produced in Austria.


Posted: 08/05/2009 at 19:18

Thank you -- delighted to hear that.  But the folks from Munich think BMW is focusing on overseas production and are quite upset.  Any truth to that?

Posted: 08/05/2009 at 20:37

Being rather challenged in the height dept does anybody know what the seat height is on the bike and if going from a Honda CBF600N would i notice a big (ie better) difference in overall performance in terms of general ride quality and acceleration etc.

Posted: 08/05/2009 at 21:05

Hudson, you can fit a a lower seat as an official BMW accessory. The performance would be in the same league as your CBF, but the BMW would give you a better tank range and is the better bike.

Posted: 03/07/2009 at 14:29

i would buy one of these.shame about the shaft drive.

Posted: 03/07/2009 at 14:49

artschool wrote (see)
i would buy one of these.shame about the shaft drive.

Shame it hasn't got it?

Posted: 03/07/2009 at 14:50

FJSRiDER. wrote (see)
artschool wrote (see)
i would buy one of these.shame about the shaft drive.

Shame it hasn't got it?
yep. One of my mates had a chain break and it almost cut his foot off.So i wouldnt mind a shaft driven bike. i am ultra careful about my chain cause of this.

Posted: 03/07/2009 at 15:19

Shafts do have their disadvantages. They sap more power and they can feel a bit different or strange when pulling off from 0 sometimes.

Posted: 03/07/2009 at 15:34


Lodonmun wrote (see)
Shafts do have their disadvantages. They sap more power and they can feel a bit different or strange when pulling off from 0 sometimes.

How much 'more' power do they sap?

What is this'different or strange' feeling?


Posted: 03/07/2009 at 15:47


FJSRiDER. wrote (see)

Lodonmun wrote (see)
Shafts do have their disadvantages. They sap more power and they can feel a bit different or strange when pulling off from 0 sometimes.

How much 'more' power do they sap?

What is this'different or strange' feeling?

never driven one myself, i have a mate with a gs1200. so i might ask him for a go.

Posted: 03/07/2009 at 16:15


artschool wrote (see)
never driven one myself, i have a mate with a gs1200. so i might ask him for a go.

Why not?  It's nothing like a F800, but there you go.

Posted: 03/07/2009 at 16:17

I don't think the F800R warrants a shaft-drive and my guess is that BMW are trying to get into the main market and so junking any 'weird' BMW technology in favour of more mainstream kit so as not to alienate potential buyers. With a Scottoiler that chain's going to last a long time and need next to no maintenance.

Posted: 03/07/2009 at 16:33

FJSRiDER. wrote (see)

Lodonmun wrote (see)
Shafts do have their disadvantages. They sap more power and they can feel a bit different or strange when pulling off from 0 sometimes.

How much 'more' power do they sap?

What is this'different or strange' feeling?

I don't know how much more power they sap. What I should have said is that they are not as efficient as chain drives (heavier moving parts) and are much heavier...meaning a bike with a shaft drive will be slightly slower than a chain driven bike when all else is equal.

Conservation of energy principals state that energy put in = energy out...but obviously some of the 'energy out' is sound, heat, and the kinetic energy of the shaft drive, which since it is related to mass, would be more that that 'lost' to a chain drive.

To me, they can feel a little strange when pullling away. Obviously not strange when you're used to them, but they can feel a tiny bit jerky when pulling away from stationary.

Saying that, the only shaft drive bike I've ever ridden a lot is an 89 NTV with 135000 on the clock..so that may have influenced my opinions regarding the 'strange feeling'.


Posted: 05/07/2009 at 13:21

Do you think this would be a good machine for someone returning to motorcycling after a few years away from them. Friends tell me that it would be a difficult ride and I would have trouble keeping the ron wheel on the ground?

Posted: 30/08/2009 at 08:35


ten
Admin wrote (see)
I don't think the F800R warrants a shaft-drive and my guess is that BMW are trying to get into the main market and so junking any 'weird' BMW technology in favour of more mainstream kit so as not to alienate potential buyers.

Not convinced by that. From my perspective I've always wanted to see a mid-weight dual-capability bike that uses their tried & tested shaft without that more than clumpy antique boxer set-up in the frame.

 With a Scottoiler that chain's going to last a long time and need next to no maintenance.

 ... sure... I've had 45K from an OE C&S on the road which had more life in the chain but was let down by a toothless front sprocket... but for distance riding on & off road I'd still be tempted by a shaft ... a chain will pick up too much crud which then acts like a paste, grinding the thing to death.

Edit... I know you're refering to the 'R', but do we really need another roadster in a 'saturated' market, especially when their own sales figures show an increased interest in on/off road adventure style riding. I think folk will no doubt be tempted by the badge alone at that price but still think they're missing a trick... their GSs are too big, expensive and are suffering too many reliability issues for many & even their other [dual] 800 uses a chain. Perhaps there is a power issue here as only their litre+ K series use shaft drives in a non-boxer set-up.

Suzuki managed it in the 80s with their unbreakable 650/850 road bikes so it is possible, .... but I can't think there's ever been a proper dual sport, which is a shame, because it's the bike I've always wanted them to build, and believe that's what the market is crying out for.


Posted: 30/08/2009 at 11:48

I'm considering the F800R and the FZ1-S. Although it doesn't have the power of the FZ, it looks and sounds nice, but i'm afraid i'll get bored quickly, as the 80 horsepower are 20-25 less than in my former Yamaha FZ6 S2, and there's no peak power.

 I'm sure the F800R is a far better drive in the daily city traffic with it's better torque, but when you really push it and want it to take your breath away, it probably gets just about there, but not all the way


Posted: 21/10/2009 at 02:23

hi, i am confused between the bmw f800r and the aprilia shiver 750. the bmw is available for 14700 usd and the shiver for 8700 usd in dubai and both the bikes dont have demonstrator so have to be bought without a test drive. my needs are for wekend driving, long drives on the highway, city communting. your advice will be truly appreciated. rssin23@gmail.com

Posted: 02/12/2009 at 11:45

For those wondering about the chain drive, take a peek at the F800S or ST which has a kevlar belt drive. The high torque of the engine transmitted through the belt gives a smoother progression than the shaft drive without the energy loss, and is zero maintenance unlike the chain.

Posted: 20/10/2010 at 14:36

David S 29 wrote (see)
For those wondering about the chain drive, take a peek at the F800S or ST which has a kevlar belt drive. The high torque of the engine transmitted through the belt gives a smoother progression than the shaft drive without the energy loss, and is zero maintenance unlike the chain.

Torque has a 'smoother progression' when turning a wheel via a belt than a shaft drive?  How does that work then?

Another person claiming 'energy losses' from a shaft drive.  How much is lost?  And how do you know there is no 'energy loss' through a belt?

I consider inspecting the belt for cuts and tears and occasional replacement to be 'maintenance', but there you go.

Posted: 21/10/2010 at 07:43

I believe a fair ammount of power is lost through shaft drives as you are 'turning' the power through 90 degrees twice - I probably why shaft driven bikes won't wheelie.


Posted: 22/10/2010 at 12:43

@ fishman

As someone who has gotten a surprise wheelie from a (shaft-driven) Suzuki Intruder, I can tell you it is not hard!  The shaft-drive is definitely different than a chain drive in its responsiveness, but it is no worse.  The shaft-drive is much smoother and never experiences "chain slap", but the chain-drive definitely feels more torque-y!

And, as an engineer, I can tell you the amount of power lost through the "90 degree turn" of power is virtually non-existent.  The work lost to the interaction of the chain and gear sets in the transmission and the rear wheel completely account for the work lost to the universal gear at the exit of the shaft drive.


Posted: 28/01/2011 at 12:40

I bought the bike 2 days ago. This is my second season riding a bike. I had for few month Aprilia Dorsuduru 750. I moved to other country so i sold it there and got the BMW F800R. I got it brand new, with Acrapovich exhaust and brembo brakes (i think the brakes come already from factory). This is Chris Pfifers edition bike.

I am very happy about it. Easy to handle in the city. I can easily cruise in city with 2nd, 3rd or 4th gear, it has enough torque in low revs.

I agree on one thing, the digital display cud show better the speed or anything else then the gear. All the time when i want to check my speed, first think that caches my eye is the gear position.

It is very comfortable. I use it to go to work every day, its perfect thro traffic jams and if i need to go somewhere outside the city, it is very comfortable.

And probably because of headlights, everyone is looking at the bike. All are used to JAPAN bikes. This looks way better!

Recommend to everyone.

Posted: 30/06/2011 at 19:09

I have a FZ6 that I love, but come to a new bike is this too small a step forward?

Posted: 19/07/2011 at 12:47

Neil take one for a test ride. It's a completely different bike to the FZ6.

Posted: 13/12/2011 at 17:12

just wondering if what kind of fuel economy it gets, if anyone knows

Posted: 21/01/2012 at 18:59

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