Road Test: 2007 BMW F800S

Neil Johnston puts BMW's parallel-twin through its paces

I'd discounted the F800 as having an accountant's soft, sensible and conservative soul, but instead I find I'm quickly in the groove, smoothly entering corners, snapping open the throttle at the apex, feeling the rear suspension squat and the Continental Road Attack bite.

BMW's parallel-twin is an impressively smooth engine, making its best power from 6000rpm to the 9500rpm rev-limiter, yet still proving itself beautifully tractable at lower revs.

The F800S's DOHC, eight-valve, fuel-injected 360-degree parallel-twin produces 85bhp @ 8500rpm and 59.7 ft-lb of torque @ 6000rpm with moderate but persistent vibration for a small parallel twin. It has enough grunt to outclass the likes of the Suzuki SV650, making it a fantastic choice for newbies that want something quick and sporty but don't necessarily want a full-on sportsbike.

So what's it like on the move? Stretch the throttle cable and the parallel twin unhurriedly spins the dial to 220kph (136mph). At which point the air-stream over the F800S's short windscreen has you tucked into to the tank and your nose flattened by your helmet's faceplate. It handles neutrally when you're taking it easy, although needs some input when changing direction at speeds.

The 6-speed gearbox is smooth, if a little notchy between 1st and 2nd and the belt final drive system has been updated for even better performance. It's virtually maintenance-free, too

The Brembo brakes are subtle, progressive, and effective, if soft. For aggressive riding, however, the optional ABS confuses the F800S's sporting pretensions; pull hard on the adjustable lever, take the front tire to the edge of traction and the brakes let go shooting you forwards.

The F800S's conventional suspension setup leans towards supple rather than rock hard. Two days of testing were spent tuning rear suspension preload and rebound to a balance between wallow-o-matic and pogo-stick. The key was more rebound on the finger-friendly knob and much more preload through the remote adjuster. Happily the un-adjustable front forks seem well sorted, offering good compliance and minimal dive under braking. Once dialed-in the F800S feels admirably planted and stable.

Out on the roads the F800S frugally sips 45.2 mpg, even including the occasional hard riding scratch through the twisties. This plummets, however, if the bike's thrashed hard. Expect just over 200 miles from a tank in normal riding conditions.

Shorter riders may have better luck, but at 6"2' I found the high pegs, weight on the wrists and a forward stance over the faux-tank, combined with the parallel-twin's tiring vibration detracting from the F800S's strong points.

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