2009 BMW F800R first ride review

BMW continue their rapid expansion with the F800R. With a specification to rival Triumph’s mighty Street Triple, the twin-cylinder BM looks set to lead from the front

Click to read: BMW F800R owners reviews, BMW F800R specs and to see the BMW F800R image gallery.

BMW know that the market for this bike in the UK is limited. By their own admission half of their worldwide middleweight sales are made up of customers in France, Spain and Italy alone – the UK market is comparatively small at just 4%, prompting you to wonder why they’re putting effort into a class already saturated by bikes like the Yamaha FZ6, Honda Hornet and Suzuki Gladius. But, as we’ve seen with their S1000RR superbike, BMW appear to relish a challenge right now.

The F800R fits into BMW’s Urban Sports category, which also includes the mighty K1300R, the naked monster on which the 800R’s styling is so clearly based. Designed to offer class-beating performance at a competitive price, BMW say the 800R’s been two years in the making. Despite displacing 798cc, the engine doesn’t make as much power as its smaller capacity middleweight rivals. That said it does produce more torque and, on the road, that translates into smoother, more effortless drive and a less manic ride.

The engine pulls from as low as 2000rpm and even tickling along in top gear at 40mph, it’ll pull surprisingly hard, without ever feeling laboured. During running-in, BMW UK claim they got 195 miles to a tank, which is on a par with an R1200GS, and I don’t doubt this. On my ride, after 80 miles the fuel gauge wasn’t even at half empty.

The gearing is spot on for this kind of bike and the style 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 showing 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 flyscreen is good at deflecting the wind, at speeds over 100mph you really do feel exposed.

Click next to continue

The front end uses conventional forks, and not BMW’s Telelever system. Telelever is arguably better on the road but the system’s heavier than a pair of conventional forks and a lot more expensive. There’s no adjustment in the front end, which could have been a real drawback, but as standard, the ride is firm, on a par with Triumph’s Street Triple, and with Bridgestone BT014 tyres fitted, the feel and feedback from the chassis is extremely positive. I test rode the bike down some seriously bumpy, fast backroads and only once did the front end shake its head. It came as a surprise but it was far from a tankslapper. The nonadjustable steering damper was obviously working hard, and arguably harder than it would if you could adjust the front end.

The dash tells you everything you need to know but it looks quite cheap. It’s part analogue, part digital, with an analogue speedo and tacho but digital readouts for gear position, trip distance, tank range and outside temperature. The gear readout is comparatively huge and distracting. I’d rather the bike came with a decent digital speedo as every time 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.

The test bikes were all fitted with ABS brakes, a cost option on the F800R. At the rear the system is too obtrusive, stepping in at almost every given opportunity. I barely use the rear brake 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 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, the footpegs feel a little too high and slightly too far back. After 80 miles in the saddle, my knees were the only part of me needing a break. The riding position does put you in a nicely dominant riding position, which I like, but if you’re doing long distances 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. Where they’re efficient transport, the F800R feels like a more individual, charismatic choice. If you’re after a bike 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. The only real gripe is that the bike’s very basic as standard. You don’t get much for your £5925, but If you’re shopping for your first big bike, or a do-it-all tool, you’d be mad not to consider it.


Price: £5,925
Engine: 798cc parallel twin
Power: 87bhp @ 8,000rpm
Torque: 63ft.lb @ 6,000rpm
Front suspension: 43mm USD forks
Rear suspension: Monoshock, adjustable
Front brake: 320mm discs, four-piston calipers
Rear brake: Single 265mm disc, single-piston caliper
Wet weight: 204kg
Seat height: 800mm
Fuel capacity: 16.7 litres
Top speed: 135mph (est)
Colours: White, Black and Orange

Visordown rating: 4/5