Friday, August 12, 2016

Test Ride: 2016 BMW F800R

Lately, while having the K1200S serviced, I took the opportunity to take one of the dealerships loaners out for a day. My local dealer, BMW of Long Beach, has a number of brand new F800R nakeds available as rented loaners for riders who did not originally purchase their bikes there. For $50 a day, I had essentially unlimited miles and a chance to play with a brand new motorcycle.

Designed to compete in the middle weight super-naked class that has increased in popularity in recent years, the F800R is BMW's answer to bikes like the Yamaha FZ-07 and Kawasaki Z800. However, taking a decidedly BMW spin to the idea of a middle weight super-naked, the existing F800 sport touring platform was modified with a regular chain-drive rear wheel and stripped down to the bare essentials. Using a 798cc parallel twin making 90 hp and 63 lb-ft of torque, the streetfighter comes standard with ABS and ASC to ensure safety, but provides strong torquey power low in the rev range making daily riding in city traffic as easy as lofting its front wheel at a twist of the wrist.

Of course, the true mark of a streetfighter is the handling and the F800R delivers this in spades. Using a traditional upside-down fork and swingarm rear suspension, combined with a 439 lb wet weight, means that the bike is extremely tossable. The fork is well damped and the rear shock is tuned to provide good traction in almost all conditions. That softer rear shock also provides for a nice comfy ride around town, but when you really want to hammer it on a track, a shock upgrade with some adjustability might be needed. Still, riding it in city traffic really highlights the strengths of being able to throw around a lightweight motorcycle with responsive, but light steering.

Unfortunately, there are quite a few shortcomings that result from this being a much smaller motorcycle than I am used to. First, the rider triangle is a bit cramped for my taste, especially the knees. The positioning of the pegs also places my left foot in an odd position because if I stand on the pegs and place my weight on the balls of my feet, my heel strikes the heat shields for the exhaust system. It seems minor at first, but over the course of a day of riding, the constant banging got a bit irritating. Probably something I could overlook after some minor adjustments to my riding position, but an annoyance to have to even deal with it in the first place.

Another minor annoyance is the buzz. BMW has tried very hard to eliminate as much of the vibration from this parallel twin as it could, but you can only do so much when the bike relies on combustion as its primary means of generating power. At idle, the buzz is slight and very much tolerable, but at moderate speeds around the city, the buzz becomes downright ass-numbing. Worst of all, it also renders the mirrors to be largely useless. A lot more could be done to isolate the buzzing, but I suspect that the impact on the steering feel would be too great a sacrifice to be worthwhile. It is a difficult compromise to balance, thought it is definitely better than the buzz emanating from BMW's boxer motor.

After a day of commuting back and forth to various places, I found the F800R to be a charming, but ultimately lacking bike for my personal riding style. My tendency for big miles and long distances would like be shaken to bits by the buzz of the parallel twin that powers this bike. That is not to say that there isn't a great deal to like about BMW's streetfighter. Its light weight and tossable nature make it an excellent dance partner around town, especially if one enjoys splitting lanes between endless stretches of mindless drivers glued to their cellphones. The solid feeling brakes and smooth gearbox mean stopping and going are largely painless and intuitive. As an around town and weekend toy for the twisties, this is a wonderful combination, especially if you are looking for something with BMW's characteristically over-engineered (read "complex and potentially problem prone") approach to motorcycles. But for me, I could not wait to get my K1200S back from the service department.

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