2011 BMW F 800 R | First Ride

BMW F800R Review

Motorcycle enthusiasts in Europe tend to get some cool bikes that, for whatever reason, sometimes don’t find their way across the pond.

I saw a BMW last year in Germany that I thought would be a natural fit for the American market; the F 800 R. I was pleased to discover it’s been granted a hall pass Stateside for 2011.

The F 800 R is a naked version of BMW’s popular parallel twin, the 800 S (which will be discontinued). The new bike was developed by 4-time Freestyle World Champion Chris Pfeiffer, with development centering around stripping the 800 down to minimal bodywork and extras, focusing on lightweight maneuverability.

The resulting dry weight of 390 pounds renders a middleweight naked machine that walks the line quite adeptly between hooligan sport and responsible commuter. The F 800 R just might make inner city riding a sport unto itself.

The middleweight naked BMW is saddled with the proven 798cc liquid-cooled 360-degree parallel twin engine. An even firing sequence means there is one combustion cycle per crankshaft rotation, imbuing the F 800 R with an exhaust note somewhat similar to a Boxer-twin.

The motor develops 87 hp at 8,000 rpm (redline is 8,500), coming into its sweet spot at about 7,000 when things transform from adequately mild into a thoroughly gratifying adrenaline rush. While the motor can certainly scream when called for, the low-end torque allows short shifting for a more sedate ride without sacrificing pull (The engine produces a maximum of 63 pounds of torque at 6,000 rpm).

The transmission has been refined with gear changes unfolding in smooth succinctness. Gear ratios for 4th, 5th, and 6th have been shortened, with top gear on the R matching that of 5th on the GS. Not to worry, there’s still plenty of top end available to render freeway speeds in comfort.

The chassis on the 800 is a combination of welded sections and die-cast molded parts that provide a torsionally stiff platform. The double-sided swingarm is reinforced and pivots off the rear engine casing. There’s 4.9-inches of travel front and rear and a steering damper comes standard.

The F 800 R has a nimbleness that makes it extremely playful and fun to ride. However, on initial turn-in on corners the bike wants to kind of fall in, feeling a little loose. Getting back into the throttle early helps to counter this characteristic considerably, but I have to wonder if this could have been solved by being able to crank up the steering damper (unfortunately the unit isn’t adjustable).

Also, the bike tends to want to stand up in response to intense trail braking but I felt this was in part due to the motorcycle’s lightweight. That’s the trade-out for lightness.

Fuel consumption is a claimed 54 mpg (we haven’t actually done the math yet on our test bike). But if that’s close then the 4.2-gallon capacity of the fuel tank (which is located under the seat to help centralize mass) will render a decent range.

By placing the fuel cell under the seat it allows more volume in the airbox (located under the plastic top cowling) to help improve breathing. Standard seat height is 31.5-inches, with optional seats granting either a lower 30.5-inch height, or for taller people, 32.5-inches.

We motorcycle editors have pretty much raided the vocabulary cabinet when it comes to trying to describe industry-leading Brembo brakes.

However, the F 800 R-courtesy of its lightweight matched to Brembo components-brings a new meaning to these overused phrases. The dual 320mm rotors are mated to 4-piston calipers on the front and a single 265mm unit on the rear.

The result is superb stopping power that brings the F 800 R to a stop with rock solid stability.

The optional ABS system is equipped with a pressure sensor on the front brake that was developed for the HP2 Sport. The sensor helps regulate activation by discerning between adverse road conditions and aggressive brake application.

This helps prevent unwanted activation of the ABS when braking over bumpy surfaces. The sensor helps get rid of that disconcerting feeling of inconsistency in the levers when the ABS is trying to activate over road bumps under hard braking.

There’s a very useful and convenient option of an electronic tire pressure monitor (TPM)($250 factory installed) that alerts you when tire pressure drops below a specific point, presenting the exact pounds of pressure in both front and rear tires on the revamped dash.

The F 800 R is part of BMW’s surrender to traditional turn indicators, using the more standard left side, single switch then the controversial left/right switches that have always pleased some and angered others. The asymmetrical headlamp and bikini fairing blend seamlessly with the minimalistic design flow of the F 800 R.

BMW has managed to bring an impressive level of quality, finish and performance to their mid-size naked motorcycle that far exceeds the MSRP of $9,995.

There’s a Premium Package Model (which includes ABS, heated grips, and on-board computer), which takes the price to $11,395. The bike will be available in dealers January of 2011.