2014 BMW F 800 GS Adventure | Review

2014 BMW F 800 GS Adventure Test

Based on the existing BMW F 800 GS platform, the new 2014 Adventure edition turns the pavement-oriented base model into a true Gelände/Straße.

Key changes include a larger under-seat gas tank (now over six gallons), a strengthened sub-frame to accommodate the weight of additional fuel, a wider bench-style seat, engine guards, robust hand protectors, larger footpegs, a tall windscreen, and aluminum pannier frames that double as fuel tank guards.

Options include Electronic Suspension Adjustment (ESA) and Automatic Stability Control (ASC), and Enduro mode for the motor—all of which I availed myself.

Staging out of the Sorrell River Ranch, a luxury resort and spa in Utah on the Colorado River outside of Moab, I have quick access to adventure motorcycle riding and other off-road demands. The area hosts a mix of dirt and paved roads in different maintenance conditions, giving me plenty of opportunities to challenge the new 800.

As I had some tougher off-roading and adventure in mind, I also had the F 800 GS Adventure equipped with an aluminum skid plate (highly recommended for off-road) and BMW’s Navigator GPS system, which conveniently mounts just below eye level on the windscreen.

In the morning, the fuel-injected engine easily fires up, and the various status symbols indicate that ABS and ASC are active, as well as alerting me to the suspension setting. Utah State High- way 128 is at the end of the Sorrel River Ranch driveway, so I have the suspension set in the Comfort mode.

Heading north on well-maintained pavement, the F 800 quickly and effortlessly accelerates to highway speeds, and the tall windscreen protects well. My first turn, Onion Creek Road — a wide hard-pack dirt road that rolls through the valley floor with numerous creek  crossings — comes up in just three miles. This prompts me to toggle the ride setting from Road to Enduro mode, which calibrates the ASC and ABS to work in the dirt.

Due to the 800 Adventure’s seemingly light weight – it actually hits the scales at a hair over 500 pound with a full tank of fuel — I feel like I am riding my 200-plus pound dirt bike, happily cruising through the shallow stream crossings without any concern about the bike’s suspension ability to handle the challenges. After the stretch of hard-packed surface and creek crossings, I encounter rather deep, powdered soil that was more difficult than I anticipated. In this condition, the 800’s weight distribution helped but the lack of low-end torque from the parallel twin had me working the clutch like I was riding a two-stroke.

Once free of the powder, my route takes me on a mix of hard pack dirt and pavement roads that will lead me across the Utah-Colorado border via Gateway Road. There, I find the bike’s cornering ability to be severely limited on the non-paved surfaces; the front-end wants to push through a corner when I attempt to carry a moderate amount of speed into a turn.

This reluctance to turn causes further problems on the hard pack road that winds down into Gateway Canyon, a treacherous route due to the near-concrete surface having a thin overlay of sand. Fortunately, my cautious riding helps me negotiate the downhill road. Happily, I make it to Colorado State Highway 141 without incident.

After lunch at Gateway Canyons, a luxurious resort and spa, I continue my ride in a southerly direction on a fun, curve-filled section of Highway 141. In this stretch, even with Continental tires that are oriented towards off-pavement use, the F 800 GS Adventure feels more like a sport-tourer than the large dual-sport motorcycle it is.

A fast 35 miles fly by and I turn off the highway again, this time onto a dirt road paralleling Dolores Creek. It’s a fairly straight, maintained hard pack road used primarily by Jeeps and pickup trucks. In this stretch the bike’s suspension, tuned to Comfort level, easily absorbs expanses of washboard surfaces.

The road takes me to Colorado State Highway 90, where I head west, and rapidly open the throttle up and shift up to sixth gear. Even though there is a bit of a crosswind, the well-designed windshield never buffets or induces excessive movement. Highway 90 throws some fairly intense uphill switchback curves at me, yet the F 800 GS Adventure’s handling never feels compromised in the corners.

After about 25 miles, I turn off Highway 90 and back onto dirt for a ride to Geyser Pass (elevation: 10,528 feet). As the elevation increases, I notice the engine’s power flagging a bit, as the EFI adapts to the thinning oxygen. Still, the DOHC 798cc motor maintains adequate pull all the way to the top.

On the descent, I find myself on a broad, gravel road with sweeping turns. Again, I have to deal with the bike’s lack of non-pavement cornering ability that limits my efforts to quickly traverse unpaved roads. As before, I am able to keep it on two-wheels, though it requires more skill and attention than it should.

Back on the pavement — a mix of shredded and newly paved sections — I am impressed by the 800’s ability to manage these variations at speed. I continue northwest to connect with La Sal Mountain Loop, and then turn north on to Utah State Highway 128 back to Sorrell River Ranch for a well-deserved shower, dinner, and sleep. My first introduction to BMW’s latest Adventure is a success.

The 2014 BMW F 800 GS Adventure has the capability to go anywhere an adventure motorcyclist wants to go. Although optional, features such as ESA and ASC feel mandatory. BMW has taken the standard 800 GS and turned it into a bike that, with its range extended 100 miles, is a bit more of a competitor for its 1200cc brother. One-up adventurers will especially take note, I anticipate.

Riding Style:

  • Helmet: Suomy MX Tourer
  • Jacket: Tour Master Transition Series 3
  • Gloves: Tour Master Custom Midweight
  • Pants: Tour Master Venture Air
  • Boots: Alpinestars Scout Waterproof

Story is from the September/October issue of Ultimate MotorCycling magazine. For a digital version, click here. For subscription services, click here.

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