Go Back   ADVrider > Riding > The perfect line and other riding myths
User Name
Register Inmates Photos Site Rules Search Today's Posts Mark Forums Read

Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
Old 09-10-2014, 11:12 PM   #1
Montana Nate OP
Joined: Feb 2011
Oddometer: 5
First bike questions

I am an avid mountain biker, and have had a life-long dream to ride to Alaska on a BMW .... long story. Well, I have the opportunity, time and money to do it next fall so I'm getting ready.

My only experience on motorcycles have been rides on small dirt bikes and some short road rides on a Honda Rebel 450. Both felt comfortable, but I certainly was not challenging those bikes either. I'm 6'2" and about 215lbs, and am strong and in good shape. I am signing up for some local riding courses as well as BMW's own off road riding course. I am looking for advice on my first bike purchase. What I would like to do is to buy a new F800GS, put on all the crash bars and get to learning, as this would be the bike I take to Alaska and I feel I am big and strong enough to "handle" this bike when I eventually drop it. BUT, in my research, I see a lot of people suggesting starting out on something small and cheap, and moving up once you are comfortable. Is this truly needed? I am worried about picking up something small and cheap and then not being able to unload it before my Alaska trip .....

On to my other question specific to the BMW models. My assumption is that the F650gs would be good to learn on, but probably too small for me for an Alaskan adventure. The F800GS looks like a good fit for my size, and my intended trip .... I am confused by the F700GS, same as the 800 but with a lower seat height and slightly less HP? Is that it?

With regard to the Alaska ride, we are looking at pavement and lots of dirt roads, but no desire for anything off-road or too extreme. Beyond the Alaska trip, I see lots of rural dirt road riding in Montana, Idaho and Washington.

Would love to hear any constructive opinions! I am just getting the researching rolling!
Montana Nate is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-11-2014, 12:05 AM   #2
Gnarly Adventurer
Joined: May 2014
Location: Alaska
Oddometer: 322
At 21 years old I decided to make a ride to AK. That ride was so inspirational I live in Alaska now. So be careful with that

I'm sure you have thousands of questions and will post a lot more so I will try to stick to the first bike questions.

The F800 and an F650 are great machines and are more than capable of transporting you and all your gear to the final destination and back. I wouldn't worry about a "cheap" interim bike. The most important thing is that it is a bike you are comfortable on. The trip is long and you will encounter long road stretches, rain, gravel, pot holes, grooved pavement and many other road conditions. The key is having something you can handle everywhere. I think having experience on the bike you will be intimate with for weeks is more important.

I would say ride as many bikes as possible and see which ones you like. I personally weighted my options and got a V Strom 650 for a first adventure bike. It isn't a tough bike to ride and it does everything I have ever needed it to do. It has been down the Alcan 3 times now.

I would also recommend getting your bike sooner than later so you can log miles on it and get as comfortable as possible before the trip. You will need to make adjustments on the bike. New bars, seat pads, grips, luggage, or something. Bikes are one size fits all and you will need to make adjustments to suit.

Hopefully there is some useful info in there. Enjoy the planning!!! That's one of the best parts
mach1mustang351 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-11-2014, 12:59 AM   #3
Joined: Jan 2014
Location: Victoria, BC, Canada
Oddometer: 23
Do it!

I have the same background as you (avid mtn biker for 20 years - since my teens) and I'm about the same height/weight. I got a brand new F800GS as my first bike -- right after I learned to ride a motorbike about a year ago. I had no previous moto experience. I'd do it again, and I'd recommend the same to anyone else (over 30).

As a mtb'er you already know how to read surfaces, pick a line and have a respect for speed on rough terrain. I keep hearing about people struggling taking their ADV bikes off road, but to be honest, I don't see the big deal in it. As a mtb'er I expect to come off and my bike to fall over, so I prepared me and the bike for it. Ya its a bit (lot!) heavier to pick up, but you sound fit/strong enough that it will be a non-issue.

Obviously shop around to see what bike suits you best. I would not write-off any bike as too big/powerful given your background and assuming you are over 30 and are willing to practice and take training (if you are <25, then get a 250!). Save your money and buy the right bike once. If you do get a F800GS, at your height get the tall Rallye Seat!
omekim is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-11-2014, 07:51 AM   #4
I need to get out more
Defconfunk's Avatar
Joined: Jun 2008
Location: Ontario, Canada
Oddometer: 219
Plenty of people have done Alaska on Ninja 250s. You don't need an "adventure" bike ride the Dalton. I have a coworker who has done it on a gold wing. Another did it on a R1200GS, dropped the bike and broke his leg in the process. This year he went back, completed it, and is now planning on selling the R1200GS for something smaller.

The F700GS (also the F650GS from 2008 onward) uses the same engine as the F800, with slightly different internals and ecu settings. It produces 70hp and 55 foot pounds of torque (which, lets face it, is a lot. The KLR makes roughly half that. If you put a 200 pound rider on a F700GS, you have the same power-to-weight as a 2012 Porsche 911 with a 200 pound driver). The frame and suspension are different between the 650/700 and the 800. The F800GS has more sophisticated and robust suspension, a stronger heavier frame Edit: Same Frame, see below, and spoked wheels with a larger diamtere up front. Over all, the F800GS is 15 pounds heavier and makes 10 more hp than the F700GS. I don't have the experience to comment on whether or not the F800GS will be a noticibly better bike for what you want.

Good reading on chosing an adv bike for properly tough conditions (Mongolia and Siberia):

You specifically ask if it is needed to learn on a small bike. The answer is no, people have started on 'busas. But, a small, unintimidating bike with manageable power/brakes/weight will be easier to develop your skills on. My Mother dropped the clutch on her Rebel 250 and wheelied it at 15 km/h. I messed up my shift merging onto the freeway and wheelied my SV650 at 100km/h. Your inputs will not be smooth, you won't have the mental habits and muscle memory to react with unconcious expertise, you will make mistakes. Chose a bike that will tolerate and recover from your mistakes, not magnify them.

In my mind, the '08+ F650GS is (despite my comment on its power) an easy bike to ride, but I now have 7 years of riding under my belt. I know myself well enough to know it was much better that I started on a ZZR-250.

PS> I am a mountain bike instructor. I've been teaching Downhill mtb for five years. Some skills transfer, some don't.
2010 BMW F650GS "Amelia"
2005 Suzuki SV-650N "Belle" For Sale
2003 Kawasaki ZZR-250 "Socks" [sold]
Bruised and Battered, but Smiling and Victorious. - Me

Defconfunk screwed with this post 09-16-2014 at 12:06 PM
Defconfunk is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-11-2014, 11:38 AM   #5
Beastly Adventurer
itsatdm's Avatar
Joined: Jun 2004
Location: Nor Ca.
Oddometer: 4,612
I think a lot people recommend a smaller lighter bike because the assumption is the new owner is going to do some dirt.

Steet and dirt are different skill sets. Riding a big bike vs a smaller/lighter bike is different too.

I had years of road riding when I took to dirt and fell down a lot learning my intermediate skill level. Even at your size, you don't toss around a 500lb bike. You pick a line, let it move under you and in many cases use momentum instead gas and go.

In my case there was a fear factor I had to overcome. Planing a big bike through a silt bed/sand/ requires higher speeds than a lighter bike. It takes a leap of faith to do 50mph through one rather than 30mph.

Similar going through rocky stuff, in many cases you travel faster than you feel comfortable. Its is hard to pick your way through with this bike, unless you gear it down. It has a rather abrupt throttle at low rpm.

Perhaps you don't have that type of dirt in mind.

You shouldn't have a problem on pavement. It is pretty stable and forgiving.
On dirt roads it should be similar, but if you get out of shape, your first instinct is slow or hit the brakes and it is the worst thing to do on this bike.

If you can remember to apply a little throttle, 99% of the time it will bail you out. That takes a leap of faith too.

Go for it, if that is the bike you want. Do baby steps and any lessons will shorten your learning period. If you find it too much you can always buy a smaller bike to learn on. If that happens I would buy one of the older 650's.

I started off on a Dr350. After 6mos, I sold it and bought a KLX650. The transition from that bike to a F800 was pretty seamless. Except for power, the geometry and all the rest was similar.

The basic difference between a 700 vs an 800 is the amount of suspension travel, ground clearance and seat height which shouldn't be a problem.

The engine has more HP at higher rpms but makes the same torque. At your weight I would respring it at minimum. Of the 3 popular choices, I am currently using an Ohlins for my 175lbs, but I have used the other two. A Hyperpro rear spring covers a lot of weight differences.

They are tube type tires, learn to change one.
BMW Motorrad USA customer service: "We make superior motorcycles and continue to improve them."

itsatdm screwed with this post 09-16-2014 at 12:07 PM
itsatdm is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-15-2014, 10:14 PM   #6
Ridin' in MT
MTrider16's Avatar
Joined: Oct 2006
Location: Eastern Montana
Oddometer: 1,513
I completed my Alaska ride report so I had the pictures, but also for new folks wanting to know what the road is like. See the link in my signature.

Small bike vs Big bike. What type of bike would you recommend for a MTB rider to start out on. I doubt it would be the full on race ready, clipless pedals, micro weight component bike, the same is true for motorcycles. The following items trip up new motorcyclists:

1. Power - makes everything happen faster, usually a problem when new motorskills are developing. Addictive as crack and just as bad for those with self destructive tendencies.

2. Weight - reduces the effects of body english, usually a problem when you are trying to learn new motorskills Also if learning off road riding, makes picking up or moving around on tight trails more difficult. You know this from MTB, and learning skills like hopping, weighting for turns, portaging, etc.

3. Expense - usually the larger bike has more comfort features, and some components that are more fragile. You will spend money replacing these items instead of learning to ride. Also bikes at greater level of tune also require more maintenance and expense.

4. People have made it to Alaska and back on scooters, don't dis the cheap way to accomplish this goal.

As a MTB rider you will have skills with balance, traction control, and picking a line. You will need to learn to ride in traffic, use the motor, and ride in loose gravel. Also a trip to Alaska will take some logistics and endurance.

My opinion on the F650 twin, or the F700, BMW wanted to make a more cost effective entry level bike. Basically the same engine detuned, with lower cost components.

Good luck, post some pictures.
'13 VFR1200D, '13 XVS950, '09 F800GS, 07 CRF250X
Riding roads in Montana - Big Sky Country
Mountains, Moose, and Miles: a Montanan's Alcan Highway Story
Continental Divide and More: the "No Dust" Tour of WY and MT
MTrider16 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-16-2014, 08:58 AM   #7
Studly Adventurer
Joined: Mar 2014
Oddometer: 601
Both the F700 and the F800 are very capable bikes, yes, they could be considered "entry level", but they are high end entry level.

I picked the F700 over the F800 for two reasons:

1. F800 was just a little too tall. at 28inch inseam, I could not comfortably get on and off the bike even using the peg as a step.
2. The F700 feels much lighter because the lower Center of Gravity. It was very close to the feel of the Vespa GTS250 when sitting on it and riding.

I find the F700 a little too flickable, I had to unlearn the level of input I was used to employing on the CB550. On the plus side, you can change lines very easily. Putting your feet on the rear sets and laying on the tank is a real eye opener... watch out for the inside of the curve!

Launched properly, the F700 is very quick off the line. Traction control makes it easy, rev and let out the clutch... and hang on!

It will make it to 60mph stock gearing in 1st gear and a quick tap into second gets you to full highway speeds very very quickly.

I wish I had slightly less freakishly short legs for a 5'11 guy, but the F700 is a fine compromise if you can't manage a F800.

Either bike is super choice, but the F800 has the edge on suspension, clearance, fuel capacity and power.
Bikes are like rocket science... except we try to avoid the coming back down part.
Rgconner is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-16-2014, 10:57 AM   #8
Danger: Keep Back 500 Ft.
FredRydr's Avatar
Joined: Aug 2005
Location: Carlisle Pennsylvania USA
Oddometer: 2,432
Originally Posted by Defconfunk View Post
The frame...are different between the 650/700 and the 800. The F800GS has...a stronger heavier frame...
Is this true? The F650GS twin and F800GS frames are the same.

FredRydr is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-16-2014, 11:13 AM   #9
Cosmopolitan Adv
Loutre's Avatar
Joined: Nov 2010
Location: Reaver's Shed :o)
Oddometer: 3,288
Originally Posted by FredRydr View Post
Is this true? The F650GS twin and F800GS frames are the same.

There you go Fted. All the same frames have the same colors. The odd man out is the 8GS's rear frame which has none in common (as is the 8GSA but for other obvious reasons).

F800GS (-2012):
Front frame: 46 51 7 676 539 (black) / 46 51 8 529 961 (Grey)
Rear frame: 46 51 7 694 996

F800GS (Present):
Front: 46 51 8 530 960
Rear: 46 51 8 531 590

Front: 46 51 8 530 960
Rear: 46 51 8 523 352

Front: 46 51 8 530 960
Rear: 46 51 7 694 996

Front: 46 51 7 676 539 (black) /46 51 8 529 961 (Grey)
Rear: 46 51 7 694 996
Keep the smile on your face!
Originally Posted by Reaver View Post
You can be imitated but not replaced. You're such a special blend the recipe is guarded like KFC's 11 herbs and spices.
Originally Posted by Reaver View Post

Loutre is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-16-2014, 12:05 PM   #10
I need to get out more
Defconfunk's Avatar
Joined: Jun 2008
Location: Ontario, Canada
Oddometer: 219
I stand corrected.
2010 BMW F650GS "Amelia"
2005 Suzuki SV-650N "Belle" For Sale
2003 Kawasaki ZZR-250 "Socks" [sold]
Bruised and Battered, but Smiling and Victorious. - Me
Defconfunk is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-16-2014, 12:27 PM   #11
Cosmopolitan Adv
Loutre's Avatar
Joined: Nov 2010
Location: Reaver's Shed :o)
Oddometer: 3,288
maybe what you heard was that the rear frame of the 8GSA is reinforced in order to support its big fat ugly rear called a tank.
Keep the smile on your face!
Originally Posted by Reaver View Post
You can be imitated but not replaced. You're such a special blend the recipe is guarded like KFC's 11 herbs and spices.
Originally Posted by Reaver View Post

Loutre is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-16-2014, 02:52 PM   #12
High Country Herb
Adventure Connoiseur
High Country Herb's Avatar
Joined: Apr 2011
Location: Western Sierras
Oddometer: 7,083
Yeah, people recommend getting a cheap bike to start with because you are sure to tip it over on the dirt at some point, and most people don't have money to burn crashing an expensive bike. If you have the money for the BMW 800, and that is the bike you want, I think you should do it.

The BMW will be a much more comfortable and sophisticated ride on the long miles to AK. Couple that with the great plug n play luggage choices those bikes have and it makes for a real nice package. Shop around for riding gear, though. The BMW stuff is nice, but you pay a premium for the BMW logo. There are other quality products out there.

The best piece of advice I've seen so far is to get some miles on the bike you will be taking. I would want at least a couple thousand miles on a new bike before heading off on such a big trip. That will also give you time to become familiar with maintenance procedures and stuff.
High Country Herb is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-16-2014, 07:59 PM   #13
Ripper1600's Avatar
Joined: Aug 2014
Oddometer: 9
I bought a Harley rocker as my first bike and wish I had waited to just get my f800 gas adventure. My recommendation is if you want the 800gs pay a few dollars more and get the adventure model. It comes with a larger tanks and everything you want to add for the trip. The only additions you may want is to upgrade the skid to the aluminum skid, hard case saddle bags, extended mud flap on the front finder and a throttle go for the long strait stretches of open highway. One last big upside to the adventure model versus the standard GS is it has a 6.3 gallon tank vs a 4.3 gallon tank. They both get about 55 mpg once broke in.

Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
Ripper1600 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-16-2014, 08:42 PM   #14
Beastly Adventurer
DAKEZ's Avatar
Joined: Mar 2007
Location: OR
Oddometer: 19,598
I think an 800GS or an 800XC (Triumph) would both be good first bikes for your stature and intended purpose.

Be honest with yourself. If you do not plan on doing any single track or rough dirt roads the Non GS version of the BMW, The regular Tiger 800 or even the V-Strom 650 would all be capable bikes with slightly better road manners due to the 19" front rim.

There are no real bad choices to be had. All of the above mentioned bikes have ABS which may come in handy as a new rider. (It takes a large part of the drama out of rapid deceleration)

Whatever you chose, pack light and HAVE FUN!
“Watch out for everything bigger than you, they have the "right of weight"
DAKEZ is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-17-2014, 09:46 AM   #15
Coffee Achiever
Telemarktumalo's Avatar
Joined: Dec 2012
Location: Bend, Oregon
Oddometer: 225
Buy the 800 GS. Perfect for your size and no more difficult to ride than the 650/700 twin. And, it has much greater potential off-road.
Telemarktumalo is offline   Reply With Quote


Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is On

Forum Jump

Times are GMT -7.   It's 01:21 AM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.5
Copyright ©2000 - 2014, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.
Copyright ADVrider 2011-2014