Ryan at FortNine reviews his personal, heavily customized, BMW F800GS Adventure Bike. He loves his F800GSA, but gives an honest assessment of its pros and cons, along with what aftermarket parts he needed for his riding. Ryan is a big fan of the Electromotive throttle controller, fuel tank capacity, and how nimble it is.

The transcript …

This is not a bike review, this is not the best adventure bike, and you shouldn’t fall in love with it. This is my adventure bike, and how I fell in love with it.

Good morning, Montreal, you’re listening to AM 650, the wake-up weather every hour on the hour. Today will be a mix of sun and clouds, low chance of rain, with temperatures at a low of three degrees in the city, warming to 12 Celsius by 12:00.

I’ve always hated the are R1200GS. I know, that is blasphemy for an adventure motorcyclist to say, but to me, the F800 is the real hero of Bavaria’s lineup. Lighter, taller, 21-inch wheel, 95 percent of the adventure riders can make it through twice as many trails on this thing. How is that not the peak of adventure? True, it lacks some touring comfort. Although if you can sit from here to Siberia on an R1200, you could probably do it on an eight.

Now what really holds the F800 back is fuel capacity. It lacks the round-the-world range of its big brother, but then BMW brought us the F800GSA. Their wannabe dirt bike got a massive 24 liter touring tank, not so people could skip a few extra gas stops, but so they could make it to a gas stop 450 kilometers away in some remote corner of the world. The big booty was matched with a more generous chest, this voluptuous fairing that houses some far out electronics and completely shields my lower body from far out weather. She’s a curvy girl, she’s everything the F800GS wasn’t, everything the R1200GS isn’t, and she had me at hello. Hold on. You should know up front that today’s love story has more grandeur than usual, and not just because the F800GSA is a monumental bike, which it is, but because it’s the last bike I’ll review in Montreal.

See, I’m moving to Vancouver to a new chapter for nine videos, and by the time this story is finished, I’ll need to make a very real decision about which motorcycle to take with me. Anyway, let’s get back to it. I like to think of the F800GSA as a GS1000. It feels as much like a smaller, cheaper 1200 as it does a larger, more expensive 800. And that’s unusual because the GSA is a whole lot closer to the latter. It runs on the same geriatric engine that we first saw in 2008, the 798-cc parallel twin, which is the least interesting way to put 85 horsepower on the ground. This bike is not fast. Sure, it has plenty of speed to get you in trouble, but so does my Toyota Camry. Of course, F800s have always been geared low, and that made them great off road, but also earned a reputation for being vibrational above 100 kilometers an hour.

What’s special about the GSA is an extra 33 pounds. All of a sudden, it feels surprisingly planted and smooth compared to the base model, if a little bit slower. So the GSA is a bigger bike, and better for it, and plus all the extra weight is stuff I would add in the aftermarket anyway. Larger tank, of course, I want that. Wider fairing, fine. Comfier seat, very good. Bigger foot pegs, yes, please. Dual controller for breaking while standing, very good. Crash bars, of course. Auxiliary lights, brighter than the sun, fantastic. Panya racks. Well, BMW charges the GDP of a small country for hard cases, so I’m glad to have the mounting points for my own soft shells. I also get the taller windscreen, but I’m kind of indifferent on that one. It just pushes air off my chest and onto my head. The hand guards are also meh. It’s a very good idea, but they’re not strong enough to protect my digits off road. Oh well, you can’t win them all.

Wait a second, that part was kind of misleading. I mean, yes, BMW’s additions are mainly things I would add, but they’re not everything I would add. BMW’s crash bars are literally a half-ass job, and I had to install the upper apart myself. Also, the stock skid plate was cosmetic at best, so we installed this AltRider one along with the headlight guard, radiator guard, and sidestand foot. Usually, stock kickstands are good enough, but this spike suggests the Germans did not think about sinking kickstands. Anyway, just thought you should know. So the F800GSA is a smoother tour than the regular 800. It also feels lightly slower, both on and off road, but that’s to be expected from a better prepared bigger bike.

For a beefed up motorcycle, the F800GSA is exceptionally manageable, taking bikes above 650 ccs at ranks nimbler than 86 percent of the competition. This peculiar statistic, according to the peculiarities, [inaudible 00:06:16]. Case in point, the new ride-by-wire throttle eliminates off-idle jerkiness. Ryan has never known a throttle so smooth and comments:

Though the engine is duller than a stack of thesauri, its torque and power delivery is the most unintimidating I’ve felt.

This is considered a useful asset for a man who brings motorcycles to places like this. On the subject of tight spots, this steering walk is seven degrees steeper than average. Ryan wants to say is the biggest he’s ever seen, although memories of the Africa twin make them uncertain of this statement. The turning radius is greatly aided by the ability to disengage traction control in ABS. Even with rider aids left on, Ryan finds it uncommonly easy to snap out of the back end under throttle or breaking. The F800GSA handles tiny corners like a much tinier bike. Ergonomics of the 800GSA are unusual. It’s narrower than average between the legs. The seat height, peg height in ground clearance or taller than normal, and the reach to the ground is exaggerated by the width of the comfort seat. Ryan appreciates a perched and poised riding position, as he is also taller than average.

He often likens the feeling to that of a dirt bike, saying, “With the towing tank behind me, I’m riding a dirt bike so far as I can tell.” The abnormal tank also allows for a lower and more rearward center of gravity, making the bike lighter for Ryan to pick up. This is a benefit for someone whose workout regime is decidedly subpar. The illusion of a small bike is maintained in soft terrain. Ryan has done this route 17 times including trips on the Africa twin, a KTM1290, a KTM1190, R1200GS, Triumph Tiger xCx, Yamaha Super Tenere, Suzuki V-Strom 1000, Suzuki V-Strom 650, and others. As an uncommonly weak subject, Ryan was exhausted after four hours of trying to keep these motorcycles upright, but our 800GSA with the weight of gasoline over the rear wheel naturally wants a full front and remain vertical.

In sand, Ryan can ride two times longer on the F800 than comparable 850 bikes. In one test, he succeeded for 12 hours before succumbing to a fatigue crash. The aforementioned route tank has its downside, setting pillion pegs uncomfortably far apart. Though Ryan is married, as continues to baffle peer analysis, his wife dislikes riding two up, and he’s therefore unconcerned on this point. It is worth noting that the F800GSA, while 60 pounds lighter than the Africa twin with eight pounds more gas, is not actually as small as it seems. Mainly this creates a problem with fork dives since the spring rates were left unchanged on the GSA despite an increase in wet weigh. As a bike that errs on the squishy side, Ryan finds the GSA’s fancy electronically dampened suspension pointless. Only the firmest sport setting is appropriate, both on and off road, and heavier riders will still feel undersprung. As a human below average mass, the sport setting is adequate for Ryan, where he avoids bottoming out three out of four times.

When an imperfect motorcycle meets an imperfect rider, you can get a perfect match. So let’s do it. These foot peg rubbers are so unusually squishy. It’s like standing on water balloons. Geez. Normally, I would hold onto these things because they delve vibrations on the highway, but honestly, I need a wrench to take them on and off, and even on the big slab they’re annoyingly bulbous.

Is that a GSA?

Yeah, a GSA.

German luxury, eh?

Yeah, I guess. You guys eaten?


[inaudible 00:10:56], bud?

Yeah. What is this thing?

Oh, it looks like a early 2000s dash that somebody sat on.

The windscreen isn’t even adjustable. Must be an older beamer.

I guess.

[inaudible 00:11:25] I told you this wasn’t the best adventure bike, and if you aren’t so gangly, so predisposed to motocross, if you don’t need to ride 450 kilometers on a tank, and wouldn’t want to on a slightly uncomfortable machine, you won’t love the F800GSA, but I do. I love that my legs overheat when it’s 24 degrees Celsius. I love that my emergency toolkit has 49 pieces, I love that there are no baffles in the tank so I can feel 24 liters of adventure sloshing around. If you want it, the hard boiled truth is that the Africa twin is better. KTM’s 1090 can also match the GSA off road while whipping it on the pavement. And yeah, even the V-Strom 1000 is superior in its own way. But I’ve learned that objective truths don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy sport. For the rider I am, the F800GSA is just right, and where I’m going, V-Strom can’t follow. Nine chances out of 10, we’d both wind up stuck in a ditch. I’d regret that choice. Maybe not today and maybe not tomorrow, but soon, and for the rest of my life.

We’ll always have Montreal. So here’s looking at you, kid. Beanie, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

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