With the whole world going adventure bike crazy, there seems to be no end to the number of bikes claiming to be the ideal transport to take you into the wilderness. However where some are style over substance, BMW has always prided itself on the fact its bikes are designed to actually take on rough terrain and won’t get flawed by a particularly tricky gravel drive. Not that many actually get the chance, but it’s always nice to know you can escape civilisation should the zombie apocalypse strike.
Yet there is a problem with the likes of the R 1200 GS and Triumph Explorer – they are big old girls and riders are often nervous about taking them off the beaten track. Which is where the F 800 GS comes in.
The lightweight parallel-twin BMW is a great solution for those wanting a bike that is manageable in both an on- and off-road situation. For 2013 BMW has increased the smaller GS’s potential even further by creating an Adventure variant.
Like other BMW Adventure models the F 800 GS Adventure uses the F 800 GS as a base to build upon. The frame, engine and suspension are all identical however the 16-litre tank (err, seat?) is increased in capacity by 50-percent to 24 litres, engine bars and pannier racks are fitted as standard alongside a taller screen, wider seat and enduro footrests. As with all BMWs, ABS is factory fitment however should you also request the optional ASC (traction control) the Adventure comes with an Enduro mode the stock GS doesn’t have.
Despite the increase in weight on the rear due to the extra fuel, the GS’s handling doesn’t feel like it has been affected at all by the larger tank. On the road the BMW retains the manoeuvrability of the stock machine while its comfort levels are vastly improved thanks to the addition of the new seat and screen. BMW claims the 24-litre tank should be good to squeeze over 420km between fill-ups; something you should be able to test as the seat is deeply padded and the taller screen very effective at deflecting wind blast.
Venturing onto some off-road terrain and selecting Enduro mode, the front ABS seems to activate very quickly which will be reassuring for off-road novices, however I would like to have seen the rear less responsive. You can’t skid the back wheel at all due to the ABS and maybe an option of ABS on the front only would have been better. You can turn it off altogether, but I like the safety net of ABS. In Enduro mode the ASC is slightly less intrusive than road mode, allowing the rear to slide slightly so you can hang it out with a degree of safety.
As with the ABS this can be turned off for wheelies... I mean, gaining extra traction in deep mud. As a first taste of adventure bike riding, or simply for riders who think the R 1200 GS is a bit cumbersome for them, the F 800 GS Adventure is a brilliant option. A genuinely capable off-roader (with proper tyres fitted) the GS is also an excellent commuter, as well as being a good-looking and rugged motorcycle.
While the bigger 1200 is certainly a better two-up long-distance tourer, the 800 is easy-going thanks to its smooth parallel-twin engine and is far more likely to open off-road doors to less experienced adventurers than its bigger brother.
Configuration Parallel twin
Cylinder head DOHC, four valves
Bore/stroke 82 x 75.6mm
Compression ratio 12:1
Power 63kW @ 7500rpm
Torque 83Nm @ 5750rpm
Final drive Chain
Frame material Steel tubular
Frame layout Trellis
Front: Inverted forks, 43mm, non-adjustable
Rear: Shock, adjustable rebound and spring
pre-load (ESA rebound optional)
Wheels Wire-spoked aluminium
Front: 21 x 2.15 Rear: 17 x 4.25
Front: 90/90 R21 Rear: 150/70 R17
Front: Twin 300mm discs, floating two-piston
Rear: 265mm disc, single-piston caliper
Weight 229kg (wet, claimed)
Seat height 890mm (Optional 860mm)
Max width 925mm
Max height Not given
Fuel capacity 24L
Fuel consumption 4.3L/100km
Top speed 193km/h
Off-road ABS on rear
Limited two-up touring
Sandrover paint scheme