Friday, 4 May 2012

The Goods: 87 horsepower, Available ABS, $9,950
2011 BMW F800R
The BMW F800R's 798cc engine produces 87 horsepower and 63 lb-ft of torque.
Photo © Basem Wasef
Priced at $9,950 (plus a $495 destination charge), the 2011 BMW F800R is based on the sport touring-oriented, fairing-equipped F800ST.
The naked F800R is powered by a 798cc parallel-twin engine that produces 87 horsepower at 8,000 rpm, and 63 lb-ft of torque at 6,000 rpm. The liquid-cooled, fuel-injected mill achieves an estimated 59 mpg on recommended premium fuel, and is mated to a six-speed manual transmission that drives the rear wheel using a chain. A wet weight of 437 pounds is aided, in part, by the bike's aluminum frame, which uses the engine as a load-bearing member. The seat height measures 31.5 inches, with an available 30.5 inch low seat, or a taller 32.5 inch option.
The F800R's front suspension is a telescopic 43mm setup which is non-adjustable, and the rear arrangement consists of a hand preload-adjustable spring strut that with adjustable rebound, as well. Front and rear suspension travel measures 4.9 inches, with 17 inch cast aluminum wheels at either end and four-piston twin-disc floating 320mm front brakes up front, and single-piston, single-disc 265mm stoppers at the rear. ABS is optional, as are extras like heated handgrips, a tire pressure monitor, trip computer, and a center stand.

Swing a Leg Over: Stripped Down Body, Information Galore
2011 BMW F800R
A rider's view of the BMW F800R.
Photo © Basem Wasef
Step up to the BMW F800R, and this naked bike presents an interesting dichotomy: on one hand, it's got a minimalist body, with plenty of space around the parallel twin engine, a big exhaust can with a bare metal finish, and a purposeful black aluminum frame which compements the industrial looking asymmetrical headlights.
But swing a leg over, and the F800R's instrumentation is a totally different deal: though there's nothing more than a small flyscreen to protect you from wind (not to mention an unsexy clear brake fluid reservoir that's mounted rather high), the dashboard is an information-rich display with an analog speedometer and tachometer, and an LCD section which offers everything from trip computer and fuel consumption information to gear position and outside temperature (down to a tenth of a degree!) My test bike featured options which enabled those extras, plus heated grips and ABS. One point of note: the black plastic strip that runs across the top of the fuel tank is easily scratched, making belt buckles and exposed zippers a no-no.
Climb onboard, and the F800R's riding posture is upright but sporty, with footpegs that are positioned relatively rearward and handlebars which require a slight tilt forward.
How does she ride?.

On the Road: Mellow to Ride, Born to Lean
2011 BMW F800R
The BMW F800R is seen here doing what it does rather well: carving up a nice, twisty road.
Photo © BMW
The BMW F800R's engine comes to life with an uneventful exhaust note that's a bit more industrial sounding than the Monster 796's low-pitched rumble, or the Yamaha FZ8's smooth whir. And while the parallel-twin engine feels torquey at low speeds, it's not the sort of powerplant that invites high-revving or hard acceleration; redlining at a modest 8,500 rpm, the F800R feels perfectly content between 3,000 rpm and 5,000 rpm, offering smooth power and a distinct pulsing sensation coupled with that innocuous exhaust note.
Despite its benign nature, pushing the engine to higher rpms yields strong acceleration. This is an engine that, despite its mild-mannered power delivery, still has plenty of motivation when the rider requests it. On the highway, 70 mph translates to 4,500 rpm in top gear, and the shifter clicks up or down with BMW's trademark low-effort action. Though the rearward pegs feel appropriately sporty on canyon roads, the position might seem a bit compact during a long commute.
One of the great things about a nearly 800cc bike that weighs 438 pounds is its inherent responsiveness, and the F800R delivered plenty of in-helmet grins during an afternoon ride through the hills of Glendora, California. It turned in easily, held a line with stability, and moved back up to vertical rather nicely. Especially during technical stretches of road with plenty of twisting right and left-handers, the F800R felt in its element and capable of changing direction with ease. Though they lack a strong initial bite, the F800R's brakes offer more than enough stopping power, with light pulsing evident at the lever and pedal when pushed hard enough for ABS to activate.

Bottom Line: Strong Enough for the City, Spry Enough for the Canyons
2011 BMW F800R
Unlike most bikes, the 2011 BMW F800R's pipe is on the left side-- leaving the right side empty.
Photo © Basem Wasef
Though its unexceptional exhaust note and deliberate styling cues lend it an air of practicality that's simply not present among its British, Japanese and Italian competitors, the F800R still delivers compelling reasons to head to your nearest BMW dealership and spend your hard earned cash on a German middleweight. This is a solidly built naked bike that combines a torquey engine, a lightweight chassis, and a comfortable saddle with an element of purpose that's simply not present among its peers. While the Shiver, Monster 796, Street Triple R, and FZ8 are absolute blast to ride on twisty roads, those bikes-- with the exception of the Yamaha-- become harder to justify when it comes to day-to-day city riding.
With an engine flexible enough for the city and a chassis nimble enough for the canyons, the F800R strikes a nice balance between fun and function, offering an enticing way to buy into BMW's brand mystique without breaking the bank.


  • Engine: Liquid-cooled, fuel-injected 798cc parallel-twin
  • Output: 87 horsepower at 8,000 rpm, 63 lb-ft of torque at 6,000 rpm
  • Transmission: Constant mesh 6-speed
  • Frame: Bridge-type aluminum, engine is load-bearing
  • Front suspension: 43mm telescopic fork, non-adjustable
  • Rear suspension: Central spring strut with rebound adjustability, hand-adjustable preload
  • Swingarm: Cast aluminum
  • Front brakes: Dual disc floating, 4-piston, 320mm
  • Rear brakes: Singe disc floating, single-piston 265mm
  • Anti-lock brakes: Optional
  • Seat height: 31.5 inches (32.5 inches with tall seat, 30.5 inches with low seat)
  • Price: $9,950 (plus a $495 destination charge)

Who Should Buy the BMW F800R?

Sport-inclined riders who want a powerful, nimble bike but don't need literbike performance.

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