2014 BMW F800GS Adventure Review

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BMW’s F800GS has been a tidier-sized adventure-touring rig since its introduction in 2008, offering most of what its iconic big brother, the R1200GS, has in a smaller, lighter and cheaper package.

But for hardcore adventure riders, the 800GS fell a mite short in terms of its battle-readiness and, perhaps most important, its fuel range. Using an underseat fuel tank limited its volume to just 4.2 gallons, which, if you’re taking the long way around, might be a gallon or two short of adequate when exploring, say, the Baja peninsula.

Enter the new F800GS Adventure, which has been endowed with more off-road worthiness, additional touring features, and a considerable 6.3 gallons of fuel capacity. This expands its range by a significant 100 miles.

2013 BMW F800GS Adventure Beauty

The 2014 F800GS Adventure is available in Sandrover Matte or Racing Red color schemes.

Its rear subframe was strengthened to support the additional fuel load, and the GSA comes standard with aluminum saddlebag mounts that will help cushion the inevitable thuds that occur when venturing well off the beaten tracks, whether or not you order the optional aluminum saddlebags. Standard equipment includes tubular crash bars to protect the engine and a plastic sump guard.

VIEW: Read our review of the BMW F800GS

Touring comfort is also enhanced by a larger windscreen, standard hand guards and a cushier color-matched two-tone seat. Wind protection is augmented by larger bodywork around the radiator area. The GSA’s extra accoutrements add up to a 20-pound weight gain over the GS, rising to 505 pounds when fully fueled.

2013 BMW F800GS-Adventure Profile Right

The Adventure version of the F800GS lives up to its name.

Moab, Utah

BMW picked a spectacular setting to test its newest Adventure model – the same location used when the 800GS was originally launched in 2008. Not only is the scenery around Moab riveting, so was the route mapped out for us. It consisted of mostly unpaved sections ranging from sweeping fire roads to gnarly and loose rocky trails – ideal testing grounds for a bike with Adventure in its name.

The Adventure is based, of course, on the regular F800GS, so the GSA naturally carries on most of its bones. Stylistically, the GSA differs by a larger beak/fender, expanded shrouds in front of a rider’s knees and the fatter ass end from the wider fuel tank.

2013 BMW F800GS Adventure Saddlebag Mounts

Nicely turned out aluminum saddlebag mounts double as protection for the enlarged underseat fuel tank.

Thicker seat padding lifts its height from 34.6 to 35.0 inches, which will discourage riders short on inseam length. Stubby riders will want to opt for the optional-at-no-cost low seat set at 33.9 inches. A height-adjustable seat like Triumph’s Tiger 800XC would’ve been a nice addition. Suspension travel remains static, with 9.1 inches available from the non-adjustable inverted fork and 8.5 inches of support from the single shock out back.

Both hand levers are adjustable for reach to accommodate various digit sizes, and the rear brake pedal, reinforced on the GSA, includes a trick new adjustment feature. A standard serrated pedal is augmented by a flip-up/down serrated pedal that does a good job of accommodating a rider’s foot when standing. New and beefy serrated footpegs are wide to provide excellent support when standing. Rubber inserts bolt in to damp vibration when you’re not slinging mud.

2013 BMW F800GS Adventure Engine

Note the large footpegs and flip-up brake pedal section (in silver). Engine guards are standard. Vibey parallel-Twin engine is untouched from the regular F800GS.

The F800’s 798cc parallel-Twin engine remains unchanged in the GSA, so it should crank out the same 81 horses and 57 ft-lb of torque as measured during our 2011 comparo with the Triumph Tiger 800. The engine produces a terrific spread of power, able to tractor away from as low as just 2000 rpm, but its vertical-Twin architecture continues its reputation as a vibey powerplant.

On the plus side, the F800’s throttle response is impeccably manageable whether on the street or in the dirt, assisted nicely by an easy-to-modulate clutch. The workmanlike motor can tolerate speeds in second gear from just above 10 mph all the way to 70 mph, exhibiting good pull and easily controllable traction management. The engine is very effective but isn’t pleasing or charismatic – it’s very coarse.

COMPETITION: Read our review of the Triumph Tiger 800

The GSA boasts two ride modes: Road and Enduro. It’s the Enduro setting that is most notable in that it uses off-road-specific tuning for the available traction control (ASC) and standard ABS which got tested early during our ride. While ASC in Road mode is useless in the dirt, intervening constantly, its tuning in Enduro mode allows plenty of tail-happy sliding. Even the hardcore dirt riders in our group appreciated its moderate intervention and seldom switched it off, which can be done on the fly.

2013 BMW F800GS Adventure Dirt Riding

In its Enduro setting, BMW’s optional traction-control system is a useful aid in the dirt without annoyingly overt intervention.

Disabling ABS requires the bike be stopped, but it, like ASC, isn’t overly intrusive in the dirt. Although it doesn’t have the sophisticated Enduro Pro mode experienced on the new liquid-cooled R1200GS tested a few months ago, which disables ABS on the rear brake, the 800GSA’s system isn’t overly meddling.

On our dirt route, I got surprised by a downhill, off-camber corner, coming in too hot. But thanks to the ABS, I was able to use a considerable amount of front brake to get slowed, barely, in time. Without ABS, I may have tucked the front in a panic to reduce my speed. In all environments, the 300mm front rotors with two-piston calipers offered both strength and sensitivity via braided steel lines.

2013 BMW F800GS Adventure Off-Road

It’s common for us to choose to disable ABS when riding off-road, but BMW’s system in Enduro mode performs so well that only hardcore dirt riders will ever switch it off.

The F800GS has always been much easier to manage off-road than the tank-like R1200GS, and that continues with the 800GSA. It’s considerably easier to navigate tricky, technical sections than the big GS, and it’s nice and narrow to allow moving your body back and forth and side to side. In addition, its conventional suspension works better over off-road bumps than the R1200GS’s Telelever/Paralever combo.

Our test bikes were outfitted with BMW’s optional aluminum bash plate that guards the oil filter and exhaust header pipes, which we’d consider a requirement if you plan to navigate rocky trails. Also optional, but at no cost, are Continental TKC80 knobby tires instead of the standard 80/20 Michelin Anakee llls. The Contis (90/90-21 front; 150/70-17 rear) aren’t as secure on pavement, but they’re the hot ticket in off-road use.

2013 BMW F800GS Adventure Action Water

The F800GSA is a touring bike you will enjoy getting dirty.

Head Out On the Highway

After kicking up dust for a day, I went the extra couple hundred miles to evaluate the 800GSA’s touring capabilities by riding to Colorado to help MO’s Troy Siahaan cover the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb in which he was racing a Zero electric motorcycle in the historic event. A variety of highway droning and mountain pass passing gave a fuller idea of what the GSA is like as a traveling companion.

VIEW: Read our comparison of the BMW F800GS and Triumph Tiger 800XC

I was grateful to have BMW’s aluminum side cases in which to hold all my stuff. The panniers are boxy and sturdy with nice welds, boasting 82 liters of capacity. The left bag narrows at its bottom to clear the muffler. A 32-liter aluminum top case is available for those who refuse to pack light.

2013 BMW F800GS Adventure On Road Action

Note the expansive height and width of the GSA’s windshield and the superb protection offered by the aluminum bash plate under the engine.

Highway travel reveals the F800GS Adventure’s virtuous touring comfort. Ergonomics are about ideal, even with the handlebar rotated slightly forward for our off-road riding. Ample legroom is a benefit of its tall saddle, and support from the seat suited my butt quite well.

The Adventure’s windscreen is remarkably effective at diverting air up and around its rider. Shorter pilots like myself (5-foot-8) will enjoy quiet airflow. Steering effort that is quite light at slower speeds becomes heavier at freeway velocities due to the gyroscopic effect of its 21-inch front wheel/tire.

The long-travel suspension that works so well in the dirt also excels on the road, providing a ride that is as smooth as it gets. Our test unit was equipped with ESA, BMW’s electronic suspension adjustment, but it’s a rudimentary system compared to the R1200GS’s.

2013 BMW F800GS Adventure Off-Road Action

The F800GSA feels competent on every type of terrain.

Like the 2013 F800GT we recently tested, ESA controls only rear rebound damping, from a rather loose Comfort setting to a buttoned-down Sport option. As could be expected, the Normal setting is most often preferable. The only other suspension adjustment is for rear preload set by an easy-to-adjust hydraulic knob.

The only impediment to long-term comfort is its relentlessly buzzy engine. Tingles are felt at nearly all points across the inline-Twin’s rev range. The insistent vibes are, at least, annoying, but I don’t find them to be debilitating – my hands never buzzed into numbness.

The GSA’s gauge cluster contains loads of info, such as ambient temp, range-to-empty, trip duration, ride modes and, of course, a clock, fuel gauge and dual tripmeters. However, legibility would be improved by a larger LCD info screen. On a related note, the F800’s analog speedo has too many numerals crammed together for quick and accurate speed assessments – this bike does not need 160 mph of range!

2013 BMW F800GS Adventure Cockpit

The GSA’s cockpit is a pleasant place to burn miles, with quality-feeling switchgear and respectable wind protection. Gauges could be more readable. Shown here is BMW’s Navigator Adventure GPS that retails for $799.

Conclusion

With the new Adventure model, BMW has succeeded in its goal of enhancing the touring and off-road capabilities of the F800GS. It’s a highly effective tool for covering multi-state trips, leaving open the possibilities of exploring unpaved roads that can make tours truly adventurous.

Like most well-engineered and adaptable machinery, pricing can be an issue. The base GSA, which includes a 12V accessory socket and luggage rack, retails for $13,550. Upgrade to the “Premium Package” for desirable elements such as ASC, heated grips and a centerstand, and now we’re talking $14,350. Add another $645 for the loaded version that adds LED fog lights and ESA. All GSAs enjoy an enviable 3-year, 36,000-mile warranty.

Those are, admittedly, big numbers on the price tag, and there are a few options of cheaper adventure-touring machines. But none provide quite the balance of off-road nimbleness and capabilities along with its long-range comfort and touring proficiencies.

Check out our full 2013 BMW F800GS Adventure gallery here.

2013 BMW F800GS Adventure

Depending on the type of adventures you choose, BMW’s new F800GSA could be your king of the mountain.

+ Highs

  • Able to venture where some bigger A-Ts fear to tread
  • Feature-laden and customizable with options
  • High range and comfort
- Sighs

  • Pricey, especially with desirable options
  • Engine buzz that just won’t quit
  • Instruments need an update
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  • BorrowedSuits

    The number one complaint of the gen-1 800GS among my ADV friends who have/had them was the performance of the suspension off-road — notably under-sprung front and aft, according to them. Was hoping for a more direct comparison between this and the old one on that point. (I suppose it’s entirely possible that our 5’8″ interlocutor didn’t really notice a difference, if he’s height-weight proportional.)

    • Kevin Duke

      Well, the GS(A or not) will never be a true dirt bike, and it’s also designed to work well on paved roads, so I judged the GS’s suspension as well designed for its intended purposes. But definitely stay away from the double jumps!

      • BorrowedSuits

        I guess the real question is, what’s it’s intended purpose? BMW has made banks of money thanks to Charlie and Ewan setting off the fuse for middle-aged men to traipse around the back-country; they shouldn’t be surprised when some of us actually go and do likewise.

        If you’re going to pitch a bike as a do-it-all adventure tool, oughten it be able to do it all — or a reasonable facsimile thereof? We (I humbly speak now as the representative of all those 30-50yo youngsters out there camping along forest roads, logging skids and suspect 2- and single track on weekends and fortnights) sort of thought that offering the GSA in a handy 800 size was a nod in the direction of usefulness to that purpose. To whit: getting your lumpy ass and assorted gear to the trailhead via the highway, then down the trail for a few days in relatively good trim. It was disappointing to discover that the 800 did the first part pretty well but the second part…not.

        I don’t think anyone expects to skip the table-tops at the raceway with the thing, but it would have been nice if it didn’t max out (front and rear) when pushed beyond a duck-walk on Class IV. Was just hoping that 2.0 was an improvement in that regard.

        Great write-up. You have a lovely job — I’m jealous.

  • Vrooom

    If the standard tire is a Michelin Anakee (x), it’s more of an 80/20 (on/off) tire vs. a 50/50.

    • Kevin Duke

      You’re right. I hadn’t seen that tire when I wrote that statement. Correction in the works…

  • WalterFeldman

    “Those are, admittedly, big numbers on the price tag, and there are a few options of cheaper adventure-touring machines. But none provide quite the balance of off-road nimbleness and capabilities along with its long-range comfort and touring proficiencies.”

    I disagree, the Super Tenere can be bought similarly equipped for about the same price and handily beat the F800GS in performance and comfort, on road or off.

    • Kevin Duke

      The Super Ten is a viable choice, but it weighs 70 pounds more than the Beemer.

      • WalterFeldman

        So the heavier weight would arguably make it a better long distance tourer than the F800GS but not as good as off road. So there you have the balance again. Which is better really boils down to where the rider plans to spend most of his time.

  • madskills

    Had lots of BMWs in the past, but two things bother me about this bike. One is going to a chain rather then a shaft and two the seat height. It’s a safety issue with the height(I’m also 5’8″) and with BMWs resources you got to wonder. The shaft thing was the reason I liked them because of the zero maintenance issue. If your charging me $14-15 thousand, I want the shaft drive.

  • Matt Manuel

    I own a 2010 F800GS.

    “On the plus side, the F800’s throttle response is impeccably manageable whether on the street or in the dirt, assisted nicely by an easy-to-modulate clutch.”

    I definitely don’t find the throttle response good on my bike. Perhaps they’ve updated the mapping? Significant jerks from off-to-on throttle, especially in first gear. I do most of my riding Offroad in second and above for this reason.

    Skid plate: really? A plastic skid plate / engine plate is standard on the GSA model. This is a joke for Offroad. I had the BMW aluminum skid plate and cracked a weld on it. Skip the BMW plates and go aftermarket. Black Dog Cycles in Idaho has the best — made in America too.

  • zky7

    F800 is my deram bike ,i want buy one when i get enough money.