At the time the future for BMW was very bright. Almost as bright as some of the paint-jobs in their range – like the retina-burning orange paint adorning the F 800 R that you see here… Their future was bright as they were selling more than 100,000 bikes a year and around 5500 of those were in the UK per annum.
In 2009 they began to race in World Superbikes following on from the launch of the full-on sports machine, the S1000RR: In 2019 they have the latest version of that superbike and will be back with a factory team in WSB… Again, like 2009 the F 800 R is still around, albeit in new and updated format, but we at CB-NET figured we’d refresh your memories of this wonderful machine – the original F 800 R…
The F 800 R is a bike that can really do-it-all. Back in the day, we had one for more than two weeks and rode it come rain or shine, on a sunny back-road blast to Hunstanton two-up, through to a not-so-fun commute in the rain to London and back. It took it all in its stride. Only when two-up did we really lust after the more impressive grunt of its bigger brother, the K 1300 R…
What sets the bike up as a class act is that motor. It’s a 798cc parallel twin is modified from the 800S/GS/ST and is remarkably flexible. Yes, it can be a little vibey at low revs – but what twin isn’t? It’s both civil and punchy enough low-down to get away from the lights – although some feel the first gear is a little ‘tall’. Instead, it’s happiest strumming away merrily at 5000rpm, leaving you a good three thousand revs to play with, should the devil on your shoulder ask you to up the pace. In fact, that happened around Silverstone, when a GSX-R750 K2 rider acted as a yard-stick on a ride out, and the twin wasn’t dropped by the much more powerful four-cylinder, leaving us pretty impressed. It’s one willing motor.
The brakes were even more impressive. BMW had led the way with decent ABS stoppers in the two decades before the F 800 R and those on this machine were amongst the best in the business for the time. We found that the F 800 R’s brakes not only had excellent power and feel on the lever, but it also took a real ham-fisted lunge to get the ABS to really complain. Either way, whatever the conditions these brakes were stunning.
The suspension overall was pretty good, too, but when you upped the pace a little it began to show its limits, being a little on the choppy side. The front 43mm forks don’t offer any adjustment, but there wasn’t much to complain about – especially when you take into consideration the retail price of the time… (see below.) At the rear things were pretty good too, although two-up you have to make adjustments, as the bike squats down hard under the extra weight and the steering gets much lazier. Good on BM for giving the F 800 R an easy-to-use furled knob with which to add more pre-load. You can also adjust the rebound, but extra preload were all the changes we made.
The mix of brakes, willing motor and half-decent suspension means that you really can throw the R around. The addition of heated grips (should be factory fit on ALL bikes sold in the UK) and BMW’s Zumo sat-nav (back then it was a £464 extra – pricey) made you think the F 800 R was a bigger, more capable bike. Suddenly you’re up for taking it further than your normal 50-mile blasts. It’s something you might not do with the logical competition such as the Triumph Street Triple, or the Monster 696 and we felt that it was a pretty neat trick that BMW had done with this bike.
In fact, we found it hard to find faults with this machine, but there were the odd one or two.
Now, the looks: we liked it and on our trip to ‘Sunny Hunny’ it shared the seafront with a lot of good-looking machines and didn’t seem out of place. Some may not like the monocle-esque look of the front allied to that brazen colour, but you can’t argue that this is one bike that really stands out. We prefer it to the modern version, if we’re honest.
OK, in some areas we think the black painted frame and engine are a tad basic, but the machine itself was a bit of a blank canvas, with a wide array of extras such as screens, luggage etc. One thing you didn’t need from the M&P catalogue were dinky indicators as they were seriously small already….
The clocks weren’t bad either, with analogue speedo and tacho, with two trips, clock and a temp and fuel gauge. One moan was that the speedo could do with being digital or clearer and the fuel gauge doesn’t seem to move… It’s like an old ZZ-R1100, in so much as it stays rooted to ‘FULL’ for 100 miles or so and then heads down in the last 40 miles before the reserve light comes on, which makes it a little pointless…
While on the subject of fuel, this thing seems to drink very frugally on its 16-litre tank. We got around 140 miles before reserve and there were still some bars on the gauge showing – although with this gauge who knows what that meant. Overall though, that made it pretty damn good on the economy side of things. The only other gripes we had were a disconcertingly ‘wobbly’ front brake reservoir (it’s supposed to be like that, apparently) and mirrors, which vibed so much at speed you can’t make much out in them. Maybe a few more turns on the spanners or some aftermarket items would have helped?
We were seriously impressed with this bike: it was little wonder it really helped introduce BMWs to a new rider (hell, it had normal indicators and a chain final drive…) Today, with prices starting at the £3500 mark, and the new bike at a whopping £8000 – we know what we’d do…
BMW F800R specifications
Price: As tested £5925 (new 2009) now, £7945
Model as tested second-hand from £3500.