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Keystone 10-14-2008 07:04 PM

F800GS Notes from the Barrens
[Much of this is cross posted from a post in the PB300 thread over in the Northeast forum]

This weekend I did the pine barrens 300 ride in Southern New Jersey on the F800GS.

I'll say that the bike performed very well and despite my best efforts I only managed to crash twice at speed.

I am by no means the most experienced off-road rider out there -- the smallest bikes I'd ridden off road before this were my F650GS's. I learned by leaps and bounds over the course of the weekend and up until I started getting tired Sunday afternoon was having no problem with the bike.

I was also part of a group that ran a more relaxed pace, which also meant we encountered the course after it was chewed up by the other riders. Thanks to Sno Dawg and the other guys I rode with for their support, tips, and GPS guidance!

Here are the highlights:
  • I have it fitted with a 908rr in the front and due to the 17" wheel a TKC80 in the rear. Both were aired down to 20lb.
  • The bike provides a great deal of feedback and it was easy to feel what the wheels were doing and counteract.
  • Throttle response is instant, which made controlling power to the rear as easy as thinking -- both a blessing and a curse.
  • Shifting is smooth and clean, along with the throttle response it is very easy to rev-match on a down shift and up shifts are positive with little effort or uncertainty.
  • Gearing was just fine for me. Some say it's too tall, other too short, but for my purposes idle in first gear is at a good speed and I don't mind feathering the clutch below that.
  • While it was heavy and certainly much more of an adventure bike than an enduro bike, it was fully capable of everything I threw at it (and likely much more).
  • Ground clearance was never an issue and the suspension never complained a bit regardless of how fast I took the whoops. The 21" wheel was undoubtedly an asset (my F650GS has a 19").
  • Apart from an overzealous oil pressure light (eventually went away, but scary while sitting in the middle of nowhere) I never once doubted that it was as capable as any other bike in its class or that it could get me out of anything I tried to get into.
  • I crashed (separated from the bike) once each day. There is MINIMAL damage to the bike despite the fact that the second spill was a ~50mph plow into a deep sand pit that tossed me 10+ feet, knocked the breath out of me, and buried half the bike. There is a scratch or two on the matte black side plastic which I can likely repair and the bar mounts are tweaked about 5-10 degrees from straight. I haven't taken them apart yet to determine what exactly is bent, but from the deformation of the rubber washers I suspect it is the bolts that hold the mounts to the tree rather than more expensive parts. [Edit: Just took everything apart and put it back together -- there was NO damage. The bolts are completely encased in rubber bushings which go back to being circular when the pressure is let off. Smart move BMW!]
  • I wish I'd let Sno Dawg or one of the other more experienced riders take it for a spin so I could get their impressions.
I spent most of my time trying to stay upright and keep up the pace so I didn't get too many pictures. What I do have are here (along with selected pics stolen with credit from other ride members):
Picture by Sno Dawg

Gillies 10-14-2008 07:37 PM

Nice write-up and pics! Looks like a fun day. How'd the bike track in the sand? Hard on the gas, front end light, did it wallow or track straight?

Keystone 10-14-2008 08:11 PM


Originally Posted by Gillies
Nice write-up and pics! Looks like a fun day. How'd the bike track in the sand? Hard on the gas, front end light, did it wallow or track straight?

Leaned way back with steady throttle in 4-6 inch deep sand it had no problems and tracked straight with the occasional bobble in the bars. Deeper stuff really upset it though and anything over 8-10 inches took more skill than I have to avoid duck walking.

The F800 seems to have been made to fit between the thighs (ok, that sounds bad) while standing. Rocking back or leaning forward there are pretty nice places to lean your calves/knees/thighs against and take some pressure off the hands.

Usually a bit more throttle smoothed things out. It was quite susceptible to ruts, but I can't say more or less than any other bike of similar weight. The sand was like cake mix and the existing groves would just suck the wheels in with a lateral movement that was disconcerting at best.

ADVHOG 10-15-2008 10:58 AM

Great write up, Tom.

Do you notice any difference off or on road with the 21 inch tire of the 800 over the 19 inch of the 650?

Keystone 10-15-2008 11:13 AM


Originally Posted by ADVHOG
Great write up, Tom.

Do you notice any difference off or on road with the 21 inch tire of the 800 over the 19 inch of the 650?

I've seen a lot of people (based on personal experience or just what they've read and are repeating) state that they can detect more sluggish on-road handling with the larger wheel. Maybe I'm just not sufficiently attuned to the bike but I don't notice any difference at all on the street.

Off road I do think the 21" wheel is a real asset. In the sandy pine barrens there aren't a lot of HARD bumps to test the strength or the ability of the front wheel to overcome an obstacle, but I've found myself facing a whoop that had a hole in the bottom and in that situation I think the 21" wheel vs. the 19" wheel may have spelled the difference between loose fillings and disaster.

If I were going to run over rocky terrain often I wouldn't think twice about getting 21" over 19". In other situations it's not as critical but the greater gyroscopic mass does help in loose situations.

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