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Old 09-02-2008, 08:58 PM   #1
Impulse 101 OP
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Joined: Jul 2008
Location: Milwaukee, WI
Oddometer: 174
Apples & Oranges? Uly vs F800GS

I've spent almost every hour of idle braintime for the last week thinking about my next bike. (Not such a bad thing, it's kept me from spending money on anything else.) I've got a short list right now. The Buell Ulysses is on the top but the F800GS is trying like hell to knock it out of lead.

I spent five wonderful seasons on a 1997 Buell S3T and I personally regard it as the most fun I've ever had on two wheels. It wasn't the fastest or the most comfortable bike, but it was a lot of fun and it looked cooler than anythng else I've ever seen. Unfortunately, it was getting old and I got tired of replacing parts as they wore out. So I moved on to a new SV1000S, and while its an awesome daily commuter with the best V-Twin engine I've ever come across, I have no illusions that its anything more than a stop along my motorcycle journey. Quite frankly, it gets to be a bit painful after more than two hours in the saddle and I miss the "character" of the Buell.

I've settled on a Dual Sport/Enduro for my next bike. Going fast for the sake of going fast gets old, particularly in a straight line and I'm looking forward to exploring more back roads and dirt trails like I did when I first started riding dirt bikes back in the 80's. I like the Uly a lot and it has a good mix of street to dirt. I've logged a lot of hours on them already and I have a great dealer nearby that I already have a very good relationship with. (Hal's HD/Buell in Brookfield) They have actual Buell techs who know the product and they still support their BRAG chapter, even though Buell corporate has ditched us.

The Uly is a known quanity to me. It handles great, the engine is a blast and it's very easy to work on. I plan on going aftermarket for all of the farkles so I really don't care about the bags or other Buell accessories. What does worry me are the known issues that could cause me to break down in the middle of the long trips that I'm planning in the next couple of years. Including a run to Alaska and back in 2011. I'm also annoyed at the gas tank capacity.

I went to the BMW dealer to look at the R1200GS and ended up really loving the F800GS. It has roughly the same horsepower as the Buell, 200 mile range, water cooled and much the same capability as the Buell except it seems more capable in the dirt. The downsides... I'm not too crazy about having another chain drive bike, I don't like tubed tires and I'm concerned about stability due to the size of the front tire.

Leaving price out of it, what are the pro's and cons as you see them. Which bike wins on reliability, capability and versatility?

Why don't the voices in my head ever say; "Your dosage needs adjustment!"
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Old 09-02-2008, 09:23 PM   #2
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Can't express any opinion about the BMW, but as far as Uly reliability goes, mine has 52k on it and the closest I came to pushing/walking was when the clutch cable broke. Made it home OK and besides that the only other issues have been non-breakdown related: Leaking oil cooler, worn front mount, low fuel warning sensor. I still love this bike and hope to go over 100k before having to decide whether to rebuild or replace.
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Old 09-02-2008, 09:35 PM   #3
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Location: Washington State, the dry part!
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I too am trying to decide which bike I want to buy. Has anyone ridden these two bikes and can give their thoughts? I'm also considering the F 650 GS. I plan to ride from Washington to Alaska as a first trip in 2010, then on to bigger more grand adventures! I am very interested in the Buell, yet I know the BMW is tried and true. In reading a Buell Review it is supposed to have a lower center of gravity. (Lower than what lol?)This could mean that it is easier to balance and more maneuverable.

Another curiosity I have is fitment. I am 5'6" and about a 30" inseam, 145lbs. I'm used to almost-tippy-toes on my Yamaha...but I'll have to be able to reach! I am also not a big/strong/large woman, & I have fibromyalgia so exhaustion comes quickly, Because of this what about overall feel & balance?
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Old 09-02-2008, 10:11 PM   #4
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The F800GS is going to be more dirt oriented for sure. I'd say probably 60/40 street to dirt. The Uly is probably 80/20 or 90/10. As such, given equal riders, the Uly will best the BMW on road and the BMW will best the ULY.

Tire fitment will also be an issue. Sport tires won't fit the BMW. Off road nobbies won't fit the Uly.

The BMW is more complex. As a result, it's more refined, but that refinement comes at the cost of more things to go wrong out in the middle of nowhere. The Uly is less refined, but it's also stone ax simple. I was out this weekend and my riding partner sheered 3 teeth off his belt. He shaved them off with a knife and rode it the 100 miles home. I've had a stator and voltage regulator go. I limped it home.

A snapped chain can jack up an engine case. A blown hose with no water available, and you're screwed.

Resale on the BMW will be better if you care about such things.

Maintenance is virtually nonexistant on the Uly and is more expensive and more frequent on the BMW. Parts for the BMW are more expensive as are accessories.

Ride both. Buy what speaks to you.

No one lusts after the practical girl.
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Old 09-02-2008, 10:23 PM   #5
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A friend of mine is next in line for the 800GS at the local dealer. They already got their first one in and gone. So hopefully soon. I should be able to talk a test ride of him pretty easy. I sat on the new 650GS, it was very short compared to the Uly.
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Old 09-02-2008, 11:24 PM   #6
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You're from Milwaukee for Christ's sake. Buy the Buell.

That's like asking should you be a Packer or a Viking's fan.
The crows seemed to be calling his name, thought Caw.

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Old 09-03-2008, 04:02 AM   #7
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Location: Claremore, OK (somewhere near Tulsa)
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I was in Milwaukee this last weekend for the big HD 105th Anniversary and I got to meet Erik Buell at the demo rides area. He is one heck of a nice guy and was just standing around talking to people there casually like any other bystander. He really showed a genuine interest in what I thought of his bikes and even asked again the next day when I happened to pass him on the street. I can't say enough how that alone speaks to his products.
As for the Uly, he said that is what he rides as his main bike. He also said that he hadn't done any mods to it and had no plans to. He did seem to indicate that it was designed primarily as touring bike with some off road capability (fire roads, etc...) so the 90/10 opinion sounds pretty accurate. In truth, the vast majority of buyers will fit into that category perfectly although he did mention running around a motocross track a few times and said it felt comparable to a 450cc four stroke dirt bike albeit heavier (harder to slow down coming into turns hot) but jumped well.
I too am strongly considering a Uly. Even more now having met its creator.
"Good judgement comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgement."- Will Rogers

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Old 09-03-2008, 05:31 AM   #8
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Good comments so far. F.B. is spot on.................again.

I don't have any experience with the 800gs yet, but have ridden many of the other GSs. IMHO the Bimmers are more capable, or more acurately stated better able to be outfitted for "off-road" use. So if you're slant is to find more mud, sand go with the BMW if it fits you after a test ride. But if getting dirty is your priority maybe you want to consider KTM because they are even more "off-road" orientated.

My Uly has performed fine in "unimproved or semi-improved" road conditions(and mine is an XT). It does everything I've asked of it so far with no complaints. The only hairy thing I've found with my Uly exploits has been wet/loose surfaces with the 17" sport orientated sneakers. If it's hard, dry no problem. If I want to go muddin', I'll ride the DR. The Uly fits the bill for me, I wouldn't give up the twisty rippin' ability for better off-roadabilities on my primary ride.

More importantly will be how the bike fits you and how comfortable will it be after an hour or two in the saddle. I loath to turn the key off on the Uly. Some of my quick trips to drop the kid off to practice turn into two hour rips around the countryside to the distain of SWMBO.....

Go ride 'em all and figure out what fits your "needs". No loser in those choices.
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Old 09-03-2008, 05:56 AM   #9
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I just paid off the ULY and have 43,000 miles on it. I have had the normal wear and tear maintenance of any motorcycle. The ULY comes with a support network of fellow riders that I have found to be unmatched by any other gruop of riders. BMW guys have the common bond of owning a BMW but I don't believe it it quite the same as the Buell owners. On the other side I have always envied the GS crowd in the offroad abilities I don't have on my ULY. I have tried and have the dents in my muffler to prove it. I will be visiting the local BMW dealer to drop some cash on a 800GS very soon.


There is no bike made for every environment. I must have two to make it happen. My garage will be like a swiss army knife with two blades to chose from.
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Old 09-03-2008, 07:04 AM   #10
Impulse 101 OP
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Location: Milwaukee, WI
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I may be from Milwaukee, a former Buell owner and I've met Erik a number of times, including a couple of Buell homecomings where we ended up talking guitars for the whole time. I even have a couple of aquaintences who work for him. But, my decision is not going to be based on proximity to the factory, color of the bikes or the taste of the cool-aid. I'm after the best bike, period.

Whichever I choose, I plan on buying two of them because my wife wants to be on the same kind of bike when we ride to Alaska. I still think that the Buell is in first place. I'm looking more at something that can handle back roads, not Moab style singletrack trails. There's not a lot of singletrack in SE Wisconsin that I can get to. If she could have two bikes, one of them would be a Firebolt or 1125R, because of the way they turn.

Motobiatch, my wife is 6' and 150 pounds so she has a different body type than you, but she LOVES the center of gravity of the Buells. She rides a CBR600F3 now, so she is used to a bike that handles well. You can test ride just about any Buell at the dealer, I highly recommend trying one.

FT BSTRD, great post. I'm going to call the BMW dealer today about test riding the F8GS.


Why don't the voices in my head ever say; "Your dosage needs adjustment!"
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Old 09-03-2008, 08:37 AM   #11
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Location: Washington State, the dry part!
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Great information! I definitely plan to demo all 3 bikes, however it's tough getting even close to one here. I'm in the Spokane Washington area and went to all the dealers a couple of weeks ago. Other than the KTM's (WAY to heavy and tall for me) I was able to sit on a Ducati Monster 996. All the other bikes I am interested in are sold out and they don't know when the 09's are coming in :( The only ones I haven't looked at are the Buell's so I'll be going to visit that dealer as soon as I can get out there! I'm thinking the 80/20 or 90/10 would be ok for me, as I'll be enjoying the open pavement back highways more than anything else. I do have the desire to hit the FS roads and that trip to Alaska though...

What about getting a more aggressive tread for that trip on the Uly? Your thoughts?
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Old 09-03-2008, 08:52 AM   #12
Impulse 101 OP
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Location: Milwaukee, WI
Oddometer: 174
I plan on sticking with the Scorpion Sync's for now. They are an awesome tire for the road, and they should be OK for dirt and gravel roads. I'm not planning on riding up the haul road on my Alaska trip, if I was I might look at something else.


PS. BMW of Milw. doesn't have a demo F800GS and they don't plan on getting one. I'll have to find another way to try one, I can't it's the Buell by default.
Why don't the voices in my head ever say; "Your dosage needs adjustment!"
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Old 09-03-2008, 09:31 AM   #13
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Location: Treasure Coast, FL
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Laugh Buy Two Ulys, and carry two sets of wheel bearings

I have not tried the Beemer, but I do have and love my Uly. I no longer think the Uly is ready to be dubbed an adventure bike. If you really want a dual sport or adventure bike and decide on the uly, pack accordingly.

I Just got back from a rented tour of Alaska on an 08 Uly. I only carried my factory tool kit and a few extra tools, tire kit and compressor because the Uly I rented only had 4k on the clock. The bike did great for the first 4 days (-) one flat tire on the way to the arctic circle that was easily plugged. 2 days later we took the McCarthy trail through the mountains to get to kennicott to see the glacier and abandoned mining town. We made it up just fine, but on the trip down we managed to get four flat tires. The first was a split that could not be plugged, although I managed to insert four plugs into it to get us to a tire repair shop while still on top of the mountain. (Joe's Tire Repair). We had to remove the wheel from the bike and remove the tire from the wheel and repair it from the inside. A center stand would have helped tremendously. (No allan wrench for the rear axle pinch bolt in both factory tool kits, by the way). While the wheel was off, I noticed the rear wheel bearings were trashed, but I had no spares in my kit. I have about 30 bearings at home...but none in my kit.

I still had 60 miles of primitive trail to go just to reach the next pay phone and fuel, plus another 60 for our hotel, with bad wheel bearings, no cell phone signal and who knows how much fuel remaining in the tank (120 showing on the trip). We reassembled the patched tire and used tons of antisieze around the axle and wheel bearings just in case they froze up on the way down. We proceeded back down the trail for about 10 miles when we got another rear flat. Stuck 4 plugs in that split and reinflated the rear tire with our pocket compressor. Could not stop the leak, so we had to stop every 5 miles and reinflate the tire. 15 more miles and we picked up a spike/nail from the rail bed under the washed out road. Patched it with one plug as darkness approached and the temps dropped. With the help of a bright flashlight I could see that both the rear bearing seals were deformed and the bike was beginning to pop as it rolled. Screw it....a little over 30 miles to go, we can make it. Fire up the bike and the low fuel light comes on...

Dear Lord, please let us make it to the bottom of this hill. I promise to be really good for ever and ever.

Ride gently, coast, pump up tire....20 miles....10 miles....POP goes the rear tire with 5 miles to go. Patch with last plug and reinflate tire, jump on bike, gently accelerate as fast as terrain permits and coast....while repeating Dear Lord speech, this time with enthusiasm....pavement....rear is getting loose, bike begins to stumble...coast into station next to pay phone as rear tire rolls flat with 33 miles on the fuel trip. Attempt to walk into station and notice hand written sign on door "CLOSED FOR ELECTION DAY"

I had to convince the wino that was on his public pay phone living under the shanty that I had a true emergency so he would let us use the phone. We called the hotel 60 miles away and asked them to pretty puuleeze come get us (while the wino was screaming in the back ground). We rolled the bike over to the only hotel in town (Chitna) where we could wash up and get some food. Our hotel picked us up and took us back after we left the bike with Dan's tire service at the bottom of the hill. The following morning we called Alaska Rider (rental) and within 6 hours they had us a replacement bike so we could finish our vacation. It was a v-strom with 35k on the clock and ran great.

Lessons Learned:

The Uly is not an adventure bike. I love my Uly and it does a lot of things very well, but it ain't no adventure bike due to poor design of wheel bearings, lack of availability of an aggressive tire that will perform safely on adventurous terrain and limited size of fuel tank.

Where the Uly wheel was off, (when we observed the trashed bearings) the mail comes twice a week. No way to fed ex a set of bearings. In case you haven't been keeping up, there have been quite a few rear wheel bearing failures on the Uly. Ask around. Ask someone from Buell why 06-07 and 08 still have the same problem. No fix. No recall. Not even a formal acknowledgment that the problem exist. Sure, there is some hearsay from some one who talked to some one at a gathering. But that doesn't help if your 30 miles from civilization humping down some mountain in the dark in hungry bear territory.

If your planning a trip to Alaska on a uly, you may want to wait till 09 to buy one just to see if the design flaws are resolved. Or at least travel in a well equipped group with a chase vehicle.....

But where is the "adventure" in that?
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Old 09-03-2008, 11:32 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by MotoBiatch
What about getting a more aggressive tread for that trip on the Uly? Your thoughts?
No one is currently making a more aggressive tire. With both the Uly and Tiger using 17" wheels, hopefully one of the tire manufactures will start.
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Old 09-03-2008, 12:05 PM   #15
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Uly Tire

Planning on taking part on the 2010 ACLAN 5000 and have been hitting a wall trying to locate a suitable DS tire for the Uly.

Like JL mentioned, possibly a manufacturer will tool up someting for the DS Uly/Tiger

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