Believe it or not, we aren’t trying to confuse you. Really. But we can understand why you might think we are. In this special section, we’re calling 700-pound, 1304cc Star Stryker cruisers and 550-lb., 1200cc Harley Sportsters “middleweights” in a category previously dominated by 600cc motorcycles, some of which weighed less than 400 lb. And now we’re singling out an 800cc BMW adventure bike as a middleweight, even though that same company makes a range of R1200GS adventurers that are smaller in displacement (1171cc) and lighter in weight (starting at 511 lb.) than the Strykers or Sportsters.
If you’re struggling to make sense of all this, just divorce yourself from the “weight” part of middleweight and focus instead on the “middle.” In the adventure class, single-cylinder bikes such as the Suzuki DR-Z400S and Kawasaki KLR650 are considered lightweights, while BMW’s aforementioned 1171cc R1200GS, Yamaha’s 1199cc Super Ténéré and Triumph’s 1215cc Explorer are the category’s heavyweights. The parallel-Twin F800GS slots neatly and logically in the middle (as does Triumph’s Tiger 800XC Triple), offering far better long-distance on-the-road performance than the lightweights while being much more manageable than the big guys on any kind of dirt surface.
When we compare the performance of the F800GS in our “North to Alaska” 800cc adventure-bike test (October, 2011) with that of the R1200GS in the “Riding There” big-bore adventure shootout (February, 2012), the middleweight Beemer’s size-based advantages are very apparent. For most riders, the rough, rocky, rutted terrain and deep, gooey mud of Alaska would have been cruel and unusual punishment on an R1200GS, but the 463-lb. F800GS handled it reasonably well, not quite as manageably as one of the lightweights might have but still easily enough to be fun rather than torture.
For the longer hauls on pavement, the 74-horsepower 800 is only slightly less fast than the 98-hp 1200 while offering just as much rock-steady stability, slightly more-nimble twisty-road handling and, overall, almost as much all-day comfort. And when an F-GS tips over—which occurred a few times in Alaska and will happen to you if your adventure ride contains much, um, adventure—and there isn’t a reasonably strong riding partner or a small crane along on the ride, it’s measurably easier to pick up than an R-GS, even though it’s only about 50 pounds lighter. Then figure that the 800 is between $4000 and $6000 less expensive than an R1200GS (depending upon model), and its middleweight status makes even more sense.
So, are you still confused? We certainly hope not. If you were, we’d then have to further explain why some bikes as small as 350cc and others as large as 1304cc are middleweights. And we’d hate to get in the “middle” of that argument.
• Underseat gas tank and forward-inclined cylinders provide low cg
• Good suspension for both on- and off-roading
• Turning off ABS a one-button affair
• Engine a little buzzy at high speeds
• Cheesy-looking front-brake master cylinder
• More than $13K without saddlebags
|Dry weight:||466 lb.|
|Seat height:||34.5 in.|
|Fuel mileage:||40 mpg|
|0-60 mph:||3.8 sec.|
|1/4-mile:||12.43 sec. @ 106.72 mph|
|Top speed:||124 mph|
|Horsepower:||74.1 hp @ 8120 rpm|
|Torque:||52.9 ft.-lb. @ 5910 rpm|