Although not as radically changed as the 2013 R1200GS, the F800GS takes a leap forward with the addition of an Adventure model added to BMW’s 2014 middleweight lineup. On the surface, it might appear that the F800GS has simply been restyled to create the Adventure, but updates to the parallel-Twin-powered GS make this bike a serious option for those who really like to travel into the wilds.
Those buyers will appreciate the larger capacity 6.3-gallon fuel tank (up from 4.2), improved wind protection, more comfortable seat and off-road guards for the engine, handlebars and fuel tank. Another key addition is an Enduro-specific ride mode for the ABS and ASC (traction control) systems that allows far more aggressive rider inputs than do the road-oriented parameters on the standard F800GS.
Our ride would take place in and around Moab, Utah, on the same 175-mile route I rode on the standard F800GS four years ago. Two-thirds of the ride is off-highway with lots of loose sand, silt and even some rocky Jeep trails.
Of all the changes and additions that make the Adventure an Adventure, it is the Enduro ride mode that stands out as the most important. Until recently, I’ve never trusted electronic intervention on ADV bikes. I felt these systems typically created more trouble than they actually kept you out of off-road. But the very latest systems on the 2014 BMW R1200GS and KTM 1190 Adventure have changed my tune.
So, as I headed off the asphalt, I ignored my desire to stop and turn off the ABS and TC (the latter of which can be done on the fly), and put my faith into the computer. As it turned out, it was a good choice.
Although the F800GS’s Enduro mode isn’t as sophisticated as the 1200’s Enduro Pro (which shuts off ABS to the rear wheel completely), the F800’s system is quite effective. In the silt, sand and soft spots I really came to appreciate the F800GS’s newfound off-road chops, which were enhanced by the Continental TKC80 tires fitted to my bike. Only once did I get into a situation where the ABS kept me from controlling the bike in the desired manner, but I got away with it nonetheless. Otherwise, I was impressed with how easily the new F800GS stopped in the dirt with the system active.
Another surprise is how much leash the ASC allows in Enduro mode; the F800GS’s rear could be stepped out into big, broad, controllable slides, without ever snapping sideways too aggressively. The only time I needed to shut the system off was on loose, rocky uphill sections, where the TC cut too much power and wouldn’t allow the rear tire to paddle through the dirt.
As a travel bike, the Adventure version is far better than the standard F800GS. In addition to the extended range afforded by the larger fuel tank, the new seat is substantially more comfortable on long rides. The only negative to the seat is that its height has increased almost a half-inch (to 35.0 in., or 33.9 when fitted with the optional no-cost low seat) compared to the standard model. A taller windscreen with little cutouts at the top edges provides excellent wind protection with virtually no buffeting. The bike’s wider side covers also protect the rider’s legs from airflow, which should make the F800GS Adventure a better multi-season ride.
Under this rugged new exterior, most of the F800GS’s core remains almost identical. The same torquey 798cc Twin provides smooth, usable power for every type of condition. On-road engine performance is good, but not stunning, but off-highway I never felt like the bike was lacking. As for the chassis, it works surprisingly well off-road, carrying its not-insignificant fully fueled wet weight of 505 pounds surprisingly well. The F800GS Adventure rarely feels top-heavy; it only becomes a handful in deep, loose sand and silt.
My only complaint about the suspension components is this: I wish BMW would have upgraded the Adventure package with an adjustable fork. The electronically adjustable shock does a good job of dealing with all but the harshest of surfaces, and its push-button convenience is always welcome.
Although the F800GS Adventure can be ordered in base-model form ($13,550) with options chosen a la carte, the best values are found in the $14,350 Premium Package, which includes the Enduro Package (ASC, Enduro ABS/ASC modes) and the Comfort Package (heated grips, on-board computer and center stand). The $14,995 “Fully Loaded” Package adds LED foglights and ESA to the hardware above. All three models come with standard ABS, plus various protective guards and bolt-on accessories including saddlebag mounts (that also serve as fuel-tank protectors), engine guards, handguards, luggage rack, enduro-style footpegs and an adjustable heavy-duty rear brake lever. The one item missing from the list of standard equipment is a skidplate; fortunately, an aluminum one is available as an option, and it’s a must-have for off-road exploring because it protects the oil filter at the front of the engine.
For those seeking a versatile ADV bike with more comfort and range, plus better off-highway capabilities than most, BMW’s new 2014 F800GS Adventure is a dramatic improvement over what already was a solid choice in the class.
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