Can the BMW F800R Tour?
Updated: Nov 9, 2018
During the 3 years that I've owned and ridden the BMW F800R in a variety of roles, I've heard a lot of feedback and opinions about this motorcycle. To be fair - some of it is valid - but in other cases, it's composed of the opinions of people who maybe don't have actual experience with the bike. I've accumulated over 13,000 miles on this motorcycle in the past 3 years and have (I think) enough information to form a fair opinion about what this bike is capable of. And that, in short, is quite a lot.
By way of background - and without going into the full history of the F800R - I'll simply point out that there was a change to the design of the bike that occurred between the 2014 and 2015 model years, with the 2015 having inverted forks and a re-designed single headlight. The engine was re-tuned to increase the horsepower, which I've heard quoted at anywhere from 90 to 95hp at the shaft and (??) who knows at the real wheel? I don't. But not sure it matters, really. I really preferred the LOOK of the 2015 over the earlier models that had the odd looking asymmetrical headlights - but that is venturing into areas of opinion and personal preference that don't really weigh on the capability or performance of the bike itself.
While I've owned this particular bike, I've toured about 7,000 miles across the Pacific Northwest, I've used it as a daily commuter, I've ridden it two-up to the movies with a date, and I've towed it to the Utah Motorsports Campus (UMC) for track clinics. In all of these activities, the bike has performed very capably and shows off good manners in all uses - if not stand-out performance in any one of them.
The F800R, in its stock configuration is a fairly basic interpretation of the "Universal" design - two seats, no fairings, no fancy traction control, parallel twin engine - but with ABS. The stock forks are not adjustable, and probably a little soft for really hard riding. The shock is adjustable, but is very basic.
The exhaust note is fairly famous for being a motor "in a wooden box." I swapped the pipe out for a much lighter Scorpion Serket carbon fiber model - an easy install and a much better tone - and looks better, too! I also added a slightly taller Puig Summer Windscreen than the OEM flyscreen, and ran the bike on Metzler Z1 Raodtec tires, for better wet weather performance.
To improve the capability of the bike for touring purposes, it needed racks and luggage. The BMW "sport" luggage would have been effective, but wow was that expensive! So, I elected (initially) for a BMW luggage rack for the F800R (reasonable), the F800R specific tank bag (not-quite-reasonable), and a set of DrySpec dry bags (D38 + D20 Sets) that could be mounted to the back seat/luggage rack. This was a very effective and simple waterproof solution that I think could be applied to many motorcycles that aren't natively configured for luggage. My only complaint or concern about this arrangement was the time it took to mount / dismount the bags at each overnight stop. Even this wasn't objectionable, but did involve taking off and carrying the luggage to the room and re-mounting in the morning. With tools, clothing, riding clothes, first aid gear, etc. the bags were relatively heavy - and it would have been more convenient to leave the tools, etc. on the bike and only grab the needed overnight kit. A minor thing - but something to consider. And, to be fair to DrySpec, the attachment method is fairly clever and easy to use - and also very secure... On one of my trips through the Olympic Peninsula, one of the attachment points failed and peeled away from the outside of the bag. I used one of my bungee cords to back this up and things were fine. Revzilla.com and DrySpec replaced the bag free of charge - and it continues to function perfectly, so no complaints there either. Anything manufactured is subject to failure. Generally speaking, these are very well designed and as they are backed up by the vendors, I have nothing but good things to say.
So, how does the F800R perform as a touring bike? Let's begin by saying that I am 6 feet tall and (now) weigh about 185 pounds. Around town, this is a fun, comfortable, and sporty bike - it's not a powerhouse in the way a Triumph Street Triple would be (600cc bike with loads of excess horsepower and torque), but still has plenty of punch for a lively ride. the riding position from the waist up is reasonably upright and comfortable, with nice, wide bars to make controlling the bike very easy. From the waist down, the position is slightly more "aggressive" than a normal touring bike would be. I don't find this to be significantly uncomfortable even on long rides and in fact I find the riding position to be fairly reassuring, connecting me with the bike. However, others have complained that it is too compact and makes longer rides uncomfortable.
On the longer rides with luggage, tools, fuel, first aid gear on the bike, I was concerned about the weight and center of gravity being objectionable. I did not find this to be the case in my riding. In fact, the only real challenge I noticed was in mounting or dismounting with the luggage on board! Once the bike was moving, I really noticed very little difference in how the F800R handled. As many of our rides were on two-lane, twisty mountain roads, this gave me a real advantage over the larger touring bikes and I was able to dive into corners with confidence and enjoy the road without giving much thought to the extra weight of the luggage.
After three years on the bike, I decided that I would try a different luggage arrangement for the bike. I saw a sale price on the Givi 3D600 Easylock saddlebags and also the custom fit mounting brackets for the F800R. Knowing that I was unlikely to come across these again easily or for as attractive a price, I jumped on these and had them delivered soon after. Mounting these to the F800R was very straightforward, making it pretty easy to swap between the daily ride "naked" configuration and the new touring configuration. these Givi saddlebags are slightly larger in capacity than the DrySpec D20 saddlebags (25 liters per side vs 20 liters per side). However, like the DrySpec bags, they are not locking bags. What this meant was I could lock them to the bike, but the bags could be opened. This was rectified with a small suitcase lock that secures the zippers together. However, a determined thief could break the lock or cut into the side of the luggage with a sturdy knife. For overnight stays, I leave the bags in place, secured to the bike, with the luggage padlock in place - the bike gets a top cover which hides the bags and ultimately have had no problems. That is not to say a problem couldn't be had - just that it seems to be working so far. Being able to leave the tools, first aid supplies, rain gear, extra boots and gloves, etc. on the bike each day and only carry the DrySpec D38 bag (strapped to the luggage rack) into the motel makes everything easier! The addition of the Givi saddlebags, I think, makes the F800R an incredibly versatile lightweight touring bike.
There are many ways to approach this question and evaluate the F800R as a touring bike. But, I will conclude with saying that it is my experienced opinion that the F800R makes a very capable touring bike and is well-suited to shorter (less than 1500 mile) trips. And, while the F800R remains a BMW (meaning, you're going to pay a little more), it is still fairly reasonable for such a versatile and fun motorcycle. But, this shouldn't be considered a budget conscious option. Some close competitors in a similar category, such as the Yamaha FZ-09 offer somewhat more performance for a lower price. But there is something to say for the cache of the BMW brand, which often drew admirers and fans curious to know about how the F800R was performing in the touring mission.
In the end, I think the F800R makes a capable tourer and would recommend it to a potential rider that wants a bike to perform multiple roles (street bike, around-town bike, touring bike, track day bike) and is somewhat smaller in stature. At 6 feet, I think the bike ends up being a little small for my preference and after 3 years decided to step up to a larger motorcycle. However, I would happily recommend the bike to another rider that wants to gain experience across a variety of activity on a very accommodating and forgiving motorcycle.
Upgrades I made to this motorcycle:
- Scorpion Carbon Fiber Exhaust (https://www.scorpion-exhausts.com/bmw-f800-gt-r-2013-2016-serket-slip-on-serket-parallel-carbon-fibre)
- Puig Summer Windscreen (https://www.revzilla.com/motorcycle/puig-naked-new-generation-windscreen-bmw-f800r-2015-2017?kclid=2c0a90b8-7ebc-49ca-be01-669a9a8ff7c7&gclid=EAIaIQobChMItNH43LPZ3AIVGMRkCh0c6g_eEAQYASABEgKZlvD_BwE)
- Wunderlich "Ergo" Tall Touring Screen (http://www.wunderlichamerica.com/motorcycle/30740101-102.html)
- Givi 3D600 Easylock Saddlebags and F800R Supports (https://www.revzilla.com/motorcycle/givi-3-d600-easylock-saddlebags)
- BMW F800R Pillion Cover + Custom / matched Paint (http://www.sierrabmwonline.com/product_info.php/bmw-f800rf800stf800s-primered-seat-cover-bmw-f800stf800s-71607702129-p-2623)
- BMW F800R Specific Tank Bag (http://www.sierrabmwonline.com/product_info.php/bmw-f800gtf800r-tankbag-tankbags-luggage-systems-77458534702-p-3108)
- BMW F800R Specific Luggage Rack (http://www.sierrabmwonline.com/product_info.php/bmw-f800rf800s-luggage-rack-bmw-f800stf800s-71607693917-p-2591)
- Transguard (professional install) protective film on tank (http://transguardprotection.com/)