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Is the BMW F800GS Adventure a Better Off-Road Bike?

 An extra 33 pounds of upgrades may be hampering its off-road performance.

Published on 03.17.2014
2014 BMW F800GS Adventure GSA

One of the more exciting models released this year was the BMW F800GS Adventure. The BMW R1200GS “Adventure” models of the past have always offered the promise of improved off-road performance and long distance touring capabilities over the standard models. So expectations were high for the new F800GS Adventure to be a better off-road machine than the standard F800GS.

As expected, the new Adventure model includes a long list of touring and off-road upgrades over the standard model, but the bike has also gained significant weight in the process. Fully fueled, the new F800GS Adventure is 33 pounds (15 kg) heavier than a standard F800GS.

Most people buy the F800GS because it is lighter, less expensive and more off-road capable than the R1200GS, while still offering good comfort on the highway. The F800GS Adventure weighs in at 505 pounds (230 kg), which is only 20 pounds (9 kg) less than the R1200GS and virtually the same weight as larger displacement adventure bikes like the KTM 990 Adventure, Suzuki V-Strom 1000 and KTM 1190 Adventure. With only 85 hp, the F800GS Adventure is severely underpowered compared to other bikes in the same weight class.

F800GS Adventure Off-Road Improvements

  • Optional TKC80 dual-sport tires
  • Enduro style footpegs
  • Wrap-around handguards
  • Brake pedal riser
  • Engine guards
  • Rear tank guards
  • “Enduro Mode” for TC and ABS
  • Crash resistant tank shrouds

 
The R1200GS Adventure models of the past always received a suspension upgrade over the standard model. Apparently, BMW decided the standard suspension was good enough and left the F800GS Adventure’s suspension unchanged. The standard F800GS already provided a generous 9.1 in. (230 mm) front and 8.5 in. (215 mm) rear suspension travel, so it appears BMW felt there was no need for additional improvement.

While the bike offers plenty of suspension travel, a common complaint from many F800GS owners has been that the suspension is not stiff enough for serious off-road use and the front fork offers no adjustments. Now with the additional weight of added equipment, an already soft suspension becomes even softer. In addition, the non-adjustable fork prevents you from making further adjustments that could improve the situation.

Some of the new touring upgrades like the 2.1 gallon (8 liter) larger fuel tank have been a big contributor to the weight gain. Also, the larger touring windscreen may be great on the highway, but off-road it can restrict vision and body positioning, or even become a danger to the rider.

The new ESA electronic suspension option is convenient for adjusting suspension settings on the fly. However, ESA only changes compression damping on the rear shock, while the rebound damping adjustment is removed. This lack of rebound damping adjustment limits the ability to fine-tune the suspension for different types of terrain.

Visually, the new F800GS has a more rugged off-road appearance with new crash protection features like handguards, engine guards, tank guards and optional skid plate. The new crash durability is a welcome improvement over the standard F800GS, which can crack plastic easily during light tip-overs.

Off-road riding ergonomics have also been improved. A new brake pedal riser is an interesting new feature that allows you to raise the height of the pedal for easier stand up braking. Wide serrated footpegs offer better grip off-road when standing on the pegs.


BMW F800GS Adventure Off-road

33 pounds of additional upgrades has made an already soft suspension even softer.

The new “Enduro Mode” traction control and ABS setting is specifically designed for improved off-road performance, allowing you to get a small amount of wheelspin and slide before it intervenes. Enduro mode works surprisingly well, but do you really need ABS and Traction Control off-road? As a safety net for casual off-road riding it’s a nice feature, but in low traction off-road conditions like sand and rocks, all traction aids are typically turned off.

Are The Off-Road Upgrades Enough?

We had an opportunity to test both the standard F800GS and F800GS Adventure over 1,500 miles of rugged off-road terrain in Baja Mexico. During our journey, we found the Adventure model to be more than capable off-road, but the new upgrades did not provide an advantage over the standard F800GS. The standard F800GS is lighter, has a less intrusive windscreen and carries less weight on the same suspension. When riding the two bikes off-road on the same terrain, the standard F800GS feels noticeably more nimble.

The new F800GS Adventure is a versatile bike that is capable of aggressive off-road riding and most owners will be happy with their choice. But the “Adventure” badge does not necessarily mean it’s better off-road than the standard F800GS.

If you want the best option for the dirt, the standard F800GS is a better choice. At 470 pounds (213 kg) wet, it’s one of the lightest Adventure Bikes that still offers good long-range touring comfort and a range of roughly 200 miles. You can invest the $1,500 US saved (base models price difference) in aftermarket crash protection and suspension upgrades that will make the bike an even more impressive off-road performer.

Overall, the F800GS Adventure’s updates have improved it for long-distance touring, but we can’t say the same for off-road performance. We think BMW missed an opportunity by not offering a stiffer suspension and adjustable fork, which are long-term criticisms of the bike BMW should have addressed. Hopefully, a new suspension is already in the works for next year and will be available on both models.

Author: Rob Dabney

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10 thoughts on “Is the BMW F800GS Adventure a Better Off-Road Bike?

  1. It’s true the upgrades are better suited to the tarmac. You can tell the added weight is there, especially in the sand. I was able to keep up just fine with the two 800GS’s in Big Bend over some pretty rough terrain, but there is no doubt the regular 800 is more nimble. I’m happy with my bike though. But then I haven’t test ridden an 1190 ADV yet either.

  2. The main reason to get the Adventure model would be the larger gas tank. Most any bike is going to have a sub-par suspension though (maybe except for KTM). I too would love an 1190 Adventure, but lack the money to buy one. 🙂

  3. One weekend my brother in law who had recently returned from overseas service decides we should head to the Kimberleys in NW Australia from Sydney in the starightest line we could go.
    He has a luxurious KTM 990 which I must admit I love. Many add-ons while he was away sending me presents for his bike.
    My wife had recently suggested that ‘we’ should start touring.
    I am big fan of the Long Way Down etc series which let me know I didn’t want a BMW 1200.
    I have ridden dirt bikes all my life – not a novice, not a pro. Love just being out there.
    2010 saw me purchase a new F800GS without to much research.
    The bike is still in my shed and it has not let me down thus far (50K+ kms)
    I put new wheels/rims on it almost immediately – SS spokes and 18″ rear for better tyre selection and ride.
    Standard exhaust change really woke the bike up ( might be in my head as it sounds better too) and have imported and fitted Bitubo racing suspension kit for the 800GS providing full adjustment and improved ride. (Standard suspension is too city for me),ROC Stomper dampner for the sand – I would do that on any bike for peace of mind.
    The 2 of us completed the ride he had dreamt up without problem – 13500kms all up.
    I carried fuel for him as the 990 is thirsty however all else levelled out.

    They are 2 very different bikes – this is not to compare, only share.

    Would I have a KTM 990 – of course. Albeit at that time the service for the KTM was limited by locations and repeated poor service problems. This has changed now in 2015.

    The 800GS is not as aggressive on the right hand however gets me to all the same places.
    The wife has been on the back around Tasmania without problems now and fortunately for me it spends a lot of time on the Alpine way in the Snowy mountains due to work.

    Looking now at my next bike – I’m torn.

    • Your next bike? the same bike, you invested a lot in it -keep it
      I have a F800 gs STOCK, now its passing the 135000km mark, still love it and beat it
      Same engine/suspension.Using it all year round-HARSH WINTERS IN cANADA
      All the best

    • My congrats to you! You are very better of then us in the Czech Republic- some of my motorbike partners said he has bought BMW 1200 GS in your country for more than 1/3 les price then here in the CZ- transport distance from Germany to Praha is some 300 kilometres, while to Australia some- say 20 thousand kolometres?
      Good job your dealers did!

      Do you happen to have some photos taken from your trip, please? 13 500 km across desert and bush, my dream! Maybe some time… I have BMW GS 650 Sertao (200 kilograms weight) and BMW K1300 S- sport tourer. Thinking of KTM 1190 Adv. R. Or Husqvarna FE 300-350 ccm? For rider´s training?
      Good luck to every trip you make, guys!

      Vladimir

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