For my big 2010 trip, I was looking for a small, comfortable, light bike equipped with generous cases and, to mix things up a little, one that wasn’t a custom. There was a limited choice. I would have liked to get my hands on the “new again” single-cylinder F650GS
. But fate would have it otherwise, and I found myself with a BMW F800GS
with BMW Vario cases. Its overall length of 2,320 mm, its saddle perched at a dizzying 88 mm (perfect for me) and its light 185-kg mass ensure easy manoeuvrability, and we can classify it as a “lightweight” bike.
|Photo: Luc Brière/Moto123.com
My first contact with the dirt-oriented version of the F800GS, complete with crankcase guards and studded tires, left me disappointed. The engine didn’t serve up the explosive torque that kicks the rear tire out at the slightest provocation, the one you look for on trails in order to ensure controlled drifting. Unfortunately, though generous, the torque is constant, which prevents the rear tire from breaking out at the simple flick of the wrist, and this makes the F800GS hard to corner on gravel or dirt. That first contact had been brief. So it was with an already strong opinion of the engine that I undertook a 4,000-km trek for an in-depth evaluation of the bike.
Those first few metres were difficult. Not only did I have to refamiliarize myself with the bloody three-button flasher system, where I always end up activating the left flasher when looking for the horn or honking to indicate my intention of turning left… but I also had to contend with a COMPUTER that bombards you with more or less useful information but that is quite incapable of telling you how much fuel you have left, except when your range is down to 70 kilometres… Then there was the BMW Vario cases, Vario for “variable volume.” Even with top technical training, it took me a long time to figure out the rack mechanism that adjusts the case’s volume. Oh yeah, and there’s that locking snap that you have to pull and the mounting snap that you have to push. “German Contraption” became my customary cry of despair on this trip! Why keep it simple when it can be complicated?
The first part of the trip was a nice stretch of winding road. The speed limit was 75 km/h, so there was no way I could test the traction limits, especially since two customs were accompanying me. However, the engine took centre stage.
|Photo: Philippe Champoux, Matthieu Lambert/Moto123.com