BMW F800GS; An Ownership Experience

A 2008 BMW F800GS was the second motorcycle I owned after a 2000 Suzuki bandit 600. Its size and stance suited that of my longer inseam. Easily able to see over cars I had a commanding view of the road. Nothing I have read yet comments about how the handlebars and mirrors are above the height of car mirrors, a simple fact and a notable advantage.

It had a parallel twin engine that rattles when started but soon calmed down when up and running. Usable power was on tap but lacking when pushed. Sharp brakes gave confidence but a bizarre mix of wheel size 17 inch on the back and 21 inch on the front gave a vague feeling on the road and ‘unique’ characteristics off. I did moderate off-roading, light touring and commuting, it never felt of out its depth however did not fit into an element either. Each situation I was in; motorway, following A roads, tight B roads, green lanes, off-road the compromises where always looming and made themselves apparent readily. It was poor in each regard but as a package was passable.

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It was reliable. I made a point of keeping up with service intervals and the bike never left me stranded however the bike was showing its age and mileage during my ownership. Each consumable part, when replaced, always led to another part needing to be replaced. For instance, when the rear tyre needed to be changed the rear sprocket carrier fell off and the large rubber nuts on the inside needed to be replaced (£55). When the spark plugs where changed the rubber housing that secured it in place also had to be replaced (£78). The lights at night were awful. On country roads I would not dare go above 40 mph as the vision was so poor. I made the mistake of fitting a 90-section tyre on the front. This led to more than one instance of minor loss of traction at times. Surprising but never dramatic lead to a break in confidence.

Frankly, I bought it because of the badge and the legacy. I quickly learnt these are not reasons to buy a motorcycle. I have not ridden a V-strom however that was my other option at the time. I know if I had got a V-strom I would have always wanted the BMW. That is the draw though. BMW is sold a premium product and I do think I had a premium product. The servicing needs where not surprises but I felt disparity between the idea I was sold and the motorcycle I had. The bike ultimately became over bearing. The year rolled around and I worked out that it would cost me £800 just to keep it on the road another year. Not factoring in insurance, fuel, MOT and tax. Therefore it went. I sold it for £200 less than I bought it for so was pleased with that. It did hold its value well. I bought it with 48,000 miles on the clock and sold it with 62,000. I had it just over a year.

I would recommend this motorcycle to someone who is not worried to put a bit of money into his or her machine. If you want reliability and up-right riding position, fantastic carrying capability and a capable motorcycle that will encourage you to seek out different types of riding then go for it. But do not get this motorcycle if you are realistically are going to stay on tarmac +75% of the time, want an engaging smooth ride or to go around corners in the wet with any confidence.

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Try not to get sucked into the marketing like I did. You may lose out a little on a ‘lesser’ machine but will realistically you will gain a lot more. I got wrapped up with the idea of world travel, celebrities on the bike and the amazing advertising. Ultimately I consider buying the bike a mistake because of this.

I have learnt the value of simplicity when travelling. Sensors would fault (though they were ignored), every time I turned on the dash it reminded me I needed to get it serviced (it was serviced just not a BMW to get the computer re-set) and ‘mapping’ became something I have to think about. It just did not suit me as a rider or a person. I liked riding the bike however enjoyed more the status of the vehicle and how I appeared to others on it. This of course could have been false and just in my head but to me it was real.

I tried to explain the same point to a friend of mine who was looking at buying a helmet for £30. For the most part it appeared to be a good buy. Of course it was not up to the standards of more expensive lids but still passable. The issue came when I asked him ‘how will you feel riding around with that on knowing you spent £30 on it?’ He bought a different helmet in the end. The fact is that the £30 helmet could be more than enough for anyone. But his reality of riding with a £30 helmet was an additional risk, made him uncomfortable and best to be avoided.

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I was riding the BMW for a false reality that I had made up and therefore it was no surprise that my ownership with the BMW was short lived. It reminds me of a quote from the Netflix show Bojack Horseman when a girl is breaking up with a guy (basic premise) following a turbulent relationship and says; ‘You know it funny when you look at someone through rose-coloured glasses, all the red flags just look like flags’ – Wanda the Owl.

 

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