Adventure riding means many things to many different riders. For some it’s knocking out 1000 miles in a day; to others it’s going to new destinations, but for me it’s not an adventure until the pavement ends and the trail gets so difficult you don’t know if you’ll make it around the next ‘bend or over the next hill.
This is why I’ve always seen BMW’s Adventure series of GS models as the real deal. These models are the more hardcore and capable versions of BMW’s massively popular GS motorcycles. BMW invited MotoUSA out to Moab, Utah recently to sample the latest of this variant, the 2014 BMW F800GS Adventure.
The testing loop would consist of nearly 80% off-road goodness through the mountains bordering Utah and Colorado. Dirt quality varied from desert sand and silt to alpine gravel and just about everything in between. Some sections bordered on full dirt bike terrain. BMW choose to fit the factory optional Continental TKC 80 Twinduro off-road tires to make our jobs a little easier.
Based on the standard F800GS the Adventure gets over a dozen changes or additions to create the Ultimate Riding Machine (see what I did there?). First off, nothing is worse than running low on fuel when exploring, so BMW fitted a larger tank under the rear seat. The overall capacity has been increased to 6.3 gallons, which can get you over 300 miles on a fill-up. The windscreen is larger for better wind protection, as are the radiator shrouds. A two-tone seat offers more padding for long days on the trail and road, but it comes with a price of a very tall 35-inch seat height. Engine crash bars have been bolted on up front, and at the rear dual-purpose crash bars/saddlebag mounts protect the larger fuel tank. Wide footpegs, an adjustable brake pedal and hand guards add to the off-road capability of the Adventure. Lastly a luggage rack and more rugged front fender complete the transformation of the 2014 F800GS Adventure.
Our test units were the “Fully Loaded” spec that adds three equipment packages called the Enduro, Comfort and Active. The Enduro adds traction control (ASC) and an off-road mode for the ABS brake system. Comfort equips heated grips, an onboard computer and a handy centerstand. Lastly, Active gives the Adventure LED fog lights and BMW’s Electronic Suspension Adjustment (ESA).
What has not been changed is the 798cc Parallel Twin powerplant that has been well-tested and proven in the base F800GS. BMW claims 85 horsepower and 61 ft-lb of torque from the unchanged mill. Twisting the throttle on the F800GS rewards the rider with a nice grunt right on the bottom that climbs steadily to a mellower top end. However, saying the top end is not strong doesn’t explain the whole story.
That less punchy top end allows for a settled chassis when traveling at high speed on less than perfect surfaces. I found myself flirting with the redline most of the time as it kept the torquey nature of the Beemer’s bottom and mid in check. But when you needed to claw up a chucked out hill or to bounce through a technical rock garden, the torque was there to take you through with ease. The 800’s engine is easily one of the best for exploring the world or your local wilderness.
Off-road, I’ve always been an opponent of any electronic nannies, but I have to say that BMW’s traction control (ASC) works excellent. Press the mode button on the right to select enduro mode and the ASC is tailored for duty in the dirt. The cut in the power is not abrupt and you can even get nice predictable slides on the power. The only real downside is that you can’t snap out the rear end quickly to square off a corner. For that the ASC needs to be disabled, which is easy as the press of a button as well. Overall it’s a well-calibrated system.
BMW also decided that the suspension did not need any changes for the Adventure, running the same front fork and rear shock offering 9.1 and 8.5 inches of travel respectively. ESA on the F800GS Adventure has the BMW standard comfort, normal and sport modes. Comfort is useful for pounding the pavement on long stretches but is too soft for pounding the desert. Sport firms things up nicely for the curvy bits of road but on the dirt you lose some feel in the chop and washboard.
Normal is the mode you need when you want to turn the screws off-road. The feedback from the front and rear is excellent, and it is compliant in the smaller bumps. I do think, however, BMW should have re-sprung and re-valved the Adventure as the extra 33 pounds tacked on from the larger tank and off-road gear make an already soft suspension even softer. On squared-edged bumps and G-outs the rear-end blows through the stroke easily. If you are a heavy rider, your first purchase should be heavier springs.
Just as with the ASC, BMW has the ABS calibrated damn near perfectly on and off the road. On the street the Brembo front binders have a solid initial bite and haul the Adventure down from speed with power. Getting into the ABS takes a very heavy trigger finger. Out back the ABS kicks in a little more eagerly as the feel is not quite the same as the front. In the dirt the off-road setting is truly amazing. I’m not a big fan of ABS in general, but if every system was as good as the BMW’s I’d be changing my tune. The rear-end actually slides a bit before the electronics take over, giving the braking a very natural dirt bike feel. Up front the ABS also holds out until the very limit and when it does activate it stops the bike rather than limiting braking force. I only turned off the ABS for one quick test and preferred to leave it on. It’s that good.
The rider’s compartment is comfortable and roomy with wide bars that give plenty of input to the front end. A large windscreen keeps the wind off of the rider’s torso and helmet and buffeting is nonexistent. The large foot pegs are comfortable when standing and provide room to move while seated. At 35 inches the two-tone seat is tall and has just the right amount of cushion for a day in the saddle. There is an accessory low seat available, but I’d take the extra padding of the taller seat.
After spending an entire day in the dirt with the latest Adventure for BMW, I was left more than impressed and would go as far as saying this is my favorite BMW available right now. The 2014 BMW F800GS Adventure fully lives up to its moniker, and would be my first pick when heading out on dirt-heavy adventure.