BMW motorcycles finally brings the F800R Streetfighter over to the U.S. for 2011 and we dig what it brings to the class!
German powersports giant, BMW enters the mid-sized Streetfighter market in the U.S. with its 2011 BMW F800R motorcycle. This naked street bike is based around the existing 798cc Parallel Twin platform and is designed to offer motorcyclists more sport-oriented road handling performance. For technical information on this motorcycle check out the BMW F800R First Look. For this review we will focus on our riding impressions. (Ed. Note: a video review will be coming in the future as we log more seat time.)
Slide into the saddle and you notice immediately how low the seat is. In standard configuration it measures 31.5 inches off the pavement. High and low versions are available as a no-charge option which raise or lower height by one full inch. Based on my six-foot-stature, those at or above that height might be interested in the taller seat. Still, there was a reasonable amount of leg room while riding and my legs and my knees did not feel cramped. We were also pleased with how comfortable the seat was even after a 100-plus mile ride.
One of the benefits of the F800R’s liquid-cooled engine comes in the form of packaging. It’s extremely compact and positioned in such a manner that keeps the motorcycle short in terms of length. It also aids how slim it feels between the rider’s legs. Furthermore, the 4.2-gallon fuel tank is located beneath the seat which further contributes to its friendly mass distribution. This makes it an easy motorcycle to command regardless if you’re maneuvering through parking lots or wailing around corners in top gear.
Although it weighs 439 lbs. with a full fuel load it feels far more agile than its curb weight leads you to believe. The motorcycle changes direction with very little effort and is stable at speed over bumps or rough pavement. The suspension does a marvelous job of soaking up pot holes and pavement irregularities in the city without comprising sporting ability on curvy roads. Equally as pleasing was braking performance though we would prefer if the optional-ABS system ($900 on its own but it is also included in the $1445 premium package) could be deactivated by the rider.
Below 70 mph the F800R delivers a smooth and vibration-free ride. Meanwhile, light and agile handling is one of the F800R’s best attributes. We like these headlights too.
On the road the rider is positioned in an upright riding stance. The aluminum handlebar features a distinct bend with a high amount of rearward sweep at both bar ends. This does two things: first it allows the rider to keep a majority of his or her weight toward the front of the bike without feeling like you’re hunkered down in an aggressive race tuck. Secondly it allows the rider a high degree of leverage when steering which benefits a wide range of skill levels.
Switch gear functionality is similar to other name brand bikes with the left and right direction indicators now combined into one toggle on the left-hand side of the bar. The engine starter and kill switch has also become a single rocker-style switch on the right handlebar.
Instrumentation is comprised of BMW’s traditional stacked tachometer and speedometer that is flanked by a rectangular LCD display which provides a fuel gauge, gear position, trip and odometer functions. It also offers the ability to cycle through the optional Tire Pressure Monitor ($250) function and Heated Hand Grip ($250 or included in the premium package) mode selection. Additional features like a stop watch are included with the on board computer function ($295). For the most part it is fairly easy to read though we would prefer a digital tachometer as opposed to the analog setup as it is hard to read when riding at speed.
Right off idle it is apparent just how smooth and vibration-free the engine is. The engine sounds similar to the low frequency hum produced by the 1200 Boxer-style engine. This can be credited to the even cylinder firing order in which one of the two pistons fires each time the crankshaft makes a full rotation. Compared to the roar of an Inline Four or rumble of a V-Twin engine the Parallel Twin sounds subdued.
But don’t let its passive demeanor fool you. The powerplant generates a robust amount of thrust at low-to-mid rpm which makes it feel quicker than other bikes in its class including the Monster 796 and Shiver 750. Yet because its power is produced so smooth, it doesn’t catch the rider off guard making it a versatile engine for both new and experienced riders alike. Fueling is also calibrated to near perfection which aids in the instant acceleration. Response from the cable-actuated wet-style clutch is also good which makes it easy to identify the engagement/disengagement point when launching from a stop. The transmission meshes between each of its six gears without issue as well.
At speeds less than 70 mph the BMW delivers an exceptionally smooth ride. Above that threshold vibrations leak through the control surfaces and distort the view from the mirrors. At speeds over 100 mph it makes it difficult to keep an eye on what’s happening behind you and renders the mirrors useless. Granted, most riders won’t be cruising at this speed, but it could still be better.
Focus your eyes on the Beemer and its impossible not to draw an opinion on its styling. While it doesn’t have the lustful silhouette of Italian machinery or the slanted contour of bikes from the Far East, its appearance has an industrial appeal in the same vein as Hummer’s rugged military vehicle. The F800R looks like a purpose-built tool. We’re drawn especially to the non-symmetrical headlights, skinny black frame rails and blacked-out multi-spoke wheels, not to mention the engine and chassis parts. It is available in four colors, our favorite being the Alpine White / Lupine Blue Metallic / Magma Red (BMW motorsports) colorway.
The 2011 BMW F800R is very well made motorcycle and is a much better value than other bikes in its class.
Carrying a base price of $9950, the BMW is an excellent value. The build quality and overall fit and finish is at a much higher level than other motorcycles in this price range plus it looks refreshingly different as well. Perhaps even more important is how rider-friendly it is to operate due to its peppy engine performance and agile handling characteristics. Riders seeking the premium riding experience will also be interested in the various options FROM bmw including the $1445 premium package which adds ABS brakes, heated grips and on board computer. Bikes will begin rolling into U.S. dealerships January 2011.