Test Riding the BMW F800GS - Buffalo Style
The F800GS is truely an amazing and versatile machine, but good luck explaining to your significant other.
I’m noticing it’s tough to generate much sympathy for enduring a long and obnoxious winter once people discover that I’m from Buffalo. With the same type of indifference generally reserved for people who voluntarily go on a starvation diet then complain that they’re hungry, I’m often dismissed with a shrug. “Move someplace else,” is a common reply. One for which I’ve yet to manufacturer any sort of intelligent counter. I mean really, aside from proximity to family, work, riding buddies, endless childhood memories, and the security that comes with knowing an area from birth, there is nothing holding me down here.
What the non-riding population can’t comprehend however is the simple fact that if I were anywhere else, I would be constantly distracted by thoughts of what I was missing here. Take for example the other day when my longtime riding associate, Drew, finally took delivery of his BMW F800GS. It was a much anticipated moment that very nearly went off without hitch had it not been for his wife, who through equal parts body language and inaudible sighs, expressed her disapproval of the new acquisition. A wave of suppressed emotion spread across the small gathering of guys in her presence that were acutely aware of her dissatisfaction and didn’t want to rub salt in the proverbial wounds by jumping around like a bunch of idiots.
Once she retreated to the comfort of her living room, the “boys” were back to celebrating the latest addition to the fleet through the time-honored tradition of microwave popcorn and a few cold ones. Missing out on moments like these would be truly heartbreaking, especially in exchange for a mere calendar year of beautiful weather.
Between you and I, though, this has been a rough off-season even by Buffalo standards. Since about November the weather has been following a bizarre pattern whereby we are immersed in arctic air so bitter that any and all thoughts of joining the Polar Bear Club are immediately satisfied even through several layers of clothing and the car heater on max. About the middle of the fourth week of the endless cold snap, a 45-degree day appears to remind us briefly what it feels like to inhale without freezing our nose hairs then a violent storm blows in that same evening and drags the temps right back down again. This has happened at least four times so far this year and, sadly, there is no end in sight. If there are any mad scientists in the area close to finishing development of a weather-altering machine, please, we lowly motorcyclists implore you not to give up.
It isn't till some one else is on your bike do you realize how good it really looks.
Fortunately the Beemer’s arrival happened to coincide with one of the rare 45-degree days: specifically the eve before one. I was quite surprised when Drew used its inaugural ride to stop by my office to allow me a test-ride of the mid-size adventure tourer.
“Be careful,” he cautioned as I fired the beast to smooth-rumbling life. “Should anything happen to her, I’ll have nowhere to sleep tonight.”
I assured him of my intimate understanding of his situation with a nod of the head that doubled as a means to get my visor to drop into place. With the slightest twist of the German-precise throttle, the GS rolled smoothly out onto the yet salt-bleached road and directly behind a slow-moving semi. After several miles of purposely keeping my distance behind the absolutely useless mud flaps before me, the turn off I had been waiting for came into blurred view behind my well-speckled visor.
Like any diehard journalist with his readers in mind even over his own safety, I flipped up the greasy clear plastic and pulled three long gears down a choppy secondary road made even more whooped out by the snowplows. The 800, I’m pleased to report, flies a wonderfully straight line though the rough stuff and provides its pilot with just the right blend of torque and feedback. While this hardly counted as a true off-road experience, it was far from the definition of a paved road either. In fact a large snow bank to the left of the road had melted a swift little stream that the GS seemed to delight in splashing across twice, or three or four times before I headed back to the parking lot.
Drew greeted me with the eyes of a proud owner who had only just realized the magnitude of the bike’s beauty by seeing it being ridden by someone else.
“She’s a beaut,” I called out over the engine’s steady idle.
“Sure is. I think I’ll run down and get some groceries with it. Maybe if I cook up a big dinner and have it waiting for the wife when she gets home, I’ll be back out of the doghouse.”
That trip to mexico may not be a bad idea.. the GS looks pretty good here on the sun baked roads.
“Hey, if not maybe we can both ride right on down to Mexico and spend our days leaning against the side of a white-painted building on some dusty road to nowhere wearing low sombreros and matching ponchos.”
“Are you kidding, we wouldn’t last a day anywhere else. This place is all we know and as much as we hate to admit it, it’s all we want to know. Without so much as a day of metrological training in our lives, any one of our riding group can give a thoroughly accurate weather report based on experience alone.”
“Maybe you’re right,” I admitted reluctantly while tossing him the key to his new tenement on wheels. “You better get moving, we’re due for a violent storm in about three hours, forty-seven minutes, fifteen seconds.”