Testing the BMW F800 GS Adventure in Northern Ontario
Article by: Stephen Bischoff
Photos by: Stephen Bischoff and Jason Brisken
2015 was a year of vast motorcycle experimentation for me, but one motorcycle stood out; the BMW F800 GS Adventure and most specifically the week I had riding it in Ontario Canada
Coming off a bad accident at the end of 2014 my cruiser was totaled when a young lady ran a stop sign and I T-boned her Toyota. In that instant my membership to the church of cruiser literally came to a screeching halt. But the end of one thing is the beginning of something else.
In the spirit of rider evolution I sampled Harley Street Bobs, I sat on Indian Scouts, I tore around on Ducati Monsters and Triumph Scramblers, but I still didn’t find quite what I was looking for.
I wanted something that could cover highway like a cruiser, but get me into the dirt I’d longed for at the same time. And it was on my trip from Toronto to the perfect proving grounds of Northeastern Ontario on an F800GSA that rang my bell.
Not unlike Moab or Colorado, Northeastern Ontario has endless drool-inducing roads off the beaten path to nowhere. There are an abundance of logging roads, ATV trails, and snowmobile trails branching right off the asphalt with loose gravel, sand, and dirt waiting to be ridden.
The model I rode was the 2015 BMW F800 GS Adventure equipped with the Premium Package. Some features of this package are the traction control (ASC), ABS brake system, heated grips, Adventure LED fog lights, and BMW’s Electronic Suspension Adjustment (ESA). This model also has enduro foot pegs, saddlebag mounts that second as fuel tank protectors, engine guards, hand guards, and a luggage rack.
When I first sat on the bike in Toronto I immediately noticed the height of the bike. In the saddle my head was at the same level as when standing. Despite being a whole head taller than when on either a sport or cruiser it was not an issue for me and I found the seat surprisingly comfortable.
At 6 foot (1.83 meters) tall and with long legs I found the foot pegs were the perfect distance to allow for legroom and a comfortable ride, something I’d had issues with on the smaller F650GS model. Additionally, I found the ergonomics of the F800GS Adventure were exceptional for a comfy riding posture and also helped with visibility by making it easier to pivot while riding to look behind you.
We set out from Toronto and headed 350 rain soaked kilometers (217 miles) straight up to North Bay through heavy weekend traffic. While not ideal riding conditions it was a great first test for the Beemer. Our whole tour was pretty massive as you can see in the map below:
You can read up on all of the motorcycle routes in Northeastern Ontario at Ride The North
The height of the bike allowed for greater visibility throughout the entire trip. Partner that with the ABS and I had increased reaction time and control in dealing with wet oily roads and the folks that lose 40 IQ points anytime a rain drop hits their minivan.
The windshield and the wide side covers protected my body considerably, especially my legs, from rain and puddles; an aspect I was not used to coming from a cruiser. After being chilled to the bone from hours in the rain the heated grips were also a feature I quickly came to enjoy.
On the way to Temiskaming Shores and in clearer weather I began to appreciate the 798cc parallel twin powered GS engine. It was a smooth rider and the suspension effortlessly ate bumps and potholes until I started forgetting they existed at all. The bike was well balanced and even at around 550 pounds (250 kilograms) fueled and with cargo it seldom felt top heavy.
North of Temiskaming we started hitting some very nice desolate highways. King’s Highway 65 provided the first tasty straightaway to open the bike up. While the acceleration was not mind blowing the bike did the ton with ease and the 6.3 gallon (23.8 liter) fuel tank and approximately 300 mile (480 kilometer) range left me feeling secure tearing it up in the middle of nowhere. One small annoyance was the resonance of the bike at highway speed. While not a deal breaker and it didn’t buzz my hands into numbness like a big cruiser, the vibrations of the BMW throughout the rev range grew slightly irritating after a few hours.
Hitting Highway 66 the bike got its first heavy dose of twisties. The bike felt much taller in turns than I was used to and had a big lean that made the road feel much smaller.
Proceeding onto the incredible and desolate Highway 672 I saw more bears than cars. This is where I was thankful for the ABS. I came into a sandy turn a little hotter than I’d liked and when I got aggressive with the front Brembo brake the ABS responded beautifully.
Now in the Arctic Watershed and on the road to Cochrane I was far enough north that civilization and pavement were disappearing and dirt logging roads and ATV trails were popping up everywhere. This is where the real adventure began and I got to see the true capabilities of the BMW F800 GS Adventure.
This bike was not babied on these roads. Despite being 100km (60 miles) down dirt and gravel roads in the middle of a forest I was pushing the bike hard and even might have laid it down once or twice in thick gravel. As soon as my tires left the pavement and hit dirt I activated the BMW’s Enduro mode with the push of a button. This is where the BMW truly shines. The traction control (ASC) is impressive off road to say the least and with the combination of the ABS this bike is a superstar in the dirt. The 61 ft-lb (82.7 N-m) of torque wasn’t too shabby either. Not the fault of BMW, but the lack of knobby tires left me hungry for more as some trails were too rugged and the risk too high with a bike loaded with gear in the middle of nowhere.
One concern I did have about this bike was its lack of a formidable skid plate. The vulnerable positioning of the oil filter and exhaust header pipes at the front of the engine concerned me enough that I would suggest with no hesitation that buying the optional aluminum plate is a requirement if you intend to go off road.
After a week of balls to the wall riding through remarkable Ontario in a vast array of weather conditions and on nearly all surfaces I confidently tested this motorcycle over 2,500 kilometers (1,550 miles). The BMW F800GS Adventure is the jack-of-all-trades and lives up to the Adventure it is so aptly named. It had the off road capabilities of a smaller bike while maintaining the touring comforts you might expect from the 1200GS series. I rode a lot of bikes this year, but the BMW F800GS Adventure might have tipped the scale and converted me to the church of adventure motorcycles for good.