BMW Launches its New Middleweight F-Series

Imagine that you are riding an all-new BMW sportbike along the sickest road found on the Big Island of Hawaii. The dark highway passing rapidly beneath your wheels is in stark contrast to the blur of lush, green tropical flora flanking it on both sides. A seemingly endless double yellow line disappears into the horizon with the warm smell of Plumeria’s rising up through the air. Up ahead in the distance are the shimmering lights from the mirage of heat rising off the flowing curves, steep dips and relentless rises of this well-maintained slab of blacktop. This is definitely not California.

The steed for this epic journey is the 2007 BMW F800S, a motorcycle designed specifically to fill the middleweight entry-level void in the ever expanding BMW line-up. Drizzled with high-tech hardware including a single-sided swingarm, twin-spar aluminum frame, 798cc fuel-injected DOHC parallel Twin, steering stabilizer, 43mm front fork, adjustable Showa rear shock, sporty bodywork, multi-function information system and one of the most comfortable seats ever created. It’s difficult to comprehend that this is one of the most affordable Beemers on the market today.

The new F-series includes the sporting S model, as well as the sport-touring specific ST version. Both are destined to pilfer middleweight bike sales from the less charismatic parts-bin specials offered up by rival OEMs these days. BMW calls these ‘conquest’ sales and is determined to increase its presence in the entry-level market with the introduction of these as well as the trio of single-cylinder 650cc X-series bikes we have already reported on. After spending two days pounding out hundreds of miles under the merciless environmental conditions imposed by the Kona climate, it is easy to confirm these two bikes have the potential to be a hit with the Tiffany-twisted desires of BMW riders.

Both machines utilize an identical base platform consisting of a twin-spar aluminum bridge frame with the 798cc parallel twin-cylinder engine serving as a partially load-bearing component. Front suspension duties are handled by a 43mm telescopic fork, not often seen on a modern BMW, and a more commonly utilized single-sided aluminum swingarm absorbing the bumpy roads through a single rear shock. Chassis geometry is identical on both versions starting with a sporty 57.7-inch wheelbase, 26.2 degrees of rake and 3.7 inches of trail. Seat height is 32.3 inches on both bikes and an optional 31.1-inch seat is also available as a no cost option at the time of purchase or it can be picked-up from the dealer for $295.

The four-valve, fuel-injected, liquid-cooled motor features a pair of 32mm intake and 27.5mm exhaust valves actuated by a chain-driven DOHC set-up with combustion chambers and port designs based on the experiences learned from the K1200S/K1200R motor. Performance numbers provided by BMW claim 85 horsepower at 8,000 rpm and 63 lb-ft of torque at 5,800 rpm for both bikes. With this motor and chassis at the heart of these Twins, it should come as no surprise that both provided a very similar riding experience in terms of feel and performance. The big difference is of course the riding position and level of protection from the elements provided by the extra cowling on the ST. The sportier feeling of the S comes without the saddlebag mounts, high bars, and big-ass fairing.

2007 BMW F800S

Our sport ride was focused on the riding experience as we journeyed over the mountains between the sanctuary of our hotel and the opposite side of the island with its tourist traps and coffee shops vying for our attention. Between the two lie miles of torn-up, un-maintained tarmac snaking through lava fields, road construction, military depots and ultimately the coastline – where the roads are not as great as those in the mountains and the scenery is beyond reproach. The acres of lava looked like the surface of an alien planet, with its jagged edges providing all the necessary reasons to stay on the road despite motoring along at a nice clip. Like steely knives aching to lay-waste to the beast this once molten terrain is not motorcycle-friendly. In contrast to the most horrible run-off imaginable was the flora-lined highway towards the end of the ride, which reminded us that we were actually still in paradise. It was here in the twisties that the S tipped its hand, revealing the true nature of the beast. This bike just makes riding enjoyable.

For the crowd who prefers the sporting approach to riding, the BMW F800S caters to their needs by offering a racy appearance perpetrated by its minimalist bodywork, cast alloy 10-spoke wheels and a riding position geared more toward sport riding. The bars and windscreen are lower than the ST, the bodywork allows for an unobstructed view of the engineering highlights and the black wheels look significantly cooler than those busy silver hoops on the ST – if my two cents are worth anything.

The F800S is quite plush under almost every commonsense riding condition, so there’s no mistaking it is meant to be a streetbike, not a hardcore repli-racer. The term plush really does set the tone for the description of either of these machines. Its softly sprung suspension and even softer seat will extend the riding time significantly by reducing fatigue from the constant pounding highways are capable of delivering. Along the twisty, chopped up and deteriorating surface of Saddle Road, however, it didn’t feel very soft. After hitting a few gaping chuckholes in a row at triple-digit speed I was happy BMW offers a steering stabilizer as standard equipment. Mosey along at sane speeds and you’ll appreciate the squashy suspenders and sculpted seat.

Sometimes soft is not always a good thing, particularly in the motor department. For those sport riders who judge a bike by performance numbers alone, this may not be the machine for you. The Parallel Twin is pretty bland and it doesn’t emit a very exciting growl but it does have a bit of character. The engine pulses ensure the F800 machines are not entirely devoid of personality – it’s definitely a Twin. The only time annoying vibration is apparent is when it’s tapped out at the upper end of the rev range – but what do you expect, an electric motor? It’s not quite that smooth. The fuel injection system is very good, it’s not abrupt at all, and the six-speed transmission works well too. There is not much of a distinguishable power band, instead it pulls in a linear fashion from bottom to top with a slight surge at the upper end of the tach. For new riders this will provide peace of mind and experienced riders will still be able to have fun because, when it comes right down to it, the bike runs very well.

Like the ST, the S handles good too. With a claimed wet weight of 450 lbs (401 claimed dry) the bike isn’t exactly a featherweight but it has a fairly low cg that pays off with a very neutral and responsive feel to rider input. It’s no R6, but it’s in the ballpark of the middleweight competitor SV650 sans-fuel, so it’s not a porker either. For one reason or another, the F800 gives off a confident feeling of stability at speed and is equally impressive on curvy roads or highways.

The styling definitely looks the part of a sportbike and the low bars and unprotected riding position support the sporting perspective quite well. However, the cushy seat and mellow motor do their best to keep the rider’s ego reined in and it’s up to you whether this is a pro or a con. But in the end, the F800S is capable of running wild if you choose to ride it that way.