2010 BMW F800R

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BMW markets the new-for-2010 F800R as an ‘Urban’ motorcycle.   After one week with this Flame Orange temptress, we couldn’t agree more with this categorization.  While the moto media fixated  this year on the new, uber sexy S1000RR superbike, the F800R naked bike was launched with little fanfare, and that’s a shame.

Coming from BMW, the F800R is blessed with legendary DNA and great ‘bones’, making it a blast to ride.  Styling is edgy and funky enough to earn it two thumbs up from thirty-something motorcyclists.  The optional, asymmetrical flyscreen windshield adds visual weight to the front while the blacked out engine masks unsightly hoses and draws the eyes to the sculpted faux gas tank and bodywork, which are complemented by an upswept stainless steel muffler.  A stylish and functional touch is the side-located gas filler cap, which eliminates the hassle of removing a tank bag when refueling.

Instrumentation is comprised of legible, stacked, analogue speedometer and tach, and a large, digital readout (with a useful -and typically BMW- gear indicator) that shows information from the optional on-board computer.  It’s 798 c.c. Rotax-built parallel-twin engine (first seen on the F800GS) is smooth, fuel-efficient, and torquey, and BMW has extracted two more horsepower for this new roadster.

The F800R’s riding position is biased towards the sport end of the ergonomic spectrum.  Handlebars are flat, canting the rider’s torso forward and into the wind; footpegs are slightly rearset and high.  The saddle is flat with a bump-stop that prevents the rider from sliding back under spirited acceleration.

With the exception of the left side handlebar-mounted “Mode” button that controls the computer’s readouts (avg. fuel consumption, current fuel consumption, ambient temperature, Trip Meter A/B, etc.), the BMW’s controls are straightforward.  And after years of moto journalists’ complaints about Bavarian company’s insistence on using their idiosyncratic, 3-button turn signal system (push left switch to signal left, push right switch to signal right, push another right switch to cancel), BMW has relented and fitted a ‘normal’, single lever turn signal switch.  Heated grips are standard in Canada with a right handlebar mounted switch offering two heat settings.

Living with the F800R is a pleasure.  The fuel-injected engine starts instantly and settles quickly into a smooth idle, clutch pull is very light with a broad engagement range, and the throttle is easy to modulate.  The six-speed transmission is slick and selecting ‘neutral’ is virtually foolproof.

Make no mistake, just because the F800R is rider-friendly and a breeze to operate in city traffic doesn’t mean the new Beemer has the fun factor of white bread.  Far from it.  Seasoned motorcyclists will find plenty of performance in this package.  On the highway, the suspension soaks up road imperfections with finesse.  Rev the engine past 5,000 rpm and the bike pulls with authority up to redline.

In my perfect motorcycle world, BMW would re-tune the parallel twin’s flat, droning exhaust note and give it a more robust (not loud) sound and add a bit more legroom.

Summing up this new addition to BMW’s motorcycle lineup is easy.  The F800R is one of those rare motorcycles that has a near-perfect balance of power, handling, and comfort.  It comes well-equipped and has desirable options (such as ABS brakes) not available from most of its competitors.  With a gentle, low rpm power delivery that’s as friendly as a puppy and a drivetrain that’s lash-free, the BMW F800R is easy to ride.  That makes it a perfect urban commuter and a mid-displacement motorcycle that can be highly recommended to newer riders without reservation and experienced riders too.

Main competitors in the under $10,000 dollar Naked Bike class are the Ducati 696 Monster, Suzuki SV650, and Triumph 675 Street Triple.

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