MCN Fleet: Mastering the mud on the F800GS

Published: 15 June 2016

Can a novice mud-plugger take a 217kg BMW off road in search of adventure?

Dirt tracks, loose rocks and rivers have all passed me by so far in my riding career. The fear of dropping my bike on its side always played a key role in this. But now I have a GS. It’s built for adventure, advertised as a bike that will go anywhere, take you around the globe without breaking a sweat. Follow in the footsteps of Mr Boorman and that bloke from Star Wars to become the adventurer you always envisioned etc.

That’s OK, except I’m the guy who has avoided gravel car parks, let alone rutted dirt tracks and surfaces softened with the previous night’s rain. Until now.

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I took the GS to the Adventure Bike Academy and BMW’s Off-Road Skills courses where I had the chance to take advantage of some expert tuition.

Flicking the rider mode from Road to Enduro for the first time, I felt the GS change slightly as the ABS and traction control became less intrusive to help deal with the loose surfaces.

At first, riding with very low traction was daunting, but before long it became apparent just how capable the GS is off-road. Helped massively by its 21in front wheel, and with bags of usable torque to help cope with challenging terrain, the GS took it all in its stride and gave me the reassurance that everything was going to be okay.

The Continental TKC70 tyres that I’d been struggling to get on with began to make a lot more sense to me too. They feel unstable at high speed, especially when I have the panniers fitted to the GS, and I would choose other tyres for commuting duties on the road. But for use on gravel tracks, and my subsequent road trip through the Welsh mountains, they coped a lot better. With a slight reduction in PSI they found decent grip where I thought there would be none and remained stable throughout.

In all, I’ve been genuinely surprised by the capability of the GS. It’s a tall bike and at 214kg, it’s not a featherweight so I was worried about leaving the tarmac. But I have been delighted to discover it’s a real gem, and is easy to get along with when the going gets tough. It’s incredibly well balanced and carries its weight exceptionally well.

My time off-road also taught me something about the bike, as I now leave it in Enduro mode for road riding when the roads are dry. In Road mode I found the ABS a little too keen, which took away some of the feeling when braking.

To answer if it's suitable for an off-road novice, yes, the F800GS can help find the path into off-roading. But more than that, it’s allowed me to discover a completely new joy of motorcycling.

 

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