My intention this year is to ride.
Having spent last year working on a customising project that saw my bike spend more time on ramps than it did on the road, this time I want something rideable, gritty, dirty and fun. I plan to ride, and ride often.
My loosely-pencilled plan includes trackdays (something I don’t have much experience of), long touring trips, as well as some advanced riding and maybe even some stunting (I’ve always wanted to pull a good wheelie). I want to do everything and show my esteemed colleagues once and for all that I can actually ride a motorcycle — and ride one well.
I have form with F800s having run a GT in 2013. I found it a perfectly capable, fun and competent machine, but I would never regard it as inspiring. But this latest 'R' model is a lot more stylish and has some key changes which should ramp up the wow factor. The blunt nose and slab-sided look of the bike immediately give more attitude and this ‘come-and-have-a-go-if-you-think-you’re-hard-enough’ look is intriguing, even if it's not exactly the type of bike that I usually find desirable. Of course, you don’t always get what you want, but as leather-faced Mick Jagger continues to warble, you sometimes get just what you need. And my first few days on the F800R have given me much to sing about.
A few tweaks to the engine (it’s up by 3bhp from its GT counterpart to 90bhp) and suspension improvements through the introduction of the upside-down fork have added up to a significant upgrade on last year’s model. It feels stronger and more refined from the minute you start putting miles on the well-crafted clocks. The industrial grunt of the parallel twin still sounds like a pig being led to slaughter mind you, but gearing changes mean a shorter first and second deliver the power at quite a pace around town. Couple this with the reassurance of the excellent electronics package optioned on this particular model and within the first few miles I was finding it hard to wipe the smile off of my face.
The big, four-piston, radial Brembos at the front really do inspire huge confidence, and the aluminium frame is eminently flickable during those fun sunny(ish) evening runs. The bike is relatively light at 203kg, and in the spring sun, across Cambridgeshire’s roads, the F800R makes easy work of the winding, countryside tarmac. So much so that I’m finding myself increasingly excited about getting this bike out on a track and having it be the reassuring constant beneath me.
I’m pleased with my latest two-wheeled friend, although I have already found myself looking through the extensive BMW accessory list and am tempted by an aftermarket pipe to help work on the aural aspects of the engine. But, for now I’m content to get to know the bike in its current form.
This year I had hoped to learn more about my riding and perfect the skills necessary to show an improvement in my craft. If an easygoing, smoothly-powered and calming sensei is actually what I require in order to achieve this over the next few months, then I am pretty sure that BMW will have turned out to have delivered me the exact bike that I need.