Motoring Motoring News

Hendri Pelser
6 minute read
9 Jul 2014
12:29 am

‘Baby’ Adventure a tough guy

Hendri Pelser

It is no fun travelling through a foreign land on your own; you need some company.

The Foscagno pass near the Swiss border in northern Italy. Picture: Hendri Pelser

So, I met my travelling companion in a basement. Not a smelly, wet, dark, stinky basement, but a clean and bright basement in Milan, Italy.

The BMW F800 GS Adventure is a looker from almost every angle. Initially however, I was quite sceptical of the machine, thinking it would amount to a “baby Adventure”. But, the bike definitely has its own personality and it does its big brother, the iconic 1200 GS Adventure, proud.

During our seven days together, the 800 was a pleasure. Whether technical and twisting mountain passes, long highway stretches or ploughing through city traffic, the machine impressed on every level.


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My first challenge was to navigate Milan traffic. There are two golden rules when driving in Italy, the first being to remember to stay on the right hand side of the road. The second is actually more important as every braking manoeuvre an Italian executes, is an emergency brake.

They will tear down the street and at the very last minute switch on their indicators while stamping down on the breaks. Only then, will they turn.

This meant that I had a lot of opportunity to test out the 800’s brakes. They work very well, as I am still alive.

While the brakes did their job, the front end of the machine has the habit of dipping quite a bit under hard breaking and this takes some getting used to.

As soon as I got out of the city, the motorway took me north. The bike accelerates quickly and gets to cruising speed without much hassle.

Only a short drive north of Milan, Lake Como is a popular holiday destination with locals. Picture: Hendri Pelser

Only a short drive north of Milan, Lake Como is a popular holiday destination with locals. Picture: Hendri Pelser

The morning ride to Lake Como was another lesson in Italian driving and the absolute lack of a following distance. Even in sixth gear, the bike still had quite a bit of power left and could accelerate away with ease.

The large windscreen protects the rider quite well and is low enough to allow for wind flow to one’s face.

This is brilliant to cool you down in the heat, but also means that you do get wind noise on longer cruises. However, the shield is well designed and the wind did not really catch my helmet peak, minimising buffeting and saving my neck on the long stretches.

The front, aggressive, classic “Adventure” fairings protect one’s legs very well, making the bike a superb cruiser for longer stretches.

The widened seat on the Adventure is extremely comfortable for longer rides. The narrower front edge of the seat also makes it comfortable when standing.

The night stop was a largish town called Bormio which is a biker’s haven. The surrounding roads are fantastic and the mountain passes offer twisting roads and eye-watering hairpins. Here, the 800 transformed into a nimble little go-getter.

Even in deep rural areas, tarmac surfaces tend to be in fairly good condition in Italy. Picture: Hendri Pelser

Even in deep rural areas, tarmac surfaces tend to be in fairly good condition in Italy. Picture: Hendri Pelser

At 229 kg, the machine is not that light. But, because the petrol tanks sit on either side of the seat, it has a lower centre of gravity and feels extremely nimble. As a result, you can throw it around the corners with ease and acceleration out of mountain hairpins never gets old either.

One of the few gripes I have with the bike is the width of the aluminium side panniers. On the 1200 Adventure, the panniers are almost exactly as wide as the handlebars. On the 800, they stand out a little. This takes some getting used to, especially when you are on a busy, winding mountain road or trying to get through traffic.

The 800 has enough power to thrill, and while it is not as powerful as its big brother, it’s quick enough to be exhilarating.

According to the literature, the 4-stroke in-line 2-cylinder engine produces 63 kW (85 hp) at 7,500 rpm.The electronic suspension system (ESA) works well and offers three different settings: Comfort, Normal and Sport.

The machine also has Automatic Stability Control (ASC) as an extra. With all these toys the bike is most forgiving. You can also gear down quite belligerently and the bike’s back end never stepped out of line.

This came in handy in the famous Stelvio pass north of Bormio. Thick mist and snow greeted me at the summit and it was a tricky ride to get back down the mountain on the slippery roads. But, the bike performed splendidly in the miserable conditions.

Thereafter the Dolomites National Park, a Unesco World Heritage Site, offered breath-taking scenery and even more magnificent mountain roads.

There are a number of small towns on the footsteps of the Dolomites National Park - a Unesco World Heritage Site. Picture: Hendri Pelser

There are a number of small towns on the footsteps of the Dolomites National Park – a Unesco World Heritage Site. Picture: Hendri Pelser

With the rain constantly on my heels, I made a beeline for Lake Garda and then the coast – the bike ate the kilometres of asphalt without blinking.

The 24 litre tank is great and throughout the trip fuel consumption hovered between 5 litres and 5.2 litres per 100 km.

The famous Cinque Terre near Genoa is truly something to see, and the Unesco World Heritage Site makes for great riding with its narrow roads and amazing vistas.

While I did not have masses of opportunity to test the 800 on dirt, what little off-roading I did was a pleasure. The bike balances well at low speeds and standing is comfortable.

With its 24 litre tank, the BMW F800GS Adventure did not need to make a lot of pitstops while touring Northern Italy. Picture: Hendri Pelser

With its 24 litre tank, the BMW F800GS Adventure did not need to make a lot of pitstops while touring Northern Italy. Picture: Hendri Pelser

Similarly, when the GPS sent me to what is arguably the vilest road in all of Italy – the SP8 – the bike, with its 21-inch front wheel, did not bat an eyelid as we went through ruts, bumps, missing asphalt and potholes.

After seven days and about 1300 km, we ended back in the basement in Milan – the holiday romance over.

At around R150 000, the BMW 800 GS Adventure is not cheap, but, it is a prodigious bike and I certainly wouldn’t mind one in the garage.

The aluminium panniers will set you back another R20 000 or so and the GPS and cradle is in the region of R10 000.

– Follow Pelser on Twitter: @HendriPelser


Like the bike? Experience the trip.

special-main-pic (2)

Read our special multimedia feature – the bike, the trip, videos, galleries all in one place.

Click here to read Seven days of seren-Italy.