2009 Kawasaki Versys versus 2009 BMW F800ST
I really really liked my Versys, in fact, it was my second favorite bike next to the Yamaha TDM850 that went to the sky, but got a deal on a Beemer that I couldnít refuse. $3500 difference and I got to keep all my farkles which should fetch $1500. My V had 20,000 miles, the Beemer had 4000. After a few weeks of ownership and over 1000 miles I thought that I would share some of my not so humble opinions with you. The Versys is a great bike but it is built to a cost and suffers from squeaks and rattles and blurred mirrors. These can be fixed and many people farkle the heck out of them making them into everything from dirt bikes to grand tourers but that has two side effects, one badÖadds to the cost of the bike, one goodÖitís fun to make it your own. The Beemer took some time getting used to as it is soooo different.
The switch gear is the typical BMW stupid stuff, sometimes I think they try to be different just for the sake of being different but at least my brain and hands have finally adapted to find the buttons 90% of the time but it is still requires a more dexterous finger/thought movement than the Japanese approach. The Beemer has a great turn signal cancel feature. It cancels after 10 seconds of movement or 650 feet which works out to be almost perfect in most situations. The exception being in town traffic where I donít want a car following me think that I am going to turn into a business after making my initial turn.
The first thing I modified was the side stand. As it comes the foot is less than two square inches and there is no way that is enough to support it on hot asphalt. It was easy to remove the side stand as the Beemer came with a center stand. I thought the lean angle of the bike when resting on the side stand was about right and didnít want to alter that so I ground down the bottom of the stand 1/8 inch and then welded some 1/8 plate to the bottom. After many trials I finally got the foot shaped right so that it does not interfere with the center stand or hit the exhaust. It is now about 12 square inches in area; enough for everything except soft mud.
The next thing I addressed was the heat issue. It scorched my knees. I mean on a hot day it really felt like I could actually be burning myself. It took two tries to effect a cure but now I am happy to report I am very satisfied with the results. I glued some water heater insulation wrap that I had leftover onto an old plastic waste can that I cut up to fit the where the heat was coming out from under the fairing. To mount it I used some steel strap that I drilled and tapped. The plastic was covered with vinyl that closely matches the seat. The strap was backed up with ľ inch of hard rubber zip tired to the frame and the plastic was screwed to the strap. The rubber serves two purposes. It allows the screw heads or strap to not touch the frame and it allows a hot air exhaust path. Actually I think it wound up looking better than stock and the only time I even notice any heat at all is in slow traffic on 90 degree plus days. I can also report that it has no effect on the engine overheating as I got caught in some road construction on a 95 degree day that was a walking pace or less for at least a half hour and the temperature gauge never moved.
The BMWís quality and attention to detail is superb. I can now begin to understand and justify the motorcycles cost. The motor and transmission are superb except for the vibration. It vibrates like a big single and is the first bike I have ever owned that will actually put my hands and feet to sleep. I think this is another case of BMW just trying to be different. Instead of the traditional vibration dampener that uses a rotating counterweight that moves in opposite phase to piston movement BMW uses a method similar to a Ducati single. It works great on the Duc. It doesnít seem to do much for the Beemer. I am going to try Ricor Vibranators if I can finally get hold of them to find out which kind to order as they donít list my BMW. This is another case where BMWís penchant for being different is detrimental. The BMW bar ends are completely different than anyone elseís so of course aftermarket companies do not offer as much support for this brand and if they do the cost is much higher because of the lower production runs.
Nothing about riding this bike seems hurried, in fact I became fascinated with watching the on board computers readout of the instantaneous gas mileage. This motor is a lean burn type and for itís size and weight gets great gas mileage. At a steady 70 MPH (as per GPS, the speedometer is 4 MPH off at 70) I was getting around 66 MPG. So far my overage average has been between 53 and 54. That hasnít included much spirited riding but has included a lot of both in town stop and go as well as 70 to 80 MPH freeway trips 2 up with luggage so I am both happy and amazed as this equals my Versys with a 43 tooth rear sprocket. I always wanted another 10 horse with the V; the Beemer has over 20 more so as expected even with the extra weight the acceleration is much more lively. Also I should mention that the V is much more top heavy despite its weight advantage. The V has a 5 gallon tank compared to the Beemerís under the seat 4.1. At approximately the same gas mileage this means that I must start thinking about looking for gas about 50 miles sooner. Both bikes have excellent accurate gas meters.
On reading the owners manual I got a chuckle. It seems that with luggage installed it is recommended that you not exceed 112 MPH. Only from a country with autobahns I guess unless they expected you to keep the luggage mounted on track days.
I hate the Beemerís analog speedometer; itís too small and hard to read at a glance. The Vís is way better. The Beemer does have a gear indicator though which is nice.
My F800ST came with the small (but expandable) panniers. They donít hold much unless expanded and then they stick out so far they look silly. They are not water tight either. They are very trick, lock, and remove easily leaving hardly anything to indicate they were ever there but mine will stay on all the time as I never know where I am going half the time or when I might get back so I like to always be prepared and take along my wife and I coats and rain gear.
Yesterday was the first time that I actually came close to riding it in anger. I have held of because the bike is so different and wanted to make sure I was used to it before pushing. The F800ST feels like a gentlemanís sport tourer. I say this because it extrudes quality and projects such a feeling of composure and competence. It is rock solid in every condition I have encountered so far. In fact at first I never had any idea that I was going as fast as I was. This bike has such a different and more composed feel that it is deceptive. I have no where near reached the bikes and mine combined limits yet. The Vís brakes suck; I spent a grand installing a Beringer master cylinder, etc. The Beemer comes with Brembos (nuff said for those that have ever had a bike with them) and ABS. Unbelievable stopping power, feel, and safety. I canít wait to get to the Dragon with this bike later this year.
I have made some highway pegs for the Beemer just I did for the Versys, old knees with lots of road rash.
One of the biggest disadvantages I think of owning a Beemer is the cost of service and parts and the lack of a large dealer network. BMW has a 1% new bike sales in the US compared to Kawasakiís 11%. I think that when the economy finally comes out of the doldrums that may change though as BMW has been coming out more exciting models and technology lately than the Japanese.
In conclusion I liked the Versys but I love the Beemer. It may just be a keeper and for me thatís saying something as I am quite demanding and always find my eyes wondering every 2 to 3 years.