So I drove this bike today...
The big BMW trailer was at the dealership today. Jo and I really wanted to ride the R1200GS. They had one R1200GS and one R1200GS Sport Bike available to test. There was only one slot available at 10:30 and another at 12:30 for the R1200GS base model. So we took it. While Jo got on it at 10:30 I pleaded with the BMW rep to test an F800GS, but the road tired version was booked. So they brought out one with a set of TKC80s that was for the off-road event scheduled for the weekend. As I lined up with the other bikes the rider testing the road tired F800GS wanted to check it out with the TKCs so a midway swap was planned.
Immediately I noticed the massive wind blast to the helmet. The stock windshield is useless. I would have much preferred no windshield whatsoever. What I liked the most was the riding position. This bike was set-up for me right out of the box. I remember the Vstrom 1000 that I tested last week had an awkward bar position, and the pegs were back too far. This F800 was perfect. I really liked the wider bars. As our group took the highway exit ramp, all the RRs, 1200GSs, and R Nine -Ts absolutely disappeared. The Versys at 70hp seems to be a quicker bike than the 85hp F800. I though I might have it in “enduro” mode, but confirmed it was in “normal.” Thus far I liked the TKC 80s. They hummed a bit a slower speeds but that was fine. It wasn't until the exit ramp that I realized I was on knobbies. This thing turned poorly. It had no feel from the front tire. It was like I could easily over-steer it completely if I was not paying attention. Much the same as my CR250X with Dunlops. Once again I fell off the back of the group during the turns. The F800 with the Scorpion Trails was a different animal all together. This thing was fun. Forget everything you have heard about 21” front wheels. I really wanted not to like it. I have been bragging about the Versys 17” wheel for ages. The Vstrom that I rode last week had the 19 incher, and I blamed that for the slower sluggish steering. However this F800 with it 21 incher really was fun in the turns. With the wide bars that were quite close, it felt like a super moto. Coming out of the tight turn and into another turn was a bit slowed (transitions) but not enough to bother me. Not a bad bike. The Versys owner will find this bike slow for some reason that I can't explain, and the steering will feel better than you expect. It had all the bells and whistles. (Traction Control, ABS, and a electronic suspension adjustment that seemed to have no difference between Hard and Soft modes). But overall I liked it. I would take this over the Strom 1000 because it is the same price and it was funner to ride, though not as quick.
Then I got on this thing.
So this is the R1200GS. What all high-end Sport Bikes are measured by. The slow twisty turns riding through the parking lot was a bit odd. The big GS twists from side to side when you rev the engine. I guess the Boxer configuration is responsible for this. I really could not be smooth with this thing at slow speeds. The transmission clunked from first to second and the internal rotary force of the engine was felt at each shift point. There was also play in the rear differential and shaft drive that was again weird. I took that same exit ramp and stomped on it and was hit with power unlike I had ever felt before. The KTM 1190 was quick, but not as quick as this bike at lower RPMs. But again, when shifting at high RPMs I got that torsional twisting of the engine. I settled in at 130km/h and hit the cruise control. This thing eats up miles on the highway. Very comfortable. But not as comfortable a riding position as the wide bared, supermotolike F800. With some tweaking the big GS would be fine. I took that same exit ramp that scared the hell out of me with the TKCs and carved it. It was a weird feeling leaned over. I couldn't help but steal a look down at the cylinder head that was, I'm sure, was an inch off the ground, This bike handles well. I used the bike in it's “dyna” mode. Even in 6th gear at 130km/h it was so responsive. Maybe too responsive. A small 2mm twist of the throttle results in the front wheel skipping on the ground. On a rough road this is quite problematic where it is difficult to keep your hand steady. I switched to “rain” mode and the throttle was much easier to handle. So from a Versys owner, this bike is odd in its configuration, and sluggish in its first 3 gears because of its weight. The twisting thing, I'm sure you would get used to. But it is an amazing highway bike and is very fast. It would be hard to drag this thing through the woods.
I have only one more bike to try before the winter. (Triump Tiger) Out of all the bikes I have ridden, I still give the edge to the KTM 1190. But, my best bang for the buck is now the F800GS ahead of the VStrom 1000.