Maybe we were too busy talking about how naked bikes don’t sell well this side of the pond. Perhaps too focused on the economic pitfalls of late, or too fixated on the latest superbike technology. Whatever the case, we almost completely overlooked the number of serious entrants in the segment this year. And we almost failed to notice that the segment is more robust than ever, with a number of manufacturers importing models previously only available in Europe, and others updating their already potent packages.
There is just no feasible way to test all the available naked bikes in one fell swoop. That in mind, we lassoed up a group of bikes that are either new or updated for 2011 (the Triumph Street Triple R and Ducati Monster 1100 EVO are actually 2012 models) and went to work. And while no one engine configuration is duplicated, no displacement matched and no price tag the same, this year’s eclectic group of stripped eye candy proved to be one of our best yet.
BMW F 800 R
It doesn’t take more than five minutes aboard the all-new F 800 R to realize this isn’t quite the sadistic two-wheel monster BMW stunt rider Christian Pfeiffer makes it look to be. The R model was said to be developed with input from Pfeiffer however, and features a more sport-oriented double-sided swingarm, chain drive and shorter gear ratios in the later three gears.
In the engine department, the BMW doesn’t exactly clamor performance. A rather tall first gear makes stoplight-to-stoplight commutes a tad frustrating, although the revised six-speed transmission is faultless. The closer spacing between fourth, fifth and sixth gears is instantly noticeable too, as is the engine’s nature to build revs with urgency.
The BMW F 800 R’s cockpit...
The BMW F 800 R’s cockpit layout is comical at best, with a busy analog speedometer that takes some diligence to read. The digital readout does offer a gear indicator and fuel gauge though, and nice wide mirrors provide the best view of what’s behind you, although vibes render them useless at speed.
In typical parallel-twin fashion, the F 800 R is buzz happy, with a significant amount of vibrations making their way through the footrests and handlebar as you creep near the 70 mph mark. Surprising, especially considering the engine features a unique swivel-rod counterweight specifically designed to fend off the vibrations emanating from the 360-degree crank. Also worthy of note is the excessive amount of engine braking, which often makes the entrance into tight corners …um… interesting on your more spirited passes through the twisties.
Not to say that the BMW is a handful in the canyons though. In fact, even with its noticeably long wheelbase, the bike steers with relative ease and is extremely stable at speed. The non-adjustable front fork is tuned quite well too, with sufficient damping characteristics that allow it to absorb rough patches of road well. Plus, spring preload and rebound damping adjustments to the horizontally mounted rear shock can be made in just minutes via the turn knobs on the shock.
Ground clearance is seemingly a non-issue with the BMW as well. Although that’s in part to the bike’s rather high footrest placement, which admittedly provides a slightly cramped riding position. However, BMW offers both a high or low seat, with the former providing a 32.5-inch seat height and the latter a 30.5-inch seat height, at no additional cost.
Even more, BMW customers can opt for the premium package—as we did. With this, you get ABS brakes, heated grips, accessory sockets, alarms, an on-board computer and tire-pressure monitoring system. While the package does send the price tag into five digits, it is one that most BMW customers will surely go for. That’s because the bike’s ABS system, equipped with BMW’s new ABS sensor, works flawlessly with the 320mm rotors and four-pot Brembo calipers to provide quick, safe stops. We do wish, however, that the system had an off setting, like the Ducati offers. No complaints with the heated grips though, as they made both early morning and late night rides all the more palatable.
As with any BMW, you’ll either...
As with any BMW, you’ll either love or hate the F 800 R’s asymmetrical headlight design. The bike has the most generous wind protection, although testing proved wind was directed towards the rider’s upper body.
The BMW’s new throttle valve kinematic system is noticeably improved for 2011, providing not only a smoother throttle delivery, but also enhanced fuel mileage. Such good fuel mileage in fact, that if you’re anything like us, you’ll run out of steam before the bike runs out of fuel. That’s not to say we’re (too) out of shape, just that the wind blasts bouncing off the fly screen, mixed with the vibes through the handlebar, were more punishment than we could bear for an extended period.
If you can learn to live with the vibes, cramped ergos, and rather confusing gauge arrangement, you’ll be quite happy with the BMW. At the end of the day, we actually came to grips with it. And found pleasure in its more upright, relaxed seating position and plush seat. There’s still no denying this isn’t quite the bike Christian Pfeiffer makes it look to be though.
BMW F 800 R
+ Chassis is surprisingly stable mid-corner
+ ABS works well
– First gear too tall
– Excessive buzz through handlebar and foot pegs
– Poorly laid-out gauge cluster
x Some things are better left unsaid
Suggested Suspension Settings
Rear: Spring preload—16 turns out from full soft; Rebound damping—1 turn out from full stiff
BMW F 800 R
11.799 sec. @ 114.49 mph (corrected)
60-80mph/ 4.34 sec.80-100mph/ 4.64 sec.