You old smoothie

HE makes a comfortable living and is probably taking Lipitor. Do you know what type of bike he’s riding?

What if I told you he recycles and still has his hearing. Do you know what manufacturer I’m talking about now?

If you guessed BMW, go to the fridge and grab yourself a Hefeweizen. You win.

Like a certain other manufacturer that has made gobs of dough selling high-priced bikes to reentry riders, BMW has been wrestling with its own reputation and the graying of its customer base. It has also been dealing with a Grand Canyon-size gap between its 650 cc singles and 1200 cc twins.


Hence the F 800 S and ST. With the sport and sport-touring models of its newly hatched, liquid-cooled 798 cc motor, the German manufacturer is going Japanese, offering a hip, mid-size sport bike that’s priced to move faster than a cat in a bathtub. The S model is a Honda-esque $9,900.

The F 800s are the first BMWs with parallel, rather than flat, twin cylinders, and performance is front and center. Top speed for the S is 125 mph. BMW claims it reaches 60 mph in a brisk 3.5 seconds, maxing out its 85 horsepower at 8,000 rpm and its torque at 63 pound-feet. Although those numbers won’t persuade superbikers to trade in their rides, they don’t tell the whole story. So the six-speed F 800 S isn’t the fastest or torquiest beast I’ve ever saddled. It’s definitely one of the smoothest.

Instead of the usual counter balancers to kill bad vibes, the F 800s use an additional swiveling conrod. That has the added benefit of noise reduction -- a BMW hallmark. Another sound decision: The final drive is a quiet and lightweight belt (rather than a noisy chain or heavy shaft).

BMW has carved out a niche as the kinder, gentler motorcycle manufacturer -- one that treads lightly on the environment even as it tears it up on the street. The F 800s continue that tradition. They use a highly evolved (and patented) fuel injection system that, per my test, yielded 52 miles per gallon from its 4.1-gallon tank. There’s a secondary air system to maximize fuel burning and keep emissions well ahead of the EPA’s schedule.


The fuel injection system and other electronics are housed in front of the seat, where the tank would normally be, in an exaggerated and arched shell. As on the F 650, which will be discontinued after this year, the gas is under the seat, to lower the bike’s center of gravity and improve handling, which was quite deluxe.

The F 800 S is a svelte 401 pounds dry, and it wears what’s been packed on to its aluminum frame quite well. The chubby 43 mm tube on the telescopic front fork and single-sided swingarm loved the canyons, and the canyons loved them back.

When it was time to reenter reality and hit the city streets, its 12.6-inch dual discs and four-piston calipers did the deed, though the single 10.4-inch disc in the rear was squeaky.

As for ABS, that isn’t stock on the F 800s, most likely to keep the price at four figures; the Bosch two-channel system is a factory option and costs an extra $890.

Because BMW’s newest bike is so reasonably priced, add-ons like that won’t hurt quite as much.


2007 BMW F 800 S


Base price: $9,900

Powertrain: Water-cooled, four-stroke, parallel twin cylinder, four valves per cylinder, DOHC, six-speed

Displacement: 798 cc

Bore and stroke: 82 mm by 75 mm

Horsepower: 85 at 8,000 rpm

Torque: 63 pound-feet at 5,800 rpm

Seat height: 32.3 inches

Dry weight: 401 pounds