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Now before we get started on the important business of reviewing the motorcycle I should say I’m a little bit biased towards the F800GS. I rode one while at Simon Pavey’s off-road training school and that was one of the best weekends I’ve ever had, not just of riding bikes, but ever.

I’m not sure if this makes me terribly sad or just a little bit too into motorbikes but I think you should be aware that just looking at the bike, especially covered in mud, reminds me of good times. And yes, I’ve just realised that sounds a bit sleazy. At the off-road school I got to experience what the F800GS is like in the mud with proper knobbly tires on it, and I’ll put a link to that at the bottom of the page. This is a review of what the bike is like on the roads.

The bike, with a little bit of mud on it.

The F 800 GS, with a little bit of mud on it.

I tried to think of somewhere completely unlike rural Wales to take the bike. Something far away from the rolling hills and muddy tracks I’d been on before so I took the motorbike to London. In the rush hour. In the rain.

Since I first encountered the F800GS when it was parked up next to a load of 1200 GS motorbikes I always think of it as rather small, well perhaps not small but not huge. However when you put it next to most other bikes it’s size is fairly noticeable. It’s a bit of a giant, but in a good way. The only time that this became an issue was when I was trying to park the bike, although too be fair the panniers were causing most of the troubles.

The bike had the BMW panniers attached to it and they are big, heavy and waterproof. They are wider than the handle bars and after about ten minutes of riding around London I realised why you never see couriers with panniers, they only ever have top boxes. They also make it fairly difficult to park the bike snugly in the motorcycle bays dotted around London. On the plus side the can be removed in a few seconds with a satisfying clunk so once you’ve found a space you just pop them off and put the bike in.

The bike lurking in London.

The F800GS lurking in London.

The rest of the ride around London was fairly uneventful. The F800GS has lots of pleasant torque at low revs which means if you need to blip ahead of someone when the traffic lights go green you will. While it can be a little bit snatchy at low speeds once you allow for that with a bit of clutch work it’s great fun. It’s roll-on acceleration is really impressive so if you have to go from 30mph to 60mph it will get you there before almost anyone else.

The height is also an advantage, while sat in the seat you will see over the top of most cars and if you stand up on the pegs you’ll be able to see over the roofs of black cabs which is very, very useful. So useful in fact that they should include that in the sales pitch when selling the bike in London.

The next big test of the bike was some motorway riding. I had to go up to Silverstone for a work thing and then down to Devon. The weather report was awful with rain, vicious crosswinds and even a hint of snow. This would be a proper long distance test of the bike. I zipped up everything I could on my Tuareg suit (a link to the review is at the bottom of the page) and set off.

At 70mph the bike cruises happly, and strangely doesn’t seem to actually use any petrol. It has a specially programmed engine which tries to use as little fuel as possible and it really works. it’s amazing how far you can go between filling up.

Aside from the surprising fuel economy there isn’t really much else to report about the bike on long distance slogs and I mean that as a good thing. I travelled through horrible cross winds, had to deal with rush hour on a motorway in the snow and even a couple of slightly hairy moments when a hire van decided to change lanes without indicating or checking it’s mirrors the bike just dealt with it.

This glows orange at night which looks excellent.

The display glows orange at night which looks excellent.

That’s the overriding impression the bike gives, it deals with things confidently. Put the panniers on and you can cover vast distances with all the gear you will need without it getting wet and take them off and you’ve got a surprisingly slim bike that can slip through tiny gaps in traffic.

Even without the impressive fuel economy this would be a bike to consider but once you factor that in it’s something you really should take for a test ride. BMW really are ahead of the pack on this, I talked to a load of other motoring journalists about reviewing bikes and they said the top question they get asked about bikes these days is fuel economy.

So it’s stylish, comfortable, fast, adaptable and even suitable for when the fuel runs out and we live in a Mad Max style society fighting over petrol. in short it gets a big thumbs up from me.

Links mentioned
A review of Simon Pavey’s off-road school

An off road review of the F 800 GS

Review of Hein Gericke Tuareg gear

BMW F 800 GS

Motorcycles aren’t always the most practical forms of transport. They are brilliant at some things like city commuting or any sort of road that is at least mildly wiggly but for some things that are a bit lame. Moving house for example. No matter how well your Honda Goldwing or Harley Davidson Streetglide handles the miles it’s carrying capacity is never going to match a van. Of course not being able to help people move house is sometimes an excellent idea.

Motorbikes aren’t always about practicality, sometimes they are just about fun. Which is why people occasionally choose to ride things that aren’t terribly sensible. Riding motorbikes is almost always enjoyable, but you can do things that make it even more fun like buying some Halcyon motorcycle goggles.

Check out these bad boys
Check out these bad boys

Just looking at the goggles makes me smile and it has the same effect on other people. I think it might be because you look faintly silly, or perhaps because it reminds people of the sort of goggles fighter pilots wore in World War 2. Either way the reaction while wearing them is positive, it’s the exact opposite of wearing a tinted visor.

They are fairly practical too, in a silly way. They keep the water out of your eyes and while they aren’t exactly idea for winter weather you forgive them that because they are so much fun. On a lovely warm day, when you aren’t in a hurry they are just perfect. 
The only drawback I can think of is that putting them on makes me want to attempt some sort of land speed record on a bike powered by steam, or rebuild Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang as a motorbike.
In short, these goggles are excellent and you should by a pair right now because it will make the world a better place. They come in a range of colours and you can even get tinted lenses if you want to look like some sort of evil time traveller.

I’ve been loaned a Triumph Bonneville T100 for a few days so I could write about it for a feature. Since I had the motorcycle I thought I would post a review of it online as well where I can make it a bit longer with out having to worry about word count.

As is traditional for first getting on a bike with a dealer or instructor watching you my ride away was a bit more wobbly than I would have liked. Which isn’t to say that the T100 is a hard motorcycle to ride, it was just different, if anything it’s a bit disarmingly easy to control but more on that later.

With the initial wobbles out of the way, and out of sight of everyone else I started to learn what the Bonnie was all about. It’s a retro bike designed to evoke simpler times when nylon was futuristic and computers filled rooms. What this means is it’s a motorcycle that looks like a proper motorcycle, but made as easy as a modern bike to ride and look after. This means people who don’t ride bikes think it is cool, even my little brother thought it was excellent and his favourite bike is a Ninja so I was surprised that he took to it so much.

Even cats think it's cool

Even cats think it's cool

On the motorway the bike is fine, it’s stable and will quickly get up to 70mph with out any bother. There is more power there if you want to throw away your license but it does tend to get a bit windy due to the lack of protection. I found this rather charming as it actually felt like you were going fast and it means you are more likely to stay with in the speed limits.

For the next part of the test I took the Bonnie on some wiggly back roads. A few of which were a bit more run-down than I remembered them, including one or two that had grass in the middle but that just added to the fun. The bike seemed happy with all of this and didn’t mind just ambling along and people that I passed smiled and waved. I think they were slightly surprised to see a bike. To give you an idea of how remote these roads are, I rode for thirty minutes without seeing another vehicle.

After this I headed out onto some wider roads, with lovely sweeping corners and up some hills. This was when the Bonnie really started to come together, it was excellent fun riding it around these flowing roads and at around 60mph it really made sense. I was overtaking lorries and tractors and enjoying the beautiful countryside as I sped on by. This was what the bike was for, or at least I thought so until I took it into some towns to see what it was like.

The simple, clear dials showing you everything you need to know.

The simple, clear dials showing you everything you need to know.

It was in a city that the Bonnie really blew my socks off. The smooth engine and light clutch were perfect in traffic and the bike was surprisingly nimble. Even more brilliantly the bike will happlysit at 30mph and stay there so you can just set it at that speed and concentrate on other things like people pulling out when they shouldn’t. This doesn’t happen very often as it’s a nice big bike with road presence so people see you and notice you and this is why I think the Bonnie would make such a great first big bike for any urban rider.

It feels like a big bike, and acts like one but it’s tame and well behaved so after only a few minutes on it you are a far more confident rider. If I was going to be commuting in and out of London, and it wouldn’t involve motorways this would be my bike of choice by a long way. I’ve been on scooters that were harder to manage than this motorcycle, the Bonnie doesn’t have any weird strange habits or anything like that it just gets on with things leaving you to enjoy riding around.

In short if I wasn’t already obsessed with another bike in the Triumph range I’d be seriously considering getting a Bonnie of my own, and I’ve already been recommending them to friends who are thinking of getting into biking. I’m going to stop writing now because, well I want to take the bike out for another spin before I have to hand it back.

If you are going to ride a motorcycle off road you are going to need some serious boots. Even though you will probably be travelling at lower speeds than you would on a road the chance of twisting your ankle or doing some other unpleasant thing to your foot is much higher. Even an fairly innocent action like putting your boot down for a just moment to steady yourself at low speeds can end up in a nasty injury.

It was because of this I invested in some very serious boots before my first adventure ride. I was told by the instructors that I had to wear motocross boots because of the high level of ankle protection they provide, normal road boots just wouldn’t cut it. Water proofing wasn’t an issue as they said that nothing will help when you end up walking through a river so just take lots of spare socks.

When I explained what I needed the boots for the chaps in my local Hein Gericke store suggested some TRG Cross boots. I’d not worn a motocross boot before so I was a bit taken back by the lack of flexibility in them, I could hardly move my ankles at all which made me a bit concerned about if I’d be able to change gear while wearing them.
The boots before the course

The boots before I went riding in them.

The plus side of having your ankles are so cosseted is that they are incredibly well protected, which is perfect for adventure riding. I was told that if I wore the boots around the house for a day before I went out riding it would be equivalent to the movements of thousands of miles or riding and they would become a bit more supple.  So by the time I got to wear them on a motorbike they felt far more natural. They still were a bit like something Robocop would wear but at least they were nice and snug.

Gear changing proved a bit interesting at first, but once I got a feel for the shape of the boots it was fine. The chunky soles mean you can use the edge of them to move the gear lever up which helps if you are still struggling with the lack of ankle movement. I gave the boots a really hard time, they were walked through rivers, stamped in bogs, jammed under bikes and even used for a bit of running and they were brilliant.

The boots after a few days hard riding

The boots after a few days hard riding

Even though they aren’t listed as waterproof you will be fine in a light shower or if you have to put your foot down quickly in a puddle and if they do get wet they dry out pretty fast. They even have a nice leather bit on the inside so you don’t scratch your bike.

After a weekend in them my normal road going boots felt about as armoured as an old sock and so I suspect in the future I’ll be wearing these TRG boots for more than just adventure riding.

The boots were £129.99 and you can order them here.

If you liked this review you can read about my review of the Hein Gerick Tuareg jacket and trousers (pants if you prefer) or read about my first adventure ride here

Okay, let me start off by saying this is an off-road review of the F 800 GS, I did get to ride the motorcycle around a bit on some roads but that was a fairly limited experience so I can’t really talk about that yet. I’m going to try and do a road review in a bit but I’ll have to sort out a loan of a motorcycle with BMW and various other things like insurance.

I managed to get a flat tire, but it was fairly easy to change.

I managed to get a flat tire on the first day, I'm still not sure how.

The first thing you notice when getting on the F 800 GS is that it is fairly tall, so I wouldn’t recommend it to shorter riders. It’s not stupidly tall but if you are riding something off-road you want to be able to stamp your feet down if you need to. It’s also a pretty heavy motorbike. You don’t realise it at first because the handling is so good but when you drop it a couple of times (like I did) it soon starts to get heavy. It’s 185kg dry and a reported 207kg ‘road ready’ with a full tank which is a lot to lift in the mud. Interestingly the bike has a maximum load of 443kg so in theory you could use the F 800 GS to carry another F 800 GS if you could sort out the bungee cords to hold it on. That’s pretty cool when you think about it and gives you an idea of the grunt this bike has.

This power is a bit of an issue until you get the hang of it, the controls are so sharp that if you go over a bump or a rock your hand may jerk around the throttle and the bike will go screaming off into the distance, possibly with you hanging on. I got caught out with this a few times until I got in the habit of riding in a higher gear and feathering the clutch to take the edge off the engine.

The bike is designed for people who really know what they are doing off-road so I have to admit the first day on it was a bit of a struggle. It was exhausting trying to control the bike over hills and things, it was just so eager to go and since a mistake was typically rewarded by having to pick the bike up again I was not a huge fan by the time came to go the pub. After chatting with the instructors about the bike over a pint (read about the course I was on here) they said you had to bully it a bit to get the best out of it and so that is what I resolved to do the next day.

The F 800 GS sporting optional water carriers.

The F 800 GS sporting optional water carriers.

With the advice I’d been given repeating in my head I set off on the second day of riding and tried to be a bit more bossy with the bike. I didn’t quite understand what this involved at first but the F 800 GS has so much oomph in every gear that you can just chuck it into things and it will sort itself out. I just had to have the confidence to do that. The Eureka moment for me was during a hill climb where suddenly the vast amounts of power on tap became a huge asset and from then I was completely sold on the bike.

I could happily scream up and down hills in second gear, third with a bit of a run up and any really tricky tracks (the sort that would trouble you on foot) were resolved by just keeping the throttle open at a reasonable rate in first and using the clutch to control the speed. Even though I’d just adjusted my riding style a bit it felt like a completely different bike, an excellent bike, a wonderful bike.

The F 800 GS is a great machine, one that can handle almost any terrain and after you have been on it a bit other off-road bikes either seem a bit breathless or sluggish. It really is something really special so special that I think my dream garage may have to be changed a bit to make way for a new member.

Here is the official BMW F 800 GS website, and click here to read more about my time at the BMW Off-Road skills course in Wales.

I thought I’d do a quick report on the Tuareg suit I recently aquired, this review is based on two days of hard riding in Wales, in a range of weather conditions including sideways rain and boiling heat so I think it’s a fairly good test. I even fell off a few times so the armour got a bit of a going over as well.

The suit drying out after getting soaked, the next day it was bone dry.

The suit drying out after getting soaked, the next day it was bone dry.

The suit is composed of three main components. An outer layer which isn’t completely waterproof but seems to hold off light showers and splashes, some lovely chunky armour and a warm and waterproof inner lining. The outer layer has a load of pockets for storing small important things and includes a few handy vents that can be opened for extra cooling. On the back there is a quite large pocket mounted low down which I found perfect for stashing maps and my license in. The build quality is excellent and there are lots of little touches that make you realise how much thought has gone into the suit. The trousers are just as well made and the knee armour feels especially secure.

I spent most of the weekend wearing the trousers with the lining in, to try and stop getting completely soaked when riding through rivers but I wore the jacket without the lining to stay cool. I was fine in this combination in light showers but when it really started to rain I chucked in the waterproof lining and I was instantly snug and dry. It’s a great bit of kit, my only niggle is that you have to be a little bit careful when opening and closing the poppers that hold the lining in. They are designed to be a lightweight as possible so they don’t get in the way but this means they seem a bit fragile. You don’t have to do them all up if you are in a hurry, I got caught in the rain and just zipped the lining in the front and left the poppers alone.

I’d say the suit gets a bit thumbs up from me. It’s going to become part of my winter kit, who am I kidding it is my winter kit. It’s lovely and warm, dries out really fast and it impresses girls who see it because it looks so serious. Yup, so I’d say that is a success. It would be suitable for a serious adventure rider but it would work just as well for a commuter who only rides to work but has sparkle in their eyes that hints of the Dakar.

The Tuarag jacket was £299.99, the trousers (pants for my American chums) were £129.99

Http://www.heingericke.co.uk/

Click here to read a review of the boots I used with the suit

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