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Date: 09.02.2018

Partly Cloudy (2008)

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I lift the front slightly using the throttle, and change to the right hand trail avoiding the dog. I notice a lazy yawn just as I pass. Better watch out doggie, there are more GS coming. All derived from Paris-Dakar racing successes. With the introduction of the mammoth cc soft adventure touring motorcycles, the midrange bikes have largely disappeared from the market.

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The first indication of a revival in the mid-displacement adventure segment came in when BMW introduced its new F range. A lighter more agile GS was a mouth watering prospect, and here it is! I had the privilege of being in the first group of journalists testing the new GS in various terrains in South Africa.

Last night upon my arrival in South Africa, lively Zulu music was accompanied by the smell of grilled lobster, but it was interrupted by some torrential rain. We all feared that what promised to be the most exciting experience on the GS, the offroad part, could be jeopardized.

They were not designed for deep mud or wet grass! Luckily, the next day was cloudy but dry.

I never regretted it, as that part of the ride is what sticks to my memory more strongly than the road riding. The route was fantastic — with miles and miles of unpaved roads leading onto a steep mountain trail filled with challenging terrain. But to get there we had to do about 60 miles on country roads. The seat height is quite tall at mm. A lowering kit mm is available at no extra cost when ordering.

At 6 foot nothing I had both my feet firmly placed on the ground. If you are much shorter than 6 foot though the mm seat option might be a good idea.

The foot pegs are low enough for comfort and placed correctly for stand up enduro riding. They are rubber mounted, but the rubber can be removed for safe grip riding offroad on a rainy day.

Gear lever and foot brake were ergonomically correct for my offroad boots. The wide aluminum handlebar is made to absorb vibrations, however some low frequency vibrations do come through. The handlebar provides excellent control and the turning radius is both quick and good for slow speed manoeuvres and tight offroad corners. The cc parallel twin engine comes directly from the F S. This has obviously forced quite a few modifications to the engine. Efficient cooling while riding for miles in first and second gear terrain is one of the main developments.

Room has been made for a much wider radiator, and the new placement of the cylinders provide ideal conditions for the lubrication system. It has also allowed quick steering as there is plenty of space in front of the engine both for exhaust tubing, wide radiator and the inch front wheel without using excessive rake.

The fuel injected twin cylinder engine produces a maximum 85hp 7, rpm and 83Nm 5,rpm. The F GS also features air suction snorkels on both sides of the fuel tank dummy. This allows the engine to receive the air volumes required for the torque output. The actual fuel tank is positioned under the seat and carries a total of 16 liters 4. I did get a couple of chances to try the top speed on the quiet South African roads. You may be able to push to or something in favourable conditions, but not with any ease.

I was also slightly disappointed in the fact that the lower gears were not punchier. Lucky for us the F GS has chain final drive, so some sprocket modifications could address this. Paralever or shaft drive lack that adjustability. As for road handling, the F GS is very stable.

The handsome new double swingarm is made from die-cast aluminum. It is long for good traction, and attached to it is an adjustable mono shock with a massive mm spring travel. At the front, we find a solid 45mm upside down fork with mm of spring travel. Attached to the suspension are new aluminum spoked wheels. Knobby tires can easily be fitted. The F GS has two mm brake discs and 2 piston callipers in front. On our test bikes, we also had ABS. You need to do the same thing again each time the ignition is turned off.

There was no doubt that some of the roads we were riding were very slippery, as the ABS worked hard when braking and I had some slides when ABS was turned off. Riding in the South African countryside in the Valley of Hills was a very special experience. But when I did use the throttle through the many bends, the suspension felt a tad soft with the standard settings. I added more preload with the easily accessible adjuster wheel. That was all I needed to feel more comfortable through the bends.

Although a narrow front tyre is great for quick steering, but naturally less stable at high speed than a wider road tire, on the GS I could cruise effortlessly at the same top speed of a typical single-cylinder with much more stability. The F GS is definitely more of a long range motorcycle than any single cylinder enduro.

Fitted as standard is the mid-sized fly fairing in the GS programme. A taller touring screen is available.

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This is all you need to pass a slower car on the motorway. For a really fast overtake on a single-lane road, I would click down a gear or two though. I heard moaning from some other journos about the F GS having too little power. I agree that the GS feels a bit asthmatic on top, and that the three lower gears could be lower still for more punch, but I feel that the F GS is a good package despite this.

I believe that 85 horsepower in a travel enduro that is much lighter and more agile than one with horsepower is a lot more useful to a lot more people. We did reduce the air pressure in the tires for more grip.

After a few miles, I was aching for some knobby tires and I know that would have been a huge confidence boost for me and it would have allowed me to go much faster.

At probably the trickiest place along the route, I got stuck in a steep uphill rut. I could have paddled through and lifted the front wheel out with the engine power. So I really was stuck and had to back up with some help. At that point, I swapped the F GS for a G Xchallenge that easily criss-crossed the rut and provided real grip on the grass next to the long rut on the narrow path.

At the top of the mountain, I swapped back to the F GS. Further down the mountain I passed that wild dog having his nap in the trail. It got steeper and steeper from there on, and momentum was important. Passing some big rocks and horizontal trenches was no problem at all on the F GS. The suspension action, riding position and controls are all very suitable for this type of riding.

Low down torque was lacking though, so I had to keep it going on momentum. But really, with some knobby tires it would have all been cheesecake. The F GS is a claimed kilos lbss. Sliding into ruts is mostly rider error, but with some knobbies it would have been easier to make some mistakes and get out again. I am not sure of the exact mileage we did on gravel and trails, but it took us about 5 hours to get out and onto paved roads again.

I am quite impressed with how the new F GS tackled all this on road tires. One thing that I am absolutely convinced of now is that the F GS is a much better offroad motorcycle than the big Boxer. The handling is sublime, the suspension action predictable and the big cc engine doubles as a touring machine of some class.

The F GS really works better as an all-rounder than the big cc Boxer mainly because it is narrower and lighter. The most versatile motorcycle in the F-series Decent suspension and handling Really works well offroad.