BMW F800GS Rocks Moab - Stoned To The Bone

By Jack Lewis, Photography by Jonathan Beck

I've seen fractures, experienced them, treated them, precipitated them and walked on them. I let the dust clouds ahead stretch their lead.

Late in the morning, just around a fast uphill sweeper along a perfectly packed dirt road, nirvana politely introduced itself. Within 150 steep yards, the terrain transitioned from rocky desert to semi-arid alpine territory and we plunged broadslide into a whispering boulevard of quaking aspens, quietly chiming their breeze-stirred leaves, bright as the yellow front fender of my bike.

If there are finer ways to squander hours or days than this, I have not found them.

Following our spirited descent from the stone ridges of Utah onto the high plains of Colorado, lunch was served on brilliant linen at the Gateway Colorado Auto Museum. Chefs flourished toques over unpronounceable savories as our tanks were topped off and brake calipers torqued al dente by preventive maintenance pixies in a flawlessly dichotomous juxtaposition of hard riding and soft living. (Note to self: Never let them know I could be bought much cheaper than this.)

Falling into my chair, I took a breather, another 800 mg of ibuprofen and stock of the situation.

Lessons learned: If you're gonna ride a long adventure loop in the desert, best be a skilled off-roader or hard as a SAPI plate-not neither. The first question you should ask yourself is, "Self, can you stand up on the pegs for 150 miles?" If the answer isn't well north of "Maybe," well...you should probably go anyway, but in the full knowledge that you'll get your butt kicked firmly and continuously.

My buckdancer's choice was to stand and immolate my knees like beeswax candles, or sit and pound my can. Nothing new there: Sore knees and pounded asses are well-documented risks of freelancing.

After a lingering glance at the world's sexiest cars-like Sophia Loren, Auburn Speedsters never go out of style-we remounted and snarled out past a parade-ground review of Aston Martins and Fort GT coupes.

What a truly good badlands bike this is. We fled fluid and fast across range country, tearing through corners on silky crescendos of torque. I can't report average speed or fuel consumption, as the bottoms of my bifocals fuzzed out the clever LCD menus of the optional computer. Besides, my 13-year-old son wasn't there to explain the functions.

The engine is easier to grok. Like a pre-burst-controlled M16, the saddletwin opens up smooth and cycles faster and faster if you hold the trigger down. Back in the pre-Corinthian era when I rode dirtbikes, they didn't weigh a quarter-ton or start with a button or have radiators hung from the front-and they damn sure didn't make 85 horsepower.

Just as post-lunch drowsiness loomed, I skittered through a corner and blasted onto a veritable esplanade lined with more glorious golden aspens. Bursting into song seemed right, but it turns out off-road helmets don't have the lovely resonance of full-face street lids. Also, high-speed rain hurts your face. Who knew?

Prior to this trip, I was unaware that BMW engineers could fine-tune the weather. The rain cooled me down, woke me up and dampened the dirty bits just enough to improve traction. Joseph Smith smiled as we reverenced the Church of Latter Day Supercrossers.

By this point, I was sitting most of the time. On open dirt roads, the tall, flat seat lets you slide up close enough to bejewel the fore-mounted air/battery box, stick down an outrigger boot, cross up the bike and flat-track it through the sweepers. That's the king of fun.

There may be no bad motorcycles, but that doesn't prevent there being some very good motorcycles. The hornet-yellow (actually Sunset Yellow) GS gave me confidence to run hard on unknown roads with changing surfaces. It is a very good motorcycle.

A word about Beemer-style breaks: We're not talking piss-warm Gatorade from the fanny pack-notwithstanding the fine fanny pack that showed up in my room. Pouty umbrella girls princess-waved over the bounty spread before us: iced energy drinks, 40 brands of upscale protein bars and fistfuls of handy painkiller packs. Wander off into the weeds and they chased you down with a bathroom trailer featuring hot and cold running everything. Like a homeless guy at the King's Table buffet, I furtively tucked a couple of spare lens wipes into my jacket.

Rested, ready and back on the road, I assessed the character of our adventure versus the suitability of the bike. How would an F800GS do in the middle of an African savannah without magic maintenance fairies, goggle nurses and Class A restrooms in hot pursuit?

Pretty well, I'd guess. The nature of the F800GS is to stay out of your fun-havin' way. About a hundred pounds dropped away each time I let out the clutch and it steered confidently through the dirt-with one exception.

In a naked attempt to make me feel at home and suitably annoyed, some wiseass imported hundreds of tons of Iraqi moon dust, the sifted flour of steering alarm. Hearkening to faint, 28-year-old muscle memory, I set the GS into corners with its handlebar and steered it out on the rear tire. But that lunar silt was a different story, so loose and greasy that neither end hooked into control. The only hope was to lean back, twist its neck and supplicate Buddha with all the desperate sincerity my panicked heart could fake.

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