Ringleader: Tim Carrithers
MSRP (2009): $12,175
Average Fuel Mileage: 46 mpg
Accessories & Modifications: Ventura Bike-Pack luggage system, Wunderlich Vario lever set
In the beginning, I was hopeful. After a few long weekends, it seemed like we were meant for each other. But 9845 miles later, it's over. Instead of writing the check that would make it a permanent resident of the Carrithers garage, I'm sending the F800GS home. Call it irreconcilable differences. Blame the 2009 R1200GS for setting the bar just out of reach, and the 2010 for raising it. More power trumps less weight and a 21-inch front wheel nine times out of 10 in the games I play, on or off the pavement. The 2/3-scale GS can't touch the Boxer when it comes to midrange punch. That puts at least one downshift between getting from here to there in any sort of a hurry-tiring, even if the gearbox is a gem.
Aside from a plastic protector that broke-letting my boot heel cuddle up with the red-hot exhaust plumbing-the F800GS has been 100 percent reliable. It's been admirably easy on gas, too, burning 214 gallons of 89-octane unleaded to end up with a 46-mpg average. I never experienced any of the overheating nightmares chronicled on various GS owners' forums. The Rotax-built twin does tend to run hot in the summer, especially in nasty traffic or on technical low-gear trails where there isn't much airflow through the radiator. Regular oil and coolant changes kept this one reasonably cool despite merciless handling in triple-digit weather. I poured in 3.1 quarts of 10w-40 Motul 5100 along with a fresh filter every 3000 miles-cheap insurance for an engine that ran a cruel gauntlet of everything from L.A. freeway traffic to nasty Forest Service two-track.
The Sport Pack and Sport-Rack are (much) more convenient than the Ventura's (much) larger
Since that sort of diligence can be pricy if you depend on your dealer's service department, I took care of pretty much everything but checking/adjusting valve lash myself. I did this with some help from the Hall of Wisdom at www.f800riders.org, an excellent resource for getting out of wrench-related trouble or, for those blessed with actual foresight, avoiding it altogether. Replacing broken bits can be tragically expensive. A friend of mine wrote his local dealer a check for $5500 after a relatively minor low-side, which means the $195 SW-Motech crash bars I installed way back when have paid for themselves more times than I'll admit.
If we were spending another 10,000 miles together, a fresh chain would be at the top of my shopping list. I've heard of more than one owner trying to squeeze one too many rides out of a worn-out stocker with catastrophic results. What else? Off-road work would be safer and a lot more fun with reworked suspension, but it's too late for that now.
I'd been looking for a new way to carry cargo-something more capacious than a tank bag, but without the girth of saddlebags, which can make lane-splitting (an essential part of getting anywhere in Southern California) unnecessarily stressful. A Euro-Rally Bike-Pack ($393 with rack and mounting kit from www.ventura-mca.com) turned out to be an eminently practical solution. Built to withstand anything short of high explosives, the 16 x 20 x 12-inch pack expands to swallow 56 liters of whatever you need to haul-enough for a long two-up weekend if you travel light. Slip the pack's integral sleeve over the rack, secure a pair of straps with two plastic buckles and you're gone. Nothing shifts or slides around, and it comes off just as easily when you're ready. This one is a little too big for commuter duty, but Ventura makes a selection of equally practical packs and racks if you're looking for something bigger or smaller.
Wunderlich Vario levers feel as good as they look, but a misplaced finger on that dial can
A set of marvelously adjustable Vario control levers from Wunderlich America ($270 from www.wunderlichamerica.com) represent a minor ergonomic miracle compared to the standard equipment. Pricey? Sure, but amortize the increase in brake/clutch feel along with decreased effort over a few 160-mile round trips to the office and it's money well spent. A 2.5mm Allen key makes adjusting lever length easy, but changing reach is a little too easy; an inadvertent touch on the adjusting wheel can move either lever closer or farther from the bar than expected.
It's been real. It's been fun. But it hasn't been real fun. If I had to do the last 9845 miles over again, I'd do 'em on an R1200GS.