F 800 S and F 800 ST - attacking the middle

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ImageThe first F 800 rolled off the production line on 2 March, the media got their first, real look in South Africa, and now all the details of the new parallel twins are released.

(Article will appear in May 2006 edition of BeeEm)

The first F 800 rolled off the production line on 2 March, the media got their first, real look in South Africa, and now all the details of the new parallel twins are released.

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It has, so far, worked well for BMW. The Milan show, late last year, was the first time the F 800 S had been seen in public. There had been a couple of blurry, spy shots grabbed at a petrol station in Spain, but they were far from conclusive. It was only a matter of few weeks prior to Milan that BMW Motorrad boss, Herbert Diess, announced that there would be a new model in the future; we did not know that it would be the very near future.

The F 800 S and subsequently the F 800 ST featured at the Milan and following motor shows. Many of us saw the bikes at Mulgrave; the SeriousFun website went further in creating anticipation for this new, BMW venture, which, in some ways, is a leap into the unknown. There was, however, throughout the whole process, a lack of detail. This was a controlled, drip-feed release, designed to have BMW in control. This is not only a new model; it’s taking BMW into a new and different market area. It will need not only a good motorcycle for the project to be successful, but every facet of the concept needs to be well managed. So far, so good.

BMW Motorrad has positioned the F 800 S and ST into a neglected area of the market. The middleweight class is dominated by the serious Sports models and at the other end, entry-level motorcycles. BMW is creating a ‘new’ niche, producing the F 800 twins that will appeal to riders looking for dynamic performance but designed for the ‘real’ world; riders who, as they get a bit older, are looking for a smaller bike, but without having to sacrifice power. Riders returning to riding and those starting out on the road of two-wheeled adventure will all be the target audience for the parallel twins. At 204 kg wet (182 kg dry) for the S and 209 kg wet (187 kg dry) for the ST, these bikes will open up this new market to BMW.

It may be a new model series, but the F 800 is very much a BMW, and fits into the now well-defined Premium Brand strategy. There is an abundance of technology, in a distinctive package all designed to produce a motorcycle that will excite riders with its form and function.

ImageThe 798 cc parallel twin motor developed by BMW, in conjunction with Bombardier-Rotax, uses the most advanced technology available. The twin overhead cam motor with four valves per cylinder produces 85 hp/62.5 kW at 8,000 rpm with 86 Nm of torque at 5,800 rpm. The 800s are designed to be ridden on the ‘torque wave’ without the need for constant gear changing so the engine revs quickly and at 5,000 rpm, 90% of maximum torque is available.

The head design, taken from the K 1200 motor, ensures not only high performance but also fuel efficiency and low exhaust emissions. The fuel is delivered by a fuel-injection system developed for the new twins. Intake manifold injection, with the BMS-K engine management system, delivers the correct amount of fuel, taking into account, engine speed, throttle position temperature etc and also the residual oxygen content in the exhaust gasses. This then delivers the correct amount of fuel at the correct pressure without any reflow, delivering greater performance efficiency. The ability to constantly alter fuel-pump pressure not only delivers the optimum fuel/air mixture but also saves electrical power, giving greater available performance. At 120 km/h there is a claimed fuel consumption of 4.4 L/100 km; that, for a motorcycle with this amount of power, is very impressive.

The compact, 30o inclined, liquid cooled motor has the water pump driven by gears on the camshaft. The pump is directly behind the radiator and needs only very short hoses, giving the motor a clean look and minimising the amount of coolant required. The two, overhead cam-shafts are driven by chain and operate the four valves per cylinder via follower arms. This set-up keeps frictional loss to a minimum, reduces wear and increases valve adjustment intervals to 20,000 km. An oil/water heat exchanger sits above the oil filter and enables the motor to quickly reach operating temperature and regulate the oil temperature during riding in all conditions.

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The oil circulates through the motor via an innovative semi-dry sump that does not require a separate oil tank. Oil coming from the main bearings is collected in a shaft sealed off from the actual sump, this avoids oil splash and makes possible the counter balancing of the motor. The oil is then pumped to the gearbox and the rest of the engine before falling into the sump where a secondary pump sends it back into the oil circuit.

The 360o crank, where both pistons rise and fall simultaneously in the same firing sequence, offers the best option for producing maximum torque and, importantly, the best possible exhaust note from a parallel twin. The 800s have an exhaust note not dissimilar to the Boxers. It will pass all legislative requirements but the rider will, as on the new K Series, get a good sound sensation coming up from the fairing.

ImageThe main drawback with the 360o setup is the lack of smoothness compared to the 180o option. BMW has solved this by using, instead of the conventional counterweight shaft, a system that uses a balance weight in the middle of the crankshaft. This is driven by a small conrod that pivots from inside the crankcase. There are no chains or gears that add complexity and noise. This is the first time that this has been used on a production motorcycle. The result is quiet, high-torque and smooth performance.

The engine is also an integral part of the strength of the bike. The engine housing acts as the swing arm mount with four needle roller bearings. The single-sided, die-cast swing-arm is a work of art and, with the belt drive, it will give the bikes an efficient, clean and lightweight drive system. The belt drive has been successful in the Scarver, and the extra power will be catered for with a slightly wider belt. The belt drive will also stand out as a marketing differential that will not go un-noticed.

The frame, made of Aluminium and steel, is light and strong and, with the 43 mm telescopic front forks with 140 mm of travel, both these new models will offer precious and predictable handling.

To pull the bikes up, they are fitted with twin, 320 mm discs, with four- piston calipers, at the front and 265 mm discs at the rear. As an option, there is a new generation ABS system that is faster, more accurate and adds only 1.5 kg to the weight of the bike. This option will, of course, increase the sticker price, but I wonder why anyone would not order this vital piece of safety equipment. On both these bikes I am sure it will be one of the selling points used to attract riders.

The basics of the F 800 S and ST are the same but the styles will give riders a choice; the more sporting S or the upright and protected touring ST. Both offer excellent aerodynamic qualities and weather protection with both directing airflow around the rider. The 16 L fuel tank, situated under the seat, lowers the centre of gravity, enhancing overall handling, particularly when stationary. The seat height of 820 mm (790 mm option) uses BMW’s ‘step arch length’ criterion and, with a narrow front section of the seat, riders of 170 cm will be able to easily get a good foot-plant. This will open up the possibility, for the first time, of smaller riders contemplating a BMW.

The analogue instruments, being an integral part of the CAN-bus electrical system, are similar in function to those on the R 1200 GS and K 1200 S. There is the option of the on-board computer that gives even more information. The extras do not end there. Heated grips (probably standard in Australia), luggage rack, panniers, 28 L top box, tankbag, rear-seat cowl and much more will be available to enhance your choice of twin. Some markets will even be able to specify 34 hp/25 kW powered models to satisfy tax or licensing requirements, further adding to the possible reach of the bikes.

The S comes in Sunset or Flame Red, both non-metallic, and the ST is available in Blue or Graphite metallic. These colours are specific to the twins and are not available on other models, giving these new models their own distinct look.

This is BMW Motorrad’s first serious attack on the middle-weight market since the R 45 and R 65 twins in 1978. They were not that successful because they were always looked upon at the ‘small Boxers’, not a separate entity. The F 800 S and ST are a totally new model line and will not be subject to such comparisons. The project has taken just under four years to complete and there are deservedly high expectations for the twins. They will bring new riders to BMW and will further add to the diversity in our club.

It will be much later in the year before the S and ST will be available in Australia, and there is no pricing as yet, but it will be competitive.