Milan, Italy - In 2007 BMW combined the square-tube steel bridge frame of the F650 single with a brilliant new 800cc parallel twin from Austrian engine specialist Rotax to create the F800, first as a road bike and later as the superlative midweight F800 GS adventure tourer.
But time stands still for no bike and in the face of strong competition, particularly from the Triumph Tiger XC, the Fs were starting to feel a bit dated.
So the Blue Propeller Boykies struck back with two all-new F series GS models, launching this week at the biennial EICMA bike show in Milan, each built around a thoroughly revamped and updated parallel-twin powerplant.
First, on the proven premise that there is no replacement for displacement, they bored it out to 853cc; then they discarded the innovative but space-hogging third conrod balancer in favour of two conventional balance shafts.
Why two? That’s because they rejected both the time-honoured parallel twin crankshaft layout pioneered by Edward Turner on the 1938 Triumph Speed Twin - where the pistons rise and fall together, firing on alternate revolutions - and the later Japanese practice of spacing the piston half a revolution apart (which actually works better on a two-stroke than a four-stroke) in favour of a 270/450 degree layout, which gives you a nice thumpy, torquey mid-range at the expense of a variety of out-of-phase vibrations, hence the two balance shafts.
The result was a very respectable 70kW at 8250 revs (exactly the same as the 799cc, three-cylinder Triumph but at 1000 less revs) and 92Nm at 6250rpm - 12Nm better than the Triumph.
Then, as is now becoming standard practice in the car industry, they dialled down the ECU without touching the mechanicals, reducing output to 57kW at 7500 revs and 83Nm at 6000rpm, and called it the F750.
Each drives a conventional six-speed gearbox via a conventional self-servo slipper clutch and chain final drive - now on the Japanese-standard left side of the rear wheel rather than the Italian right side.
They welded up an entirely new frame out of deep-drawn steel pressings, using the engine as a fully stressed member, and took the fuel-tank out from under the seat and put it back in the conventional place over the engine.
Horses for course
The F750 is aimed at riders who do most of their touring in tar and who appreciate a lower seat height; it has conventional forks and 17 inch cast wheels shod with road tyres.
The F850, by contrast, has all-terrain tyres on spoked rims (19 inch in front), taller, inverted front suspension, a taller screen and a bashplate, for those who seek out the road less travelled - which is why there is also an even more dirt-focused F850 GS Rallye variant, roughly analogous to the erstwhile F650 GS Dakar.
Standard kit includes ‘Road’ and ‘Rain’ riding modes, ABS and stability control; pro riding modes - ‘Dynamic’, ‘Enduro’ and ‘Enduro Pro’ - (the latter only on the F850) are options, as are dynamic traction control and second-generation six-axis Bosch ABS.
More options include different seat heights and windshields, a full LED headlight, keyless ride, a quickshifter, electronic suspension adjustment, and a connectivity kit with TFT display or eCall - which says more about the new bikes’ target market than it does about BMW.
The F750 GS and F850 GS will be available in South from the second quarter of 2018; prices, as always when they get here.
ALSO AT EICMA THIS WEEK
The K1600 Grand American been customised specifically for relaxed American-style longhaul touring; based on the K1600 Bagger, it has chromed tailpipes set parallel to the road, and a top-box complete with passenger backrest and high-mounted brake light.
The style package specially created for the Grand America features a two-colour paint finish in metallic black and gold, with chrome applications on the front wheel trim.
The 1600cc tilted transverse six is tuned in this application for 118kW at 7750 revs and 175Nm at 5250rpm, but BMW recognises that American-style full dress tourers carry most of their payload over the rear axle and become unwieldy at high speeds, so the Grand American is electronically limited to 162km/h.
Electronically adjustable suspension is standard, offering ‘Road’ (adaptive) and ‘Cruise’ (super soft) modes, as are reverse assist (hit the reverse button on the left-hand switchgear and the starter button at the same time and the starter motor will gently drive the bike backwards), footboards for a relaxed, feet-forward seating position, a 70mm lower rear seat height, heated grips and seats and an audio system complete with navigation preparation.
The K1600 Grand American will be available in South Africa in the first quarter of 2018.
The C400 X expands BMW’s premium (read: expensive) scooter range downwards into the mid-sized segment, with a fuel-injected 350cc single rated for 25kW at 7500 revs and 35Nm at 6000rpm, mated to a continuously variable transmission, with ABS and automatic stability control for improved safety under acceleration, especially on slippery surfaces.
The tubular-steel ‘underbone’ chassis has telescopic front forks with double disc brakes and dual rear shock absorbers with a single disc brake. LED lighting is standard, and a multifunctional instrument cluster with 16.5cm colour screen is available as an ex-works option in conjunction with a multi-controller collar, so that you can use the phone, listen to music and be guided to your destination without taking your eyes off the road.
The C400 X will be available in South Africa in 2019.