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Can a sub-$15k 800cc adventure tourer really be any good? We jump aboard the all-new CFMOTO 800MT TOURING to find out

Our first local ride of the CFMoto 800MT adventure tourer has been a long time coming, but after two days blasting through twisting blacktop and corrugated gravel east of Melbourne, the wait was worth it.

While the 800MT has been on sale in Australia since January this year, we haven’t been able to get a hold of a testbike until now, because the first shipment of 105 bikes was all but sold-out to customers who had placed a refundable deposit on CFMoto’s new adventure tourer before even laying eyes on it. But that’s not surprising when you consider how much bike these customers were expecting to get for their money – as well as, thrown in at no extra cost, $899 worth of bonus accessories, consisting silver side crash bars, a black radiator protector and black headlight guard.

The bike

There are two models in the CFMoto 800MT line-up, with the base-spec 800MT Sport priced at $12,990 ride away and the up-spec 800MT Touring at $14,490 ride away. Both are powered by the same KTM (CFMoto-built) 799cc parallel twin that makes a claimed 70kW of power and 77Nm of torque, mated to a six-speed gearbox and mounted in a tubular-steel frame. There’s fully adjustable KYB suspension front and rear, in the form of a 43mm USD fork with 160mm of travel, and a monoshock with 150mm of travel. Both also wear a 19-inch front and 17-inch rear wheel combination, with the Sport running cast alloy wheels and the Touring equipped with more off-road oriented wire-spoked rims.

Despite the budget-friendly pricing, the 800MT is no stripped-down budget special. Both the Sport and Touring come standard with a Bosch electronics package with ride-by-wire throttle and two ride modes (Rain and Sport), and cornering ABS. They also have cruise control, slipper clutch, a seven-inch colour TFT display with Bluetooth connectivity, fog lights, 12V/USB ports and adjustable windscreen and crash bars. Oddly, there’s no traction control available.

The extra $1500 spend on the Touring model gets buyers a two-way quickshifter, a steering damper, an alloy bash plate, heated seat and grips, handguards, centrestand and wire wheels. It’s little wonder most buyers have to date opted for the Touring model, which is the bike we’re testing here. Whichever way you look at it, that’s a whole lot of bike for not a helluva lot of coin.
CFMoto also offers a range of accessories including soft and hard luggage, protection gear (radiator guards, headlights guards, etc.), oversize rally ’pegs and more.


The ride

Looking at the route for the 800MT launch, I knew we were in for a treat; once we escaped the heavy traffic of Melbourne’s freeway system, that is. The ride loop would cover a total of 570km, departing CFMoto’s HQ in Altona for Yarra Glen and then Healesville, then across to Warburton, up to the quaint little village of Marysville, as far north as Eildon, through the twisties to Jamieson, and then on to the dirt for the run down to the historic gold-mining town of Woods Point for our overnight stay at the Commercial Hotel.

Day two would not disappoint either, with plenty more corrugated gravel on the ride back to Marysville, and a few small off-road detours along the way. We would then be on the blacktop for the rest of the ride back to Altona, via Kinglake.
This is the kind of ride loop Mr Squiggle would put together if he liked dirt as much as blacktop, and a few coldies at the end of a day’s ride, and it would prove to be a fantastic test for the 800MT. More importantly, it would be bloody good fun.

On yer bike

When the 800MT was officially unveiled at the Beijing Motorcycle Show last year, the feedback on its styling was overwhelmingly positive, and when I first laid eyes on the bike I was not disappointed. It really is a good-looking jigger… if you’re into adventure bikes, that is.

The styling of the 800MT is bang up to date, with plenty of exposed mechanical bits intermingled with angular trim pieces that give it an almost industrial look that has become typical of adventure bikes thanks to the indisputable influence of BMW’s GS over the genre. The 800MT’s upright screen screams rally raid, while the sleek LED lights and stylised daytime running lamp give the bike a sporty look. There’s just a hint of a BMW-esque beak below the headlights, too, and while the standard fog lights and crash bars are obviously there for practical reasons, there’s no doubt they add to the bike’s purposeful styling.

The testbikes were equipped with luggage racks ready to accept the optional factory hard panniers and topbox, highlighting the practicality of the 800MT. You don’t have a lot of colour choice; the 800MT Sport is available in Nebula Black while the Touring comes only in Twilight Blue, although both have silver highlights and the Touring’s wire-spoked gold rims add a flash of colour.

The 800MT is by no means a small bike but throwing a leg over the relatively low 825mm seat is easier than you might think, even for shorties like me. I could almost get both feet flat on the ground, too. And the seat is super comfortable, with a generous and supportive cushion that results in no aches or pains even after long stints in the saddle.

The riding triangle suits my frame, too. The reach to the wide handlebar isn’t excessive and it can be easily adjusted by loosening the bolts on the risers and rotating backwards or forwards, and there’s plenty of room to move about on the bike with a relaxed reach to the footpegs that feels spot on. While I can’t vouch for those of excessive stature, I didn’t hear any of the taller blokes I was riding with complain about comfort.

Cold day? No worries. The heated seat and heated grips each offer three levels of warmth and are easy to adjust once you’ve familiarised yourself with the controls. What isn’t so easy to adjust, however, is the windscreen, but I’ll get to that in a bit.

Tucked in behind the screen is a seven-inch colour TFT display. As well as being bright and non-reflective, it also presents loads of information in an easy-to-read format. Ride mode selection is toggled via switch and a brief pull on the clutch lever, and the selected mode is then clearly displayed on the TFT screen. Cruise control is also easily set and adjusted via buttons on the left switchblock.

The 12V and USB plugs are located either side of the fairing. Strangely, they face upwards and look susceptible to water ingress if you use them in wet weather; both have rubber covers but these obviously need to be lifted to plug in devices.

If you like riding with a pillion, they will no doubt be happy customers, too. There’s a generous seat and big grab handles, and if you have the optional topbox fitted, your pillion also scores a small backrest. Even without the panniers and topbox, tying luggage to the back of the 800MT would be a cinch, with a decent rack and plenty of points to secure straps.

On the road

There’s no doubt the KTM-designed 799cc parallel twin engine is one of the highlights of the 800MT package; it is happy to poke along at low revs and it feels enthusiastic in the upper half of the rev range. In fact, you can let revs drop to as low as 2500rpm in taller gears and it will pull away cleanly, or you can drop a cog or two and it’ll get up and boogie all the way to the 9500rpm redline. Having said that, the fueling feels a little off; when you grab a handful of throttle, such as when exiting a corner, the engine feels starved of fuel, but after a brief pause (almost like a hiccup) it gets going again. We’ve been told there is a tuning fix in the pipeline that should smooth out the fueling issue.

The six-speed gearbox offers smooth shifts up and down the ratios, but the quickshifter fitted to the Touring model could do with some fine tuning. At partial throttle openings the gearbox feels reluctant to upshift with the quickshifter, and even on downshifts it sometimes needs a solid prod on the gear lever to drop down through the ratios. Use the clutch though and there are no gearbox complaints, while the clutch itself has a progressive engagement and doesn’t feel too heavy at the lever.

The standard Maxxis tyres were swapped for more off-road oriented Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR rubber for the launch ride, which no doubt had some effect on handling on both sealed and gravel roads. Despite their blocky tread pattern, the Pirellis offer plenty of grip on the blacktop. The 800MT is no lightweight at 231kg (wet), but it tips into corners readily thanks to the wide ’bar, and with a handy 190mm of ground clearance, you’d really be pushing the limits of adhesion before you get the ’pegs down. The centrestand fitted to the Touring model does touch down occasionally, but only when pushed very hard through corners.

I didn’t feel the need to play around with the suspension settings on the 800MT, despite both ends being fully adjustable. With a generous 160mm/150mm travel front/rear, the ride quality feels compliant and controlled. There’s not too much nosedive when you grab a handful of brake and the weight transfer as you transition from braking to acceleration doesn’t unduly affect cornering stability.

The twin 320mm discs up front are gripped by J.Juan four-piston radial-mounted calipers and there is plenty of stopping power and reasonable feel at the lever. The front ABS isn’t overly intrusive and as for the back stopper, I occasionally wondered if the ABS was working at all; I locked up the rear wheel a few times diving deep into corners on the blacktop before deciding to leave it alone and just rely the front brake.

On long stretches between the fun twisty bits, the windscreen proved annoying no matter what height I set it at. I copped excessive buffeting at highway speeds as the disturbed air got under the peak of my helmet and wobbled my head about. It’s also not the easiest screen to adjust; you need to loosen two handles, pull it up to raise it, and hold it in place while you retighten the handles. It can be adjusted on the fly (just) but you’ll be much happier if you set it to your preferred height before moving off.

As for touring range, CFMoto quotes a fuel consumption figure of 5.6L/100km, so you could expect to get 300km-plus between refills from the 19-litre tank. We’ll let you know for sure when we grab another bike for a more extensive test.

On the dirt

As well as on the blacktop, those Pirelli tyres really work well on gravel roads. I was surprised at how hard I could brake on loose gravel and how much lean angle I could get away with before losing grip. But without traction control, the rear tyre struggled for grip when accelerating out of heavily corrugated corners. Softening the suspension set-up may have helped here but the lack of electronic traction aids is noticeable.

I tried Rain mode on the dirt which, when selected, dampens performance significantly compared to Sport mode, but it reaffirmed the theory that I would have been better off playing with the suspension settings in search of more rear wheel traction on corrugations. The Rain mode would, no doubt, be a handy feature for riding on wet, slippery sealed roads though.

Standing on the footpegs feels quite natural on the 800MT, and there’s not too much of a reach down to the handlebar. The seat and fuel tank are narrow where you want them to be, so you can grip the bike with your knees, and it’s not hard to set up the levers to suit both seated and stand-up riding positions. But the mirrors don’t offer much adjustment once tightened, so it’s not easy to check what’s behind you when standing. The ’pegs have removable rubber inserts for off-road riding and they are also quite wide, which aids comfort when standing for long durations.

As with many adventure tourers equipped with 19-inch front wheels, the 800MT is not really designed to tackle difficult off-road terrain but, in the right hands, it will go further than you might think. Low-rpm throttle response is well suited to poking around on bush tracks and there’s reasonable ground clearance (and a decent alloy bashplate on the Touring model) for climbing over off-road obstacles, but jumping the 800MT will soon see you reach the limits of suspension travel.


Would you be happy with one?

There’s no doubt the 800MT is fantastic value for money; just look at what the competition offers and at what cost. But even in isolation, and without looking at the price tag, the 800MT is a still a fun motorcycle that does a great job fulfilling its role as an adventure tourer.
Sure, there are a few little things that could be improved upon – adding TC, sorting the fueling and quickshifter, and tweaking the windscreen – but it’s still a great package and I reckon those 105 riders who pre-ordered and took delivery of their 800MTs would be more than content with their purchase. I would be… but only after I’d fitted a screen spoiler to sort out airflow over my lid.

TEST Dean Mellor
PHOTOGRAPHY Alex Jovanovic