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CFMoto nails the touring bike segment with the 800MT Sport

Consider this Chinese tourer before looking at European alternatives

There's plenty of power and torque from the KTM-licensed motor. Not too thirsty, too. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

Cruising along the highway in the pouring rain, visor up since it’s fogging like crazy, I notice how calm and turbulent-free the cockpit of the CFMoto 800MT is. Normally, my eyes would be watering up from the windblast at expressway speeds, but behind the sizable windscreen and fairing of the bike, everything is calm and, dare I say it, comfortable.

You know, like that feeling you get when you’re in the saddle of a BMW GS or a Triumph Tiger. Big adventure bikes that eat highways for breakfast.

Except the CFMoto isn’t priced anywhere like these Europeans. At P515,500 for the Sport, it’s not even the going rate for a used BMW. That money gets you a 799cc parallel-twin, adjustable KYB suspension, J.Juan brakes with cornering-sensitive ABS, and more.

A comfortable riding position, amply padded saddle and pillion, plus standard brackets make for an ideal tourer. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

The 799cc parallel-twin is a license-built version of the LC8c found in the locally available KTM 790, but it’s not quite the same beast. Whereas that motor is practically jumping out of its casing in the KTMs with its rev-happy nature and machine-gun soundtrack, the CFMoto’s is more subdued.

Maybe it’s down to engine mapping and a more restrictive exhaust, but anything below 6,000rpm and it’s just a torquey number with little in the way of aural excitement. Past 6,000rpm and on the way to 10,000rpm to extract all 95hp, it comes alive with an intake howl and a faint, V-twin-like rumble that should satisfy your itch for some serious speed.

Unfortunately, skyrocketing fuel prices have put a damper on my need for speed these days, so I was less than enthused to really gun it unless I had to. And that’s where the 800MT shines. With its focus on all-day touring, you can shift at just 4,000rpm and have plenty of torque to chug up steep hills and overtake the slowpokes.

It’s also a good way to avoid engine vibrations, as there’s enough buzzing in the foot pegs and the handlebar by 6,000rpm to give you a light massage. Treat it like you’re allergic to gas stations and you’ll net 22km/L. Pretty good for a middleweight.

This tourer is more at home on the highway compared to tackling off-road trails because of its road tires. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

I didn’t have time to fuss with the adjustable suspension, but my 500km round trip to and from Marinduque was enough to give me an appreciation for the factory settings.

Taut on the highway for a stable ride, and disciplined rebound over the rippled pavement. Since this was the “Sport” version equipped with Maxxis road tires, I didn’t take it off-road as the prospect of sliding around and dropping a 231kg bike wasn’t particularly appealing to me.

True enough, just rolling down a steep side road covered with freshly cut grass was enough to break traction. The stock tires work best on the tarmac, with plenty of grip for sporty lean angles and ample grooves for stability in the wet.

Automatic LED headlamps plus foglamps are standard equipment. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

The frame is designed and manufactured by CFMoto, and it wisely chose to go with a proven architecture. The 19L fuel tank sits atop the engine (and not low-slung like the KTM 790 Adventure), contributing to a familiar, top-heavy feel. But combined with the generously padded saddle, the raised handlebar, the fairing, and the windscreen, the bike is ideal for touring as long as you don’t have too many tight turns.

Like most other top-heavy bikes, it takes effort to manhandle the bike from corner to corner. Stand-up riding is easy as well, but since the saddle is so plush, I rarely ever felt the need to stand up and stretch anyway. At 825mm of seat height, it’s accessible for most riders of average height, and the seat-to-peg distance is also ideal in that it doesn’t close the knee angle and cramp you up (unless you’re over 6ft tall).

The Touring variant gets you a quick shifter, but not on the Sport, and that’s fine. The transmission easily handles clutchless shifting anyway, and the clutch lever has only moderate resistance for low-speed work. A slipper clutch further smoothens out the downshifting, too.

The only thing I wish it had was a taller final gear ratio because, at 100km/h, it’s already at 4,500rpm in sixth gear. At higher speeds, the engine feels and sounds even busier. The closely matched gear ratios are great for midrange acceleration, but it could do with a taller gear on the top end. It has enough torque to compensate anyway.

The seven-inch TFT dash is easy to scan whether rain or shine. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

Last among the highlights of the 800MT is its seven-inch TFT screen, which rivals the best from BMW, Triumph and KTM for clarity even in the middle of a downpour. A big tachometer takes center stage on the dash, and you can program the screen to show any other info you’d like on the primary display like trip odometer and temperature.

Selecting the drive modes of “Sport” and “Rain” is also done on the dash and by pressing a series of buttons on the left grip pod. It takes around four steps to accomplish this—which you can do on the fly—but it’s also a distraction.

Since riding conditions can quickly change from sunny to rainy while you’re on the road, a better setup would be a dedicated button on the control pod to toggle the desired mode.  And while we’re on the subject of riding modes, another one like “Street” would be ideal as well. “Sport” gives immediate throttle response, but tends to be snatchy at low speeds, while “Rain” is smoother but also noticeably cuts the power.

A middle setting with 100% power but a slower throttle response would work since the engine can lug you around. It should be noted that these driving modes only have to do with the power delivery and are not actually traction control because the bike doesn’t have it. If you’re too sporty out on the road and lose traction at the rear, only your reflexes and skill will keep you from crashing.

A bike that’s meant for long rides and touring the countryside. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

Finally, it’s important to remember that whatever criticisms I can think of are compensated by the undeniable value that the bike brings to the table. Automatic headlamps, cruise control, standard fog lamps, crash bars, pannier brackets, Bluetooth phone connectivity, and more make the 800MT an appealing option for the rider who wants the most bang-for-the-buck in the middleweight segment.

It even looks nice thanks to the beak-less aesthetic that’s a welcome change from the aggressive, angry bird/alien/robot look that’s so common these days among adventure bikes.

If you’re willing to give a Chinese brand a try and want a comfortable touring bike that has got so many bells and whistles for far less than the usual cost, you owe yourself a visit to the Motostrada showroom.

Andy Leuterio

Andy is both an avid cyclist and a car enthusiast who has finally made the shift to motorcycles. You've probably seen him on his bicycle or motorbike overtaking your crawling car. He is our motorcycle editor and the author of the ‘Quickshift’ column.