THE STEERING COLUMN

CFMoto 800MT review: Passing the touring test

The CFMoto 800MT is built to conquer mountains, but its petite price tag means it’s also meant to conquer sales

IF NASA really wants to send another rocket to the moon, they might as well just harness whatever force is now sending Certificate Of Entitlement (COE) prices on their celestial trajectory.

But if my eyes start to water when I think about how much cars cost now, at least there are good 'ol motorcycles to play with. Buy a reasonably macho model that catches your fancy, get a matching jacket and suddenly you're known around the office as That Guy Who Rides A Big Bike. Except prices in the motorcycle market are out of whack now, too, with COEs (you guessed it) more expensive than ever.

Granted, at S$11,101, a COE for a bike costs only a fraction of what you need to cough up for that of a car. But have some perspective here. If you depend on a bike to make a living, paying 5 figures for the COE alone is bound to hurt, and hurt bad. On the other hand, if you're getting one for a toy, it's not going to be pain-free when your wife discovers the motorcycle-sized hole in your joint account, either.

Could China's CFMoto 800MT Touring offer sweet relief from all that pricing agony, like a big Panadol tablet on wheels? As a mid-sized adventure bike, it's built to conquer mountains, but with a petite price tag it's meant to conquer sales. At S$39,800 with COE, it undercuts rivals from BMW, Triumph, KTM and so on, but has an equipment level that's up there with the best of them.

The basics are pretty appealing. The 800MT's smooth good looks are courtesy of Kiska, a design firm that KTM's parent company owns. The dual-purpose chassis offers a comfortably upright riding position, along with 95 horsepower worth of grunt from a 799 cc twin-cylinder, based on an engine that CFMoto used to assemble for KTM.

On that cake is plenty of icing: keyless start, a slick digital display, adjustable suspension front and rear, USB charging ports, fog lamps and all that good stuff.

Plenty of worthwhile rider aids are standard, too, including a riding mode that reduces engine power in the rain, a quickshifter system so you can biff up and down the gears without the clutch lever, and cornering ABS, a skin-saver for those panicked moments when you grab the brakes mid-bend, for whatever reason. The one curious omission is traction control, another skill-replacement feature that has saved my bacon repeatedly. 

Two modest aluminium panniers and a top box take care of luggage, while an adjustable windscreen, cruise control and a tyre pressure monitoring system all help the bike live up to the "Touring" part of its name. All you have to do is hop on and take aim at the open road.

Chances are you'll hit traffic first, but the CFMoto is pretty good in town. It looks like a bike for the Sahara but the saddle height is a manageable 825 mm, and the broad handlebar gives you plenty of leverage for hustling it around with ease.

If anything, it feels like a bike tuned to tackle mountain twisties, with a nice balance to the chassis and loads of power from both the brakes and the engine. There's a flat spot in the power curve somewhere above 5,000 rpm, and what feels like a bit of rough fuel delivery when you first get rolling, but the CFMoto is otherwise a hoot to ride. Bikes are only fast if they make their rider feel confident, and the 800MT is pretty speedy by that definition.

Meanwhile, you can feel the long-travel suspension soak up bumps nicely, and between the comfortable saddle and the riding position, the bike feels good for sun-up to sundown at a stretch. The 19-litre tank would take you comfortably past 300 km, so as adventure bikes go, the 800MT is ready when you are.

I did find that the windscreen only works in the highest position, so goodness knows how someone taller than my 1.75 m would feel on the highway, and I never took it off tarmac, so it's anyone's guess how the suspension handles rough terrain. Otherwise, the CFMoto is a stunning amount of bike for the money.

If it were a car, I reckon the 800MT would be a Kia Stinger. I mean that as the highest compliment, since the Stinger is probably the single best thing to buy at its price point if you want something powerful, fun, comfy and well-equipped. To see the value here, you don't have to be a Nasa scientist.

CFMoto 800MT Touring

Engine 799 cc, twin-cylinder

Power 95 hp at 9,000 rpm

Torque 77 Nm at 7, 500 rpm

Gearbox 6-speed manual

Wet Weight 231 kg

Fuel capacity 19 L

Seat Height 825 mm

Agent CFMoto Singapore

Price S$39,800 with Certificate Of Entitlement

Available Now

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