CFMOTO 800MT Touring Motorcycle Review
Somewhere in the 17 years that Chinese-made CFMOTO motorcycles have been imported to Australia, they have evolved from cheap and cheerful transport to remarkable value-for-money machines.
Now, with the launch of their new 800MT line of touring and sport bikes, priced at $12,990, CFMOTO has taken another significant leap forward, with the release of what is a desirable adventure bike.
Thanks in part to its association with Austrian motorcycle, bicycle and sports car maker KTM, the Chinese bike maker has improved its build quality while piling on the technology.
More importantly, CFMOTO seems to have developed a better understanding of demanding global markets such as ours, where motorcycles are seen as something more than transporting from A to B.
Your correspondent has ridden just about every CFMOTO model imported here for the past two decades and I have long been impressed with how many bikes you get for your money.
In fact, maybe that’s too much of the case because bikes have always been a bit overweight.
Pounds are still an issue with this 800MT Touring, which at 231 kg is rather heavy for a mid-size bike.
Most of that weight is high in the 19-litre fuel tank, which adds weight to the top of the bike – an undesirable attribute for a bike designed to be ridden in slow, technical terrain.
However, while the 800MT may need a few sessions on the StairMaster to shed the extra pounds, there are other areas where this bike shows significant gains.
Issues such as the previously rudimentary suspension setup, nonsensical instruments and drive modes that simply don’t work, have all been sorted out.
In fact, with its quality finishes, high level of creature features and competent handling, the 800MT presents itself as a genuinely attractive prospect.
Its impressive array of standard features includes cruise control, seat and handhold warmers, rear wheel mud flaps, adjustable shifter, auto-cancelling gauges, LED lighting including fog lamps/ auxiliaries, well-positioned USB and 12-volt chargers, two riding modes, slipper clutches, cornering ABS, crash bars, an iPad-sized TFT screen with comprehensive information, an adjustable windshield at the hand, fully adjustable suspension and even Bluetooth connectivity that provides simple on-screen navigation controls.
The 800MT Touring ($14,490) and Sport ($12,990) went on sale in January 2022, customers who joined the pre-order campaign were offered $800 worth of free accessories.
This campaign has nearly depleted the initial shipment, but stock levels are being replenished as new containers arrive and I wouldn’t be surprised to see CFMOTO provide more added value, like the free luggage they’ve given away in the passed with other models.
Of the two models, the Touring is the more attractive as it has additional features such as tire pressure monitoring, center stand, quick up/down shifter, plastic hand guards, luggage racks , the alloy skid plate, steering damper and gold-spoke wheels that can accommodate tubeless tires.
That’s an extensive list of kits on top of an already impressive array of standard equipment and it’s not just icing on a stale cake either, as the 800MT Touring delivers capable performance and ride and handling. decent, making it a valid prospect for avid cyclists exploring.
Some drawbacks and issues remain, of course, including spelling the handshakes as “hand gripes” and the disclaimer as “waring”. While these are fun missteps and easily laughable due to the bike’s Chinese origins, the issue of heaviest weight is a more fundamental issue that should be of particular concern to smaller riders.
At 183cm, I struggled to put my feet flat on the ground when stationary, thanks to the bike’s 825mm high saddle.
It’s not just the height, but the width of the seat that contributes to the challenge of getting your heels on solid ground.
A few times I nearly dropped the bike when it was stopped on slippery or unstable surfaces.
You also need to be careful where you park the 800MT as its side stand is too short and can cause it to tip over on inclines or uneven surfaces.
On a more positive note, the powerhouse between your legs is KTM’s 799cc parallel-twin, which is hailed as one of the best engines the Austrian manufacturer has produced in recent years.
It’s a very capable unit but the powerband is narrow so you have to use the gears wisely when hustling it.
The engine pulls strongly from 3,200 rpm, but falters above 5,000 rpm, well below the engine’s ambitious 9,500 rpm rev limiter.
We also noted jerking in the throttle and pushing while maintaining a constant throttle between 50 and 60 km/h, but we’re told there’s an upcoming software fix for that.
The overall ratio is too low for comfortable highway driving, with the engine running at 4,400 rpm at 100 km/h in sixth gear.
This also contributes to a disappointing fuel consumption of 5.6 L/100 km. An optional sprocket for a higher ratio would be welcome for Australian conditions, but one benefit is that the low ratio helps mask the engine’s lack of low-end torque in off-road situations.
The transmission features a clutchless quick shifter for smooth and functional shifts, while the slipper clutch works well to prevent rear wheel lock-up during hard-fist downshifts.
Working the gears and revving the engine hard produces an entertaining growl from the exhaust, but the engine runs pretty hot, resulting in a constant blast of hot air from the radiator towards your shins.
It’s manageable on the highway when there’s a lot of air traffic, but it’s decidedly uncomfortable in slow-moving city traffic.
The bike offers two riding modes, Sport and Rain. The former does what it says on the label, while the latter smooths out throttle response and is handy for riding in slippery conditions, partly compensating for the lack of traction control, which is a feature of some rival bikes.
CFMOTO uses Spanish J. Juan brakes (now owned by Brembo) on most of their models and they are reasonable.
On the 800MT they lack initial bite, which isn’t a problem when riding gravel, while ABS provides initial rear wheel lockup, allowing the tire tread to dig in the gravel.
If you hit the brakes hard during a panic stop, the hazard warning lights automatically flash, which is a great safety feature that should be standard on all bikes.
Cornering ABS is also a valuable safety feature that helps keep the front tire from sliding under you in a turn.
Ride comfort is on the plush side, meaning the 800MT is just as good on our bumpy city streets as it is on B-level country roads.
The suspension is adjustable for compression, rebound and preload, so most riders should be able to find settings to suit their weight and riding style.
Access to the rear shock preload adjuster is difficult, however, as it is hidden under the reservoir and seat.
Cruise control is a welcome addition and is easy to use, but can only be disabled by stepping on the brakes or clutching the clutch, without backing off the throttle.
It’s also not foolproof and allowed the bike to drift up to 5 km/h above my set speed at times, even on a flat surface. Best to keep an eye on the speedo, lest you get in trouble with the man.
Luckily, it’s easy because the 800MT has one of the biggest instrument displays on any bike and it’s easy to read in most conditions except when the sun is shining directly on the display.
The large TFT dashboard offers a plethora of information on its home screen, so there’s no need to scroll through the various sub-menus.
If you choose to scroll, there are a myriad of other functions and settings, including for heated seats and heated grips, and you can change most of these settings on the fly.
Ride in comfort
Riders will find the 800MT has a neutral riding position with a plush seat that should see you comfortably through its 300+ km range without interruption.
Passengers will also find their wide, flat perch very comfortable with generous grab handles.
The windscreen offers moderate protection and can be adjusted up to 5cm by buttons on either side of the screen, but tall riders may still experience wind buffeting even in the highest position.
It would have been better if the screen could be adjusted by a single button on the left so that you could keep your right hand on the throttle grip.
Steering is heavy thanks to the 19-inch front wheel and 853mm wide bars, but that suits the adventure riding style the bike is intended for. The handlebars may be too high for some shorter riders, but you can easily roll them back for a more relaxed reach. You definitely won’t need bar risers to accommodate standing up riding on rough surfaces. The wide bars make it difficult to filter out legal lanes, but perched atop the bars are large truck-style mirrors that give a clear view of what’s behind but can catch on the mirrors of other vehicles in traffic .
At night, the LED headlight casts a very bright, white headlight with good dispersion and eyebrow-burning high beam, especially when used with the auxiliary high beams, although you have to deactivate the automatic lighting function.
In summary, despite some shortcomings, it is now a desirable bike for Australian adventurers. The 800MT competently fulfills its design intent of traversing a variety of terrains, encouraging riders to toss baggage and chase the horizon.
- Price: $12,990
- Guarantee: 3 years, unlimited km
- Engine: Liquid-cooled 799cc parallel-twin
- Suspension: 43mm KYB inverted forks, fully adjustable, 160mm travel; KYB rear monoshock, fully adjustable, 150mm travel
- Brakes: Twin 320mm discs, J.Juan 4-piston radial calipers; 260mm rear disc, J.Juan twin-piston caliper, cornering ABS
- Wet weight: 231kg
- Wheelbase: 1531mm
- Headquarters: 825mm
- Permission: 190mm
- Length: 2234mm
- Lenght: 853mm
- Height: 1277mm
- Fuel capacity: 19 liters