CFMOTO 800MT Test by Wayne Vickers – Images by Fstyle
Hot on the heels of the recent Husky Norden 901 launch, we’ve spent a couple of days pushing CFMOTO’s latest addition to their line-up to its limits. The 800MT represents the brand’s largest displacement bike to date and announces their entry to the middleweight adventure bike segment. It’s a compelling debut. One with both surprising similarities to the Norden, and some stark contrasts.
And there’s another family connection there too, because just as the Norden uses the KTM 890 Adventure’s drivetrain as its base, nestled inside the 800MT lies the previous generation KTM 790 Adventure heart with a Chinese produced version of KTM’s LC8c 799cc parallel twin. There is some serious potential in there and with a few incremental tweaks I think the 800MT has a strong future.
Normally I finish by talking about pricing, but I’m going to flip that around here because this is one bike where you need to set expectations from the outset.
Where the premium bikes in the segment like the Tiger, 890 Adventure R, F 850 GS and Norden 901 all chime in around the 25 grand mark – when a few option boxes are ticked, even the affordable Tenere 700 is getting close to 20 grand. The MT800 sits way down the other end of the adventure pricing scale, it is only 15 grand for the Touring version (wire wheels along with a few niceties), or 13 and a bit for the Sport (spoked wheels).
That $13.5-15k gets you:
A 799 cc parallel twin pushing out 95 hp and 77 Nm
Heated grips and seat
7 inch TFT screen
Quick shifter, Steering Damper,
Alloy bash-plate and handguards (on the touring model)
Tyre pressure monitoring
Yup. For 15 grand
Having just ridden the Norden, the thing that you pick up on when first getting underway on the MT is the weight distribution. It IS and does feel heavier (at 225 kg), but you also do feel that the weight is more top heavy. No low slung fuel tanks here.
The 19-litre tanks resides in the traditional location and is good for a range of 350+ km, depending on your enthusiasm. It’s not noticeably more top heavy than the Tiger for instance, and once a few corners are dispatched you quickly adapt – but it’s worth pointing out.
Our launch loop took in some terrific Victorian roads. A great mix of twisty tarmac, smooth gravel, badly corrugated logging tracks and some 4WD tracks. Highlights included up and over Bogong which is tarmac – gravel and back to tarmac, and the Eildon-Jamieson Road that’s 65 kilometres of mostly third gear cornering bliss.
Then we trekked to Woods Point via some fairly chopped up dirt roads for our first nights stay in the little gold mining town (that still has an operational mine). The following dawn we continued our way right through to Marysville. A lively run down the Black Spur followed, then we wound our way to Toolangi and back down the Kinglake-St Andrews Road before heading back to civilisation.
The first leg was a bit of boring ‘get out of dodge’ ride making our way through morning traffic, which was actually a good test in itself. Low speed, stop start, filtering can really show up any shortcomings – and it did highlight the fuelling… Everything else was working pretty nicely however.
Good clutch feel, brakes, quick-shifter behaving well, but there was some noticeable hunting in the lower rev range at part throttle. As the ride progressed this would emerge as one of the things that still needs some work. We’ll come back to that.
The other aspect that the first stretch highlighted was the buffeting from the screen. I don’t normally feel buffeting, even when wearing an adventure lid, but there was some serious shaking of my head going on. I’m a smidgen under six-foot and it didn’t seem to matter if I moved the adjustable screen up or down, it was still annoying at anything above about 85 km/h.
I’m told there is a higher screen available and I’m sure this would be a simple fix. I do wonder if the base of the screen needs to be a bit wider or maybe needs some winglets like on the 890. I’m also aware of the irony that I was critical of the Norden’s lack of an adjustable screen, despite not one journo on the test complaining about buffeting…
Comfort-wise, the seat proved to be a good thing. It didn’t get cold enough for me to test out the heated seat (or the grips for that matter – my new Five Goretex adventure gloves were awesome), but one of the other journos definitely did after taking a dip at a creek crossing. He was particularly grateful. And no I won’t name names. What happens on tour stays on tour…
The first gravel section showed a couple of things. Firstly, that the Pirelli STR tyres that were fitted (these are the same tyres that the Norden runs – but the 800MT actually comes standard with a more road oriented Maxxis tubeless) continue to impress. Plenty of grip at both ends and once I added some more compression and rebound to the front I started to get a better feel in the front end.
The suspension is supplied by KYB, 160 mm of travel via 43 mm forks and 150 mm of travel from the rear shock. Both are fully-adjustable. So not masses of travel. For reference the KTM Adventure S has 200 mm. But it’s enough for most off-road work.
With the fuelling the way it is when trying to push on, it exposed the lack of traction control. The short lull when you crack the throttle open is then followed by good power being made, and the transition there is not always the smoothest, or the easiest to feed in. While there is a ‘Sport’ mode and a ‘Rain’ mode, the rain mode drops power right down so that didn’t really solve my issues.
The CFMOTO boys did have one of the bikes that had an updated map which behaved a little better, but was still not quite there. I’m confident that it will get solved pretty quickly though as it’s hopefully just a teething issue that they can work through via some software updates.
The other call-out is that the ABS on the rear was fairly ineffective in the dirt, in that it would easily lock and slide. Which I didn’t mind, once I realised what it was doing, as I’d normally prefer to switch off the ABS at the rear in the dirt. On the tarmac the brakes are excellent. We gave them a solid workout with repeated heavy braking and they were rock solid, consistent and showed no signs of fade.
Speaking of the lack of TC. I do find that decision a little puzzling. I’d wager that this bike is more likely to be an entry to the adventure segment for a lot of folks and they’re probably more likely to get use from TC in Australia than a heated seat. Just my thoughts.
The 800MT and I really started to click when we hit our first twisty tarmac section. Down the other side of Bogong was nice, but the Eildon-Jamieson Road is really made for these sorts of bikes. The longer travel can soak up the odd bump with much more composure than a sports-bike.
I may or may not have started at the back of the group and worked my way though… Plenty of grins and scraping of centre-stands. It’s a very pleasant thing. Well balanced into and through turns and the cornering ABS can be trailed right up to the apex.
We later moved on to some seriously corrugated gravel. Which did highlight the suspension travel limitations. To be fair, not much would have handled those corrugations well. But the KYB forks and shock were definitely out of their depth. Tarmac, yes. Smoothish gravel, yes. Evil bastard, corrugated, logging truck forest tracks, not so much. It was hard going.
We stopped mid way through that road for some pics and tackled some 4WD tracks just off the road and it was actually surprisingly good at picking through that stuff. First gear hill climbs on shale rocks with erosion drains were dispatched quite easily. Which tells me that the low speed rebound control is fine, but high speed control and travel is the weakness. You can’t have everything though, not for that price.
After a fairly long day in the saddle we were happy enough to arrive at the Woods Point pub for a refreshing brew or four. If you’re passing through there do take the time to stop in, say hi and grab some quality pub grub.
Just beware of the Trinidad Scorpion Strike ‘on Steroids’ Sauce… Judging by the reaction from a couple in the group, I’m glad I passed. It made for some cheap entertainment though!
Next morning we continued on from Woods point and made our way through to Marysville. A spot of lunch at the bakery and then we hit the Black Spur for a proper spirited run down into Healesville. Nice flowing tarmac, good weather, not many cars around… You know the drill. Rapid without being reckless. Fist bumps and grins when we pulled up. Thoroughly enjoyable.
So. For 15 big ones, you really do get a whole lot of bike. I mentioned earlier that there are similarities and contrasts to the Norden 901. Much like the Norden, it sits at the touring end of the adventure segment. Unlike the Norden though it is clearly aimed at value conscious buyers as opposed to sitting at the premium end of the market.
The CFMOTO 800MT is a solid bike that works well on tarmac and smooth gravel. No, it’s not perfect and has a couple of rough edges. That fuelling still needs some tweaking, be it via updated maps, an ECU flash or Power Commander or something. That would make a big improvement to your riding enjoyment.
The screen is a relatively easy fix too I’d imagine. Get those two issues sorted and you’d have a bloody capable thing for a very affordable price.
There’s already a bunch of accessories available including some very nicely finished hard boxes that were fitted to one of the bikes in our group. Even in the dust fest that we rode through, the interior of the boxes stayed pristine.
All in all – I can’t help but think that CFMOTO are just getting started…
Why I like the CFMOTO 800 MT
You can’t ignore the value factor. Amazing.
So well appointed.
Quite the capable tourer on most surfaces.
I’d like the CFMOTO 800 MT more if…
The fuelling still needs fine tuning.
The screen-wind protection design needs tweaking to eliminate buffeting.
I reckon most riders would get more use from TC than a heated seat.
CFMOTO 800 MT Specifications
799cc Liquid-cooled, 4-stroke DOHC parallel twin
Bore & Stroke
88mm x 65.7mm
Bosch electronic fuel-injection with ride-by-wire throttle
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