A mid-sized Bavarian sport tourer with big dreams.
When BMW introduced its midsize sports tourer the F800ST in 2006 it immediately sparked a debate amongst owners and aficionados as to what exactly it was. Some felt there was too much emphasis on sport and too little on its tourer abilities. Nobody, it seems, could really agree on the what it was, including BMW. So, to settle the matter ST has been kicked into touch and replaced by the 2013 BMW F800GT. New look, a little more power, a different riding position, plus a host of improved technical changes and a huge list of accessories. Has BMW done enough with the F800 GT to create a proper midsize Sport Tourer?
First off, the new F800GT (Grand Tourisimo) is not just a rehash of the ST. On the face of it the changes may only look skin deep but some of them really do go a further than just that.
In a typically German approach to efficient engineering, BMW methodically went back over the ST and ditched a lot of things it (and its customers) really didn’t like. Gone is the ST’s fairing, seating position, suspension settings and overall riding performance that veered towards the sporting and less to the touring.
BMW has up-rated almost everything else that it kept and then added a whole bunch of technical improvements to help propel the F800GT back into the midsize sport touring sector as a serious contender.
So what makes a GT different from an ST?
The F800GT still uses the same 798cc water-cooled, DOHC, parallel-twin engine, but its fuelling has been re-mapped to produces 90bhp at 8,000rpm. That’s an increase of just 5bhp over the ST. Not an earth-shattering change but enough of an upgrade to compliment all of the F800GT’s new features and a slight weight increase over the recently departed ST.
The six-speed transmission that was used on the ST is still in place along with the same ratios, as too is the belt final drive.
There is also a new exhaust manifold and rear silencer taken from the BMW F800R and some heat shields in the passenger heel area. None of these are massive changes either but maybe in hindsight, these are all things that BMW should have considered for the ST at its initial launch.
The light aluminum bridge frame is carried over but BMW has extended the swing arm by two inches for the F 800 GT to improve ride comfort. And the suspension has been tweaked with spring travel reduced by 0.6 inches to 4.9 inches to help stability and sharpen up the ride and reduce any wallowing.
There’s also an easy to get to hand wheel for adjusting the spring mount on the rear strut that is unobtrusive and straightforward to use.
The rear frame on the F800GT has been slightly revised as well to accommodate an increase in load capacity to 456lbs, some 24lbs more than the previous ST.
A big change is the adoption of the latest dual channel BMW Motorrad ABS as standard. It’s smaller than the previous generation — around 5lbs lighter according to BMW — and uses an additional pressure sensor in the front circuit to improve performance, but you can’t turn the system off.
The F800GT has a new windshield and a completely re-designed fairing that is wider than the ST’s and offers better weather protection for rider and passenger. And, to our eyes, it makes the F800GT look better and more purposeful. It’s a good-looking bike.
The instrument and switchgear has also been given a makeover with the onboard computer display, previously available only as an option, and electronic bar readings for fuel level and engine temperature now included as standard.
Tank capacity for the F800GT drops a little to 4.0 gallons compared to the ST’s 4.2 gallons. But despite the slight power hike, BMW’s engineers have made the parallel twin engine slightly more efficient and the company claims 69mpg at an average 55mph. That should, in theory, give it a reasonable touring range of 250 miles plus, depending on how you ride.
The top half of the F800GT’s tank, like the ST, is taken up by the induction system, which means gas is still stored under the rider’s seat and in the lower portion of the tank.
With a revised model comes a new color palette but don’t get too excited as there are just three – Valencia Orange and Dark Graphite Metallic. Plus a mundanely named Light White, which we thought looked terrific and really suited our F800GT test bike.
There are also new lighter, re-designed cast aluminum wheels that are an uncomplicated design and look good and are equipped with Continental Tires — 120/70 ZR17 front and 180/55 ZR 17 at the rear.
So in a nutshell that’s the standard 2013 BMW F800GT which replaces the outgoing BMW F800ST.
However, it’s normally only at the end of a review that we start to talk about pricing but at this point we need to get into dollar numbers as it’s important to see what we’re really looking at and riding is not all what it seems.
The good news is that even with all of the new equipment and changes the F800GT comes in at a reasonable base price of $11,890. That’s the exact same price as the outgoing ST.
However, in standard form the F800GT could be something of a rare bike as BMW says it’s expecting more than 70 percent of all sales to include some pretty comprehensive — and pricey — options.
If you want to add BMW’s Comfort Package, which includes heated grips, center stand, on board computer and saddle bag mounts, that sees the price rise by $505. And you’ve still got to buy BMW’s hard bags at $826 a pair to put on it.
BMW is claiming a first in the midsize touring bike sector with Electronic Suspension Adjustment (ESA) available only as an option on the F800GT. It allows you to adjust the rear shock on the move with three choices – ‘comfort’, ‘normal’ and ‘sport’.
You can also tick the options box for the Automatic Safety Control (ASC) that prevents rear wheel spin and is really useful in the wet or bad road conditions and, unlike the standard ABS, it can be turned off. BMW has tied ESA and ASC in with a tire pressure monitor and you can take all three as the Safety Package for $795.
The F800GT is a competent and capable motorcycle. BMW has taken the criticisms of the ST to heart and come back with a bike that has better touring capability and increased rider and passenger comfort.
It’s also a blast to ride and makes a lot of sense as an entry level bike for the novice who wants some touring capability but doesn’t yet need or want all the power of a bigger bike.
Out on the road, the F800GT has a far better riding position than the ST. Compared to the ST, the pegs have been moved 0.4 inches forward and the same amount down so you sit more upright, but it all feels more comfortable and the re-designed windshield and fairing work well too on the freeway and in strong cross-winds.
The parallel-twin engine is no slouch either. It’s not the most powerful motor out there but does have a couple of really good aspects — low down grunt makes it reasonably quick off the line and if you keep the throttle wide open it will keep going all the way up to rev limiter with little complaint. It sounds good too. Gruff at low speeds and pretty raw when you start to press on hard.
The F800GT is a likable motorcycle to ride. It’s not intimidating and it will pull along in every gear, even in top, at almost anywhere in the rev range. It won’t, though, satisfy the customer who is used to a bigger or more powerful engine in their bike as there’s just 63 lb/ft of torque on offer at 5,800rpm.
That’s probably fine with BMW as those buyers are not the type customer it’s after with this 800 anyway.
On the move the F800GT feels taut and lithe and you can ride it hard and aggressively. Although you would have to be doing something pretty stupid to get the ASC to step in and take over.
But it was definitely nice option to have as we wound our way around the BMW test route outside of Temecula, California on damp roads through morning mist and drizzle.
The route was an assorted mass of different roads surfaces, a few dry river crossings covered in sand and some very narrow, tight twisty roads. Throughout, the F800GT felt composed, stable and never once missed its footing.
Handling is definitely one of the F800GT’s strong points. It’s aluminum frame and wheels have helped to keep the weight down. Even with a full gas tank it comes in at 470lbs, a couple less than BMW’s mid-size ADV bike, the F800GS.
It stops well too, with 320mm twin discs up front and a single 265mm disc at the rear. A good combination when you include the latest BMW dual channel ABS that comes as standard. It’s smooth and progressive and you get none of that feedback ‘chatter’ through the brake lever that you used to expect on earlier ABS.
If you go with the ESA (Electronic Suspension Adjustment) option on the F800GT you can select which suspension set-up you want either to suit your frame of mind or the type of roads you’re riding. At the touch of a switch you can adjust the damping while on the move to alter the rebound stage of the rear spring for ‘comfort’, ‘normal’ or ‘sport’.
For us, it was hard to notice any real difference between the three. So we mostly kept the ESA in ‘normal’ mode and found it to be the best balance for the bike. So ESA is a nice to have rather than an essential and going without it isn’t going to make a huge impact on the F800GT’s ability or the overall ride experience.
In fact, when you’re riding the F800GT, you never feel you’re hauling the bike around and, despite the impression of size with its new fuller faring, it feels agile and light and changes direction far quicker than you think it should or possibly could.
The F800GT is a big step forward by BMW in the midsize sports tourer class. After the launch of the ST, BMW told us it went away and listened to all of its customers’ likes and dislikes about the bike and has come back with a refined, more focused version that seems lights years away from the original ST.
It looks good to us too. It handles well; is fun to ride and is eager and willing. Plus, when you really want to take that long road trip, it can accommodate two people and 22lbs of luggage in each of the hard bags and would have absolutely no problem doing that for mile after mile.
The F 800 GT is not an inexpensive motorcycle for its class. Nor are the numerous options you can choose to put on it exactly cheap. But there’s a lot to select – everything from a titanium Akrapovic sports silencer at $993 to a center stand at $184.95. Our advice is, make your choices wisely and go for the options you only really need on a bike of this type. The aftermarket, too, should quickly have some more affordable accessories.
In entry-level specification, with ABS as standard and BMW’s three-year warranty, the F800GT, at first glance, seems fairly reasonable at $11,890.
However, on top of this base price we’d take just the standard no cost option seat and then add stability control (ASC), detachable hard case bags and mounts at $1376. That brings the total up to $13,266 for what we think makes the best version of the F800GT for us.
This means the F800GT is several thousand dollars more expensive than anything that the Japanese manufacturers currently have to offer in the midsize sport touring segment.
BMW appears to have got the balance right with the F800GT. It has just the right blend of sport and tourer for a motorcycle of this size and type. It also makes a sensible proposition for anyone considering taking up motorcycling for the first time and it even has appeal for the more experienced rider who wants a light, but robust sports tourer that will happily eat up the miles in a no-nonsense sort of way. And where this BMW really scores is you’ll have a lot of fun doing that and just getting out there and riding it.
BMW hasn’t changed the world with the introduction of the F800GT but it has upped the game in the midsize sport touring class.