BMW F800GT First Ride Review

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  • Agile, surefooted handling
  • Strong and smooth engine performance
  • Very comfortable and easy to ride
  • Expensive
  • Tiered options based pricing
  • ABS cannot be disengaged

If you’ve ever dreamt of owning one of BMW’s legendary touring motorcycles now could be the time to squeeze the trigger with the release of the new F800GT (starting at $11,890 plus $495 destination fee). This new middleweight replaces the six-year-old ST model, pairing more sport performance with added comfort and convenience giving motorcyclists a superior Grand Touring experience within its class.

The Motorrad department’s latest creation is a mix of old and new componentry. It continues to make use of BMW’s tried-and-true 798cc Parallel Twin engine that’s both water-cooled and fuel-injected. However, the fuel and ignition maps have been enhanced and it borrows exhaust plumbing from the more sport-oriented F800R. These changes equate to a claimed five horsepower boost to 90 hp at 8000 revs compared to the ST. On our in-house dyno though, the GT spun just over 80 ponies at 8300 revs. For those seeking even more performance, BMW offers a lighter and prettier accessory slip-on style muffler made by Akrapovic ($993).

Although we’ve racked up plenty of mileage with this twin-cylinder 800, the new version could be the best yet. It has stronger bottom-end power then we remember, allowing it to escape traffic lights with the greed of a sportbike. The dyno chart shows that the Beemer’s Twin churns upwards of 85% of its maximum torque (56.69 lb-ft at 6400 revs) from as low as 3600 rpm all the way up to 8700 rpm, 200 revs short of redline. That amounts to speedier overtaking maneuvers virtually anywhere in the powerband, but rev happy riders will notice that the motor runs out of steam as it nears redline.

For general city and freeway riding the gearing is practical and results in peppy acceleration in lower gears without the engine spinning annoyingly high in sixth gear at higher speeds. We also appreciated its industrial yet rambunctious exhaust note as it builds excitement behind the handlebar but not so much to attract evil looks from fellow motorists and passersby.

(Top) The cockpit of the F800GT is accommodating. We love the bend of the handlebar and its easy-to-read instrumentation. Our only complaint is that the windshield offers no height adjustment. (Bottom) The F800GT comes standard with anti-lock functionality on the front and rear brakes. The braking set-up is powerful and easy to use.

For the most part the engine is smooth and balanced, but we did continue to feel some vibration when the tach needle points toward the upper end of its spectrum. More peculiar is the motor’s pseudo-knock condition experienced anytime it’s lugged between 2500 and 3000 rpm. Although it sounds similar to a mechanical firing knock, BMW said it might be a trait of the engine’s counter balancer. As of this post the Bavarian marque didn’t have a definitive answer but we’ll add a comment at the bottom of the article when we get a reply.

The rest of the drivetrain, including the six-speed transmission, cable-actuated clutch and belt final drive performed flawlessly, and we love the precise engagement and near perfectly weighted action of the clutch lever. This not only makes launches easy but fun, too. Another plus is the clean look and that it should require zero maintenance aside from its scheduled replacement at 34,000 miles.

Instead of re-tooling its already versatile and well-performing engine package, German engineers focused on the motorcycle’s chassis, appearance and optional accessories to provide extra handling and touring capabilities. Although it appears unchanged, the single-sided swingarm has grown by two inches, extending the wheelbase to 59.6 inches versus the ST’s 57.7 inch measurement. This increases stability and rear wheel traction and allows the Beemer to leap off corners with the voracity of a more sport-oriented motorcycle. And for the inevitable occasion of being caught in rain or exceeding the high adhesion limits of the stock rear rubber, there’s the optional Automatic Stability Control ($400).

ASC supplements the standard anti-lock brake system and shares a pair of wheel speed sensors to determine rear wheel spin. If excessive slip is detected the electronics reduce engine power to help restore traction. The system is always on by default but can be manually disabled with a push of a button on the handlebar switchgear. On tacky dry pavement you need to open the throttle hard and early to get ASC to activate, but on loose terrain its application is readily apparent as it restricts power to keep both wheels inline. The technology isn’t as advanced or purposeful as the traction control on the Bavarian brand’s flagship S1000RR sportbike but it’s still a nice safety feature for those that routinely ride on wet roads and aren’t comfortable sliding a motorcycle.

(Top) BMW says the GT-spec engine delivers five added horsepower compared to the ST. We noted how flat the torque curve is which makes it easy to ride and very effective during passing maneuvers. (Bottom) Despite its 470 curb weight, on the road the F800GT blew us away with its agility. It serves up a high-level of sport performance without skimping on long distance comfort.

The 10-spoke cast aluminum wheels have a new, more contemporary look. Plus they’re lighter too. The rims wear either Metzeler Roadtec Z8 or Continental Road Attack 2 tires in sizes 120/70-17 (front) and 180/55-17 (rear). Our Radiant Valencia Orange Metallic steed wore the latter brand and we had excellent results in terms of handling, grip and tire warm-up time. Furthermore the wheels offer a $250 optional Tire Pressure Monitor that is neatly integrated into the instrument display. A warning light also illuminates if the tire pressure falls below a predetermined threshold.

Braking hardware consists of a pair of 320mm cross-drilled rotors up front actuated by four-piston fixed calipers sourced from Brembo. A 265mm disc and solo-piston caliper is fitted at the back with both brakes functioning independently through stainless-steel lines with anti-lock functionality. Stopping performance is yet another strong point of the GT with each brake lever offering loads of power and acute feel, which make for effective and fade-free stops. The actuation of the ABS also works for anything but an all-out Blitzkrieg-style footpeg dragging pace, though we wish it could be disengaged like the ASC.

Other suspension changes include a slight reduction (0.6 in.) in fork travel said to increase steering precision. Out back the shock absorber features a hand-adjustable preload knob for more or less tension on the shock spring based on payload or the rider’s handling preference. BMW’s optional Electronic Suspension Assist ($350) can also be fitted allowing riders to modify the rebound phase of the rear suspension via three settings (Comfort, Normal and Sport).

This electronic adjustment can be made on the fly, via a pushbutton switch on the left handlebar. It did make a noticeable difference in the speed at which the shock returned over big bumps and G-outs. We preferred the Sport setting as it offered more accurate road handling at a quicker pace on curvy roads. The rear section of the frame was also beefed up to accommodate the 24-pound increase in cargo-carrying payload (total payload capacity including rider, passenger and luggage is rated at 456 pounds).

Fueled up and ready to ride the GT weighs 470 pounds (without luggage or any accessories). While that figure won’t blow away spec chart mavens, on the road it feels considerably more agile. Some of the credit goes to the location of the four-gallon fuel tank underneath the seat. This contributes to consistent and easy handling whether the gas tank is full or empty. With its wide handlebar the Beemer changes direction with little effort, cutting in and out of traffic with the nimbleness of a much smaller motorcycle.

BMW’’s hard cases (avaliable as an accessory) are easy to install, weatherproof and have a nifty shelf system to keep your items from moving around while loading.

The way the rider fits inside the cockpit was also tweaked for greater comfort. The rider’s footrests were shifted forward and down by nearly half of an inch to mitigate knee fatigue from bending. The seat is also a wider surface area and is set at a lower height (31.5 in.) versus the ST (33.07 in.). Additionally BMW offers buyers the choice of a low seat option (30.1 in.) or a tall (32.3 in.) one that the dealer can fit at no charge. Lastly, the height of the handlebar was raised by almost an inch with an updated mounting apparatus to reduce vibration. Overall it’s a very comfortable steed delivering all-day comfort, though a bit of bad vibes still makes its way through the ‘bars, especially at higher rpm. And of course, since it’s a BMW, optional heated grips ($250) are offered making for a more comfortable ride in chilly weather.

Visually the GT looks more pleasing to the eye with its broader nose and taller screen that also better deflects air around the rider. Our only gripe is that the windscreen doesn’t offer any adjustment making tall riders more susceptible to fatigue during extended freeway riding stints. Other aesthetic tweaks include updated lettering fonts inside the gauge cluster and extra computer features, including fuel level and coolant temperature. A stopwatch function, gear position indicator, and ambient air thermometer are also available as a $295 On Board Computer Option. While these features are handy, we wish they were incorporated into the standard model without upcharge.

For some, touring capabilities can outweigh outright road performance. Fortunately BMW didn’t skimp with its luggage, as the new hard cases are some of the best we’ve seen. The bags offer a simple mounting set-up (available as a $150 accessory) making them friendly to install. They’re lockable, weatherproof and feature a clever shelf inside to keep items in place while loading and in transit. Each container offers nearly 15 gallons of storage capacity and can carry up to 22 pounds. A hard plastic top case (just over seven gallon capacity) and tank bag (3.7 gallon capacity) are also available for heavy packers.

Yet again the Propeller Brand continues to make us believers with its new F800GT. It serves up versatile real world performance that’s not only practical during the work week but is also entertaining during spirited canyon carving escapades on weekends. Factor in its rider-friendly seat height options and favorable handling manners and this BMW becomes one of the only bikes needed in the garage. Our only beef is its optional, yet absolutely must-have, tiered pricing structure that pushes its price as tested to $14,511. Still, if you’re seeking a premium riding experience, this BMW no doubt delivers.




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