WHENEVER I think of motorcycle touring, the images that spring to mind are glorious vistas of winding roads through beautiful scenery, brilliant sunshine and not a copper with a radar gun to be seen anywhere.
Often, the reality is dawdling down a country lane with half an idea that it could be a good road were you not stuck behind a queue of cars that are pressed up behind a slow-moving tractor. And to top it all off, it's probably hammering it down with rain and your boots aren't quite as waterproof as you thought they were.
The reality is never quite as glamorous as motorcycling publications would have you believe. Sorry about that.
So as we made our way to the Suffolk coast on BMW's new F800GT, in drizzling rain, stuck behind all manner of slow-moving vehicles, dodging gravel, farmer's mud and making the already poor visibility worse every time I tried to wipe clean my dark visor - it dawned on me that despite lacking pretty much everything I've been conditioned to believe I need to enjoy touring, I was loving every second on BMW's new GT.
The F800GT supersedes the F800ST. The suits-any-chassis 798cc parallel-twin engine has had its fuelling tweaked and it now produces 90bhp, 5bhp more than before. The belt drive can deal with the extra horses. The rest of the changes are simple; to make an ST a GT, you just have to beef up the touring potential. The GT features a fuller, wider fairing, higher handlebars with footpegs set further forward. It can now carry 11kg more load and has a 50mm longer swingarm to improve stability. Suspension stroke has been shorted by 15mm to 125mm to take the edge off any unwanted wallowing. Tom Cruise would approve of the seat, which now sits at 800mm - it was 840mm on the ST and there's a 765mm option for even shorter riders.
All F800GTs come with ABS which you can't switch off. Big Brother is watching you and he's saying: "You're too old to live fast, die young and leave a good-looking corpse. So I'm going to make sure you make it to that nursing home one day."
Our models had the aftermarket parts catalogue thrown at them and we'll talk about what that involves later but the two options worth caring about are ASC; BMW's Automatic Stability Control and good-old heated grips.
The engine, despite an increase in power, won't put hairs on your chest but it has got a great character. Two great characters in fact. It has plenty of low down grunt and isn't sluggish to fire off the line but keep the throttle wound open and feed in the gears and you'll find yourself revving it right out. It may not be the most powerful motor out there but it's plenty willing. It has an addictive note too, it's gruff and raw low down and has a similar sound to a Lotus Sunbeam hillclimb car I drove years ago. Now that's not something you'd associate with a sensible touring motorcycle.
Then there's its other character, it plods along in top gear quite happily at almost any revs. Get the needle over 2,000 and the obedient and well-mannered parallel twin will chomp away at the petrol you throw at it. Perhaps the word chomp makes it sound like the GT is thirsty but far from it. On a 220-mile round-trip that combined towns, fast A-roads taken slowly and fast A-roads taken fastly, the F800GT returned 59mpg.
Click here for our BMW F800GT review page 2 of 2.