First Ride: 2013 BMW F800GT review

The GT barges the F800ST out of BMW's range. It packs more power and promises greater touring potential but what's it really like on typical UK roads?

Posted: 14 March 2013
by Ben Cope
Black bike, black kit, dull day but there's still fun to be found ... yes it's motorcycle touring, English style.
Valencia Orange Metallic
Dark Graphite Metallic
Light White
Handling is sharp thanks to GT's controlled weight

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.



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Discuss this story

Nice, review, thanks. I like that this model managed to miss a few of the branches when it fell out of the ugly tree.

Might want to mention that it's belt drive, and real world fuel consumption and tank range would be good to know.

Posted: 15/03/2013 at 09:37

Yep i like it,it's a real world bike and for the basic price good value......but with a few extra's you are heading very fast towards 9 and 10k.Hmmm
Then there is the Motor "YOU'LL FIND YOURSELF REVVING IT RIGHT OUT" so a little journt around the contry side is ok....and load it up with pillion what then?
Not sure about this Motor if it has the necessary oomph?

Posted: 15/03/2013 at 11:22

Quite a nice looking bike, really like the look of that swingarm, all swoopy and angled, gives it a sense of purpose.

Only criticism is how spindly the forks look? I think their 41mm units, but look far smaller.

How much ios servicing nowdays on BMW's, is it 6k, 10k, yearly and rough cost?

Posted: 15/03/2013 at 12:59

You'd be better off with a later version of the ST. It would be at a pretty decent price, I reckon (used to own an '57 plate, but had realiability issues).
Servicing? Seemed mega expensive to me

Posted: 15/03/2013 at 17:52

Ah, right, servicing. I believe it's 6K which is pretty piss poor for a tourer. Even my GPZ500 - which was designed when we were all watching Top Gun - has 7.5K oil changes with interim inspection services that can be trivially DIY'd.

I keep getting tempted by new Beemers, then I add servicing into the cost of ownership and suddenly they don't look so hot any more. The prospect of an electrical failure on a CANBUS bike also gives my wallet the cold shivers, and given the number of owner reviews that say "Great bike, when it worked"...

I should just buy a Triumph and be done with it. ;)

Posted: 16/03/2013 at 09:25

BMWs with CANBUS have appalling reliability issues which cannot be fixed roadside like conventional wiring looms ,,,, very expensive to repair and short service intervals , not good bikes when u also include all the other quality issues that seem to plague them these days poor electrical relaibility especially fuel pumps and TPS units , rust and paint issues on new bikes even in showrooms !!!!!!!
In my experience of group touring runs in Thailand where we have mixed groups of bikes , Hds, BMWs , Ducatis and big jap bikes the most breakdowns not puncture related are the BMWs .

In my experience

Bike reliablity is

1...Honda
2...Yamaha
3...Ducati
4...KTM
5...Kawasaki
6...Victory
7...HD
8...Triumph
9...Suzuki
10..Guzzi
11..Apprillia
12..BMW

Posted: 16/03/2013 at 10:52

Er, about Victory... don't let one get a sniff of UK road salt. Ever. I've bought bikes for less than the cost of a Hammer headlight cowl.

Posted: 16/03/2013 at 16:57

Should start seeing a few of these soon as it is strongly rumoured to be the bike that the Met are going to replace their 1200RT with.

Posted: 17/03/2013 at 19:19

Its such a dull looking bike.....

Posted: 18/03/2013 at 12:27

at last a cure for insomnia

Posted: 19/03/2013 at 19:17

John Liddell ... nice to see a non stats/fact based reliability report there.

Posted: 20/03/2013 at 09:41

I've got an ST, done 10,000 miles in 18 months. Turns in 58mpg and is all day comfy. Servicing so far not expensive - one warranty issue - ABS sensor fixed without fuss. Handles well. Test rode the GT - better mirrors and screen - 60 mpg despite my best efforts. ESA waste of money cos it does not affect preload, just rebound (or is it the other way round). I may get one when I trade in but on the other hand, a VFR1200 looks like a lot of fun.....and there are so many other nice bikes out there. But the ST is VERY light for a tourer so handy in weird car parks etc

Posted: 20/03/2013 at 15:27

Would be interested if the F800 series weren't physically so small. I'm 6 ft tall and I'm really folded up whenever I try these bikes. Keep the motor but space out the frame a bit for us taller folks!

Posted: 22/03/2013 at 22:25

I agree with Stuart. I am at the tall end of average - just under six feet tall, and looking at Ben in the pictures he does look a bit bunched up. But as a concept a light weight, belt drive all weather bike is a very effective, cheap to run form of transport. It might not set your pants on fire, but how many riders actually get close to the full potential of their bikes on our crowded roads?

Posted: 23/03/2013 at 09:57

Looks like quite a decent bike, but I still want an F800RT. Can't believe there isn't a market for at least one proper full fairing upright mid size.

Posted: 25/03/2013 at 18:19

It's supposed to be a tourer yet there isn't even a 'package' that includes panniers and top box? And it needs a larger screen for journeys of 100 miles plus. So all in all a bit rubbish then?

Posted: 26/03/2013 at 19:26

F800 street bikes have a pretty good pedigree: Christian Pfeiffer used one to become world stunt bike champ. I have an '08 and do the maintenance since no dealership is within 200 miles. In 25K miles I have checked the valves 3X with no clearance changes. The most expensive part was $90 for the valve cover and assorted gaskets. In tests it will quarter in the 11's and top 130 mph which is beyond where I ride. I would say the long-stroke engine produces power like a 1000/4 up until 8 or 9K rpms when it is done. With K & N air filter and slip-on Akropovic (minus catalytic element), my bike is lively, light and sounds great. Corbin seat makes all-day rides a pleasure. I would guess the new GT is a better bike in many regards.

Posted: 30/03/2013 at 15:17

I am looking to replace my 10-year old Honda Deauville (NT650V) with a similar size touring bike that has ABS. The BMW F 800 GT seemed to tick the boxes for an affordable, low weight, comfortable and under 1000cc touring bike, which didn't have a high maintenance chain drive. So I had a test ride and was impressed with the power, handling, rider and pillion seat comfort, instrumentation and re-assurance of having ABS. However I would like to see a lower 1st gear for riding in slow traffic, a higher screen to direct the air over my helmet, a top box to hold 2 helmets, and higher handlebars to take the weight off my wrists.

Posted: 01/05/2013 at 09:15

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