First Ride: 2008 BMW F800GS

The world becomes a smaller place as BMW’s iconic cross-continental all-road battleship welcomes a new mini member into its family.

Click to read: BMW F800GS owners reviews, BMW F800GS specs and to see the BMW F800GS image gallery.

Embarrassing myself in front of someone fairly important in the motorcycling community is becoming a bit of a trend of mine recently. Last month I had wheelie stage fright while British Supersport racer Paul Young looked on unimpressed, and this month I managed to burry BMW’s new F800GS up to its axels in sand while Dakar rider, chaperone to Charley Boorman and BMW off-road skills school headmaster Simon Pavey looked on. And I wasn’t even meant to be riding the bike on the beach to start with.

The photographer thought it would look all arty to get the bike on the sand. So, being the friendly type, I offered my assistance. Unfortunately at this point I forgot that despite my enthusiasm level being quite high, my off-road ability is close to zero my sand riding level is even lower, especially on a 185kg bike on road tyres. Never mind, always one to give it a shot off I headed…for about ten yards, at which point I sank. Shouts of encouragement/abuse from Pavey failed to get either myself or the BMW moving, mainly because I was laughing so much I couldn’t summon up the strength to lift the bike out of the sand, and by now the local police were starting to take an interest in proceedings. BMW launches certainly aren’t what they used to be, this one was actually shaping up to be really good fun.

There is a definite feeling of a breath of fresh air sweeping through BMW at the moment. This is a manufacturer that is doing its best to try new things, explore new avenues and take a few risks. In the last couple of years BMW has launched two new families of bikes (the G-series 650 singles and F-series 800 parallel twins) as well as a revolutionary 450 motocross bike, a new HP range and it’s now working on an inline four World Superbike racer.  Not every one of these projects has been that successful, the G-series bikes are proving less than popular in showrooms and, personally, I disliked the F800S and ST bikes. But BMW is giving it a shot, and that’s what matters.

But with the new F800GS you can’t see how it could possibly miss the mark. It’s a simple formula. Take BMW’s best selling bike, the R1200GS, make it a bit smaller so it appeals to a broader range of potential owners without sacrificing too much of its all-round touring ability, give it a reasonable price tag and you have a winner on your hands.