What’s in a letter? That’s the challenge BMW set out to tackle. The BMW F 800 ST carried the company’s middleweight sport touring flag for six years, but after listening to ST owners—and wannabe ST owners who felt something was preventing them from pulling the trigger—BMW decided the bike needed more gran turismo (i.e., touring elements). Thus, by moving the focus of the F 800 ST more toward the touring end of the spectrum without compromising its sporting performance, the BMW F 800 GT was born.
BMW’s designers ditched the ST’s fairing in favor of updated, more stylish bodywork. While the GT’s lines show a family resemblance to the ST, the attitude of the new model is more aggressive and refined.
The grips on the F 800 GT are 0.8 inch higher, allowing for a more relaxed riding position. Longer days in the saddle are more comfortable thanks topegs that are 0.4 inch lower and more forward, while the wider seat offers more wiggle room during those tank-draining stints.
The rider-friendly ergonomics of the F 800 GT are especially accommodating to shorter and smaller riders, as demonstrated by this female rider’s relaxed body position.
Seat height on the F 800 GT has been dropped to 30.1 inches, as compared to 31.5 inches on the ST, without altering the suspension.Higher and lower seat optionsavailable as aftermarket equipmentmake this bike a good fit for a variety of body types. The first drops the seat a half inch lower to 31 inches, while the other, called the “extra low seat,” drops the seat almost an inch and a half to an accessible 30.1 inches. Each of these low seat options is priced at $351.95.
For riders who feel the stock seat height is too cramped, BMW offers a “comfort seat” option that raises the seat height to 32.3 inches, as well as a “high comfort seat” option that brings the seat height to a full 33 inches. Each of those is price at $463.95, and all aftermarket seats mentioned in this article can be purchased from a BMW dealer.
TheF 800 GTsload-carrying capacity increased by 24 pounds, making it possible to transport 456 pounds of large-sized humans (think rider and passenger) and their gear. Correspondingly, the rear subframe was beefed up, and the passenger footpeg mounts were revised.
Saddlebags are optional on the F 800 GT, so those who want them should add an additional $413 per bag to the motorcycle’s retail price, plus the cost of the mountings and fasteners needed for installation. Factory aftermarket locks are available for about $40.
The optional saddlebags were redesigned to bump their total capacity to 55 liters (approximately 28 liters on the right and 27 liters on left). Each is rated for 22 pounds. The new internal shelf holds gear in place, making it easier to close the case when fully loaded. Stainless steel pins lock the bags securely in place while making it easy to mount and remove them on the road. BMW claims the right bag can hold a helmet, but not all full-face helmets will fit—particularly if you have a large noggin. Also available are a 14-liter tank bag and a 28-liter factory accessory top case, which mounts to the luggage rack.
TheF 800 GTs engine is mechanically the same as those on the F 800 R, GS, and ST. The water-cooled vertical twin achieves its 798cc displacement from the 82 mm x 75.6 mm cylinders. The four valves per cylinder are activated by DOHC and breathe into a 2-into-1 exhaust. The 46 mm throttle bodies are controlled by a closed loop EFI. A nifty tidbit about the injection system is that the variable pressure fuel pump delivers more accurate fuel metering without necessitating a fuel return system. The compression ratio is a beefy 12.0:1, requiring premium unleaded gas. If the exhaust canister looks familiar, it should, as it was sourced from the R model. All of these small changes add up to a claimed 5 hp increase, to 90 hp.
The power delivery is linear, peaking at 8,000 rpm. Because theF 800 GTshifts smoothly, stirring the gearbox on winding roads makes for an exciting ride that is complemented by the exhaust’s growl and the intake honk emanating from the opening in the bodywork around the steering head.
Despite a balancer, the solid mounted engine does transfer vibration to the rider. Although it is noticeable at sporting engine speeds in the canyons, the vibration doesn’t become an issue until you spend time on the freeway. The grips and pegs are smooth up to 70 mph. After that, the vibration builds with the rpms. At 80 mph, the vibration in the bar becomes obtrusive, although the pegs tingle only slightly.
With one major exception, the chassis remained unchanged in the upgrade to the GT. The single-sided aluminum swingarm was lengthened by 2 inches for increased comfort and stability. Also, the rear suspension travel was reduced by 0.6 inches for a tighter, less “wallowy” handling ride (this contributed to the drop in seat height).
The shock uses an updated preload adjustment knob accessed through a space in the right side of the frame. The front suspension is nonadjustable, while the rear features preload and rebound adjustments. However, in a claimed first for a middleweight motorcycle, BMW is offering electronic suspension adjustment (ESA) as a factory option, giving the rider a choice of three damping modes with the push of the left thumb.
Comfort mode softens the ride and can truly be appreciated on extended freeway jaunts. Normal mode offers the best compromise between bump absorption and sportiness. Sport mode firms the shock up for sharper handling. In practical use, normal mode is effective for most riding situations, with comfort mode providing a more floaty ride and a more relaxing experience on extended super slab stints. When the road gets twisty, sport mode delivers a tauter ride that can be appreciated on smooth pavement. When the tarmac turns rough or undulating, the ride becomes somewhat frantic in sport mode, so normal shock settings proved to be more appropriate.
The aluminum bridge frame (a carryover from the ST) saves weight. The GT’s steering is quick, thanks no doubt to the lighter aluminum wheels. Locating the 4-gallon fuel tank under the seat behind the engine clears space for the airbox above the engine and centralizes the mass, keeping the bike from feeling top heavy. Weight savings also comes from the newABS components, which are lighter and more compact than in previous iterations of the system. The front brake features a pressure sensor to prevent early triggering of the system over rough pavement.
When the ABS is triggered upfront, the lever pulses lightly. During ham-fisted stops, the front tire occasionally chirps before the system engages. This should give new riders the confidence to learn how powerful the front brakes really are. Out back, the pedal pulses more noticeably and the system activation can be heard quite clearly.
In addition to the new speedometer and tachometer faces, the onboard computer display features bar graphs for fuel and engine temperature. When paired with the optional computer, the readout also displays the gear, ambient temperature, tire pressure, stopwatch, fuel economy, and status of other systems (such as the ESA mode). The optional heated grips display their setting so that you know whether they are set to simmer or sear.
To manage the plethora of options available for the F 800 GT, BMW has created different packages by grouping the more popular combinations together and offering them at a discount over purchasing them a la carte. The base F 800 GT model is $11,890, which is also the price of the ST. Don’t expect to find any base models on the showroom floor, however. Instead, you have to order one from the factory and wait a couple months for delivery.
The Standard Package adds a centerstand, two-level heated grips, an onboard computer, and saddlebag mounts for a retail price of $12,395. The Premium Package adds ESA, ASC, and a tire pressure monitor, bringing the total to $13,190. Don’t forget that saddlebags will set you back another $826. Then all you need to do is decide which of the three color options you like the best.
BMW has put itself at the top of the heap, price-wise, for middleweight sport touring machinery. Although the packages do offer significant savings over ordering the options individually, the German manufacturer clearly views the MSRP as a premium price for a premium product—much in the way that Apple and other top-tier brands do. As long as the customers feel they are getting an exceptional product, they’ll continue to plunk down their money.
Specs at a Glance: 2013 BMW F 800 GT
Seat Height: 31.5 in
Fuel Capacity: 4 gallons
Wet (or curb) Weight: 470 pounds
Colors: Light White, Dark Graphite Metallic, and Radian Valencia Orange Metallic
List Price: $11,890 base, $12,395 standard, $13,190 premium
Warranty: 3 years, 36,000 miles
BMW listened to riders and delivered what they wanted, a middleweight motorcycle that is tour-friendly. Don’t let the term “middleweight” fool you into thinking you can’t go distances on this motorcycle, though. Riders ready to experience long-haul touring after spending time on a beginner motorcycle, along with veteran riders who don’t want the bulk and bigness of a traditional tourer, should consider the F 800 GT. Not only does this bike offer tons of technology in a user-friendly package, we also think it’s a pretty affordable way to enter the BMW family.
[photo 14888]About the Author: Evans Brasfieldbought his first motorcycle in 1989 and rode it until he ran out of continent. Once settled on the Left Coast, he worked various jobs to support his riding habit until he stumbled into a staff editor position at Motorcycle Cruiser magazine (and later Sport Rider) 17 years ago. As a freelancer, Evans wrote and photographed two books: “101 Sportbike Performance Projects” and “How to Modify Your Metric Cruiser.” Evans’s recent writings and photography have appeared in Backroads, Friction Zone, Motorcycle Cruiser, Motorcyclist, and RoadBike magazines. Evans recently took on a fulltime job at Motorcycle.com so he is no longer writing articles on a freelance basis. We were fortunate to get this article from him right before he got this job. When he’s not test riding a motorycle, he can be seen on his Yamaha R6. Evans and his wife live in Burbank, Calif., where they are raising two strong-willed, independent daughters.