2013 BMW F800GT | First Ride

Bavaria’s Smallest Sport-Tourer Gets a Makeover

By Zack Courts, Photography by Jon Beck

They say: “The new benchmark for mid-size tourers.”
We say: “What are the other ones, again?”

Replacing the F800ST with BMW’s new-for-2013 F800GT is more than just a name change—just a little bit more. The new F800GT shares most of its DNA with the ST, but BMW has revamped the platform to reflect what research showed customers wanted. In this case, that means “less of the S and more of the G,” in the words of BMW Product Manager Sergio Carvajal. Translation: Less Sport and more Grand before the word Touring. Got it.

A glance at the new GT sees an aggressive shape, one that exudes just as much sport as touring. A closer look reveals new wheels and a shorter muffler, as well as a reworked fairing designed to create a larger pocket of calm air in the cockpit. Working in the same S-to-G direction, riding position tweaks have the seat dropping 1.6 inches to 31.5 in., the handgrips rising an inch, and the footpegs lowered and moved forward about 0.5 in.

New switchgear is also apparent, complete with updated—and now becoming familiar—BMW toggles for on-board computer info, heated grips, ASC (traction control), and Electronic Suspension Adjustment (ESA). All of which are options, technically, though the $12,395 Standard-package F800GTs bound for U.S. dealers will already have the heated grips and computer, as well as a centerstand and saddlebag mounts. ASC and ESA can be purchased independently for $350 and $400, respectively, or will come bundled along with tire-pressure monitors ($250) in the Premium upgrade that rolls out the door for $13,190. You do the math.

If $400 sounds like a steal for ESA, read on. This isn’t the fancy ESA from the flagship bikes that changes preload and adjusts compression and rebound damping (and forget about dynamic/adaptive technology). The F800GT’s ESA, like that on the F700GS, provides three modes that simply increase or decrease rebound damping in the shock; more for Sport, less for Comfort, and somewhere in the middle for Normal. The changes are subtle, but seem to help stability.

What is handy, and can make a big difference, is the plastic knob on the right side of the shock that allows preload to be cranked in or taken out of the spring whenever you please. Initially, the F800GT was a little too soft for my 185 pounds, but about five turns of the knob increased preload and kept a little more weight on the front end, which in turn made the bike feel much more balanced under cornering loads. If you plan to strap some luggage and a significant other on the back occasionally, easy preload adjustment is a wonderful thing.

Exiting those corners is also easy thanks to extremely composed throttle response—you have to be terribly careless with the grip to get anywhere near abrupt fueling—and a wide, steady power curve. Linear to a fault, in truth, because the engine never really feels like it’s making all 90 claimed horses. Torque is ample, but the grips and pegs still feel a little buzzy, despite both points being isolated by anti-vibration rubber. The 798cc mill even utilizes a simple counterbalancer as well. Since the pistons rise and fall simultaneously, BMW devised a counterweight that attaches to the crankshaft and pivots from the back of the crankcase, phased 180 degrees off from the connecting rods—the idea is to take the tingle out of a traditionally vibey engine configuration. Efficiency is as important to touring types as smoothness—especially with just 4 gallons of fuel on board—so BMW remapped the F800’s injection system, providing a claimed 69 mpg (at a constant 55 mph) as well as a 5-bhp boost over the ST.

When it’s time to slow down, four-piston Brembo calipers squeeze 320mm floating rotors up front, and provide big stopping power, even with just one finger on the lever. ABS is standard and cannot be switched off, unlike the optional ASC. (Incidentally, BMW ABS can only be turned off on the GS line, the K1300S, and the S1000RR).

Wind protection from the new fairing is ideal for sub-6-foot riders, taking windblast away from the chest and arms while leaving your helmet in clean, undisturbed air. If you find yourself so far under 6 feet that touching the ground is an issue, try the no-cost low seat option, which brings the height down from 31.5 to 30.1 in. A taller, 32.3-in. “comfort” seat is also available, along with a raft of BMW accessories that include hard luggage made up of 55-liter side panniers and a 28-liter top box as well as soft bags.

As a way to tick off miles, the new F800GT is a fine machine, with sufficient power, thoughtful ergonomics, and typical BMW refinement. The F800ST was a fine machine, too, but the GT is a clear step in the direction of seamless, long-range comfort over short-term sporting aspirations. Just what the customer ordered.

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