2013 BMW F 800 GT: The Right Piece of the Puzzle

Text: Alfonse Palaima • Photography: Jonathan Beck

BMW thins the herd and replaces a first-model sport tourer with a longer and leaner next-generation machine. Gone are the F 800 S and ST; welcome to the higher horsepower F 800 GT, an everyday bike with touring capabilities.

Like picking through a puzzle box, so many of the pieces appear to fill the need, yet only one fits. Often the tabs aren’t right for the holes or vice-versa. Some are too square, others too round. Finding the right one is a little like finding a bike that comfortably fits the city grid as well as the mountain passes. For some, it can be a lifelong challenge; for others, the GT is calling their name.

Powertrain and Performance

BMW originally introduced their F 800 power plant with the sporting S and touring-oriented ST models in 2007 to fulfill a growing need between the 650 and 1200cc bikes of the day.

Today, the 798cc water-cooled, even-firing, parallel twin carries the GT name for its all-round, grand-touring capabilities. The S and ST models have grown up with the buyers and merged into just one package, the F 800 GT.

Current BMW owners asked for “less S and more G,” and BMW delivered by offering what Sergio Carvajal (BMW’s Motorcycle Product Manager) considers a “serious middle-class contender” that’s capable of doing nearly everything the RT can do with a much lower sticker price.

That doesn’t mean the F 800 is a less dynamic riding experience. Comparing apples to apples, the differences between the GT and RT make for quite a spirited bike. Only 20 ponies separate the models thanks to tweaked fuel injection and ignition mapping. The 470-pound, six-speed GT now makes 90 hp (lower spec EU version also available) at 8,000 rpm (5 up from the ST) and weighs 110 pounds less than the RT while wearing the same tire and ABS braking set ups. Although the GT is passenger capable, buyers looking to fully load the bike (including pillion) should consider the larger-displacement RT.

Riding backroads to mountain passes, this supersport-sized tourer easily serves the passion we all have. Over highway slogs, the little bike still can deliver, but between 4,000 and 5,000 rpm (representing 70 to 90 mph in top gear), the engine provides a more numbing experience.

Styling and Ergonomics

Compared to the ST, the GT hosts updates including a higher and more hidden exhaust, a restyled and more complete fairing (with a color matched “tank” panel and front fender), and a larger, more integrated, and effective windscreen. New footrest positioning (10mm forward and 10mm down) offers a more comfortable triangle for this 5-foot-10 inch rider. A lower and wider, yet still comfortable, saddle comes standard (31.5 inches high) and offers a flatfoot stance with a slight bend in the leg when stopped. Optional saddles run both directions, higher (32.3 inches max) or lower (30.1 inches).

Those interested in a lower-saddled ST (without the added expense of both a saddle and suspension package to attain it) might appreciate the new setup. It allows for the lowest saddle possible at zero extra cost if ordered at the time of purchase.

Technical Features

In the cockpit, up-to-date switchgear is nearly an inch closer with a 0.8-inch higher, tapered, and decoupled handlebar. Key components located on the left are the disengageable and optional ASC (Automated Stability Control) and limited three-position ESA (Electronic Suspension Adjustment) switches. On the right, it’s the stop/start/kill switch and an accessory heated-grip button.

The dash consists of the familiar analog needles for speed and tachometer aside the LCD info panel and onboard computer. The LCD features a new gauge that dices the fuel bars on its 4-gallon capacity only from a half tank to flat. BMW claims 69 mpg, but we averaged only 54 mpg with loaded saddlebags—and riding like we stole it. The limited-range ESA is for the rear rebound only; spring preload is adjustable with the hand knob. No adjustment is available in the front.

Where the throttle hits the road, the GT has a new and lighter belt-driven wheel and a 2-inch longer swingarm (with less spring travel) for a more stable, taut, and sporting ride that doesn’t batter you after a full day of riding. With an eye on touring ability, this change increases the carrying capacity by 24 pounds.

The extended bottom is a new feature for BMW’s accessory saddlebags. Basically a shelf, it’s designed to prevent your gear from stressing the hinges and support straps when opening a loaded saddlebag. As usual, the pipe-side bag holds slightly less than the right, but the larger will hold a full-face helmet. The combined volume is 55 liters. Available accessories include a 28-liter topcase, a 14-liter waterproof tank bag, saddlebag liners, a tinted windshield, Navigator IV GPS, LED turn signals, a centerstand, and an Akrapovic Sport Silencer.

The 2013 BMW F 800 GT base MSRP is the same as the 2012 F 800 ST it replaces, ,890. You won’t find any at that price on the showroom floor, however. As learned from previous buying habits, BMW intends to ship bikes pre-equipped with packages detailed below. Packages are priced less than if you were to order features a la cart. Base models can be ordered from Europe with about a ten-week wait.

The Standard Package (,395) includes heated grips, onboard computer, centerstand, and saddlebag mounts. The Premium Package adds ESA, TPM, and ASC for a total of ,190, a steep price for a middleweight sport tourer. But as equipped, this bike is the leader in its class. Touring cases are extra.

Final Thoughts

BMW wants to get more people riding, and welcoming new as well as returning riders to the streets in a comfortable (and capable) package is one way to do it. By creating a bike that’s fun to ride at an attainable price, BMW unravels the mystery of the right bike. Tooling around town or blasting the canyons, straight lines, or curves, the GT is the right piece for the puzzle.