The BMW F800GT is a bike I've been wanting to ride ever since it's ST origin around 2006. I've had brief desires to simply buy one but the purchase cost and cost of ownership and admittedly fear of reliability kept me away. It's fair to say that this isn't a proper review of the bike simply my impression of it compared to other machines I've enjoyed over the years. In a nutshell, it's a wonderful motorcycle and if I had the chance to ride one before I purchased my Versys I would have been seriously tempted to own it.
Superficially I really like the look of the bike with the exception of the hideously large and high exhaust can. The factory bags are a bit wide visually although I had a tough time fitting my large Icon Airmada helmet. I had to turn the helmet on it's side and cram into place while closing the luggage door. This may be due to the thick plastic that is used it's much beefier compared to my Versys luggage. And while we are on the topic of luggage, I'm not a fan of clamshell designs but understand that a larger opening is more useful, what I liked about the BMW luggage is that the bottom has a shelf that catches everything and helps prevent loose stuff from falling out. The overall look of the bike is really swoopy with the offset headlights that are common on BMW's. Gas cap is next to the saddle as the tank is under the seat. The instruments are all easy to read and very perfunctory in design. The bike I rented had many features, ABS, traction control, electronic suspension, heated grips, tire pressure monitor, gear position and a very funny to me fuel gauge. The fuel gauge deserves a special mention because it only reads the lower half of the tank. When the tank is full you see a stacked array of about 5 bars with an up arrow on the top. The bars do not start to change until the tank is under half, apparently the long shape underseat shape of the tank made it so the gauge could not properly register above half a tank so the very practical and precise German engineers simply changed the way the gauge would read, only showing the bottom half.
To the heart of the matter, the motor. I've had the chance to get information from a few people who had first hand experience with the bike as well as professional reviews and nearly all of them state that the engine is blah as in not engaging/entertaining. I was always surprised to hear this as the motor puts out 98hp which should be enough to have some serious fun. By comparison my Ninja 650 and Versys 650 both put out around 68hp and they are both a hoot to ride. From my point of view the BMW is a great deal of fun, you can wind it out to around 9000rpm and it has some serious zip. I guess it doesn't have a strong mid-range pull a lot of parallel twin bikes have but it is quick to speed. Maybe it's a flatter torque curve, I don't know but if you can't have fun on this bike I think you may be kind of jaded.
For comfort and ergonomics the F800GT is a real good fit for me but I could see it being problematic for others. It almost has the opposite layout of my Ninja 650, that is the bars feel farther away but the foot position seems relaxed while the Ninja's bars are very upright and the pegs are further back and higher. I rode all day on the bike and the only soreness were my shoulders and wrists, so much so that towards the end I was doing the sport bike thing where you ride with one hand on the throttle and the other on your thigh or tank just to stretch out a bit. The windscreen isn't adjustable though it is pretty wide and a good height, but this is a problem, you would think a touring bike would have an adjustable screen and the BMW's is fixed. While the size and shaped worked for me I've read reviews that a lot of riders get wind blast and noise from the screen. It really should be adjustable on a touring bike. Finally the first day I had a buzzy feeling in my hands from vibration, my reading on the bike is that the F800GT should be free of buzz because of the unconventional firing order and counterweighted balance, it wasn't bad but my Ninja and Versys are better.
The bike handles well as you would expect although I didn't immediately get comfortable with it as I would have expected. It took me some time to trust my Ninja 650 too, I think it's just my nature though I would say that the Versys is amazing in this regard and is by far the most confidence inspiring bike I've had any lengthy seat time riding. I did get a chance on some very few and very remote straightaways to test the speed of the bike, I was up to 180kmh which I think is 110mph. A surprise for me was how much power there was on top of speeds over 120kmh with plenty of pull until around 160kmh where it evened out a bit. I've never had my Ninja at this rate of speed and I have to say the BMW was very comfortable and stable and willing to go faster.
So yeah, I really liked the bike. It has so many elements that appeal to me such as a beautiful single-sided swingarm, belt drive, centerstand and a gear position indicator. The overall design is quite appealing to me and BMW does offer the bike in colors like orange and blue though my rental was basic black. Other than the lack of long distance comfort on my shoulders there was one little thing that really irked me and it's something that you constantly use. The turn signal button, it has almost zero tactile feedback. I could never get the sense without looking if I had actually engaged the signal and it bugged me the entire trip.