BMW's GS range comprises seven models in New Zealand. From the F650GS through to the big daddy R1200GS Adventure, there's one for any rider keen to let the world pass beneath their wheels.
Sitting proudly in the middle of the range is the F800GS, powered by an 800cc engine. Surprisingly its lesser-named siblings (F650GS, F700GS, etc) share the same liquid-cooled, 798cc parallel twin that pumps out a healthy 63kW at 7500rpm. Though this might not sound earth-shattering for an almost
one-litre bike, all is well with the 800 twin creating a stonking 83Nm of torque at 5750rpm, giving it a fun character in normal riding conditions.
It's also wickedly smooth at low speed, low rpm riding, giving a very easy-to-control bike as there is no need to keep feathering the clutch and throttle to prevent it from stalling. It just keeps on rolling.
Being a dual-sport-styled bike the F800GS is tall, with plenty of ground clearance for everything from jumping kerbs to mounting logs while taking the road less travelled. This height does make the bike difficult to mount sometimes, and BMW provides an optional adjustable seat, bringing the seat height down from 880mm to 820mm, or if need be increase to 920mm for taller riders, allowing for a better reach for a variety of riders.
The fuel tank is cleverly mounted under the seat, giving the F800GS a much lower centre of gravity compared with the competition. This is welcome, given riders are only balancing on a dual-purpose 90/90 R21 section tyre at the front, and a 150/70 R17 on the rear.
Matching the lithe look of the bike is great handling. Wide bars with a huge steering lock combine with unbeatable "sit up and beg" ergonomics, giving the rider plenty of manoeuvrability on the 214kg bike. However, if one thing did slightly annoy me, it was that the throttle felt like it needed more resistance; at low speeds going over bumps it had a tendency to blip the throttle, inadvertently causing the bike to jump forward.
Cleverly, though, the F800GS's designers thought about protecting the most breakable part should the worst happen: with small LED indicators barely sticking out from the body of the bike, they'll take some effort to damage. I'd opt for crash bars if you plan on taking it off-road. Either that, or step up to the F800GS's big brother, the F800GS Adventure, which is more rugged than most of the countryside you'll encounter.
After riding the F800GS over a week I returned a best fuel consumption of 4.8 litres per 100km. Though BMW states the bike can return a figure as low as 3.8 L/100km, this is noted with the caveat of a steady ride at 90km/h, which Kiwi riders will surely struggle to maintain on our highways.
Keeping to a steady speed for good fuel economy means at some points overtaking is necessary, and on the F800GS overtaking is as simple as rolling on the throttle and clicking on the indicator on BMW's excellent switchgear. Top speed is over 200km/h with BMW refraining from giving specifics as to just how far over the 200km mark it can do.
The clocks are BMW's classic mix of funky yet functional. A stacked tachometer and speedometer give you your speed and engine rpm, while alongside is a digital display with information such as fuel usage, odometer and a large and easy to read gear indicator telling you which of the six gears you're in.
BMW has done an excellent job here as you can still clearly read everything while standing on the pegs when riding on some of the rough stuff.
Other features included as standard are a switchable ABS (so you can turn it off as you like) and stability control, with heated hand grips and an adjustable monoshock at the rear on the entry level bike. However, BMW Motorrad New Zealand finds more of its customers expect their bikes to come fully loaded and as such will be importing predominantly fully specced bikes which adds more gizmos to the bike, including the excellent electronic suspension adjustment system over the non-adjustable USD forks of the base model.
Add BMW's luggage system and some camping gear and there's no stopping the potential adventure the F800GS is capable of. At $21,990 for a decked-out high-specification bike, they're a great option for world-renowned long-distance travel on two wheels.