Having ridden nearly every adventure bike on the market, both on and off-road, Paul Guillien is able to provide a unique perspective on BMW’s updated F800GS. “I’ve spent the bulk of my time adventure riding on this motorcycle,” said Guillien, “I’ve logged about 10,000 miles, half of which were off-road on a 2009 F800GS and I am really excited to test the new 2013 F800GS.”
“The F800GS was the first mid-weight adventure motorcycle,” says Guillien. “Prior to its arrival, your only options were 650 singles and 1200cc twin cylinder bikes, but this was the first parallel twin 800cc motorcycle on the market and really created a new category.” The benefit of a mid-weight motorcycle, Guillien says, “is that you still have really good power but the bike is a lot easier to manage, it’s easier to turn around and it’s a lot easier to get off of the side stand, which makes it a really good fit for a lot of people.”
For 2013, BMW Motorrad added a handful of new features to the F800GS, one of them is their ESA suspension system. “They’ve added dampening in the rear shock,” said Guillien, “there’s nothing in place in the front fork, but the rear has three different settings for dampening – there’s a normal mode, a comfort mode and a sport mode, which you use for off-road or aggressive riding.”
One of the other new features on the 2013 F800GS is a traction control system. “There’s a switch that allows you to turn the traction control on and off. When you leave it on it basically cuts the ignition whenever the rear tire is spinning, which keeps the tire from rotating when you don’t want it to and helps to keep the back of the motorcycle behind you,” said Guillien.
Because the F800GS has long -travel suspension, one of the features Guillien feels makes the F800GS such a great bike off-road, some people, however, feel that it’s a little too tall. So for 2013 BMW is offering a lowered version of the F800GS, which, according to Guillien “is great because it allows more people to have both feet on the ground and be comfortable.” However, if you have an F800GS that is older than 2013, Touratech offers a lowering kit which decreases the seat height of the older model bikes.
“One of my favorite features of the F800GS is the transmission,” said Guillien. “It’s got a really quick shifting, dirt bike feel to the six-speed gearbox, and I was relieved when I rode the 2013 model and found that they hadn’t changed that.”
Another feature found on the F800GS that Guillien feels is essential for off-road riding and adventure touring is the 21” front wheel. “For me it’s a lot more fun to ride off-road,” Guillien said, “because you can go a little faster, you can go on more interesting off-road terrain, you can actually ride on Jeep trails and things with water crossings and washouts and you can just really have a lot more fun on a bike with a bigger front wheel and taller suspension.”
When asked what his overall impression of the updated F800GS, Guillien replied; “I really like the 2013 bike, it retained all of the things I liked about the older model, but they improved the suspension which was my biggest complaint, so I think that BMW did a good job addressing its weaknesses; they’ve fixed it, they’ve made it a better motorcycle and it continues to be my favorite bike.”
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I guess Mr Guillien didn’t do too well at History in school:
“The F800GS was the first mid-weight adventure motorcycle,” says Guillien. “Prior to its arrival, your only options were 650 singles and 1200cc twin cylinder bikes, but this was the first parallel twin 800cc motorcycle on the market and really created a new category.”
The F800GS did not create this sector -it has just been forgotten. Look back to the 1980’s – we had the XRV750 Africa Twin, XTZ750 Super Tenere, E750/900 Elephant as well as BMW’s own R80GS. As for 800cc in particular, you may find a rather uncanny resemblance of the F800GS to Suzuki’s DR800 (the original trail bike with a beak!) – that is one of the reasons I now own an F800GS.
Great review, thanks! Bike looks great and the black panniers really improve the looks, even though, I don’t know if I would buy them again next time. Now I have a 1200GSA with the bmw metal panniers. They are great on road trip, but offroad you stay scared of busting them, since they are $800 a pop.
I am looking for downsizing from the 1200.. Test drove a KTM 990 Baja, and 800 GS last weekend, back to back. BMW won. KTM was better looking, good wind proction, better than stock 800GS, but no ABS, and no gas indicator, sure are big turn offs,KTM eletronic speaking seems to come from the 80’s… plus the turning ration of KTM was worst than my 1200GSA, that actually was quite surprising!!! Test drives consisted of some offroad, HWY and street… was great to be able to do that on both of them. 🙂