Mike Stevens | Apr 3, 2009 | 0 Comments

BMW’s F800 ST brings a new level of appeal to the term ‘all-rounder’.

From its staid, conservative image of not so many years ago, BMW has transformed itself into a vibrant powerhouse of avant-garde motorcycle design, and now produces a range of machines to suit riders of just about any persuasion.

In recent years it has set about steadily improving its existing models, while also developing entirely new bikes to plug gaps in its model line-up.

The F 800 ST plugged one of those gaps, and since its introduction in the latter half of 2006, it – along with its F 800 S sibling – has met with widespread approval. Several hundred F 800s have been snapped up in Australia thus far, and it looks like the future of this punchy middleweight is assured.

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The F 800 ST (as in ‘Sports Touring’) has outstripped sales of the F 800 S (as in ‘Sports’) by some margin, which really isn’t that surprising – the ST is still a remarkably sporty bike, while a few other changes (see the separate panel) give it the broader appeal we’ve come to associate with sports tourers.

We thought we'd better take another look.

A GOOD HEART

At the heart of the bike is an all-new parallel-twin, which BMW claims is good for 62.5kW (at 8000rpm) and 86Nm (at 5800rpm). It’s BMW’s first parallel-twin, and it is immediately obvious after taking an F 800 for a spin that the company has done its homework.

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Matched with a 187kg claimed dry weight, there’s ample go here to plaster a smile to your dial. It’s not intimidating, there is just plenty of useable 'oomph' over a broad spread of revs, in an engine that’s equally happy to lope along or devour revs all the way to its 8500rpm redline.

BMW has pulled a rabbit out of its hat here – the F 800 ST is manageable enough for relative newcomers or those returning to biking after a break, yet entertaining enough to also keep seasoned veterans coming back for more.

The good news is this engine is to be employed in other bikes in the BMW range, like the recently arrived (late last year) F 800 GS dual purpose model – and you can bank on more to come.

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A bridge-type aluminium frame that utilizes the engine as a stressed member has been employed, and together with the rear monoshock and front telescopic forks it makes for a wonderfully composed ride over a variety of surfaces, even though the suspension – with non-adjustable front forks – is relatively low spec.

I just love the way the F 800 ST carves up a winding road. It’s relatively light and nimble, and while it’s no razor-sharp supersport machine, its lively and involving ride had me howling with delight.

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Those front twin-disc, four-piston stoppers offer ample power and feel, and the rear is quite powerful too – more than enough to keep you happy on the road or at a track day.

BROAD APPEAL

“In the F 800 ST, BMW has produced a consummate all-rounder…”

I found the ride position suited me perfectly. At 190cm I’m on the taller side, but the 820mm seat height still gave me decent legroom and the ’bars were an easy stretch away. For those on the shorter side, a lower 790mm seat is also available.

The screen offers a good amount of protection, the instrumentation is smart and the overall level of finish is of BMW’s typically high standard. Given its cheap (for a BMW road bike) price tag of $15,000, it’s really difficult to see where any compromise has been made.

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Downsides? Nothing major. The gearbox is on the clunky side, but to be honest this doesn’t affect its efficient operation, and the clutch is a bit of a clunker too – although you’ll only notice it at low speeds, like when filtering through traffic. But these aren’t actually issues, more characteristics.

IN THE FAMILY

The F 800 ST and F 800 S both share the same chassis, suspension and engine, but there are a number of differences between the two which give the ‘S’ a sportier outlook on life. The ‘ST’ has a taller screen, making it better for long distance work, plus more bodywork. The S also has clip-on ’bars, which give it a slightly more aggressive ride position. Finally the pair sport different alloy wheels, and the ST weighs in at about 5kg heavier than its sportier stablemate.

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The Last Word

In the F 800 ST, BMW has produced a consummate all-rounder. It’ll rip through city traffic; it’ll scythe up a winding road; it’ll take you and mate on a transcontinental epic – and you’ll be grinning non-stop. Throw in that price tag and its appeal for born-again bikers, and it’s easy to see why they’re rolling off showroom floors in the numbers they are.

Gallery

Specifications

Engine: 798cc, liquid-cooled, four-stroke, DOHC, fuel-injected, eight-valve parallel-twin
Power: 62.5kW @ 8000rpm
Torque: 86Nm @ 5800rpm
Transmission: six-speed
Front brake: twin 320mm discs, four-piston calipers
Rear brake: single 265mm disc, single-piston caliper
Front suspension: 43mm forks, non-adjustable
Rear suspension: monoshock, adjustable for preload and rebound
Seat height: 790mm or 820mm
Claimed dry weight: 187kg
Fuel Capacity: 16lt
Economy: approx 5.5 litres / 100km
Price: $15,000 plus ORC
Colours: Blue Metallic or Graphitan 2 Metallic Matt
Warranty: 24 months/unlimited kilometres
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