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SteveThackery

Thackery's ride on a BMW F800GT

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SteveThackery

As you know, I'm in search of a replacement for my NC750X DCT.  See this thread for more of the discussion:

 

Before I continue, I should mention that I've been diagnosed with "Severe degenerative changes to the facet articulations L3 - S1", which means I get terrible pain in my lower back, which comes and goes in severity but never goes away.

 

Up until now I've always assumed I need an Adventure-style bike because I like the upright riding position.  I also dislike the high seat height on them, and the stupid styling which requires them to have no protection for any of the moving parts against salty, gritty, dirty water flung at 70+mph from the wheels.

 

However, everything changed today when I tried the BMW F800GT.  First impression: a really low seat height, dead comfy seat and very easy to handle.  When I rode it several other things really stood out.  Firstly, the suspension is marvellous compared with anything I've ridden before - it handles great and most of all it's extremely comfortable, helped by the excellent seat.  Damping is electronically adjustable.

 

The whole bike feels like it's in a different class from those I've ridden up until now (which it should - they are considerably more expensive, and out of my price range if I buy new).

 

But this is the most important thing: I was expecting quite a reach to the handlebars and therefore back twinges, but I was quite wrong.  In fact the forward lean is quite modest and I would say if anything it's better for me than an Adventure bike in terms of back comfort.  The slight forward lean stops bumps going vertically up the spine.

 

The engine, though, is most strange.  There is a surprising amount of clickety clacking from it, although I've noticed this a lot with bikes that have bodywork - they direct the noise up to the rider.  But most of all it's really weird to listen to a 360-degree parallel twin - it's 30-odd years since I've ridden one.  Also, there is a surprising amount of intake noise when you're giving it some beans (again, I suspect due to the bodywork).  

 

In terms of performance, it is quicker than the Versys or the Tracer, which you'd expect as it has 90bhp.  The Tracer feels like it has a flatter torque curve - the BMW pulls as well as you'd expect, but unleashes maximum acceleration if you let it rev pretty high.  It will easily outgun all but the fastest cars - 0-60mph is sub-four seconds.

 

The other notable thing about the bike is that it runs hot - the temperature gauge hovers around 100C and the engine covers are too hot to touch.  It's deliberate, apparently - optimises efficiency.  But it does blow quite a lot of hot air up at the rider (which I don't think would bother me, to be honest).

 

The fly-by-wire throttle takes a little getting used to - it seemingly deliberately has a rather "soft" response at small openings.  I stalled it when pulling away at a T-junction because, being used to a cable control, I didn't give it enough twist.  Easy enough to get used to, though.

 

Personally I don't like the soundtrack at all, but in every other way I really, really like the bike.  It's a classy bit of kit.

The big lesson for me is that I should be trying Tourers, rather than Adventure bikes.  Hoping to find a VFR800 to try out next.
 

 

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wpbrown

I can understand the attraction; I loved my couple of test rides on the F800GT. I was looking for a VFR800 also to test but came across a CBF1000 at a good price & bought that instead. 

Good luck with your quest, hope you find what you need. 

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Tex

Sorry about your back, matey, but pleased you gave the F800 a try. And even more pleased you found it so enjoyable. Now, the VFR800..

 

I would suggest the ones to try are the gear driven cam models (up to 2001) and the latest (2014 onwards) models. A personal preference (and I freely admit to bias, here) would be the earlier bike. Most have been well used by now (although no one ever wore one out!) but the odd really low mileage gem pops up from time to time. £4K gets you a mint example of one of the finest bikes of it’s generation.

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Ciaran1602

Intrigued, you might say. I’ve only bought adventure style bikes of late as that’s all anyone seems to make anymore. The small full dress touring bike ala Deauville (I know very different in riding characteristics) is a dying breed. I’ve oft thought about the f800 due to the low seat and full fairing etc

 

i might have to give one a go :angel:

 

Glad you enjoyed!

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MikeBike
11 hours ago, SteveThackery said:

The big lesson for me is that I should be trying Tourers, rather than Adventure bikes.  Hoping to find a VFR800 to try out next.

Maybe you know about http://cycle-ergo.com/ to compare posture / lean etc different motorcycles for your own height / inside leg measurements?

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larryblag
Posted (edited)
12 hours ago, SteveThackery said:

As you know, I'm in search of a replacement for my NC750X DCT.  See this thread for more of the discussion:

 

But is the most important thing: I was expecting quite a reach to the handlebars and therefore back twinges, but I was quite wrong.  In fact the forward lean is quite modest and I would say if anything it's better for me than an Adventure bike in terms of back comfort.  The slight forward lean stops bumps going vertically up the spine.

 

Steve that's exactly my issue. You may remember when I bought my NC I originally ordered the X, but went back the next day and ordered the S. I'd tried both the previous day. The very slight stretch is good for my back, I'd had a bit of trouble on the RT due to the upright position giving me what I call a "lazy" back which brings on my problem. The NCX did the same despite me preferring the style of it. 

The HD was good, the CB is better still due to slightly rearward set pegs. 

The best was the VFR800FIX which initially was a shock to the wrists coming from a Versus 650 (Mk1). But a month on I can honestly say that my (then) 30 mile round trip to work did my back loads of good. Sadly the later VFRs seem to have lost a little pillion comfort. 

Edited by larryblag
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Rev Ken

Sounds as if there might be another F800GT convert! I'm still enjoying mine, and although I don't have the electronic suspension it is still better than many other bikes I've ridden.

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baben
Posted (edited)

Oh! Groan. I had an ST and after my experience (mainly with the dealer and BMW HQ) swore I would never have another. The main reason for getting rid of it though was my poorly clutch hand - the VFR went at the same time for the same reason. You are right about comfort though and I think it is true of bikes like the CBF 1000, F 800ST and VFR. It is much comfier to lean forward slightly and take the weight off your bum and jolts are not transmitted directly up your spine.  I tried the original Tiger 800 and thought it most uncomfy after a short while. Of the three bikes I think the CBF was the comfiest I owned. I recently sat on an 800GT and felt a bit cramped in the knee department but for various reasons I think the BM might be worth revisiting- enough power, enough toys,very comfy, pretty frugal and best of all - belt drive!

Oh Gawd. Just went on the BMW website - reckon I could afford one..........

Edited by baben
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Defender

Steve, 

I'm really happy for you that the BMW has given you something good consider as a replacement for your NC.

I'm looking forward to hearing how you find the VFR.

 

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SteveThackery
3 hours ago, baben said:

I recently sat on an 800GT and felt a bit cramped in the knee department..........

 

I'm with you there.  It seems to me there will be a minimum safe height above the ground for the footrests, in order that they don't drag round corners too much.  Therefore a lower seat, combined with that minimum peg height, must obviously lead to a tighter angle at the knee.  I guess it's always going to be a compromise - the lower the seat, the tighter the knee.  I also suspect that footrest lowering kits might be available (or could be made) if you don't mind sacrificing some cornering clearance.

I would imagine that some bikes have the pegs much higher than they need to be, but probably not the Tourers like the F800 and the VFR800.

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larryblag
Posted (edited)

I'm 5'5" and the VFR was a perfect fit for me. It had been lowered by the previous owner too which suited me. Had to be careful over speed bumps though. 

At last I've stopped pining for it thanks to my marvellous CB

Edited by larryblag
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SteveThackery
Posted (edited)

So, I've owned the F800GT for a few days now, and I thought I'd give you my further impressions.

 

Firstly, this one doesn't have any of the clickety clatter from the engine that I mentioned when riding the demonstrator.  Bit of a mystery.

 

The bike feels understated and very competent, and not "in yer face" in any sense. It certainly isn't characterful, but it's definitely quick enough to pass the "fun" threshold, which sadly my NC never did.  The ride, handling, steering and overall feel is really good, and if you like things that feel a little bit "special" in terms of quality, then the F800 delivers on that.  It feels low, light and easy to manoeuvre when you are astride or beside it.  "Discreet" is a good word for it - it doesn't look exciting, it doesn't sound exciting, and it's not scary or larey to drive.  If you like discreet and understated, and don't need to show off, it would suit you. 

 

The fly-by-wire throttle is weird at first; I think we don't realise just how much our muscle memory has got used to pulling on a physical Bowden cable which has an unchanging 1:1 ratio between the movement at each end.  The FBW throttle has no play in it; you can't feel it take up the slack in the cable; you can't feel the throttle plate opening.  Also, it tries to be "helpful" by making the ratio slower at small throttle openings (this is based on how it feels, not what I've read), so it's rather easy to stall it if you are used to unleashing 30bhp at the merest crack of the throttle plate on your supersports bike.

 

The switchgear is interesting.  You can tell when operating it that there can't be any "proper" wiring to them: they are just too small and light in their action to have any big contacts inside.  The bike uses a CAN bus, and I strongly suspect the switches have nothing more than signal-grade wiring connecting them back to a CAN controller.  I don't know if I can blame the CAN bus for this, but there is a short delay in the gear readout responding to a change of gear - maybe a third to half a second; and interestingly that is also true of the Neutral light, which definitely isn't connected directly to the neutral switch in the gearbox, but must get a signal from some electronics somewhere.

 

Now, you may think a third- to half-second delay in the neutral light and the gear indicator responding is too small to notice, and certainly too small to moan about, but it isn't!  Almost every time I drive in traffic I notice the delay, and have to make a mental allowance for it when I'm searching for neutral, for instance.  This is definitely a strange feature of the F800.

 

The gearing is quite tall, so you actually have to use 1st gear sometimes in normal riding.  On the Versys (and the NC) I only ever used 1st for pulling away, there was never a need to go below 2nd when actually moving.  The tall gearing makes the bike seem less responsive than the Versys in a top gear roll on at 60 or 70mph, but at that speed it's revving a good 2000rpm lower than the Versys.  If you change down a couple of gears to bring the engine into its power band it's surprisingly quick - certainly significantly quicker than the Versys and much quicker (of course) than the NC.  So really it's about adjusting your riding style to suit the bike.

 

As for the engine, it's actually hard to find anything interesting to say about it.  Being a 360 degree twin it sounds really weird and not particularly pleasant (although Tex has this weird "thing" about them...).  There's a lot of intake noise reflected up to the rider when you are giving it the beans.  In terms of its performance, it's hard to criticise - gentle and tractable at low throttle and rpm, building up smoothly and progressively to some impressive acceleration and a hard roar at the top end.  It's certainly as much performance as I could ever use, and all delivered in a "graceful" way.

 

About the transmission: that belt drive is good.  It's extremely snatch-free right down to 1500rpm (possibly lower, for all I know) in any gear, which is better than many bikes.

 

You know, I still love the ballsy, belligerent feel of my old Versys.  The off-beat 180-degree throb, the less-than-perfect fuelling, the pull-like-a-b**tard, any gear, any speed responsiveness to the throttle, and the gloriously complex, chordant wail when you're thrashing its bollocks off.  Very stirring - bit of a juvenile delinquent.

 

So, there are some aspects of the Versys I miss, but I'm glad I didn't keep it because my particular one was too shabby.  But I would certainly consider another.

 

In truth, I don't miss anything at all about the NC.  At least, not yet I don't.  Oh, I should admit that I miss the DCT, but that goes without saying of course.  The fuel economy was nice (high 60s in the winter, low 70s in the summer, rising to mid-70s when pootling), but the F800 is hovering in the low 60s so far, so I can't really complain.

 

Bearing in mind that I never keep any bike forever, the F800GT is beginning to feel like it was a good buy, and the right buy for me at this time.

 

 

Edited by SteveThackery
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fred_jb

I had the earlier ST for a while and really liked the engine, but the over-sporty riding position made it untenable for me.  I think the GT is a big improvement in that respect.  You don't mention riding position or comfort, so I assume that is a non-issue for you.

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Tex

Very thorough report, Steve. And a most enjoyable read. I now feel the same quiet satisfaction of any ‘matchmaker’ when they introduce two folks who ‘get on’.. ;) 

 

 

 

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arengle

did you ask how much is the cost to change the belt drive? 3 years ago I wanted to the 800GT but the dealer told me something like 4-5 hours of labor plus the belt and that put me off.

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wpbrown
15 hours ago, SteveThackery said:

 

Now, you may think a third- to half-second delay in the neutral light and the gear indicator responding is too small to notice, and certainly too small to moan about, but it isn't!  Almost every time I drive in traffic I notice the delay, and have to make a mental allowance for it when I'm searching for neutral, for instance.  This is definitely a strange feature of the F800.

 

That's interesting. In my previous comment I mentioned that I found it a problem finding neutral when coming to a stop at junctions etc. It did put me off a bit when I mentioned to the dealer and he just said "Oh, they're all like that"

It never occurred to me whilst shifting up and down to be a delay in the neutral light and the gear indicator!

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Rev Ken
5 minutes ago, arengle said:

did you ask how much is the cost to change the belt drive? 3 years ago I wanted to the 800GT but the dealer told me something like 4-5 hours of labor plus the belt and that put me off.

If you try hard you can spend £500 getting it changed as 'they' like to change everything else at the same time. The GT has a longer belt than other F800s, for which there is an after market belt, but GT owners have to go to BMW. It is, I think, around £300 for a belt but they are simple to replace, even at the roadside. It says in the service schedule to replace them every 24,000 miles, but most of us don't change them until it is obvious they are starting to crack or even break (they don't do the damage a chain can do if it breaks). Some have a 'spare' if touring abroad, but others carry on and get at least twice the mileage out of their belts. Traveling over gravel tracks can shorten belt life if gravel gets in between the sprocket and belt, but it isn't an 'adventure' bike so riding cross country isn't common. (one rider on the F800 forum covered around 70,000 miles on one belt, but that is exceptional!)

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Andy m
Posted (edited)
18 minutes ago, wpbrown said:

he just said "Oh, they're all like that"

 

I bet he actually said. " Ooh, But Ssssir, they alll do THAT, SSSSsssssir". Its in the BMW sales manual how to under complaints, between the chapters on how to shine your suit and how to avoid the customers seeing you drinking blood or not having a reflection.

 

Andy

Edited by Andy m
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SteveThackery
9 hours ago, fred_jb said:

I had the earlier ST for a while and really liked the engine, but the over-sporty riding position made it untenable for me.  I think the GT is a big improvement in that respect.  You don't mention riding position or comfort, so I assume that is a non-issue for you.

 

Actually it's one of the main issues - perhaps I should have mentioned it again.  For me, the footrests are a tad higher and further back than I would wish, putting a slightly tight bend in the knees.  But apart from that, the reach to the handlebars, and their height, is just right.  The seat is comfortable but narrow enough to clear your thighs when you put your feet down.

 

I've been "preening" it today - messing about looking under the seat, examining various parts, that sort of thing.  The build quality is definitely impressive compared with the Versys, and even the NC for that matter.  Of course, "build quality" is a subjective assessment, I admit.

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SteveThackery
7 hours ago, arengle said:

did you ask how much is the cost to change the belt drive? 3 years ago I wanted to the 800GT but the dealer told me something like 4-5 hours of labor plus the belt and that put me off.

 

I've just watched a video on YouTube.  The guy did it in 12 minutes, although he didn't need to retension it.  I guess that could add another few minutes.

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