As we edged closer to Mt. Kilauea, the tempestuous Pele unleashed winds and rain that made us appreciative of the BMW F800ST’s taller windscreen and pre-formed cutouts in the side cowlings.
F 800 ST
Although both the S and the ST are essentially the same bike, the few differences ensure they will not experience any identity confusion after some significant miles aboard them.
The relaxed sport-touring riding position of the ST is more conducive to logging high mileage trips and spending long days in the saddle. Combined with the extremely comfortable layout discussed previously in the S section, it should be easy to see how this bike has the potential to make the touring experience enjoyable. The bars are a bit higher (exact stats were not divulged by BMW but its over an inch higher), which furthur adds to the relaxed riding position. The taller, more protective windscreen and considerably increased protection from the elements afforded by the bodywork ensures the ST gets some recognition for its more well-rounded nature.
On our sport-touring ride the location of choice was the spectacular Volcanoes National Park, home of the most active volcano on the planet, Mount Kilauea. Just getting to our destination was an exercise in determination, as the weather gods threw everything they had at us in an attempt to thwart our invasion of the sacred territory. Threatening morning skies eventually unleashed a precipitous wall of fog and significant amount of precipitation upon us as we approached the entrance to the park. Once inside the relative safety of the park boundaries, the fog was replaced by the vapor clouds of sulfuric gasses and ridiculously high winds that seemed determined to keep us down.
Not ones to be deterred, our resolute band of journalists soldiered on, tempting the fate of the gods as well as the park rangers. Repeated passes in front of the camera, innumerable U-turns and the occasional speed infringement were enacted in an attempt to document our struggle, so that the educated readers of the world might be able to determine for themselves whether or not the ST is worthy of their consideration.
The riding position on the mid-sized sport-tourer is more relaxed than on the F800S due to higher bars.
While riding through the rain the extra protection from the inclement weather was truly a blessing. The tall windscreen made it possible to tuck in ever so slightly in order to avoid the oncoming raindrops while the pre-formed cut-outs in the side cowling did an excellent job of keeping the riders legs secluded from the storm. Combine these two features with the optional heated grips and it was easy to scoff at Mother Nature’s feeble attempts to turn us back.
In the dry the 800 is just fast enough to give the sporting half of the ST equation a favorable review. Not too fast to make a new rider uncomfortable, yet fast enough to dispatch slow moving autos and unsuspecting riders if the urge overcomes you. In the wet, the power delivery is docile enough to keep you out of trouble. This is a positive trait in slippery conditions, but as we noted in the S section, it’s not going to draw any K1200S owners away from their intercontinental cruise missiles. The good news is, touring isn’t all about blurry scenery anyway. It’s about getting from point to point in comfort and style. That’s what the F800ST does well.
As if the relative comfort and positive feedback regarding the performance provided by the ST were not enough to convince you of its touring prowess then consider this: When ridden at a sane pace the bikes are claimed to achieve an astounding 50-plus mpg according to BMW. Both bikes offer a 4.1 gallon fuel tank and our observed range was in the neighborhood of 200 miles at a spirited pace which confirms the bike is capable of going the distance. A pure touring machine will have a longer range, but this is nothing to scoff at as it is on par with its sporting competitors. Passenger accommodations on this and the S both received favorable review from the one poor soul who volunteered to spend some time on pillion. Add into the mix a set of expandable hard luggage for $795 installed and this bike starts to get more touring-worthy with every turn.
Is the ST the new touring machine for the ages? Considering the quality of the large displacement sport-tourers out there, I’d have to say not quite. Is it a viable alternative? Definitely. Like its sibling, the ST it is easy going, handles well, has valuable creature comforts including the seat, long range, decent protection from the elements and a number of available options. All these features make it a real sleeper in the middleweight sport-touring class.
Both the F800 machines feel lighter than they are. They’re easy to maneuver through the canyons, the 7-11 parking lot, garages or driveways. The motor has just enough power to keep it ahead of the family fun movers and keep your riding partners close. This is a well-crafted piece of equipment and has a host of factory options, including an $890 ABS system, $235 Heated Grips, $260 Tire Pressure Monitoring (TPM), $250 On Board Computer, $235 Anti-Theft Alarm, $120 Center Stand or White Turn Indicators for an additional $50. These value-added components and the right to sport that BMW key-fob should entice buyers to spend the extra money even though this bike the may not be the lightest, fastest or most powerful option on the market.
At $9,950 for the F800S and $10,950 for the F800ST, they are the second-most affordable gateway to the BMW riding experience. The X-series bikes are less expensive but none of them can offer the type of open-road performance, long-term comfort and sporty good looks required by the pure street rider. In contrast to the X-bikes the F800s have the majority of the street rider’s needs covered.
The minimally- styled 2007 BMW F800ST’s control panel has a multi-function information system and an optional on board computer.
Where do these two new machines belong in the grand scheme of things? Right where BMW believes they do. In the world of BMW the increasing number of riders globally in the market for a new or replacement bike has proven too hard to ignore. Its demographic is aging and the need for new blood has facilitated the creation of a number of new bikes intended to draw consumers away from the competition by capitalizing on the allure of owning a BMW and the prestige that goes along with it. While pricing is on the upper end of the spectrum, the ability to customize bikes before taking possession from the dealer, an enormous support network that is the BMW Owners Group and the perception of an enhanced quality of manufacture have carried the company to high levels of success at retaining its clientele throughout its storied history. Like the doorman says, ‘you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.’
Heated Grips $235
Tire Pressure Monitoring (TPM) $260
On Board Computer $250
White Turn Indicators $50
Anti-Theft Alarm $235
Center Stand $120
Low Seat – $295
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