I got the chance to take an F800GS out for a short test ride yesterday. I thought I would share my take on it since I know there is a little bit of interest in this bike.
When you get on everything looks and feels like its in the right place. Bars are angled nicely, gauges where you'd want them, control are, well, BMW, so we know them and where they are. The bike I rode had the factory low seat on it which felt a little hard and narrow; I'm guessing the standard seat would have a bit more cushion to it. The mirrors are set wide but feel like they are too close to the rider front to back (not inset on the bars). Considering where the GT mirrors are placed maybe that was just me, because when riding they are placed fine and give a good view of what's happening behind you. Wind protection from the standard screen is OK; not too much buffeting or dirty air, but a little more than I would like. I am 6, 3" and sit tall in the saddle so that probably contributes to it. Speaking of tall in the saddle, I really felt like I was "Up There" on the 800. Even with the low seat it felt taller than my 1100GS with a Rick Mayer saddle in the high position. But since the seat is narrow I had no trouble reaching the ground, it was easier than on my GS.
The bike fired right up cold with no hesitation or stuttering. I pulled away about 30 seconds later and it was all set and ready to go. The engine is really smooth and delivers power in a very linear fashion all the way through the rev range; I didn't detect any dips or surges in the power band that would be a surprise when riding. There was a little on/off throttle transition wonkiness, but that could be a combination of the chain drive coupled with the fact I hadn't ridden one before. I think it's something you would adjust to after riding it for a while.
The transmission rocks; it's one of the smoothest shifting I've ever ridden regardless of brand, and definitely at or near the top for a BMW tranny. Good gear spacing for keeping the power going to the ground in a consistent manner and I could shift it seamlessly up and down the gears after running through the range a couple of times. I wish I was that smooth shifting my GT or my GS consistently!
Handling was really great. I took it around a number of on/off ramps and other curves and it dispatched them with ease. Straight line stability is dead on, very neutral and easy to ride down the freeway. What really impressed me, though, was the low speed handling. I was on surface streets for a bit in traffic and doing the super slow creep behind cars. The bars remained feather light and the front end dead stable even when turning the bars from near stop to stop while barely moving (did it intentionally a number of times just to try it out). I even stopped for a second and restarted 3-4 times in a row without putting a foot down. It's a really well balanced bike!
Overall I think it's a really great bike and would be alot of fun. I could easily see blasting around backroads and then taking off on a fire road with it and just having a ball for hours. I also think with a taller windscreen (for me) and a better seat it could easily be an all day mount. I don't recall what the fuel capacity or expected mileage is so those could be limiting factors, but otherwise I think it would work for that just fine.
I also think I picked up on another aspect of this bike that would be fun. If you moved the pegs back about 1/2 - 3/4 inch, slightly taller bars, and some 17 inch wheels with sticky rubber, you could school a large number of bikes on a twisty mountain road. It felt like it was just begging to go play in some stuff like that. BMW - Can you say "Super Motard Kit"??