The GS series of BMW’s have been roaming the far corners of the earth since the R80 G/S of 1980. Back then things were a little simpler, with one option of motivation. An air-cooled boxer twin, with shaft drive and some lairy 1980’s graphics. Fast forward a few decades and BMW’s GS range consists of seven models with engines ranging from water cooled single cylinders to partially water cooled boxer twins.
The F700 and 800GS are the placed in the middle of the GS pecking order. Not quite as intimidating as the R1200GS, but providing a little more punch than the G650GS. The F’s are powered by 800cc parallel twins that put out 55kw (F700GS). This moderate power is transferred through a 6-speed gearbox to a chain drive (unlike its bigger sibling that runs a shaft driven rear end like the original GS). Wheels on the F700GS are cast alloy and are shod with a fairly road biased Continental tyre, as this bike is more orientated at road riding and touring. One thing that looks slightly underdone on a bike of this calibre (and price) is the F700GS’ suspension. Despite the fact that the bike features BMW’s ESA (electronic suspension adjustment), the bike’s forks appear to be fashioned form drinking straws. I’m sure they’re more than up to the task but they just look under done and spindly compared to the rest of the bike.
Starting up the 800cc parallel twin is a bit of a non-event, with little character or noise emitted from the large muffler on the left hand side of the bike. Like most modern bikes, the F700GS is screaming out for a slip-on pipe to free its lungs. When underway the bike’s 186kg feels far less substantial, with the under seat fuel tank helping lower the bike’s centre of gravity. The engine’s performance isn’t going to set any records, but it was enough to keep a steady 140km/h cruise at an indicated 5,000rpm in sixth gear. Switching between the ESA’s Normal, Sport and Comfort modes there is only a slightly noticeable difference between Comfort and Sport. Personally I’d leave it in Sport and stop some of the non-adjustable fork’s dive under brakes. On the topic, the ABS equipped Brembo brakes are impressive and haul the bike up with ease. Handling is surprisingly nimble considering the reasonably large 19″ front wheel. The wide bars and dirt-bike like seating position help to throw the bike into corners and I don’t see you embarrassing yourself on a twisty, bumpy road. The added height should stop peg scraping too.
While the F700GS isn’t what you’d call pretty, it does feature BMW’s now ubiquotous asymmetrical headlights (of which I’m a fan), high quality paint and thoughtful features like heated grips, 12v socket and LED indicators. The F700GS isn’t going to blow you away with it’s performance, or woo you with its character but after a day with one I’m willing to bet it won’t put a foot wrong if you plan on using it as a commuter or a tourer and with the comfort seat fitted, I’m willing to bet you won’t be sore after a day in the saddle. At around $13k ride-away the F700GS isn’t what you’d call cheap, but with impressive road manners, a slight off-road ability and BMW’s ‘GS reliability’ it’s definitely a bike you could use everyday, for any occasion.