I drove a BMW F800ST and it was a lot of fun. The machine is fast, small, easy to handle and remains very trustworthy. Even accelerating full speed never gave the hint of a wheelie. It handles beautiful through long corners, keeping it nice on the line with just the throttle. I also went through a traffic jam like never before, because it is so narrow and good at short sprints.
I have had the opportunity to drive a BMW F800ST for just over a day. It was a replacement for my BMW R1150GS, which needed its yearly service. It was a beautiful day so I had all the time to test it out a little. It is very comfortable (as long as you stay on asphalt, more about it later) and predictable (which is always very good). It looks simple but has all the necessary goodies. Mine also had ABS, although I did not use it this time… However, I will never buy a bike without it anymore.
When you start the Beemer, it gives a nice, low sound. I read that they had done their best to make it sound like a boxer engine. It is a nice sound. A side-effect is that the bike has some trembles all the time, which itches around the saddle (…) and are also felt in the wrists at low speeds.
The funny bump in the saddle works very well to maintain a good position, but the overall position is too sporty for me. I felt my pulses after a few minutes (which goes away at 70 km/h). Also, the bike is a size too small for me (I am just over 1m90).
The mirrors are awful. They are small and all I saw was my arms. The mirrors on a GS are perfect. They should have made them stick out much more on this bike.
The ride is smooth and everything is at the right place. A large gear indicator is in the middle of your dashboard, but even if you missed a gear, the bike never hesitates. I went through a pretty slow corner in 3rd gear, only to notice it after the corner.
I had a funny experience when I braked, because this bike really dives on braking. I am no longer used to that, as my GS has a telelever. You never notice these things, until you loose them. I had to ‘look upwards’ when braking. I wasn’t used to it anymore!
The bike is a lot of fun at open and smooth roads. However, when I entered my neighborhood, I noticed that it isn’t very good at driving slowly. You definitely feel the injection going on and off when driving slowly through the neighborhood. And it is very bumpy, but I think the long springs on my GS will make any other bike feel shaky when not driving on asphalt.
A lot of debate has been made about the indicators on a BMW. Most bikes use a single knob under your left thumb, but BMW always has used two. Your left thumb is for left, your right thumb is for right. Switching them of is with your right thumb and new BMW riders occasionally use the horn after a left turn, because it is at your left thumb. You have to get used to this. But now BMW has perfected this system: When you need to use your warning light, you press left and right together and you can do this without letting go of the handles. This is perfect when entering a traffic jam! It is hard to explain, but you can fully focus on the traffic, when you are about to sneak through them. (Perhaps I need to explain that it is legal to move between traffic jams on a motorcycle in The Netherlands).
I think the F800ST is a perfect beginners bike, with just a little more power than a Diversion or a Transalp. It is also a good bike of you are a quite small. It is reliable, easy to handle and has enough power to keep you happy for a while. Personally I prefer the R1200GS or R1200RT, but stick to my current bike for a while. It was a lot of fun driving this small BMW for a day though.