BMW F 850 GS Adventure [2018-2019] Review
This is the BMW F850 GS Adventure. The more expensive, the more purposeful, and as it turns out, the more desirable twin of the regular F850.
Pros: Torquey, Comfortable, easy to ride, and great off the road
Cons: Standard tyres are not the best for on or off-road, price
This is the BMW F850 GS Adventure. The more expensive, the more purposeful, and as it turns out, the more desirable twin of the regular F850. The Adventure costs almost Rs 19.5 lakhs on the road in Mumbai, that’s nearly Rs 3 lakhs more than the standard F850, which is already an expensive proposition. But, here’s the thing – if the F850 GSA turned out to be all the motorcycle you’d ever need – the asking price, though still steep, won’t seem as prohibitive now, would it?
For the price it's marked at, the 850 GSA better deliver top-notch quality and materials. And it does. From the seat, to the switchgear, to the handle grips, everything looks and feels expensive and well engineered. The switchgear in particular – be it the buttons, the toggles, or the dials that work the fancy instrumentation – exudes the sort of engineering finesse which is so tactile that you want to keep pushing and toggling away at it unnecessarily.
Then, there are the upside-down front forks and the spoked wheels. These are both finished in expensive and desirable looking gold. Even the paint quality, the finish to the welds, and the aluminium bits and bobs, all radiate an aura of premiumness that helps hugely towards accepting the motorcycle’s price tag. I like the knuckle guards too. These not only give the rider’s hands enough and more space to maneuver around, these are also secured at two ends, making them sturdier.
It might be the Adventure version of the F850, but the GSA still has an accessible seat height. It measures 875mm. But, add the narrow waist of the motorcycle to the equation, and it becomes easier for the rider to put his or her feet firmly on the ground. You can also have it lowered to 835mm and 815mm. The latter would need some suspension tweaks though. Having said that, the pillion seat height might get in the way of short riders when they try and swing their leg over. It’s best then to just stand on the pegs and mount.
Once seated, the footpegs feel neutral. These aren’t rear or forward set, and even the height is well judged to ensure the rider’s knees don’t ride high. The handlebar too feels to be just the right height and distance from the rider’s seat. For someone of my height (5’9”), my arms remain bent and parallel to the ground making it easy for me to steer the bike. The handlebar is wide too which only adds to its easy-steering nature by adding leverage. But yes, taller riders might find the handlebar a little low, particularly whilst standing up and riding.
The seat is cushy and supportive too. We spent long hours in the saddle riding and shooting, and even at the end of the day, we didn’t experience a sore bottom. The ride quality is fantastic too on the F850 GSA. And, it doesn’t matter what surface you ride on. Not only does it iron out the undulations, bumps and potholes, even broken tarmac, road joints or patchwork doesn’t bother it. No matter how poor the road, the GSA suppresses it all as if these were pimples and not mound holes.
The F850 GS Adventure uses the same engine as the regular F850. The parallel twin still displaces 853cc, and the output figures at 95bhp and 92Nm remain impressive. On the road, it’s immediately evident that the GSA lays this torque thick and flat.
Open the throttle with gusto from around 3,000rpm, and the F850 gets going like a soldier following a drill command. The acceleration is instant, crisp, and seamless. 100kmph comes and goes in a jiffy. And, if you don’t rein-in your right wrist, don’t be surprised to see 150kmph in equally quick time.
The engine is an easy revving one too. It spins up with the effortlessness of a graceful Kathak dancer. And, it doesn’t let up till it bangs off the limiter at 9,000rpm. What’s more, there’s no letting up of power either until the engine hits the redline. And because the engine sounds so good when revved, it’s hard not to give it the beans, all the time.
But, if you choose to ride sensibly, the GSA sits at under 4,000rpm in 6th gear at 100kmph. Doing so also helps the motorcycle return over 20kmpl giving it a range of over 450km. Factor in the rock-like straight-line stability – no matter how hard the cross winds – and the GSA makes for a lovely long distance touring companion. It’s happy whilst cornering too. But, that 21-inch front wheel and the lazier steering geometry means, it does need more effort to turn it in, and it doesn’t feel the most connected when leaned over.
But, it’s off the road, that the GSA impresses most. Now, we aren’t fans of the bike’s stock tyres. These don’t work too well on the road, and even off-road, the grip isn’t as good as one would like, especially if you are an off-roading noob. But, it’s the near neutral balance, the large front wheel, the forgiving suspension, the crisp throttle response, and the accessible torque that make the F850 GS Adventure such a hoot off-road.
It’s easy to make U-turns with. It won’t go into a tank slapper or spit you off like chewed gum if you misjudge a crest. It will ride the ripples, the ruts, and take you into a dusty, slushy or gravelly sunset all year, every year. And when you switch to Enduro mode, it will allow you to play with its rear end too! A little slip here, and a little slide there. But, nothing too dramatic.
For that, one needs to switch to Enduro Pro. Unfortunately, it can only be done at the dealership. And since we didn’t remember this crucial bit, Enduro is all we got, off-road.
There’s no dearth of technology or features on the F850 GSA. You have riding modes – Rain, Road, Dynamic, Enduro and Enduro Pro. There’s stability control; a slipper clutch to prevent the rear from hopping around; a quickshifter to make seamless, on-the-gas upshifts; adjustable clutch and brake levers for better control; an off-road friendly foot brake lever; an adjustable windshield; wider and off-road friendly serrated rider footpegs; and a fancy, full-colour instrumentation which throws up so much information, even the NASA guys might find it daunting! Check out the gallery to see all that the instrument console has to offer.
As we mentioned earlier, when ridden sedately, particularly on the highway, the F850 GSA can return over 20kmpl, which gives it a handsome range of over 450km. But, when ridden normally – or at least normally for a motorcycle that has an addictive slab of torque screaming out to be used, the F850 returned 15.6kmpl in the city. And as we see it, it would be a crime not to use that entire tempting grunt, all the time!
Fitness of Purpose
With Adventure in its name, the GSA clearly only has one job – to be a good ADV. Actually, if we factor in the price, we’d need to upgrade ‘good’ to ‘great’. So, is it? It is! The F850 GSA is brilliant off-road. It is also equally apt at touring. And as we found out when battling both Mumbai and Pune traffic, it’s actually quite good at commuting too – easy to pick gaps with, enough grunt to keep you ahead of trouble, and it doesn’t heat up. Just don’t go thinking it’s an Activa, because all said and done, it’s still a tall and wide ADV.
Is the BMW F850 GS Adventure all the motorcycle you need? In short, yes! It works off-road. You can tour on it. You can even commute on it, and without a bother, mind. It has comfortable ergos. You can carry along a pillion and lots of luggage. It has a plush ride. And it is packed to the gills with tech and features.
Yes, you can’t use it on a racetrack, and it might not be the most enjoyable to ride even on your favourite winding road. It could also do with better tyres. But, that’s just nitpicking, because the F850 GS Adventure is brilliant. Period.
Photography by Kapil Angane
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