BMW F850 GS [2018-2019] Review
To be a member of the ‘GS’ family is no ordinary thing. In fact, in the world of adventure touring, GS has become something of a byword.
To be a member of the ‘GS’ family is no ordinary thing. In fact, in the world of adventure touring, GS has become something of a byword. The credit for this fame goes to BMW’s R1200GS – a motorcycle that has been used to traverse the backroads of the world by many thrill-seekers. It has even found a place in popular culture with food and travel shows like The Hairy Bikers’ Cookbook and Feasting on Asphalt. But over the last few years, many adventurers have been seeking something smaller, a bike that won’t empty their bank accounts but not scrimp on the fun either. The F800GS did the exact same thing, but it started to feel the heat of competition when the new Honda Africa Twin and the Triumph Tiger were launched. To counter that, the German brand decided to bring the F850GS along with the F750GS. Both bikes have now been launched in India. And what’s more, it’s at a time when there has been a big demand for middle-weight adventure touring bikes. But timing isn’t the only thing that BMW has got right.
The Germans know a thing or two about making high quality products, and it’s the same story with their bikes. The F850GS comes with really good plastic. The fit and finish is top notch, just like the overall build quality. The frame has been welded properly. There’s not a single instance of shoddy work. A quick look-and-touch on the switchgear shows the amount of effort that has gone into making a high quality product. The paint and the sticker job is simply top-class.
After days of riding on the F850GS, one thing is clear. The comfort aspect has been well taken care of. The seating triangle has made the ergonomics much better, even for stand-up riding. The handlebar is wide and is set at a perfect height. The seat is wide and well cushioned but is situated at a height of 860mm, thus making it slightly difficult for shorter riders. Unfortunately, there’s no way to adjust the seat height. During off-road riding, the F850GS feels natural. It’s easy to hold on to the tank, and a rider can stay that way for hours. The footpegs are large and that means it provides lots of place to adjust the feet. For a motorcycle this size and at this price bracket, the F850GS fails to get a large windscreen and adjustable one. The current one is small, and doesn’t work much at high speeds. On the other hand, it does a fabulous job off-road as the small screen makes it easy to spot any obstacles.
The new 853cc parallel twin churns out around 90bhp and peak torque of 86Nm. But is this enough for a motorcycle that weighs almost 224kg? We think so! At idle, this BMW isn’t quiet. It emits a throaty sound, thanks to the 270-degree firing order. Twist the throttle and the buttery smooth engine makes you grin. The vibrations are controlled, thanks to the usage of dual counter balancers. This motor offers plenty of grunt, but the mid-range is where most of the drama lies.
The F850GS is one of the best ADVs I have ever ridden off-road. Its confidence inspiring traits, and the perfect ergonomics always spell a day of fun on dirt trails. Even with its weight, which is nearly 230kgs, the bike feels well balanced, and doesn’t feel out of place in tight turns. Good ground clearance and suspension travel means that this is a perfect bike to learn the jumps. Even sliding the bike is a piece of cake. The enduro pro riding mode gives enough room to go a little overboard with the bike. But thanks to the electronics, it still remains safe to do so. The 21-inch front and 17-inch wheel combination help the bike cross some obstacles effortlessly.
On the road, the F850GS is quite decent. The bike might look a bit intimidating at first, but the narrow waist line and wide handlebar provide comfort. The commanding riding position is a big boon for city use. It helps in filtering through heavy traffic. On the highway, the bike is very stable at high speeds. But going through fast corners requires a little more effort than usual. The turn-ins don’t feel natural either, primarily due to the long trail.
The brakes are fantastic. It sheds the speed instantly, and brings the 229kg bike confidently to a stop. It’s the same story with the Michelin Anakee tyres. In fact, it was very surprising to see these rubbers perform so well off-road.
The F850GS is heavily loaded with top-of-the-line technologies. The Pro variant, which was tested out, gets the dynamic electronic suspension adjustment. This is where the damping of the rear suspension can be adjusted by using some buttons. The bike also gets the dynamic traction control system, cruise control along with three rider modes – dynamic, enduro and enduro pro.
The gear shift assistant pro is a part of this package as well. This German ADV is also equipped with a 6.5inch full colour TFT display that shows plenty of ride data. One of the major highlights of this bike is the all LED light system. This enhances the overall appeal of this ADV.
The F850GS will go for about 300-340kms in one full tank. The 15-litres fuel tank capacity is quite decent for this middle-weight, so is the fuel efficiency of 22kmpl. Expect this figure to go down, in case you hit the trails, as the tyre pressure needs to be reduced for better grip and stability.
Fitness of Purpose
The F850GS checks all the right boxes. It has a great motor, has technologies that will help you go to the other part of the world, and is a part of a brand that is quite desirable. It is also loaded with things that will make you and your partner reach a destination comfortably. It could be a great city tool, provided you are on the taller side. Shorter riders, on the other hand, might find it difficult to use this bike for daily commutes, thanks to the seat height.
The BMW F850GS is one of the greatest adventure bikes ever made. Period.
I know most of us will end up riding it on the road, most of the times, and that’s exactly why BMW has the F750GS. But when the road ends, the F850GS is what you need, and the adventure will continue for life. But there’s one problem – price. The Pro variant which we tested costs over Rs 19 lakhs on-road, and that’s a lot of money to pay. Unfortunately, its direct rival – the Triumph Tiger 800 XCA which was recently launched also demands the same kind of premium. It’s sad that such a brilliant ADV is beyond reach for most of us. But if you have that kind of money lying around, visit a BMW Motorrad showroom and bring one home soon.
Indoor and outdoor photography by Kapil Angane
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